Swapping Amphion and Kaiser became instantly illuminating by the hardware bumps it caused. The Chiara played it tonally far denser and warmer to have me knock the C-03 back to zero gain, then eliminate it entirely for DAC-direct drive, then replace the XA-30.8 for the FirstWatt F6 amp. The German champs were in no need of textural or mass enhancements. This prompted various speed-card trials to see whether, when and how that needle would finally tip and upset overall balance. With what I had on hand, it didn't. This included a return to the Metrum Hex converter as the leanest most timing-fixated PRaTty deck of my inventory. Though otherwise utterly irrelevant given the price gap, what this juxtaposition did confirm was the One18's brisk fresh crisp behaviour. It's the kitchen of very keen knives. With them the chef—in this instance the recording—is in full control to cut right down to the bone and into very small particles. This would seem tailor made for the needs of a recording professional who is tasked with monitoring mixes one layer at a time without requiring pushy SPL to do so. Home listeners sharp on looking the recording engineer over the shoulder are thus likewise served. Those for whom listening pleasure means more warmth, tonal weight and half shadows can easily season to taste (the very thing Anssi Hyvönen frowns on*) to inject those qualities to their liking. The One18 is a fast-enough runner to win races even when wearing heavier clothes.
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* Anssi Hyvönen: "Absolute misunderstanding here. The beauty of passive speaker and part of the fun of higher-level audiophilia is that you can fine-tune the sound to your liking via the signal chain. Therefore at the end-user level, it is perfectly acceptable—even for a purist myself—to  shape the sound to fit one's own personal preferences. The trend which I am absolutely against is this taking place at the loudspeaker voicing level because that takes away this option from the customer. When speaker makers play safe and voice their speaker to sound “sweet” and “musical” (the exact words by the person who was involved in the voicing process of one of the best-selling speakers today) with technically less than perfect mainstream material, it will with high probability sound slow, veiled and mushy with the material and signal chain that is produced with care. To me the job of a speaker manufacturer is simply recreating the original signal as faithfully and naturally as possible. If the recordings do not sound right, it is not the job of the loudspeaker maker to start revoicing the music signal to what the loudspeaker manufacturer thinks is correct. But maybe if the manufacturer feels strongly about getting it right, maybe it his obligation to try to offer tools for the music-making community so that such revoicing at speaker side is not needed in the future.


"Hifi used to be popular and the average quality of products and knowledge at the dealer level even in small towns was high. Customers had local help to navigate through the hifi maze and find a solution which they were happy with; like my parents with that Luxman system which I bought for them when I was 14 and which was still in use 20 years later. That has changed. During the past decades, better separates-based hifi has gotten so complicated that even those  who sell it cannot come up with a synergistic system. No wonder people are turning to solutions which seem to offer an easy way out of this maze, be they highly compromised  one-box solutions or active speakers. As the world turns increasing digital, we should be aware of the pros and cons it offers. Funnily enough, the beauty of digital is also the curse of digital. By keeping our speakers passive and by housing the amp separately we can—amongst other things—isolate digital into one signal component, which can be exchanged later on. The advances in digital engineering during the past 5 years have been rapid and impressive. Does this mean that we have reached a state where the development of digital slows down? I bet we have not. When it comes to the pro market which I believe will increasingly dig its its claws deep into the flesh of the mid priced hifi market, D class is the only alternative when I comes to amplifying technology.
"


An obvious overlay between these speakers occurred on absentia of triggered room modes. It's one reason Magico speakers are popular at audio shows as a maker of electronics who has also shown with Wilson explained. Given rooms which often are too small, sealed Magicos are less fussy and critical than ported competitors. Like show exhibitors, home audio lovers routinely go after speakers which their rooms won't properly support. That's folly but quite typical. Here ABR loading eliminates what should be a key concern to anyone chasing top performance: lumpy bass with booming hot spots that mess with the rest. Of course if you're addicted to sock'em bass from big woofers, small woofers just won't do. Neither will headphones. That's not a function of insufficient reach. That's a shortage of surface area and air motion. And it's also more typical or right for amplified not unplugged bass. If you're a clean freak—someone who abhors bass resonances intruding into higher bands and who finds club bass unnaturally dialled up and counterproductive—the One18 will have your vote. From this follows that if you reference and model sound after acoustic not amplified music, the cleanliness and truthfulness of the Amphion is more important than what it lacks in raw shove in the 40-100Hz band. As your room shrinks to more standard dimensions, then into bedroom turf, the One18 will act bigger and bigger to truly become all the speaker you should have.


