This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac (3.4GHz quad-core IntelCore i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory); PureMusic 1.87; Amarra 2.3; Audirvana Plus 1.3.1; April Music Eximus DP1; Esoteric/APL Hifi UX1/NWO-M; Audiophilleo 2
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS-100 with Psvane CV-181T tubes, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X
: First Watt SIT1 monos
Speakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, Voxativ Ampeggio with 2012 drivers
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event, Entreq & Ocellia & Vue & Telos USB cables, Stereo
lab Tombo Trøn BNC/BNC coax
Stands: Artesania Esoteric double-wide 3-tier rack with TT shelf, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail before VAT: €14.500/15.000/pr in composite/wood finish with matching active CH1 horn subwoofer; €15.500/€16.000/pr with two matching CH1 subs; €4.700 for CH1 solo; €4.200 for OBH1 open-baffle subwoofer solo; €8.900 for Douce integrated amplifier

Stock product photos on this and the next page by Vanja Solin
One driver. All the sound. This simple five-word maxim has driven adventurous speaker makers up the monkey tree and back down with occasionally very big outlandish fruit. Not that big and outlandish are limited to one driver. The 104dB 4-way Jadis Eurythmie II at left remains a visually unique conversation piece to this day. But when—for religion or sporting challenge—you limit yourself to one transducer for the entire audible range, megaphone support with a rear horn is near mandatory. This is particularly so when you limit yourself further and use a small driver so your top end still tweets like that ubiquitous 1-inch silk dome. Just how big may widebanders grow before augmentation with a real tweeter becomes de rigueur? That's up for debate. Whizzer aficionados might stretch to 7 perhaps 8 inches. Some non whiz kids meanwhile hit rigueur mortis at anything larger than 4. Getting a 4-incher to do any bass is tricky though.
Enter the continuously expanding line behind it. That's usually round of cross section and routinely folded once or twice to combine effective length with more décor-friendly dimensions. Even the teensy-weensy squawker inside the iPhone consents to more post-pubescent reach once it's been stylishly assisted by such a passive amplifier of only modest length [see right].

Amongst suitable wideband drivers to load into such rear horns, the small Fostex Fe108E Sigma 4-incher with hyperbolic banana-pulp cone and twisted suspension appears particularly popular with DIYers. Ring Audio's Goran Tomljenovich from Croatia has worked with it since his FGH 1.4. Attempts to turn the latter into a commercial product ended when fellow DIYers at Frugalhorn claimed infringement on a public-domain design that wasn't authorized for profit use. Ring Audio's new Master Horn Jazz—MH Jazz to acquaintances, MH to us—thus scraps the former line geometry and box. It retains the spherical head which was never in contention. That cyclops eye now sits atop a tight twice-folded line in whose final form factor one lifestyle magazine saw an upside-down human in the fetal position. As you'll appreciate at the bottom of the page, particularly side-on one's imagination very easily veers into wanting to see some type of organism. Clearly this ain't your dad's boring Acoustic Research box.

Ring Audio's demonstration facility in a 19th century building downtown Zagreb

The horn mouth is 36cm in diameter, nine times bigger than the driver itself. Rather than claim that even such an expansion ratio could satisfactorily override all of the driver's inherent LF limitations, Ring Audio's CH1 subwoofer with Visaton W250S 10-inch woofer and Hypex DS1.2 plate amp is the intended backup man for the Jazz twins. This LF friend is a flexible fellow who can sit with his horn mouth close to the floor [left] or woof at the ceiling [right].

For less money and more basic cosmetics there's also the OBH1 open-baffle sub with the same Hypex amp but Visaton's BGS-40 15" woofer instead. Its footprint is 40 x 80cm with a height of 70cm. The standard MH package contains one of the costlier CH1, the Superior package two of them. Ring Audio's Margareta Karadza: "Since last we last spoke about two years ago, our new small horn model accompanied by horn subwoofers has taken commercial hold in the German and Russian markets. Now we are looking to bring it closer to the target audience of small horn lovers with a review. During 2011 many events took place for Ring Audio when its audio creations were promoted through music by eminent performers like Lovro Pogorelic, Srdan Dedic, Joe Meixner and musicologists like Branimir Pofuk. We also connected with artists of the visual arts like conceptualist photographer Mio Vesovic and sculptor Dalibor Stosic. They accepted our horns as pieces of art and reworked their surfaces to give them a unique finish.

"We have also introduced the single-ended Douce 300B integrated amplifier developed and designed in 2010 in collaboration with Croatian valve electronics maker Sound Carrier. It combines valve voltage gain with passive transformer attenuators placed on a wooden anti-resonance board made of 2.000-year old oak. We plan to introduce the Douce to the German and Russian markets this year."

Admirers of the 2.2-meter tall Arcadian Audio Pnoe horns from Greece wishing they'd be smaller—their horn mouth diameters alone can defy gates and staircases—will appreciate MH's thrifty dimensions. It stands just a tick over one meter tall. The foot print is 36 x 42 WxD. Sweet icing on that happy-happy cake is 20kg of light weight. Frequency response with a non-standard -5dB point is given as 35Hz to 20kHz. As that's sans subwoofer/s, it could be minus 10dB and nobody would cry foul. Sensitivity is a benign but not wishful 92dB. That lends itself to very smooth jazzing with 10-watt valve amps. Available finishes include wood (Ebony, Rosewood, Paulownia) and black or white lacquer over composite. The horns with one horn sub start out at €14.500/pr for the set. With that a still relative startup goes straight for the established higher end. Most punters will then insist on a lot more than just attractive conversation starters for the uptown pad.

Super solid about this scheme are the 'integral' bass systems. They validate the choice of Fe108E Sigma as widebander since it was never intended for fullrange coverage in the first place. Horn-loading simply moves its hand-over region to the sub/s low enough to properly blend. It also makes for far better stereo bass even from a single sub. This is thus not yet another single-driver 'fullrange' proposition where idealism conflicts with the real world and predictably disappoints multi-way expectations for bass extension and dynamics. This is a 10" or 15" two-way with purpose-designed active bass systems. The monitors simply happen to be floorstanding widebanders loaded into a fully developed yet compact folded rear horn. When it comes to our intro's monkey trees and domesticity, low-hanging fruit is definitely preferred. Hence Arcadian Audio's honey-I-shrunk-the-Pnoe development shown at right. It shaves off half a meter and narrows the mouth to tuba proportions. Yet it's still about 70cm taller than the Croatian horn. For many that's a powerful and very smart argument in MH's favor.

It's also smart how Goran sidesteps that entire 'real bass from a 4-incher' manure. It only begets huge horns whilst still failing to compete at the level pricing demands. Ring Audio has thus faced the typical core avoidance head on. For the full Monty it means subwoofer finishes other than the black (OBH1) or white (CH1) shown to accompany the wooden horns. But that's covered too.

The remaining puzzle looking at the photos is, just how are these enclosures made? One assumes a clam shell, seam strategically disguised. If the wood versions were veneer over composite, molds would do. But the wood is solid. That means machining with extensive hand labor. In either case form factor and complexity of craftsmanship should move Ring Audio's public persona out from the ring of DIY where they began. They seem to have arrived now as a professional supplier of serious artisanal hifi. Would performance match that notion?