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

Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Financial Interests: click here
Digital: Metronome T-1i CD player with DAISy HE remote control
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition monoblocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties WATT/Puppy System 6
Cables: digital - Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; analog interconnect - Cerious Technologies; CRL Gold [in for review]; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon [on loan]; speaker cables - Cerious Technologies and Harmonic Technology PRO-9+ loudspeaker cables; power: Cerious Technologies AC; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; Shunyata Research Diamondback, Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; PSC Gold Power MKII AC cable
Stands: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature equipment racks
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only)
Acoustic treatment: Fonic Designer panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: Burson Audio Buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions around DAC, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 17' w x 35' d x 12' h in short wall setup, opens to adjoining kitchen
Review component retail: AUD$8500 in Bubinga veneer, AUD$9500 in Graphite gloss (available also factory direct)

The Kee to Success
At the end of last year, I got an interesting email from a Ms Kee Whatmough who had been in touch with 6moons. Head mooner Srajan had taken the liberty of referring Kee -- who was hoping for a review as a form of opening to the international market -- to yours
truly. Little did Kee know that her 6moons reviewer and portal to the world was not only living in the same country but just an hour's plane ride away. Ah, the beauty of this world-wide web we weave. Come home to access the world. It wasn't too long before I found myself trekking to the Whatmough Monitors' headquarters in Scoresby, Melbourne to suss out the operation.

Whatmough's impressive retail facility, highly professional business ethic and well-established network of distributors and retailers led me to think that not only is this company a shining example of a medium-sized outfit, it's also representative of the relatively disproportionate number of quality loudspeaker manufacturers in Australia. We home bake all manner of transducers from the most basic of budget cheapies to extravagant monoliths that aim at the highest pedestals of the audio engineering art. Our local engineers certainly aren't afraid of using varied technologies either. Our speakers use all manner of hand-made ribbons (from 2 inches to 6 feet), dynamic drivers of every creed, exotic enclosure designs, wideband drivers, passive and active designs, you name it. Duntech led the way for many others that since have carved inroads into the Asian markets and to perhaps a lesser extent the European and American sectors. These names may not be immediately recognizable to the overseas readership but here are some of the companies that do Australians proud: Aaron, Ambience, Aslan Acoustics, Dan A Digital (review here), Equinox, Krix, Legend Acoustics, Lenard Audio (see review here), Orpheus, Osborn, Richter Acoustics, Sonic Purity, Sonique Audio, VAF Research and WAR Audio (review here). But I could go on and on. All make products that, at their price points and beyond, will compete with the best the world has to offer. Look them up, explore and discover. It's all only a dot com away.

And as if this honorable list wasn't long enough (apologies to the scores I left unmentioned), here's yet another to add to the star-studded lineup - the subject of this review, Whatmough Monitors. Whatmough has been around since the early 1970s under Colin Whatmough as principal designer who has steadily built the company into one of Australia's largest and most reputable speaker manufacturing houses. Colin has always been in love with the art of speaker design. He recalls the days as an upstart in the computer industry when, as he watched over the fridge-sized computers making hour-long updates (Colin explains the same task would take minutes now), he dreamt up designs that his fervent passion would soon manifest. And it's the conceptual and practical success of these first efforts that led to the tremendous growth the company has experienced since - from one single model to the extensive range available today.

In the early days, Colin experimented with his own hand-made ribbon aided by high-quality dynamic drivers in a monstrous box. The inherent quality of continuously evolving designs and their meticulous engineering brought about success within the audiophile community. This initial success prompted further development and investment and resulted in a slowly and conservatively expanding and evolving product line. This writer nostalgically remembers, back in the mid-1980s in his early days of audiophiliac passion or mania, lusting over a rather plump yet beautifully assembled and veneered Whatmough stand mount. The 202 Leadline as it was called was one of the very earliest adopters of the bright yellow fiberglass Focal tweeter that later on achieved fame in the early WATT/Puppy System 3. The 202 was a wide, tall and deep stand mount speaker with lead reinforcement, using the best drivers of the day that sounded as full, present and powerful as any floorstander.

Colin recalls a little personal and company history: "Back in the early days, I built a system called the Mark II. It had a large transmission line bass, open baffle midrange and ribbon tweeters which we built ourselves. That's when I went commercial, I felt these speakers were good enough to make a statement. They were state-of-the-art efforts in their day. It took me a month to build a pair and I was selling them for $2,500. In today's money, they would be $30,000 to 40,000 - and it was my only model.

"So I resigned from work and got into it full time. I was selling one a month for about 18 months out, which was not bad until I saturated the market. Every pair I sold went to single guys without fail. As they got married, the speakers went onto the second-hand market because they were the size of a refrigerator - enormous."

"At that stage I was a self-taught computer programmer. I had no technical background in speaker building but I'm the sort of person who once he gets into something is - well, unstoppable. There were no speaker building courses back then and actually none now either. So it was a matter of getting all the books I could and experiment. Often I would go to concerts and then come back home and get the soldering iron out, trying to recreate that same tonality. Sometimes I would do this twice or three times a week. Back in those days I didn't much like classical music but it's the only non-amplified music, the real reference if you're trying to design. Unfortunately with a rock concert... well, if you can't get better sound than a rock concert, then there's something sadly wrong. With classical music we'll never get there, we can only approach the real thing so it gives me something to aim for. And I still do that today. Classical concerts still are my reference."

Colin is behind every speaker the company crafts, from their Synergy starting range to the Signature series, Whatmough's crowning glory. From design to crossover and driver component selection to cabinet physiology to engineering and final listening tests, Colin strives to design speakers that display inherent qualities he considers essential. He firmly believes that tonal accuracy is the most vital quality of a loudspeaker. Regardless of its other qualities, if a speaker is not tonally accurate, it is still flawed according to Colin.

Not surprisingly then, it's in this area the P33 Signature excels. Without jumping the gun, let me tease you with a peccadillo - this speaker is a tonal champion. Period. Read on and you'll discover my validation for this audacious claim.

As the name implies, these Signature designs of which the P33 sits at the bottom rung -- it's followed by the 505 and then by the flagship Paragon, a true engineering tour de force [left] -- are the fruit of Colin Whatmough's utmost dedication and full-on engineering efforts. They have been designed purely for the audiophile and exhaustively tuned by Colin personally. As he explains, he stringently applies his core values of "...extended frequency range, a wide spacious
soundstage, tonal accuracy, transient response, coherent and seamless integration as well as rhythm and timing are all essential to the criteria for a high-fidelity loudspeaker...".