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Feastrex Makoto Loudspeaker System Review

Constantine Soo reports on living with objects created by master craftsmen and national living treasure of Japan

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Feastrex D5e Type III

Because of scarcity of resources and prejudices in differences, the world we are living in is not a peaceful one. The modern day economic engine harbors the hopes of many for a more peaceful and tolerant global village, one that is blessed by equality in not only social and economic statuses, but also one that equalizes the distribution of necessities of daily living, so that every one of us, regardless of race and creed, will know contentment and happiness, thus becoming a member of an unceasing global movement toward peace and prosperity.

Conversely, progression into such a new world will initially result in homogeneity of consumer goods, and we are witnessing the metamorphosis of the old world into the new world with what we use and drive, that is, what we need to conduct our daily activities. Scarcer and scarcer are high-quality, traditional handmade crafts that we will never be able to behold and appreciate.

Amidst the stream of progress is the Feastrex Makoto, an outgrowth of a treasure of labor of love from three artisans, Mr. Haruhiko “Hal” Teramoto, designer of Feastrex drivers, Mr. Ichibei Iwano, master Japanese traditional washi papermaker and a designated Japanese National Living Treasure and Mr. Makoto Tanaka, master nushiya wood craftsman.

Feastrex features six complete loudspeaker systems, and five of the enclosures of these models are manufactured by Sakae Kogei, a Japanese specialized loudspeaker enclosure manufacturer. The Makoto’s cabinet is custom made by Mr. Makoto Tanaka and carries a price tag of $23,000 the pair. It is a Douglas Fir plywood enclosure with as many as 40 layers of urushi lacquer.

The Driver

The Feastrex driver appointed to the Makoto cabinet is the D5e Type III, a $46,500 pair of 5-inch field coil version of the company’s all-Permendur alloy driver assembly. The Feastrex Makoto sports a nominal sensitivity of 100dB at 16 ohms.

Permendur possesses the highest known saturation induction of any material, and in magnetic fields above 16,000 Gauss, superior permeability than iron or iron silicon, thus assuring the highest level of dynamic transients and signal purity in drivers made with it. Permendur is first machined extremely carefully, as it is very difficult to be made into the continuously curved shapes required by the driver’s magnetic circuit. The parts are later annealed in a pure hydrogen environment for the better part of a day. The frame, pole piece and yoke are then machined separately and press fit. According to Joe Cohen of Lotus Group USA, Feastrex’s U.S. Distributor, “The exterior of the yoke is Nickel and then Gold plated with the top and bottom portions buffed smooth. The middle section has very fine and faint machine marks left on it which display something of a moiré pattern when highlighted.”

Cone material chosen to fully convey the power and control as asserted by the Permendur construct was what Mr. Teramoto considered as the most natural-sounding: a high-grade Japanese traditional washi paper made from mulberry called ho-sho-shi. This paper was developed in the Japanese middle ages for recording edicts from the Shogan, with the official Shogunate signature and seal for promulgation as law. Because it is not made from wood pulp like other papers but entirely from the inner bark of the mulberry tree, it garners tremendous strength for its tight, random interlock of fibers. As a cone material, Mr. Teramoto was of the opinion that paper would garner the least artificial tonality among all driver materials, be it metallic or mineral, and the traditional Japanese washi paper became his first choice for its unusual density.

Mr. Teramoto solicited the help of one Mr. Ichibei Iwano, a ninth-generation family washi paper maker who was designated ‘a Holder of the Intangible Cultural Asset, the Techniques of Echizen Paper (the official designation of a “Living National Treasure”) in June 2000 (Source: http://www.kougei.or.jp/english/crafts/1004/d1004-5.html).

According to Joe, the Iwano washi paper hones a density of fiber many times that of ordinary paper. In fact, the Iwano washi paper is worn as part of a traditional Japanese ceremonial attire. After the manufacturing process, the washi cone was incorporated with spiral pattern with embossed ridges manually by Mr. and Mrs. Teramoto to enhance its rigidity. The end result is a paper fiber cone with density several times higher than other paper cones, one that is also devoid of residual starch or nutrient content, enabling the final product to be free from being fed on by insects, thus lasting for centuries. Even the driver’s surround was made with lamb skin, casting a stark contrast with all other foam material that corrodes over time.

Mr. Teramoto’s fanatic drive for perfection is further illustrated with the use of titanium screws on the driver. Readers interested in learning more about the washi used in the D5e III can visit the English site.

Feastrex Makoto D5e IIIWhile the Makoto cabinet can be fitted with any Feastrex driver, there are five less labor-intensive complete systems of the same plywood material as mentioned earlier without the urushi lacquer. The top 3 systems comprise the Permendur alloy field coil driver series of the DM-5e3 with D5e Type III driver, the DM-5e2 with the Type II driver and pure-iron DM-5e1 ($16,500/pair) with Type I driver in the 70-liter internal volume cabinets. The other two systems comprise the Monster Alnico-equipped DM-5 ($15,500/pair) and the Naturflux field coil driver-equipped DM-5nf ($8,700/pair) in 60-liter internal volume cabinets.

All individual Feastrex drivers are also available for custom builders. There are a total of six 5-inch drivers and five 9-inch drivers. In the 5-inch family, they are the D5nf Alnico ($4,300/pair), Nf 5ex Naturflux field coil ($5,900/pair), D5 Monster Alnico ($11,150/pair), D5e Type I field coil ($11,350/pair), D5e II and D5e III. The 9-inch drivers include the D9nf Alnico ($7,950/pair), D9 Monster Alnico ($23,000/pair), D9e Type I field coil ($12,100), D9e II and D9e III.

The top two drivers in the D5e and D9e series culminate progressive use of the Permendur alloy in the driver assembly, beginning with the Type I’s iron-only monocoque (one-piece) face plate, yoke and pole piece driver. Type II drivers feature Permendur pole piece and face plate, with an iron yoke. The Type III drivers feature all the Type II amenities, with upgrade options for adding urushi lacquer on the frames ($8,300 for 5-inch, $13,000 for 9-inch), plus ebony phase plug and voice coil ($1,000 for 5-inch, $1,300 for 9-inch). A phosphor bronze frame with urushi lacquer marked the ultimate upgrade for the Type III. All Feastrex drivers come with cast aluminum frames as standard.

Because of the heavy applications of the Permendur alloy in Type II and Type II drivers in the D5e and D9e series, the actual pricing of the Permendur-rich Type II and III drivers and their respective complete loudspeaker systems is contingent upon the pricing indexes of the metal market at time of order.

Feastrex Makoto enclosureField coil drivers loses its magnetic charge when the power is turned off. In actual operation, each D5e III in the FM is connected to the accompanied PS-1 power supply via a Neutrik™ connector port next to the speaker binding posts. When energized, the magnetic permeability of the D5e III reaches 10,000 mµ with a magnetic flux density of 20,600 Gauss. Normal speakers are capable of less than 2/3 of such magnetic strength. Even the iron-only Type I is capable of a magnetic permeability of 4,000 mµ, and a magnetic flux density of 16,000 Gauss.

The PS-1 power supply allows a choice of 10, 12 and 15 volts setting. Per Joe, the sound would be more relaxed at the lower settings, and the highs and lows will tighten up at higher settings. In the words of Joe, “The D9e defines transparency, is the king of microdynamics and the emperor of inner detail. It operates at speeds not normally experienced by ordinary folk and deals in unlimited space as a sideline. It tickles and warms, but cracks like lightning. It says, ‘I am what you didn’t even know to ask for, but when I show up, you know what I am.’”

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