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MaxxHorn Lumination Floorstanding Speaker with Feastrex D5 Monster Alnico Driver Review

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(Effective August 1, 2009, Maxxhorn has changed its company name to AFFIRM AUDIO. -Ed.)

MaxxHorn Lumination loudspeaker with Feastrex D5 Monster Alnico driver

In 1964, Scientists working at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, made one of the monumental discoveries in science. Using a 20’ microwave horn antenna, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were looking for radio signals from the Milky Way and regions between the galaxies. Their observations found a steady background noise that they couldn’t explain. After checking for every possible problem with interference, malfunctions and test procedures, they came to the realization that their horn was picking up the afterglow of the Big Bang, a low-level microwave remnant that was predicted by theorists who worked on Big Bang theory. For their accidental discovery, Penzias and Wilson received a Nobel Peace Prize and Bell Labs put another trophy on the wall. The large size of the horn in Holmdel gave it a lot of gain, meaning it could pick up the faintest of signals.

Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, but my experience with the MaxxHorn Lumination (though it won’t produce a Nobel Prize) has allowed me to hear the audio equivalent of “cosmic background radiation”.

Just as in microwave reception, where the universe is coupled to a small receiver, a horn is the ideal transformer for matching a driver to a room. There can be no denial of that fundamental truth. The problem has always been getting rid of box and driver distortions that were magnified by the horn. Also, because of the efficiency of horns, problems with crossovers, passive components and sources were magnified. It is possible that much of the “classic horn sound” was related to upstream problems.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of inventive designers have been working on the ideal horn for the better part of a century with various measures of success (and plenty of failures). They’ve been up against a mountain of problems. Just in the last decade, designers have gotten closer to the goal: a horn that has all the benefits of a horn (efficiency, dynamics, low distortion) with none of the failings (funny sounding balance issues, resonances, etc). With the MaxxHorn Lumination, a coupling of extraordinary driver with a nearly ideal horn design, we’re getting ever closer to the conceptual ideal of a single full-range driver able to perform the job of a 2- or 3-way system. The side benefits of a horn-loaded single-driver design will be no nasty crossover (passive or active), better damping (regardless of damping factor of the amp), and efficiency that will allow the use of the purist (and simplest) amplification.

Before describing what I think are state-of-the-art performance characteristics of the Lumination, a small amount of horn indoctrination and techno-talk is in order.

An International Effort

I suppose the most important part of a horn is the horn, and the MaxxHorn designer is a native of South Africa, Johan van Zyl. He lives in Dallas TX now with a beautiful wife and beautiful children. Johan is a mechanical engineer which allows him to look at things differently from most. Many designers are electrical engineers who will “fix” a speaker problem with a zobel network or complicated crossover. Johan feels that the best way to get exceptional performance is to treat a speaker as a mechanical system, which in actuality, it is. If there is a response abnormality, the best way of getting rid of it is to find the mechanical cause before resorting to electrical fixes. Complicated crossovers and filters eat up power and decrease the damping factor of the amplifier.

“… I think the Luminations produce too much bass in a corner, so find the sweet spot for imaging, and then adjust for the best boundary reinforcement.”

The design that Johan settled on is best described as a tractrix flair with subtle tweaks. The forward-firing driver is mounted on the side of the horn, that is, not loaded at the beginning of the horn, but part way down, like a flute player blowing into a tone hole. The mouth of the horn produces music from approximately 45 ~ 1000Hz. The cabinet is designed to use the room walls to bring the bottom octave into balance with the mids. However, it does not need to be corner loaded. As a matter of experience, I think the Luminations produce too much bass in a corner, so find the sweet spot for imaging, and then adjust for the best boundary reinforcement. When finding the correct placement, think centimeters, not feet.

Johan and I spoke at length about why horns are good. When you look at the response curve of any driver, you see that it has a rather broad flat area that we consider the useful range, with the response gradually falling off above and below that. That response curve is based on a specified amount of power in free air. When you horn load a driver, and give it a transmission to couple the back of the driver to the room, you make the driver more efficient. What that does is make the useful frequency range of the driver go much lower AND much higher. Because the driver is working less hard to produce bass (less amplitude), it is free to make more treble.

That picture of the free air response is misleading. You look at the curve and think it will only produce that broad flat area on top of the curve. Think of a line that corresponds to -3dB on that response curve. Now, take that line and move it ¾ of the way down the response graph, and look at how much more treble and bass is under the line. That is what horn loading a driver can do. Think I’m wrong? Consider how high and low a set of headphones go when they’re pressed against your ear. Then move them 3 feet from your ears. Hear any bass? The same thing happens for the driver when horn coupled. Besides allowing a driver to go higher and lower, reducing the amplitude (how hard the driver is working) allows much better pulse response (it reproduces leading edges much better).

