It’s not every day that SoundStage! Australia gets to evaluate a loudspeaker in the company of the Finnish Government’s State Secretary and its Ambassador to Japan. On 12 November 2018, Amphion Loudspeakers Ltd. held a rather special event in Tokyo, Japan, to coincide with the official visit. Dubbed “Festivo”, a celebration of the music of Jean Sibelius, the event took place at the Sound Inn Studios, located inside the Nippon Television building in central Tokyo.
The other Finn being celebrated – and being put to work – on this auspicious occasion was the flagship monitor of the Amphion pro line, the acclaimed Two18. Performing the Finnish composer’s Scenes Historiques Suite No.1 Op. 25 Movement III “Festivo” was a 19-piece string orchestra, the Tokyo Sinfonia, conducted by maestro Robert Ryker. The “making of Festivo” event was hosted by Amphion’s founder, a respectfully be-suited, Anssi Hyvönen, and produced by Amphion Asia-Pacific’s very own man in black, Michael Di Stasio.
Michael Di Stasio & Anssi Hyvönen
The magnificent Sound Inn Studio B was literally packed to the rafters to hear the performance and to hear how the Amphion Two18 performed in the context of recording live classical music. Prior to the actual recording session, attendees were able to move between real time acoustic performance in the live room and its virgin translation by the Two18s in the control room. It’s not every day either that a loudspeaker manufacturer is prepared to stake its reputation on the naked comparison.
At the event, Anssi Hyvönen shed some light on Amphion’s approach:
Since I was 14 years old, I wanted to hear what the mastering engineer hears. Because that’s where the artist, the producer and also the mastering engineer say ok, this is how it should sound. Now, I think this is also what I think we should reproduce on the speaker side. When I go to a hi-fi show, I listen to the manufacturers talking about how in the final voicing of things they make things sweet and musical and stuff like that. To me, it’s like us going to Mona Lisa and saying ‘Hey you’re like kinda pale. Why don’t we put a little make up on her?’ Who’s to say she wouldn’t look more modern and hot but she wouldn’t be Mona Lisa anymore. As a speaker manufacturer, I don’t think we have that right. Amphion’s goal has always been to open a large, clean window into music so whatever the decisions the people make in the studios can come through and end up in the home.
The Amphion Two18 is a largish two-way monitor comprising two custom designed 180mm aluminium woofers and a 25mm titanium tweeter in an MTM, or D’Appolito, driver format. The enclosure is sealed and makes use of two passive radiators at the rear. A key feature of the design (like all Amphion speakers) is the use of a distinctive white moulded Corian waveguide or tweeter horn which works to lower the crossover point by an octave from the typical 2 kHz to 3 kHz of a traditional two-way to 1600 Hz. This is said to lead to more even dispersion patterns and less discontinuity between the drivers in the critical ‘presence’ region. The Two18 is resolutely a passive design. Hyvönen opined:
The speaker should be as honest as possible. Our philosophy is to push the acoustic design because we believe that by keeping the acoustic design as pure as possible we can keep things electrically simple. Which is, of course, very different from the current trend. It’s all about DSP. I don’t think that DSP is still ready today. There are a lot of latency issues involved. I would like to keep the decision-making power in the control room, in the mastering room, where a lot of money is used to come up with the sound they want.
The other nice thing is when you buy an expensive pair of passive speakers, it’s actually going to be valid and functional for easily 10 to 15 years. Which, of course, if we were putting digital technology in there, we would be in the situation where the beauty of the digital is the curse of the digital. That crazy development speed that gives us newer, fancier products also prematurely ages anything it touches. So I believe it’s still better to keep the speaker passive and then, whatever you do, do it in the signal chain. The same is as valid in the home market as it is in the pro market.
After the recording session was completed, Robert Ryker came into the control room and we were able to assess the playback of the session through the Two18. The Amphion, driven by an Amphion 500 amplifier, impressed with a very well balanced, accurate, and surprisingly organic sound. The level of detail transduced was extraordinary but so was the level of sheer musical emotion.
By now, the control room was as full as the live room had been. As well as diplomats, the gathering included musicians, composers, distributors, and sound engineers. At some point in the process, the venerable Yamaha NS-10 was introduced as a known reference. The white Amphion wave guide screams NS-10 but its tweeter never screamed like a Yammie, if you know what I mean. The Amphion Two18 had remarkable transient resolution and was dynamic as all get out. Its imaging was ultra-precise, and stable even as I moved around the room. But again, most noteworthy was the pro audio speaker’s uncommon listenability.
Maestro Robert Ryker
Everyone was thrilled to be at this amazing event and no one wanted to leave. It’s a rare privilege to have been present at a “making of music” event, even rarer to be at the making of a live recording of classical music. Amphion should be applauded and encouraged to hold many more such events around the world. There are plans to release the recording of “Festivo” soon and I can’t wait to hear how the finished product translates ultimately in the home. Having heard the musically communicative Amphion Two18 in action, I am confident the translation will be everything it could be.
Sibelius said “Every note must live” and with events and products like these, I’m sure that every note will.
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