Publisher Profile

Visiting Aaudio Imports in November 2010

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This is the first time I’ve visited the Aaudio Imports’ Parker, Colorado headquarters in the winter months, and in my Californian heart I never thought I would once again wake up to a snowy morning. I lived in a snow-and-ice-laden Chicago for years before moving to California in the early 1990s, and snow in the Coloradoan countryside is incomparably tranquil and clean. For one, the ubiquitous and legendary Californian traffic jamming sessions have no presence here. For those who haven’t laid down roots yet, or who can afford to uproot their current lives, moving to Colorado, to its very affordable and spacious living environment is a no-brainer. Brian made just such an incredible move four years ago to Parker from Southern California.

Each time I visited his beautiful, million-dollar home, I tried to breathe in as much of those 6,000 feet high Colorado air as I can. Now for the fourth time, I must also take in as many of the beautiful fall sceneries of the countryside around Brian’s home as I can. The new Lansche (pronounced “Laaa-n-chay”) speaker line that Brian has picked up and is holding the fort in his reference sound room is another sight and sound to behold; the $80,000 Cubus, the only horn model being offered in the present line, specifically. The No.5 at $35,000-$40,000 a pair and the No.3 at $25,000-$30,000 a pair round up the models in the “Passiv Series”. You wouldn’t believe it even if I told you that the $80,000 Cubus constituted the top-of-the-line of this make, not when Brian Ackerman is the importer. Not when the preceding reference that used to occupy the same space was the $205,000 Triolon Excalibur, now in the MKII version. No, the $80,000-per-pair horn speaker is the second top model in the German speaker maker’s lineup of five, the flagship being the No. 8.1 at $187,000 the pair of the “Semiaktiv Series”. There is also the smaller, No. 4.1 at $55,000-$60,000 in the “Semiaktiv Series”.

All the 550 pounds of each of the No. 8.1’s seven-and-a-half feet tower houses the 0.3-inch CORONA ion plasma tweeter, two 3-inch fabric domes, two 10-inch paper composite woofers and two more 15-inch pure aluminum active subwoofers! With the cutover frequency ranges at 400Hz and 2,500Hz, I already can imagine the power of the speakers with the two 10-inch paper woofers, similar to what the Rockport Technologies Mira Grand II also offers. But the two 15-inch active pure aluminum subwoofers at the 40Hz cutover frequency are causes for celebration, and simply too significant for careless speculation by anyone before hearing it. And the speaker isn’t even in the U.S. yet. My audiophile craving is getting the better of me again.

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Lansche Cubus speakers: double walled horn design

The CORONA ion plasma tweeter technology used by Lansche is licensed from the same source as the Acapella ion tweeter, albeit at different output capacity. Specifically, the Lansche ion plasma tweeter carries twice the flare output of the Acapella’s. Whereas the Acapella ion tweeter traverses the range of 5kHz to 40kHz, the Lansche CORONA ion plasma tweeter encompasses the 2.5k-150kHz spectrum. A visual inspection from the front of the tweeter confirms the considerably larger flare in the interior center. The 2-foot deep cabinet houses a 19.7-inch long midrange horn, the mouth of which is molded mesmerizingly as part of the one-piece front baffle. The horn and the 18-inch woofer beneath it comprise the two large spheres beneath the ion plasma tweeter.

Because of Aaudio Imports, now for the first time in the history of the audio industry we have a company carrying two loudspeaker lines with ion plasma tweeters. What an auspicious moment this is for all of us; and I am very privileged to have been working with someone the caliber of Brian all these years. There is a third product line, however, that has also created much excitement for Brian. It is the Bergmann turntable line, from Denmark.

For the first time in my visits to the Aaudio Imports headquarters, I was told to bring as many LPs as I can. I have a few hundred LPs altogether sitting on the shelves in my listening room and in my storage room. As I am hauling my laptop as the carried-on, I had to pack the LPs into the check-in luggage. To avoid exceeding the weight limit of check-ins at the airport, I selected eleven LPs and put them inside the Classic Records specialty bag, which is then stacked between layers of clothes in the luggage. Had the TSA opened my luggage for inspection, they would’ve messed up the order in which the contents were arranged for safeguarding the precious LPs.

For your information, I wouldn’t have done it if it were not for Brian’s incessant insistence to experience his Bergmann vinyl setup, in the form of the $54,400 Sleipner airbearing and aircentered turntable & tonearm system. “You gotta listen to my vinyl system. It is the top-of-the-line model, you won’t hear anything better than this.” “Okay, I’ll bite.”