Another side benefit of horn loading is damping of the driver. Just think of the column of air behind the driver as a fluid. The column actually resists the cone and damps the response. I’m sure there is a better, more scientific way, of explaining all of this; I do understand that the free air response of a driver has no correlation to the sound it produces when loaded into various boxes.

A horn is a classic case of garbage-in equals garbage-out. I’ve heard the same enclosure with three different drivers and the sound changed completely with all three. The horn is going to magnify anything that goes into it (whether for good or ill). In other words, if you give Lee Morgan’s trumpet to a six year old, he’s not going to sound anything like Lee Morgan just because he’s playing Lee’s horn. For the Lumination, MaxxHorn decided to go all out and look for the best driver in the world. The search led to Feastrex, and the wondrous Dimension 5 Monster Alnico 5” driver. These drivers are stunning works of art compared to just about anything else ever made.

The Feastrex Element

Feastrex D5 Monster Alnico driver (Picture courtesy of Lotus Group USA)

The cones used by Feastrex look perfect, with virtually no hint that it’s paper as most of us know it. The paper is sourced from Ichibei Iwano, who has been declared a national treasure of Japan. It is Mulberry Washi (washi means “Japanese Paper”), made in the traditional Japanese method, which takes days to produce. There is homogeneity of texture in this Washi paper that you won’t find in western paper. The fibers are consistent in size and color. The thickness is consistent. Comparing this Washi to high quality writing papers, the Washi looks as if it were made from much purer and cleaner materials. Follow this link to see all the steps used to make this remarkable paper:

“Paper cones … from the Feastrex has a special quality that can only be obtained from paper, but with much better detail and nuance than any other paper cone I’ve heard.”

For me, this paper is more important than the AlNiCo magnet for producing the sound that makes the Feastrex unique. Paper cones have a sonic signature, and that from the Feastrex has a special quality that can only be obtained from paper, but with much better detail and nuance than any other paper cone I’ve heard. The surround is made of leather. I think I’d like to hear the driver made with old fashioned doped pleated fabric, like Altec and JBL classic drivers. There is one aspect of the driver that seems to be directly related to the leather surround. I’ll get to that later. One other interesting feature is the inclusion of a bolt-hole on the back of the driver. MaxxHorn uses this to mount the driver into the cabinet from the back, the affect being that the front of the cabinet is tied to the middle part of the horn, helping to damp resonance and rigidly mounting the driver in the process.

The Feastrex Dimension 5 driver is rated at 25 watts maximum power and 15 watts continuous, which is an absurd amount of power for a driver this efficient. These drivers, in the MaxxHorn enclosure, will produce realistic levels with 7 watts (actually, quite loud at 7 watts). At 15, you’ll be at rock concert levels. The magnets are AlNiCo, huge and very powerful at 17,000 gauss. The impedance is a very tube friendly 16ohms, in comfortable OTL territory. Useable range is 35 ~ 23kHz (-10dB), which is quite good for a 5” driver.

Robert Spence, the business side of MaxxHorn, invited me by the MaxxHorn factory to watch a pair being built. Unfortunately, I didn’t make time, although I did get to look inside the front and back of the enclosures to see the extensive damping used to make the enclosures commendably quiet (and darn heavy). MaxxHorn offers a variety of finish options from satin black (my favorite) to over-the-top. The fit and finish of the test pair was excellent.

First Impressions: Art Audio PX25

I first heard the Luminations over at Robert Spence’s house before his trip to RMAF 2007. I wasn’t going to Denver, and he wanted me to hear a comparison between the Immersion and Lumination. I liked a lot of what the Immersion did, but I’ve never much cared for coaxial drivers; many people love them, but they’re not for me — horses for courses! The moment music started playing from the Luminations, I knew that it was very special.

“… voices would appear in the space in front of the speakers, projected out into the room, while the background mix stayed several feet behind the voice.”

The amp that day was the Art Audio PX25, which seemed to be a match made in heaven. The source was a modified CD player, so I was intrigued by the great sounds, “what would they sound like with vinyl?” I thought. Most surprising to me was the holographic imaging, something that floored me. My prejudices were telling me to expect something very different from what I was hearing. It was some of the best imaging I’d heard — the voices had presence and cohesiveness. It was doing a very good job of imaging outside the speakers as well as a cohesive center image. Depending on the recording, voices would appear in the space in front of the speakers, projected out into the room, while the background mix stayed several feet behind the voice. Also, voices were dense and organic. Organic is a word that came to mind over the weeks I listened to the Luminations.

