“We Come From The Land Of The Ice And Snow…”
Denmark may not be Iceland (or wherever Mr. Plant was wailing about in that song) but latitude-wise, it’s good enough for my literary purposes. Seriously, what is going on in those northern European (and Canadian) climes to produce such amazing speakers? With the Audiovector R 6 Arreté (website), these Danish loudspeaker veterans have produced yet another ultra-performer to add to the Legends of Scandinavian Speaker Craft.
The Audiovector story begins with figurehead Ole Klifoth, who founded the company in 1979. Ole set out to make the kind of natural-sounding speaker for music lovers that he felt was missing in the marketplace, a speaker that he wanted to listen to. With the debut success of Audiovector’s first model, the Trapez, Ole’s ears and design concepts found an audience and the rest is history.
Today, Ole’s son Mads Klifoth is the Audiovector CEO and carries on the tradition (with continued R&D input from the Old Man) while taking Ole’s original design objectives to new heights. As a Dad myself, this story warms my heart. So did listening to the Audiovector R 6 Arreté.
Unless I am particularly fascinated by some aspect of the design or the manufacturing techniques, I don’t feel the need to rattle on about it all that much. In the heyday of print magazines, sure, ’cause info wasn’t so easy to come by. But now? Sometimes I try and dig deeper by talking to the designer but even then, these days it’s mostly on their website already. Sometimes, they don’t want to give up their secrets, which I certainly respect.
But I’ll save you a few keystrokes, and summarize the new features of the Audiovector R 6 Arreté:
- NEW AUDIOVECTOR TREBLE DRIVERS. The AMT drivers on the Audiovector R 6 Arreté feature ultra-strong Neodymium magnets, lightweight precision coated mylar membranes and are mounted and decoupled from the cabinet in 3 points, a proprietary Audiovector concept called No Energy Storage (NES). The tweeters are open to the front and to the rear, being able to move freely due to the Soundstage Enhancement Concept (SEC).
- 3” REAR FIRING MIDRANGE DRIVER. Implemented to “improve realism and 3D performance,” the new Audiovector R 6 Arreté now uses a rear firing 3” midrange driver with a dedicated crossover.
- NEW COMPOUND BASS SYSTEM. The Audiovector Isobaric Compound Bass system (ICB) consists of 2 hand-built bass drivers, a 6,5” internal woofer and 8” external down firing woofer. The masses of the two bass drivers involved are coupled together by the trapped air in their common internal enclosure. The system ´breathes´ through a perfectly tuned bass reflex on the front of the loudspeaker. This construction allows the bass to go deep, play precise, dynamic and aperiodic in its response.
- THE NEW AUDIOVECTOR CARBON DRIVE UNITS, PRECISION AND HIGH DEFINITION. The combination of Titanium Coil Technology, large powerful ceramic ferrite magnets and rigid turbulence suppressing magnesium alloy, 3-point suspended baskets and membranes made from cross woven Aramid Composite Fibers, allows us to reach a rich, clear and vibrant sound.
Audiovector explains the decision to go with custom-made drivers from Denmark:
Rather than having to buy standard drive units from even the finest and most respected manufacturers, we engineer our drivers in house and ask the best Danish supplier to build them for us. This way we make sure that we can co-engineer our drive units with our crossovers to form a perfect entity.
As far as cabinet construction, Audiovector has this to say:
The Audiovector R 6 Arreté cabinets are assembled by thick non-resonant vacuum pressured shells. Made from high density hardwood (HDF) for the best possible strength and low resonance, the teardrop shape–in combination with a laminated, dense, strong and heavy, rear baffle–further reduces unwanted cabinet resonance and avoids standing waves. When assembled, cabinets are heavily braced internally and carefully damped with strategically positioned Nano Pore damping plates.
One thing I did find especially interesting is each Audiovector Arreté R 6 has a jack in the back for grounding the speaker. Along with the speakers, I received a Y cable that plugs into each speaker and is joined to a single 3 prong AC plug that goes to an electrical outlet. The hot and cold pins are not connected, just the ground. Hence:
Audiovector Freedom is a new and revolutionary grounding technology, which addresses the movement induced distortion of and between the drive units in a loudspeaker. The currencies running between the chassis are being processed and dealt with through a new separate crossover, which routes the signal to the ground terminal of your wall socket or your grounded mains distributor. Contrary to conventional knowledge, these currencies cause coloration and distortion between the drive units. By balancing and filtering these through a dedicated separate filter and by offering the possibility of connecting the speakers to earth/ground, we achieve a clean, very accurate, much more realistic sound with low noise floor.
The Audiovector R 6 Arreté has some other cutting-edge tech including a carbon fiber plate that according, to the company, better isolates the crossover from unwanted interaction with the binding posts and from that unsavory guy sitting at the end of the bar. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s this:
In our Arreté models, the “seven-nines” copper is subjected to a special cryogenic deep-freeze treatment, which realigns the molecules of internal wiring, cross-overs, tweeter membranes and terminals. Thanks to reduced resistance and distortion, the result is breathtaking clarity and effortless musical flow.
But wait – there’s more!
All R-series speakers, such as the Audiovector R 6 Arreté, use a tilted plinth. “This way we avoid standing waves in the cabinets and this way we have improved the elegant looks of our speakers. We have put them on high heels, so to speak. The plinths have a built-in steel spring holding the spikes in order to rid the speakers from the mass of the floor. The result is a more articulate and correct sound.”
If you’re a tech-head reading this, by now you should feel tingly all over and have some seriously dilated pupils. I mean c’mon, THREE crossovers, one each dedicated to the main system, rear-firing midrange, and the Freedom Grounding. Dang. Nano Pore me another, while you’re at it.
