As I mentioned in my article on the three Audio Video Show 2022 locations, the event is too big for us to cover everything, even with two of us here (Jason Thorpe joined me again this year). We’d need five of us to tackle the whole show—and even then I’m not sure we could get it all within three days. As a result, we have to pick and choose what to include in our reports.
With that constraint in mind, Jason and I decided to include only products we thought were worth writing about. No product would be included just because it was at the show—something about it had to catch our eyes and/or ears. Thankfully, we found quite a few speakers at the PGE Narodowy location that met the criteria, which are shown below. Buckle up. This article is a long one, with all prices in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
50th-anniversary Polk Audio R200 loudspeaker
The first product that I thought was interesting was the 50th-anniversary version of the Polk Audio Reserve R200 loudspeaker—the company was founded on June 22, 1972. Before writing these words, I searched high and low for the price of this speaker. I couldn’t find it anywhere, though this limited-edition model seems to be pretty much the same as the standard R200, which came out in early 2021 and sells for $749 per pair in the United States—except that this one comes signed by Matthew Polk, the company’s best-known cofounder, which is a nice touch. Are most of them sold already and that’s why it’s so hard to find? No idea.
The R200, whether 50th anniversary or regular, seems innovative for the price. It has a 1″ ring-radiator-type tweeter, a 6.5″ Turbine Cone midrange woofer, and coolest of all, the rear-mounted X-Port, which is said to incorporate a “set of closed-pipe absorbers that are specifically tuned to catch and eliminate traditional speaker distortions.” As unfortunate as not finding the price was, not being able to hear the pair on display was worse—another pair of Polk floorstanders were playing each time I walked into the room. But Polk has a strong reputation for offering consistently good sound quality, so for budget shoppers, whether you can find the limited-edition version or not, the R200 in some form is probably worth checking out.
Børresen M1 loudspeaker
Is it possible to say anything good about a standmounted speaker that sells for the incredibly high price of €94,000 per pair, which is what the Børresen M1 costs? The price seems ridiculous, even if the speaker comes with a stand, bespoke drivers—a planar ribbon tweeter crossed over to a midrange woofer with a cone only 4.5″ across and a 3D-printed basket—fancy Ansuz Gold Signature series internal cabling, Ansuz Darkz Z2S stand-decoupling footers, cryogenic treating of the metal to provide “further significant improvement in conductivity,” and wild claims about the crossover topology and other technical aspects that, even after reading the literature over and over, I found almost impossible to understand. So when the Børresen M1 was first announced earlier this year, I wouldn’t have thought there was anything good to say about a small speaker with a price that high, no matter the parts and claims—and particularly because of the nothing-special specs: a rated sensitivity of 87dB (1W/m) and bass reach to a mere 40Hz, for example.
But my experience at Audio Video Show 2022 proved that I was at least somewhat wrong. Jason and I sat down for a long listen to the speakers, which were spaced really far apart and were being used with Aavik electronics and Ansuz cabling (Børresen and those two brands are all part of Audio Group Denmark). We determined that, insofar as the sound goes, the M1s definitely didn’t sound bad—and in some aspects sounded very good. I was a little put off that there was no solid center image and actually thought that the speakers might be out of phase, but Jason was convinced that the lack of a center image was just because of the wide spacing, which made the whole presentation more diffuse and enveloping. But we both liked the speakers’ punchy bass, good midrange clarity, and rather sweet and unoffensive highs.
“For small speakers, they sound really good,” Jason said as we walked from the room.
“But 94,000 euros good?” I queried back.
He just laughed. Then I did. But at least the M1 is not laughably bad. If someone has cash to burn, this small speaker does sound good, at least from what we heard at Audio Video Show 2022—meaning there is something good to say about a speaker priced so high. The price is still ridiculous, though.
Horn Acoustic Ferria loudspeaker
After I saw the next six speakers, I told Jason that I was going to write an article called “Horny Speakers.” Four of them have very large horns on one or more of the drivers, while each of the other two has much smaller horns on only the tweeter. Then I decided to just mix them into this article, which is partly why it’s now so long.
One of the great things about the annual Audio Video Show is that it introduces people to brands they’ve likely never heard of. One such brand for me was Horn Acoustic, which is a Polish company that must be rather new because its line of speakers is only two deep: the Viva, along with what was showing at PGE Narodowy, the Ferria, which is in the photo above.