I had reservations about reviewing the Luminations because I didn’t have on hand amps that I thought were appropriate for reviewing a very high efficiency speaker. Luckily, Dr. Spence volunteered an entire system transplant, the loan of several other amps and generous input on room placement. At the same point, Constantine arranged for a review sample from Audion and a friend offered some of his many classic audiophile pieces, including EL84- and 7591-based amps. What eventually happened was the complete transplant of the system to my place. Besides the MaxxHorns, there was an Art Audio Carissa (courtesy of Clarity Cables), a modified Pioneer CD player that sounded pretty good, cables from Melissa Owen at Clarity Cables and very nice stands from Tate Blanchard at Custom Isolation Products. Also on loan from Doc Spence were several sets of 300Bs to try with the Audion Silver Night.

Setting Up

The most insurmountable aspect of using the MaxxHorn speakers is finding the best location in my room. As I wrote earlier, the tractrix horn has been designed for boundary reinforcement. With the MaxxHorn enclosure, centimeters make an audible difference in the bass. Initially, I placed them close to the same location that I had found for the Gemme Audio Tantos. The sound was bass shy and tipped up. Lack of bass can make a system sound bright or forward. I started moving them closer to the wall and they wound up about one foot further back than my initial position. The striking aspect of the experience was hearing how sensitive the speakers were to minute adjustments, both in relation to the room boundaries and to each other.

“… what gives the best bass isn’t the best place for imaging; what’s best for the sweet spot might sound blah for everyone else.”

There exists a very crucial balance in the MaxxHorn positioning between toe-in, balance, sweet-spot and boundary reinforcement. I found that if you arrange the speakers to cross in front of the listening position with the speakers closer to the room corners, the system balance improved while maintaining most (if not all) of the excellent imaging characteristics. It’s always a trade-off when positioning speakers: what gives the best bass isn’t the best place for imaging; what’s best for the sweet spot might sound blah for everyone else. That goes for all speakers. For the Luminations, the effect of moving is like a see-saw. It can go from forward and bright to boomy and dark. Further, the highs are very directional with 5” drivers. Wonderful thing it is that MaxxHorn’s customer service is always there for help. I needed it, but once I got the general idea, I was able to tweak the positioning for my taste: a little leaner than what Doc Spence likes, a little further apart, too.

During the listening sessions, I got to experiment with the Clarity Cable-preferred grounding arrangement, employed in their 3D Power Conditioner. I received the 3D Power Conditioner along with signal and power cables. The idea of preferred grounding is that the power conditioner has a central star ground that you link with a copper water pipe, or as I did, a ground rod installed just for the system. Since the system was on an outside wall, I used a masonry bit to drill through the mortar in the brick and through the sheathing, insulation and drywall. It was easy. I then drove the 6’ ground rod into the flower bed, which was not easy.

The Clarity Cable interconnects have connectors which allow you to link them to the 3D power conditioner, which you then connect to your new ground rod by the thickest run of copper you can achieve. The results were immediate and helped quiet the system’s background noise by at least 6dB. With a speaker as efficient as the Lumination, the difference in background noise allowed me to more easily detect differences in amps and tube selection. I can easily recommend an audition of the Clarity Cable products, but suggest that the 3D Power Conditioner in combination with the cables makes for a complete system where the sum is greater than the individual parts. The stands from Custom Isolation products were very well made and provided a sound platform for all the various changes in amplification.

Like a Pair of Wing Tips

“I could make the walls rattle on the other side of the house with 7 watts, but the Feastrex’s were only moving a fraction of a centimeter.”

Earlier I mentioned the break-in process. It might be a good idea to let the Luminations play round the clock for weeks. Because of the very high efficiency, the cones just don’t move very much. Even at extreme levels, they don’t flap around like the stereotypical cone. I remember my old ported JBLs flapping in the wind, making virtually no sound. The Luminations are virtually the opposite in every way. I could make the walls rattle on the other side of the house with 7 watts, but the Feastrex’s were only moving a fraction of a centimeter. Since the surrounds are made of leather, these drivers could take hundreds of hours to properly break-in.