Whilst suspending the narrative to await the amp's arrival, Anssi checked in: "We often discussed the ins and outs of dealer networks and how to to make this hifi stuff more accessible to the end user. I presume that I have been a bit—too—old school in my views on how people purchase expensive products. I would never have guessed how many are perfectly comfortable to purchase something as expensive as the One18 based merely on comments of their colleagues without hearing it first (even if ours come with a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy). We offer that also because most customers fail to understand that even if you listen to a speaker at a dealer, the results due to placement and acoustical properties of the room can be radically different from what you will experience at home. There are tons of pictures on the web where audiophiles proudly display their system. Simply by looking at them, one can tell that results will be far from optimal. Another problem in these highly mobile days is how extremely rare it is that speakers will only be used in the initial room. It is most important that your long-term purchase works in your current room as well as your next. Again the Internet is full of stories where audiophiles describe “I moved but my system’s magic did not move with me". The risks increase with high-quality passive speakers whose life expectancy is long.

Amphion's Amp500 at CES 2015.

"The market throws a quick fix at this via DSP [which does absolutely nothing for a loudspeaker's radiation pattern i.e. its in-room power response - Ed.]. Unfortunately I have not heard a DSP system which handles a full-range signal for anything but a small sweet spot. The highly positive tone of professional users who bought our speakers seems to indicate that controlled dispersion is not just marketing BS but really works to make a speaker more room–friendly. What to me is really interesting is that thus far, every customer who purchased a One18 with our 30-day refund policy kept it. Of course I do not expect this 100% trend to last but it has been a very interesting test nonetheless. The initial idea was to give the pros sufficient time to finalize a few recording projects from start to finish to check the translation. The same idea works for the home side too. For audiophiles, 30 days from the date of shipping is long enough to provide a very comfortable risk-free assessment without feeling rushed or stressed."


Just as Amphion's crew was working Sin City's CES 2015 to demo a pair of their Two18 with JL Audio subwoofers, Antelope Audio's top Rubicon front end and Amphion's new €1'300/$1'800 Amp500 stereo amp plus a One15 setup on the side with a pair of tiny Amphion Amp100 monos and Zodiac Platinum/Voltikus/atomic-clock source, my Finnish amp arrived to continue this story. The €900/$1'300 Amp100's full-size casing with rack ears looks just like the Amp500. The former features two 25/50/60 into 8/4/3Ω stereo modules which are permanently bridged to mono for 100wpc into 8Ω. The latter makes 170/300/500wpc into 8/4/2Ω (all power ratings at 1% THD). Hence in Amphion's new Anaview amp stable, we've got two stereo amps and a pair of monos which cut the Amp100 in half and use Neutrik Speakons for space reasons but can sit right behind the speakers to simulate active boxes. The ultra bare-boned cosmetics reflect the pro-audio market and Anssi's desire to avoid duded-up pricing. These boxes won't have you gushing about gold-plated decals, 1-inch fascias, zero visible fasteners, engraved logos or inert tops. That'd be missing the point entirely.


A look at the guts explains why even a wussie can grip an Amp100 from a corner with one hand, yawn and count down the minutes. It weighs less than some pythonarian power cables with chunky center-weight accoutrements and alu-sleeved connectors. That's because class D makes do without power transformers as the traditional majority weight shareholders. Those guys with their AC line noise have been fired. Delete. Inputs for the Amp100 are exclusively on XLR, its big 5-way binding posts duplicate the One18's Argento Audio terminals.

A single stock Anaview stereo amplifier module quite densely populated and here run in bridge mode.

In use, a press on the frontal power mains with the blue light ring awakens the bantam weight (no standby) with a miniature pop (it shuts off with an equivalent small crinkling noise). I was back on the desktop and back to my customary Boenicke Audio W5se where the newcomer displaced the $1'695 Goldmund/Job 225 stereo amp which had played here tunes before. Source was my fully balanced April Music Eximus DP1 fed Qobuz Hifi or Spotify+ via a hardwired certified CAT6a link from our Internet router.


Crystalline clarity, wiry bass and a very explicit super-intelligible and informative upper mid/treble were the first things I noted without even trying. Booking some break-in time, I looked forward to getting the matching Amphion boxes back into the loop to conclude this very instructive assignment. With the One18 quite widely spaced, severely toed in and rather closer to me than the Boenickes—sitting upright in my writing/listening position, I touched the speakers' Amphion logos with my outstretched fingers—I felt as though enveloped in giant state-of-the-art headphones.