Award of the Year 2004 for acuhorn nero125 loudspeakers in HIGH Fidelity Online
review in HIGH Fidelity Online
A question of choice acuhorn nero125
by Wojciech Pacula
Do You remember this scene from "Matrix" when Neo and Morpheus meet for the first time? Its key moment is the moment of choice when Neo must make a decision whether to take the red or the blue pill - that is, whether he wants to "wake up" and discover reality, or prefers to forget it all and live as before. The key-word of that scene is: choice. Apparently, those two worlds cannot co-exist. And even though nobody has woken us up from our sleep yet, the similar situation occurs in case of acuhorn loudspeakers.
The sound of acuhorns is distinctive and differs from all we deal with in a "mainstream". Their most important feature is coherence of all frequency bands, not attainable by conventional constructions. With such level of presentation measure up only the most expensive loudspeakers, e.g. Peak Consult Empress. Instruments such as the saxophone and the double bass from the record of Sonny Rollins "Way Out West" (Contemporary Records/JVC, VICJ-60088, XRCD) were perfectly coherent and smoothly crossed consecutive phrases. In case of this record it is especially important since it was recorded at the dawn of stereo (1955), with the typical for that period panorama-like distribution of instruments, left-right, where instruments are artificially assigned to a particular speaker and it is impossible to manipulate space relations with them.
The case was similar with sampler from Naim "The hi-fi collection" (HiFi Choice, HFC246-10-03), where guitars from the opening piece were devoid of irritating colourations and "discontinuities". Fluency and lack of aggression - it is a totally unique thing. "Barefoot" record of Anna Maria Jopek (Emarcy/Izabelin Studio 016 299-2, promo copy), where in the opening piece "Bukowina" Leszek Mozdzer plays on a prepared piano, disclosed a special predisposition of acuhorns to reproduce piano. It was always full, ringing and precise. Without stressing particular frequency ranges, nero125 transferred the sound of this instrument in a very classy manner. Just with Naim it was possible to notice the thing which could have been doubted before - bass. One simply has to hear that to believe since "common sense" dictates that a full range driver, with such a minimal leap of a membrane, should not play like that. The impression was confirmed, however, after listening to a record "Digivooco" of Adam Pieronczyk (Pablo, PAO 10230), where artificially generated ultra low frequencies embarrass majority of loudspeakers. Nero125 surely did not transfer their lower part but the rest of bass was beautiful: thick, full sound with clear pulse and mass. Superbly transferred individual phrases that never mixed up with each other. Also in this case the presentation of a saxophone was exceptionally faithful, melodious, with a good blow and without exaggeration in accentuating a mechanical nature of "steering" this instrument.
The loudspeakers immediately show departures from neutrality of an accompanying path of records. Yet when in the first case we have to be careful since there is nothing we can do about it, then in case of records we, somehow, despite hearing that something is "not right", hear all united in such a manner that it is possible to experience the music without throwing a record away just because it sounds poorly. Such was the case, e.g., with the record of Katarzyna Groniec "Emigrantka" (copy CD-R from "mother tape"), where the voice was clearly separated from a musical background and had slightly highlighted areas of 2 kHz. And we are not talking here about punctuating by acuhorn constructions "unnaturalness" of instruments, but about mistakes in presenting them. As in completely sampled record "Dummy" of "Portishead" (Go!Beat) there should be a catastrophe. And yet the CD was beautifully played, with depth and a good balance between a vocal of a singer and prepared background. And such was the case with all instruments, no matter whether it was the electronic rock of Depeche Mode or the traditionally recorded rock of Led Zeppelin.
... Advantages? Disadvantages? It would depend on how we approach acuhorns. Regardless of personal preferences it is worthwhile saying that with nero125 I heard the thing I had never experienced before. I am talking here about the record of The Mills Brothers "Spectacular" (Going for a Song, GFS275) with quite old pieces, with no instruments which sounds are imitated by members of the band. The whole sounded striking and captivating. Warm, smooth midrange, expressive insight (in depth) of the recording, very clearly articulated elements of the text that are almost always faded, and total culture. I have never heard anything like that before.
Once listened to and not rejected they will be a wonderful companion in a journey through the lands of music. And if they "do not fit"? Well - still there are so many other loudspeakers. Each can find something that suits him. But without acuhorns the world would be emptier.