From the point I took possession of the speakers, to the point that I returned them, the bass continued to fill out, and the midrange, improve. It’d be interesting to hear the exact same cones with the old fashioned pleated fabric surrounds that Altec and JBL were famous for using. Those old fashioned surrounds didn’t really need break-in at all. Of course, I’ve never heard a JBL or Altec that sounded as pure at the Feastrex driver. The point is that these speakers take a very long time to break-in, and I’m not sure if I heard them at their finest. This particular pair of drivers had more time on them than any other pair in the US. In that regard, I was lucky. I can conclude that these drivers are like a fine pair of hand made shoes. They get better with use.

My over-the-top comparison to the discovery of cosmic background radiation isn’t that over-the-top at all. With every amp or tube change, the differences were so easy to spot, they really just slapped you in the face. For all the ABX guys out there, I’d challenge them to use a speaker this revealing when trying to prove that all amps sound the same. Nothing could be further from the truth with the Luminations. The differences were so audible that I believe you really need to hear the Luminations with several different amps before you actually get a handle on what the speakers are doing.

The first two amps I heard with the Luminations were both from Art Audio: the PX25 and the Carissa. The two were totally different sounding. With the PX25, everything was sweetness and light. The textures of voices were reproduced with more organic realism than just about any other speaker I’ve heard. The only competition that is close is a full-range electrostat, which is a good basis for comparison, except that the Luminations have better dynamics than any stat I’ve heard, regardless of how much power you were feeding them.

“… I could here the cricket chirping way in the back of the studio, seemingly out in my yard, as the song faded out.”

I found myself being drawn to classic recordings of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. I surmise that the recordings back then were mastered for playback on single-driver systems, and that the Feastrex is closer to what the engineers had in mind. OR, perhaps the recordings were just better produced, with a minimum of processing, all tube electronics, ribbon microphones and good sounding analog tape. The characters of the recording venues were easily heard. On Buddy Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too”, I could here the cricket chirping way in the back of the studio, seemingly out in my yard, as the song faded out.

With the Carissa, things were much different. The volumes of detail that the PX25 reproduced were replaced with a dark, brooding atmosphere more appropriate for Wagner than Buddy Holly. The Carissa, which uses an 845, had a textural quality that didn’t really work with the Luminations, except for large scale symphonic works and rock. The extra power of the Carissa could be appreciated with loud, complex music, but at a price. I spoke with Joe at Art Audio and his opinion was that the Carissa was more suited for less efficient and more complex speakers. He also told me that the PX25 and 300B based amps were a much better choice with a very efficient speaker like the Lumination. He turned out to be absolutely correct. If you have the opportunity to listen to the Luminations and the PX25 from Art Audio, it might blow your mind. It was nothing like most single-ended tube-driven horn systems. The detail and transparency were more like what you might expect from an excellent planar speaker.

OTL Driven

From the Carissa, I decided to try one of the most extreme amps on the market, the Single Ended OTL by Transcendent Sound. This amp runs four 6c19pi Russian military triodes per channel for 3 watts into 16 ohms. One of the goals of MaxxHorn for the Lumination was that it could be driven to comfortable levels by single-ended OTLs. In most regards, the pairing is successful.

“In some regards, it was the best bass I’ve ever heard. I don’t recall ever hearing cleaner, tighter, more accurate bass …”

The chief strength was the best bass of any combination that I tried. It was tuneful, tight and clean down to the cut-off of the Luminations. In some regards, it was the best bass I’ve ever heard. I don’t recall ever hearing cleaner, tighter, more accurate bass, though I have heard lower (the horn starts to gradually roll of under 45Hz) and louder (loud bass is everywhere these days). It made the bass from the Carissa sound fuzzy and rolled-off in comparison. Honestly, without the transformer core saturation found in most single-ended products, the bass had a startling realism that wasn’t even bettered by the two transistor amps I briefly auditioned. The transparency was also first rate. However, there were limitations.

First, the combination was missing the impact that both the Carissa and PX25 had. There just wasn’t enough torque to reproduce the slam and impact these speakers are capable of reproducing; micro dynamics were very good, but macro dynamics were lacking. Second, the Single Ended OTL ran out of horsepower quickly, compressing loud passages, though still sounding sweet and airy. Third, the image size shrank and become more two-dimensional in comparison with the PX25. Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound recommended using the amp as a monoblock, which is easily accomplished by simply paralleling the inputs and outputs. Unfortunately, Bruce could not be talked into loaning a second amp and I was not willing to convert the system to mono, for it would mean completely changing the setup to get good sound from one speaker — more boundary reinforcement, different listening position, etc…

The promising results here suggest that one of Bruce’s more powerful amps, or using the Single Ended OTLs as monoblocks, might be the best possible amp for the job. Or, perhaps you have a smaller room and you don’t listen as loud so the amp has enough power for you. I would also love to hear the Atma-Sphere S-30 mkXL, which should have similar bass and transparency based on my other experience with Atma-Sphere amps. Later in the audition, I briefly got to hear an amp that might be the perfect compromise of power, bass, transparency and resolution when combined with the Lumination. More on that in a moment.