Priced at €10,990 per pair, the company’s website describes the Ferria as “a classical two-way passive loudspeaker design. Ferria has been designed for use in rooms up to approx. 30 m2 in area.” It uses an 8″ midrange-woofer for the lower frequencies and a 1.75″ compression driver for the higher frequencies. The horn surrounding the high-frequency driver can be custom-colored. The Ferria’s impedance is said to be 8 ohms, the sensitivity is rated at 91dB (1W/m), and its frequency response is claimed to be 35Hz to 20kHz, though without deviations given.
I can’t say that the pair of Ferrias blew me away with their sound, but I also confess that I didn’t listen to them that long. But I certainly wasn’t put off by what I heard, mind you, and I really liked the speaker’s look—it was a pleasant departure from the really big horn speakers that I saw. That’s why I felt that the Ferria deserved to be highlighted here.
Horns Symphony 10″ loudspeaker with designer Lukas Lewandowski
Next up is the Symphony 10″ (there’s also a Symphony 13″), made by the appropriately named Horns company, which is based in Lublin, Poland. Few people have probably heard of this brand, but it’s more established than it seems.
The Symphony 10″ has, you guessed it, a 10″ coated-paper woofer underneath a 2″ tweeter with a very large horn surrounding it. The tweeter has “level regulation,” meaning you can increase or decrease the volume of it. Speaker sensitivity is said to be 92dB (I assume 2.83V/m, though it’s not specified), the impedance is rated at 8 ohms, and the frequency response is claimed to be 35 to 20,000Hz, though, once again, no plus or minus deviations are in the literature. Its price is €12,000 per pair, which is, in high-end-audio terms, more sensible than what the Børresen M1 costs.
Why I wanted to include this speaker here was not just because of the horn topology or the price—but because the sound from the pair was very natural and effortless in the room they were being played in. In other words, they sounded good—really good, actually. And when I looked up the speaker on the company’s website, I found 14 models in total and a corporate history that dates back to 2006. So for those looking for the high efficiency that a horn-type design can deliver, this brand is probably worth checking out, whether it’s for the Symphony 10″ or some other model.
Blumenhofer Acoustics Gran Gioia XXL
Typically, horn-type speakers have a look that only the designer can love. Enter the Blumenhofer Acoustics Gran Gioia XXL, priced at a whopping €270,000 per pair, which takes the only-the-designer-can-love-it look to unheard-of levels. But cup-half-full Jason Thorpe said, “Well, at least there’s a lot of wood there. Nice wood.”
Indeed, there is a lot of wood—and a lot of drivers, all horn loaded, of course. Details were hard to come by, particularly because this speaker isn’t on the company’s website, though it does contain the two other Gran Gioia models, which are smaller, so I am guessing that this must be a new flagship. Nevertheless, The Gioia XXL has two woofers, either 10″ or 12″ across, each with a massive piece of wood in front jutting forward, though I am not sure why. There is also a 1.4″ driver for the middle and high frequencies, as well as a supertweeter attached to the top of the cabinet by an odd metal contraption. The drivers are blended by an external crossover that appears to have a jumper-based level control that affects the midrange and high frequencies.
I didn’t include the Gran Gioia XXL here just because its ugly-as-hell appearance caught my eye. That would be mean. I included it here because it sounds a lot better than it looks—like a lot better. In fact, better than anyone would think such a monstrosity could sound. I will leave it at that.
JBL Everest DD67000
The JBL Everest DD67000 was by far the most mainstream- and attractive-looking of all the large horn-type speakers I saw at PGE Narodowy. It’s also from a company every audiophile has heard of, though not always for the right reasons.
Priced at $82,500 per pair, the DD67000 is a three-way design featuring two 15″ “three-layer sandwich cone woofers” that are said to produce an in-room bass response to 29Hz (anechoic to 45Hz), a 4″ pure-beryllium compression driver for the midrange and high frequencies, and a 1″ pure-beryllium “ultra high-frequency driver” claimed to reach right up to 60kHz. Level controls are available to tweak both the bass and the highs.
These days, the JBL company is best known for those crappy little Bluetooth speakers like the one Jason Thorpe brought to Warsaw to use in his hotel room. As useful as those little speakers are, I think it’s unfortunate that people nowadays primarily know the brand for those products, not because of the very impressive speakers that the company also makes, such as the DD67000, which is mostly why I wanted to highlight this model here.
