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The Beatnik Bops On Over To Novato

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Jack Roberts Beatnik's JourneyA couple of Fridays ago I got up and drove over to the little town of Novato, California. My day trip was for two reasons. The first was to return the Quad Electrostatics and the Quad tube amps to Ken Askew. I admit I hated to see the Quads go. The other and much more exciting reason was to hear Ken’s newest speakers, Clayton Shaw’s Spatial Audio Lumina open baffle speakers. They cost $20,000 to $25,000 per pair including servo bass amps. Ken’s were a magnificently finished Makassar Rosewood. They are 4 feet tall, 16 inches wide, 3 inches deep and each weighs a staggering 150 pounds. I’m not at all fond of the looks of the Spatial Audio’s Hologram speakers, but their Lumina speakers are simply sleek and very beautiful.

People like Ken are one of the best things about this hobby. I want to thank him for the time with the restored Quad 57 that brought back so many good memories. Truth is since I’ve been a reviewer I’ve been pleasantly surprised that on the whole the audio community of reviewers, manufactures, customers and yes, even retailers are really nice people. Most of them genuinely love music, great design and are most helpful to others. Ken was very gracious to let me come over and spend the day listening to his beautiful new speakers.

For the Lumina, Spatial Audio uses their new X32 coaxial drivers, which incorporates the world’s first pure Beryllium compression diaphragm. It has a 35-pound magnet and is 96dB efficient. Then, there are twin servo controlled bass drivers that are driven by the accompanying 375-watt servo mono block amps. In Ken’s room, they were flat down to 15Hz. This is both a good and bad thing in my opinion.

I didn’t have to listen long before I knew I was listening to a truly world class speakers. I don’t know of any traditional deadened box speaker that can hold a candle to what I heard at Ken’s house. There are speakers with tuned, live cabinets like the Teresonic Ingenium XR, the Shindo Latour, some Tannoys and a few horn systems that are a little more alive sounding. Still, none of those have the bass of the Spatial Audio Lumina speakers, and the Lumina sounded almost as alive the Shindo and Teresonic, the two most alive-sounding speakers I have heard. I should mention that Ken was driving the Luminas with a Pass Labs XA 30.5 I would have loved to have heard them with the company’s newest XA 30.8 amp. The Luminas don’t use a digital crossover, but a passive one.

As I listened, I came to feel these speakers played piano recordings better than any multi-driver speaker I have heard; probably better than any speaker I have heard. The sound of male and female vocals was equally involving. The midrange of this system is simply superb. It seems ironic to say a speaker without a box sounds box-less, but it does so in a way that is more open than any non-horn or non-single-driver speaker I have heard. The air, the space, the micro-detail, the micro-dynamics and especially the macro-dynamics just came as a shock to me. The reason it shocked me was I never felt this way about any of the speakers Clayton Shaw designed for Emerald Physics, nor the Spatial Hologram speakers.

There is no doubt in my mind that these speakers handle really deep bass better than any speaker I have heard. By really deep I mean bass below 30Hz. The problem I have with bass that deep is it often excites the room or things in the room. Yes, this can be handled by acoustic treatment, but I personally don’t want to listen to music in a room that looks like a recording studio. I am perfectly satisfied with a speaker that can play bass between 30Hz and 40Hz as long as it can do this in a very dynamic, powerful and big way. I know a lot of people who don’t feel that way and this speaker truly plays bass I have seldom, if ever, heard on recordings, especially from a speaker this size.

There is no way I can really compare these speakers to my Teresonics. Too many variables: Different room, different amp, digital source versus vinyl source. Still, I really, I mean really liked these speakers and am glad I got to spend a Friday listening to them at Ken’s.

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