American Classics Driven

Being a big fan of classic American amps, I decided the audition wouldn’t be complete without trying a medium-power design from the golden age of tube audio. I had several good options to choose from. A local friend offered to loan PP EL84 amps from Dynaco and Eico, but in the end, I decided to use what I consider to be the best amp mass produced by McIntosh, the MC225. The output tubes are 7591s which have more trans-conductance than most other output pentodes that were readily available to manufacturers. That meant that the output stage was easier to drive and could swing more current than a similar tube with the same amount of drive. I believe that the 225 has one stage less amplification than the MC240.

Whatever the technical differences are, the 225 sounds way faster and more transparent than the other McIntosh amps I’ve used. With the Luminations, the slam and authority were the best of any amp I auditioned. It produced a visceral impact that could rattle anything not securely tied down. Listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” was a physical experience. I could play at stupid loud levels with very little listening fatigue. SRV’s guitar could be felt and heard. I felt like I was in the studio or a smoky nightclub somewhere in Dallas. Unfortunately, the imaging was somewhat two-dimensional and textures a little grainy and opaque. It’s possible that the 40-year-old electrolytics are really holding the 225 back. This amp was all original. Considering the age, it performed exceptionally with the MaxxHorns.

Audion Silver Night 300B Integrated Amplifier

About the time the Luminations arrived, Constantine arranged for the review of the Audion Silver Night, a 300B integrated amp that in many ways was an ideal mate for the Luminations. The Silver Night uses one 300B per channel for approximately 7 WPC into 8 ohms. It surpassed the dynamic capabilities of the Transcendent Sound Single Ended OTL, had much of the sweetness of the Art Audio PX25 and could almost play as loud as the MC225.

I listened to a broad range of music with the Silver Night and didn’t find any genre that didn’t agree with the pairing. Especially with vocals, the combo was first rate. It allowed the Luminations to do what the PX25 could do on voices but added a little more headroom for bass and drums. I really enjoyed my time listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis. Those early recordings were a revelation. The voices were as palpable and organic as I’ve ever heard.

“… the orchestra was way behind the speakers with Lee’s voice several feet in front and centered.”

On “I Was Born Under a Wandering Star”, sung by Lee Marvin, on the soundtrack to Paint Your Wagon, the orchestra was way behind the speakers with Lee’s voice several feet in front and centered. The two distinct images never blended or smeared and the gravel of Marvin’s voice was as realistic as you could ever want. It was eerily realistic. I listened to all manner of music, including Waylon Jennings, Prog, Moog, you name it. When Doc Spence dropped in, I pulled out Lucky Man and turned it up, way up. The Moog synthesizer lines seemed to float up to the top of the room, bathed in that huge artificial reverb. It was the best rendition of “Lucky Man” I’ve heard. And it was also satisfyingly loud.

I think the magic number for the Luminations is seven clean, feedback free watts. That’s into 8 ohms. With the Luminations, I think the Silver Night was putting out a wee bit less, but with less distortion than a typical 8-ohm load. It wasn’t always enough power though. Listening to Hendrix or Zeppelin or large romantic classical pieces could push the little 300B to the point of compression, at which point the soundstage collapsed and the bass got fuzzy. At normal volumes, the Silver Night was a detail retrieval machine, revealing microphone and recording techniques, studio size, recording medium, etc.. The only place it seemed to come up short, compared to the Single Ended OTL and the MC225 was bass, where the transformer was starting to saturate. Still, if you own any single-ended 300B amp (or anything SEDHT in the three- to ten-watt range), the Lumination should be considered.

Ayon Audio Spark Integrated Amplifier

Near the end of my time with the MaxxHorn Luminations, another amp came by for audition that had some of the best features of several amps, and might’ve been my favorite pairing for the Luminations.

