Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 2.04, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, SOtM dX-USB HD w. super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, S.A. Lab Lilt DAC/preamp [on review], Fore Audio DAISy 1 [on review]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, COS Engineering D1, Lindemann Audio music:book 15 [on review], S.A. Lab Lilt DAC/preamp [on review]
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier & Vita; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan], 2 x Lindemann Audio music:book 55 [on review]
Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics M1; Albedo Audio Aptica; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer, Crystal Cable Minissimo [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc amp stand with Krion platform [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: starting at €7'085/pr, with the companion sub starting at €4'152

Due just to proximity and timing
—the second home for soundkaos designer Martin Gateley is Switzerland where I'd first heard his Wave 40 tonewood widebander with Raal ribbon at the 2012 HighEnd Suisse show in Zürich—my February 2013 review of his first speaker hit before other markets ever had a chance to hear it for themselves. But at the Munich 2013 and 2014 shows, soundkaos had partnered with Bakoon, Colotube and Trafomatic to spread the good word beyond Swiss borders. By late 2014, Paul Messenger in the UK (Martin's first home) finally had taken a long hard look at the oval 2-way for Hifi Critic. He pronounced it "an excellent example of how to retain the very real virtues of the single full-range driver working while taming its usual eccentricities. The Wave 40 is unquestionably costly but it’s also very pretty and the bottom line is that it also does the sound quality business, sufficient to justify an Audio Excellence award."

Two reviews, two awards. Not a bad start for a newcomer. With the Wave 40's luxury sticker* given its modest driver artillery and concomitant bass limits, Martin had designed a cleverly matching dual 12" DSP-controlled subwoofer whose two woofers face each other separated by just a narrow slot. He'd subsequently shrunk said sub into a dual 8" version to augment his new more affordable second coming. That speaker is the SK16 nicknamed Skiny. As though taking a cue from the W5se sounding out my desktop, the Skiny turns Sven Boenicke's solid-wood clamshell concept on its side. Where the small W5se is far narrower than it is deep, the soundkaos does it the other way. Its width is set by a teardrop shaped diagonally inset tweeter/widebander cluster. Its very shallow depth seems just sufficient to cradle the main driver's Alnico magnet. Above the Skiny's Corian/MDF plinth facing back sits another widebander. That one is active only below 200Hz to turn things into a proper 2.5-way. Given the overall small cabinet volume, this auxiliary woofer and its location close to the floor spell obvious bass reinforcement for a lower F3 plus higher 92dB efficiency to remain friendly to amps like Trafomatic's EL34 Aries SET.

* Swiss labour is costly. So is Alpine Spruce tonewood, most of which ends up with luthiers. So is paying for wavy baffles where a late-showing knot means they must be scrapped.

At left, the first UK showing for soundkaos, with Wave 40, Subwave D12 and Bakoon AMP-12R.

The Skiny's unique all-wood sub baffle/basket assembly.

The speaker's teenage number points at its widebander's diameter in centimetres. Designed and built by Germany's Armin Galm of Enviee just like the 21cm whizzer-equipped bicone of the Wave 40 is, that makes the de-whizzed SK16 driver with the pointy wooden phase plug five centimetres skinnier, i.e. 160mm or 6.3". Oh the glories of being a trim teenager. To eliminate a conventional metal basket and rim, this new driver's pleated paper surround which seamlessly continues the actual cone bonds directly to the two-tone wooden sub baffle which also houses Armin's own 25mm soft dome tweeter. The widebander's basket structure then gets crafted from solid wood which bonds to the same sub baffle for improved mechanical unity. Rubberized stand-offs decouple the magnet structure from the driver mount plate. One also assumes avoidance of metal-induced eddy currents and related effects which led the UK's Dennis Morecroft decades ago to shun metal enclosures for his electronics in favour of acrylic boxes. Hence also the non-metallic plinth which doubles as xover housing.

Firing sideways, Martin's established 'scoop loading' is a quasi port with some functional overlap to a very short rear horn. Being mirror-imaged, most users should run the SK16 tweeters out. Obviously the reverse is just a quick try away for rooms or setups which might prefer that. For absorption exhaustion of the rear wave, Martin lines his Swiss-made enclosures—like the matching sub, those are available in solid Maple, Cherry or Walnut—with Aramid honeycomb. That's a bit like converting a speaker's insides into an anechoic chamber. At right we see an early SK16/D8 prototype combo as previewed at the Munich 2014 show. For the early skinny, the scoop still exited low. Final production has repositioned that opening a bit higher, refined the plinth and added the teardrop detail.

On tech talk, for the Wave 40 veteran critic Paul Messenger admitted that "quite how this scoop-shaped outlet actually works is just as controversial as the attempts to describe it, though it does appear to reinforce the bass across a rather broader band than a regular port. The port (whatever it is and how it actually functions) is tuned to around 44Hz and the fundamental free-air resonance of the driver is a little above 50Hz, so the absolute bass weight and extension is bound to be somewhat limited. (Inevitably perhaps given the high sensitivity.) Under our in-room conditions the bass rolls off quite gently below 80Hz, so is overdamped with a slower rolloff than usual; it’s still only 6dB down by 30Hz so is going to sound dry but will still add some impression of scale and worthwhile bass extension." To really get the scoop would require chatting with Martin Gateley's design consultant Christian Ellis of CE Electro-Acoustics in the UK. But there's always the pesky need to protect IP. We'd give our gents a pass on the matter if they preferred. As it turned out, Martin did have something.