reference system

Are These Speakers The Best Kept Secret In Hi-End Audio?

Analog Domain founder Angel Despotov isn't a modest man, nor are his creations. From his Isis integrated amplifier to the Calysto monoblocks, every AD product is built to survive the apocalypse. If you have to ask, you're not ready for the build quality and power output offered by even his most affordable product, the $19,995 M75D, which will drive literally anything.

The Analog Domain  M75D  (Credit:  ToneAudio )

The Analog Domain M75D (Credit: ToneAudio)

So what's going on in the top image? We've got what appears to be an M75 being fed by his new DAC1 digital-to-analog converter, hooked up to a pair of speakers no one has seen before. Survey says...Despotov is putting the finishing touches on Analog Domain's first-ever speakers, which should strike fear and terror into anyone with a pacemaker and/or a dog.

What does Despotov mean in Russian? Dynamics. As in unlimited dynamics.

When Despotov first visited the Noho Sound showroom, he delivered an M75D and DAC1 for review. When asked what we should hook them up to, he surveyed the room and said, "the biggest Focals you've got."

Our Focal Sopra 3's — no stranger to bass output and stunning dynamics — were promptly wrestled into prime position, and listening began. Chris, Ron and I were all blown away. The M75D sounded even better than the best McIntosh stereo amplifier we had on hand, the $8,500, 450 watt/channel MA452, which is an excellent unit. What does that extra $11,500 get you? Depth of resolution and bass control at odds with McIntosh's beloved and traditional warmth. Where even solid-state McIntosh is tube like, Analog Domain delivers another level of speaker control.

"These are excellent," Despotov said of the Sopras, "but my amps are capable of more than these speakers."

Chris, my business partner and friend of 30+ years, shook his head in disbelief.

"You'll see," said Despotov.

Now we've seen what he was hinting at. Analog Domain is going to build speakers, and based on this image, they look both traditional and...substantial. Assuming they're manufactured to the standard of the rest of Analog Domain's line, they should be sonically terrifying. Just look at the size of the cabinets and drivers:

An Analog Domain speaker prototype next to what appears to be an Ikea Lack table, for scale.

What I think is an Ikea Lack table sits next to Despotov's speaker prototype. (Kudos to Angel for knowing what to spend $ on. The $9.99 Lack is the ultimate budget audiophile accessory.) A Lack is approximately 18" high and 22" wide, which means the new Analog Domain speakers are probably about 42" high and 20" wide. Depth? Hard to say, but these look...stout.

Who makes the drivers? What about the cabinet materials? What could they possibly cost? Despotov's not talking, but I bet they're at least $40,000. Chris thinks they'll be more.

Ron doesn't care for speakers this big, but this is all I dream about. Chris wants two pairs. 

Any ideas? Hints? Rumors? Leaks? Share them, please.

Hypercars & Hi-End Loudspeakers: If Sonus Faber = Pagani, does Focal = Bugatti?

Pagani Huarya – Italy's purest hypercar.

Pagani Huarya – Italy's purest hypercar.

The best of anything is always a function of culture, so it makes perfect sense that Italy's best hypercar — the Pagani Huayra — is the ultimate reflection of Italian automotive engineering and design. It also makes perfect sense that Italy's finest hi-end audio company — Sonus Faber— provided the audio system.

Note the gorgeous ultra lightweight carbon fiber woofer by Sonus Faber.

Note the gorgeous ultra lightweight carbon fiber woofer by Sonus Faber.

But what about the French? France is home of Focal — manufacturer of the $195,000 Grande Utopia EM reference loudspeakers — what is the automotive equivalent? The obvious choice may not be the right one.

Let's start with a closer look at Europe's most extreme hi-end loudspeaker system:

Focal Grande Utopia EM – Europe's best reference loudspeaker system.

Focal Grande Utopia EM – Europe's best reference loudspeaker system.

What hypercar do the Focals most resemble? Here are the choices:

Porsche 918 – Germany's best. For now.

Porsche 918 – Germany's best. For now.

Ferrari LaFerrari – Italy's most famous hypercar.

Ferrari LaFerrari – Italy's most famous hypercar.

Bugatti Chiron – France's best.

Bugatti Chiron – France's best.

Koenigsegg Agera – Sweden's best.

Koenigsegg Agera – Sweden's best.

What do you think? Discuss in the comments...