Ayon Audio sent their 6c33c-based Spark, a very attractive and well-built amp from Austria. It combined the slam and macrodynamics of the MC225, the resolution of the Silver Night, the air of the PX25, the incredible bass of the single ended OTL, and could play as loud as the Carissa and MC225. The amp uses one 6c33c per channel, single-ended, driven by an EL84. I have a large room that opens up to the rest of the house. The Spark allowed me to play any type of music with the Luminations and the amp never gave a hint of distortion when playing large orchestral works or rock recordings. Its sound was very fast, something I attribute to the very high transconductance of the 6c33c, zero feedback and a simple output transformer (the low plate resistance of the 6c33c makes winding transformers easy). That also reminds me of OTL amps based around the 6c33c.

So were there amps that sounded bad with the Luminations? Yes, I tried a chip amp and an older “high current” transistor amp that both sounded threadbare, two-dimensional, opaque and generally blasé. The Luminations revealed every bad side of feedback, electrolytic coupling caps, cheap build quality, multiple extra stages of amplification and the bad idea that cheap transistors are. I’m not saying that there aren’t super high quality transistor designs out there, but I didn’t have one on hand. A single-ended, zero-feedback amp, like one of Pass’s, might sound fabulous. Just remember that you don’t need much power or complexity to drive the Luminations to lease breaking levels. Ten to twenty ultra pure transistor watts are available commercially, but I didn’t have access to them.


If I had to pin down what the MaxxHorn Lumination does better than anything else, it would be transparency. In the midrange, I haven’t heard a more revealing speaker. It had the same quality as classic electrostatics, but without the power limitations, thereby revealing dynamics that stats can’t.

Imaging and soundstaging were remarkably good, with the ability to present layers of sound. When backing tracks were mixed completely differently from vocal tracks, the speakers easily resolved the two different acoustic spaces. The dynamics from midbass through upper midrange were just about as good as anything I’ve heard.

The fast rise time with this horn makes most other speakers sound sluggish by comparison. The gentle rolling-off below 40Hz still gives plenty of response into the 30’s, so bass instruments are both tuneful and have impact, something that is hard to achieve with most dynamic speakers, when they usually sacrifice low bass for dynamics, or vice versa.

The treble response was very much like a full-range electrostatic, being directional, slightly sweet or golden and tailing off in the top octave. This is the cost to be paid by using a full-range driver. Minus the crossover, and all the nasty stuff that happens in a crossover, the quality of treble is quite amazing for a full-range driver.

One thing you should know is that your amp and tube choices have dramatic influences on the sound of the treble of these speakers. It was chameleon-like when comparing amps. Also, if you listen to digital, the slightly sweet highs will make your digital sound way better than you’ve ever heard it. In this regard, it made listening to digital a pleasure for the first time in my life. When I buy the MaxxHorn Lumination, I’d buy an Audio Note CD player as the source and build a second system just for digital. With classic “golden era” analog, you could hear further into the background and hear every nuance, as if an intervening mastering step had been eliminated.

While the MaxxHorn is a large speaker, it’s more attractive than other extreme horns. Made of traditional materials, finished with veneers and colors of your choosing, the Lumination can be made to fit most decors and tastes. There are competing products that seem to be on an ever escalating war of ugliness, as if outlandish appearances were the most important design criteria. Appearance is way down on my personal list of priorities. But all things being equal, the MaxxHorns are more attractive than many competing full-range horn designs, and will probably have a higher WAF.

When it comes to the rest of the system, the Luminations aren’t going to sound their best with a chip amp or budget source. These speakers will still sound good, but not up to their potential until fed a signal of the highest purity. Fortunately, there are affordable single-ended amps that do remarkable things. If your room is on the small side, the Transcendent Sound Single Ended OTL would be a brilliant choice. If rock and jazz is your bag, a rebuilt classic like the little American EL84 and 7591 based amps might be magic. When I was swapping amps, the idea did cross my mind that having several different affordable amps, like the McIntosh MC-225, Bottlehead DIY, Single Ended OTL, Heath AA-11, Dynaco SCA35 and ST35, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.…..would make choosing an amp for the genre of music a lot of fun. Since 3 watts is sufficient for a small room and 20 watts will make you deaf in a large-ish room, your choices are pretty broad. Just remember that if the amp is very old, you’ll probably need to rebuild it or suffer high noise levels and classic sound that’s rather too classic (if you know what I mean).

If midrange purity, effortless detail and dynamics are your thing, then the Lumination should be auditioned. They are state-of-the-art in those areas. The imaging is remarkable too. If you already have horns and a system designed for horns, these may give you all the benefits of horns, but without the glaring deficiencies that afflict many horn designs. Highly recommended.

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