Sleipner is a term from Nordic Mythology. Per the Aaudio Imports website:

“In the Nordic Mythology, Sleipner is the magical eight-legged steed, and the first of all horses.
His name means smooth or gliding. Loki, who gave birth to Sleipner, gave this eight-legged steed to Odin, the supreme of the Nordic Gods, telling him that the horse was the swiftest on earth-and could bear Odin over sea and through the air…”

Brian believes that Bergmann turntables are perfect for me. One, because its cartridge lowering and lifting actions are via a knob at the end of the airbearing tonearm tube casing, thus addressing my tonearm-lowering-lifting-phobia. Two, because he knows the mechanism and precision of the linear-tracking tonearm will capture my imaginations as I use the linear-tracking-like 47 Lab PiTracer CD transport as my reference. Third, because he is confident that the air-supported and air-centered suspension system will be superior to most other turntable systems in isolating itself from vibrations, thus equaling if not surpassing the PiTracer’s highly methodical measures against vibrations.

The Bergmann Sleipner is a belt-driven design, featuring a large, bearing-less, 20-pound platter that rides on air and centered by air, thus inducing no mechanical and friction supposedly. The linear-tracking tonearm also operates on a cushion of air. The vacuum hold-down function is the quietest I’ve heard in similar designs by others; in fact, its outboard vacuum is the only working design that is completely quiet during operation, thus allowing it to be placed on the same equipment rack. Take note, Dyson. Piano black finish and WBT Nextgen RCA silver connectors complete the 110-pound vinyl system.

Whether I was playing the vinyl version of the Proprius Cantate Domino recording or the Angel Sonics 45 RPM disk of Karajan conducting Wagner overtures, the tonal brilliance and richness were more easily expressed by the Lansche Cubus than speakers of other tweeter technology, under the complimentary support of the $26,000 Ypsilon VPS100 valve phono stage, the $37,000 PST 100 MKII tube preamplifier and the $34,000-per-pair Aelius push-pull hybrid monoblock amplifiers. The silk dome tweeter technology of Audio Note UK AN-E Lexus Signature comes closest in shading sophistication and naturalness, while the ring radiator tweeter of the Lumen White Artisan has the lightning-fast transient characteristics of the ion tweeter. Hearing a tweeter doing 2,500 to 150kHz is an event to behold anytime you play music through it, but it becomes an experience the most unreal I can recall when this marvel of a technology can spread the spectrum in the most even-handed manner at the highest of outputs. The soundstage just seemed to continue to develop horizontally and vertically the louder you make the Cubus play. Parameters like ambience and instrument outline developed progressively until the Aaudio Imports reference sound room was overrun summarily in excessive volume by a mad, ignorant writer with a trigger-happy finger and ear-to-ear smile. Compressions at various frequencies that all other tweeters readily displayed in my years of auditions simply didn’t occur with the Lansche Cubus. The real singularity is the compression-free prowess of the Cubus’ Corona plasma tweeter.

The other Lansche model set up in the opposite end of the room, the No. 5, had the same CORONA ion plasma tweeter, this time accompanied by one 3-inch textile dome midrange and two 8-inch composite glass fiber/polyester fabric woofers. With Ypsilon’s $26,000 CDT 100 CD player/Transport at the helm as the CD player and accompanied by the $18,400 Einstein “The Tube MKII” balanced tube preamp and the $11,900 “The Light In The Dark” tube stereo power amplifier, the Lansche No. 5 exhibited closely comparable soundstaging prowess to that of the Cubus, but with no less flamboyance and flare. The twin woofers, however, asserted a punchier and leaner bottom-end than the Cubus, manifesting an instantly gratifying bottom-end. Whereas the Cubus was refined, spacious-sounding and very impressive, the No. 5 carried a higher dosage of audiophile excitement without discounting the quality of overall presentation, including the amazing performance of the CORONA ion plasma tweeter. I thought the Cubus, albeit much smaller than the Acapella Triolon Excalibur, would flex its muscles even more impressively if it were in a larger room than Brian’s sound room. The No. 5, on the other hand, rolled out all the bass juices within the listening room and filled out all sonic parameters very evenly. For half the price of the Cubus, the No. 5 is destined to be the prime choice for most homes except for the largest.

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Lansche No. 5 speakers, this time with Einstein “The Source” balanced tube CD player.

If this is not reason enough for you to get excited, Brian informed me that an upgraded model, namely the No. 5.1 with a larger, 4-inch Audio Technology midrange will be introduced to replace the original 3-inch. The No. 5.1 will be approximately $5,000 more at around $40,000 for the Satin Veneer pair and around $45,000 for the Piano Black High Gloss Veneer pair.