Triangle Cello 40th loudspeaker
Triangle is a speaker maker located in a small northern French town called Soissons—a place that’s been described to me as being boring as hell by more than one person. But the Triangle speakers that I have had experience with have been anything but boring, both in terms of looks and sound.
Triangle’s newest speaker is the Cello 40th, priced in the US at $15,000 per pair. It’s now the middle Magellan-series speaker designed to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary—above it is the floorstanding Quatuor 40th and below it the stand-mounted Duetto 40th.
The Cello 40th is a three-way design that can be considered a horn speaker because of its TZ2900 horn tweeter, which is said to use “a next-generation dome in magnesium alloy that enhances the finest details of your recordings.” The rest of its drivers aren’t horn loaded, however. The 6.3″ midrange is described as having “a paper diaphragm and small pleat suspensions,” which the company claims will help “the vocal register with great neutrality and without the slightest coloration.” Below the midrange are two 6.3″ woofers, each with a cone that “is characterized by a ‘sandwich’ structure, composed of a double sheet of fiberglass with a cellulose pulp internal structure.” This composite material is said to offer “the ideal combination of mass damping and rigidity to the moving coil” so that the driver can handle “strong impulses without distortion.”
Technical details aside, the Zebrano wood finish of the pair at PGE was fetching. Space Black and Golden Oak are the other two finishes available. So like I said, while the town of Soissons might be boring, the speakers that come out of it seem anything but.
Fyne Audio Vintage Classic XII loudspeaker
“With bold cabinet dimensions that hark back to some of the 1970s’ most ambitious home loudspeakers, the Vintage Classic XII is a masterpiece of retro design meeting cutting-edge modern performance.” Those words are straight from Fyne Audio’s website, and while I can’t confirm the performance part yet, since I didn’t listen that long at PGE Narodowy, I agree that the Vintage Classic XII can be considered “a masterpiece of retro design.” This speaker looks really cool—and has interesting tech.
Priced at €27,000 per pair, the Vintage Classic XII features a 12″ IsoFlare driver, which has a 12″ “multi-fiber” midrange-woofer cone surrounding a horn-loaded compression driver with a 3″ titanium-alloy dome. The two drivers hand off to each other at 750Hz, and there’s a downward-firing port to augment the bass. The XII’s in-room frequency response is said to be 25Hz to 26kHz (-6dB), the impedance is rated at 8 ohms, and the sensitivity is claimed to be a very high 96dB (2.83V/m).
There are two interesting dials on the front panel, labeled Energy and Presence. A frequency chart printed near the Level dial indicates that it allows the listener to lower or raise the entire frequency range above 750Hz by up to 3dB, which will undoubtedly give a duller or brighter sound, depending which way you go. Another frequency chart near the Presence dial lowers or raises the range from just above 2kHz to just below 8kHz by 3dB, which will give the upper midrange less or more “pop.” There’s no doubt that with the popularity of retro-inspired hi-fi, the Vintage Classic XII carries a lot of appeal.
T+A S 430 loudspeaker
This last speaker isn’t a horn speaker, but it’s quite special because it’s just about to be released. The T+A S 430 is the smallest and least-expensive speaker in the company’s new Solitaire S range, which will also include the S 530 and S 540 models above it.
Priced at €24,000/pair, the S 430 has one 5″ midrange driver above and another below a magnetostatic-type high-frequency driver. T+A calls this high-frequency driver Mag50 and in a press release states: “The Mag50 magnetostat, driven by ten magnets, offers an amazing blend of enthusiasm, resolution, and fine dynamics in a unit just five centimetres in size.” The S 430’s bass output is handled by two 8.7″ woofers. The S 430s on display had cabinets that looked stunning in a high-gloss finish T+A calls Makassar, though high-gloss silver- and black-colored finishes are also available. The baffle also comes in silver or black.
The S 430s sounded good in the PGE Narodowy display room they were showing in, but Oliver John, who is the company’s international sales director, told me that the entire range is still being finalized in terms of sound, so I shouldn’t lay final judgment just yet. However, I’ll be able to hear all of the final-production Solitaire S speakers when I visit T+A’s factory in late November, a trip I’d planned a couple of months ago just to see this new range in its final form. T+A is located in a small town in Germany called Herford, which, like Soissons, most would find boring—but I’m certainly happy to go there just to see these new speakers.