Brian also substituted the Ypsilon briefly with Lindemann’s latest CD player, the $12,500 825 High Definition Disc Player, and I wrongfully presumed that the Lindemann would be an unlistenable alternative to the Ypsilon. Brian knew that, of course, and with his usual poise and calm, graceful demeanor he once again proved he did know more than I did. For he had told me previously that Lindemann believes the less expensive 825 is so good that it has ended argument about whether CD or SACD to play. Playing the same discs I had put into the Ypsilon CDT 100, I found the new Lindemann to be the smoothest sounding detail-freak machine ever. And it wasn’t even a tube player. The expansive soundstaging of the Lansche No. 5 was not one bit diminished, retaining the fullness and sophistication of instrument portrayal on stage as if the Ypsilon was still holding the fort. Brian was right again.

The Lindemann 825 High Definition Disc Player has the RCA, Toslink and USB inputs, plus RCA and Toslink digital outputs. The player’s USB audio port features a “USB Audio Class 2” audio interface for 24-bit, 192kHz capability. In fact, according to the Lindemann website, the 825 is the first CD player in the world to combine upsampling to 24-bit, 384kHz with a minimum phase filter. More details are available here (Lindemann) and here (Aaudio Imports).

This same player was also used in an inner, smaller sound room, in which a pair of Lansche’s $25,000-$35,000 No. 3 two-way floorstanders were placed. The room measured 12 feet 2 inches long, 11 feet 7 inches wide and 7 feet 6 inches high, and electronics were the Aaron No. 22 solid-state preamplifier and No. 3 solid-state amplifier. Reaching down to 2,500Hz, the No.3’s ion plasma tweeter qualifies as the only ion plasma tweeter available that is also versatile enough for use in two-way designs. Its upward-tilted front baffle also complemented the lower CORONA plasma tweeter and 8-inch paper cone woofer wondrously. With 7 feet of listening space between the front of speaker and the ear, the dynamics, transparency and dimensionality were amazing. Although the perspective resembled a balcony seat looking down onto the stage, the sonic expansiveness remained largely identical to that of the No. 5.

Again, six days came and went too swiftly during my stay at Brian’s place, like last year and the year before that. He was still just as hard working as before, conversing with his dealers and manufacturers on the phone all day, leaving me to the fun of sampling his new products. Throughout all these years, Acapella Audio Arts speakers and Einstein Audio Components remain the principle lines at Aaudio Imports. Recent additions of the extremely high-end turntables by Bergmann Audio and the only other plasma tweeter speaker company in the world, Lansche Audio, are just more blatant examples of the drive in which Brian is so hopelessly entrenched. Horn speaker aficionados are well served by Acapella’s speakers, from the $49,500-per-pair Violon MK-V to the $205,000-per-pair Triolon Excalibur MKII, each model being adorned by arguably the most exotic tweeter in the world. By the same token, readers seeking to spend less have the option to enjoy the refined Acapella horn with the $32,000-per-pair LaCampanella MKIII sans the ion tweeter, the first edition of which I reviewed to great satisfaction, while the connoisseurs among us will be most happy, proud, and envied by being the owner of the $455,000-per-pair Sphaeron Excalibur.

If you are as big an audio junkie as I am and will be happy just to have a pair of speakers with ion plasma tweeters, then I suggest the Lansche No. 3 at $25,000 the pair, or even the No. 5 at $35,000 per pair. Not as exotic as the Acapella horns, but exquisitely equipped with the only mass-less type of tweeter in the world. Of course, I feel the most sorry for myself, and decidedly less for everyone else claiming to be an audio junkie like me, for the fact that there is a pair of the Acapella High Violoncello II and Lansche Cubus to choose from, both priced at around $80,000 the pair and equipped with ion plasma tweeters albeit operating at different ranges. You mustn’t get on my last nerve by asking me what to do with $80,000 worth of audio budget. It will be most unkind and inhumane of you. But you know what I’d do if I had $160,000 to spend.

Retrospectively, besides the Ypsilon line of super high-end electronics and the Lindemann line of solid-state electronics, he, in 2010, also brought in the more affordable solid-state electronics line, Aaron, together with its higher-end sibling, Sovereign. In cables and accessories, the cable products of Stage III and accessory lines Audiotop and Weizhi complete the very select group of products under the Aaudio Imports umbrella.

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Aaudio Imports
4871 Raintree Drive
Parker, CO 80134

Tel. 720-851-2525
Cell. 303-264-8831
Fax. 720-851-7575

URL: www.aaudioimports.com
E-mail: brian@aaudioimports.com

The beautiful, backlit Lansche logo comes standard on all Lansche speakers

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