The Audiovector R 6 Arreté is 53” tall, 11” wide, 17” deep, and weighs 88 pounds each. Finally, they are available in a variety of wood veneer and piano lacquered style finishes. The ones I tested were in an attractive custom silver finish.
Hey, that wasn’t so hard. And now it’s time for the fun part. What do these Nordic beauties sound like?
My audiophile bud Chris and his wife Jamie came over to help with the placement process and attaching the steel cone feet.
I didn’t have time to clean up the detritus from the previous night’s frozen margarita and Ouija board seance block party. (Hey, it’s a friendly neighborhood). I did manage to dig through the rubble to find those Teflon furniture sliders I’d bought just for the occasion after learning that trick from the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 setup.
I promptly had deja vu when Chris asked me to dial up the same Jennifer Warnes track on Rob Wasserman’s Duets that I had used for the first time during the Chario Cygnus speaker review. According to Chris, I might be the only audiophile that didn’t know about using that song for setup to achieve even bass response–charming. Later on, I fine-tuned the position by maybe less than an inch. But it was MY almost an inch, okay?
Look At All These Pretty Blue And Red Lights
The system used during the review period for the Audiovector R 6 Arreté was as follows: Rega P10 fitted with a Charisma Audio Signature One moving coil cartridge, Innous Zen Mini streamer feeding a Denafrips Pontus DAC, VAC Master Preamplifier with phono stage, into either Pass Labs XA-60.8 monoblocks, Audio Hungary Qualiton APX-200 II, or a McIntosh MC 1502 amplifier. All cabling was Cardas Audio Clear with the addition of some Furutech power cords and filtered AC power strip.
I used the Pass Labs amps for a few days before the Mac amp arrived for review. Curiosity got the best of me and I just HAD to hear what that 16 tubed, 118 lb. beast sounded like. With the Pass Labs XA-60.8 amps things sounded solid, clear, and warm. Very classy. But it also sounded slightly less whole in feeling compared to the Mac. With the MC 1502 driving the Audiovectors, music had a bubbly yet smooth effervescence AND added more coherence to the sound. The McIntosh amp seemed to weave the cloth of the sound just a bit tighter. The Mac stayed in the system for the review period.
I was informed that the Audiovector R 6 Arreté speakers had enough time on ‘em to be considered broken-in, but initially the sound was disjointed. An hour or two of playing time and plugging in the grounding wires cured THAT. Much later, I did a with-or-without test on the grounding wires. Yep, I thought, something IS going on here. The sound got a hair more warm and cohesive with the ground cable attached. Slightly more fleshed out in the midbass region. Maaaybe more detailed, I can’t be sure. I DO know one thing: it’s pretty darn cool plugging a passive speaker into a wall socket and NOT seeing the drivers start arcing and smoking. Knowing there was no live juice going to the speakers, my monkey brain still had me eyeballing and sniffing for smoke Every Damn Time I plugged that thing in.
For some reason, I played a lot of digital with the Audiovector R 6 Arreté loudspeakers in the system. Maybe it was because the Denafrips DAC sounded great, or maybe it was the fun of discovering new and old friends via Qobuz. I felt slightly guilty one night as I ego-surfed recordings that I’ve worked on. I found a few forgotten gems among a lot of others that I wished I could go back and remix or remaster. Whatever.
I also enjoyed ripping some hard to find CD’s into the Zen Mini to make easily available with a touch on a screen. Playing all those tunes via digital had more to do with how much the Audiovector R 6 Arreté LOVED getting a clean, dynamically punchy, recording fed to them.
Don’t worry, I played lots of records. While not as accurate as digital, vinyl felt more engaging at the synaptic, bio-chemical, level. Regardless of what I played, the R 6s always had a smooth, clean, fast, wide-bandwidth presentation that always felt right.
Peter Gabriel’s Scratch My Back via Qobuz was a gorgeous revelation for all its natural-sounding, minimalistic, glory. How did I sleep on this one until now? The warm, inviting pianos and strings were a mostly sparse bed for Peter’s front and center, unadorned vocal. The Audiovector R 6 Arreté got out of the way and reproduced this in a way that had me transfixed on the music. The speakers revealed plenty of detail and specific image placement for such a warm recording.
“Fallen Angel,” off Robbie Robertson’s self-titled solo debut album, is a great test of how well a component reproduces lots of upper midrange energy. On some systems, this mix can be quite strident in that ear sensitive 2.5Khz-4Khz area. The Audiovector R 6 Arreté navigated all that upper midrange energy of the choruses in this tune (featuring Peter Gabriel on background vocals) as well or better than any speakers I’ve had in my listening room. Smooth, but not too smooth. The imaging properties of the R 6s gave me goosebumps at the 5:00 mark when a dark-toned eclectic guitar enters far left to play the first of a few figures. Those first four or five notes are completely disembodied from the rest of the mix by a cleverly panned, with added short delay/phase flip or some such mixing trick. Master mixer Bob Clearmountain always sneaks a few fun moments like this into a mix for the deep-listening crowd.
Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn… well, I hadn’t heard this one in quite a while but boy did it sound great. Whatever you think of the music, I think it’s a near-flawless sonic example of the apogee of modern analog recording. The late ‘80s to the ‘90s were a time when recording engineers had not yet shifted in large numbers to hard-disk based recording. The combo of Rich Costey’s phenomenal engineering plus the use of analog tape, coupled with perfectly maintained vintage tube gear and discrete opamps in recording consoles, was on full display. On the Audiovector R 6 Arreté, the sound of this recording had all the detail and low-end punch of a digital recording yet with all that awesome tube n’ tape flava. Fiona’s honey-colored vocals sounded warm and detailed.
Ozomatli’s Embrace The Chaos was another one I rediscovered while going down a long Qobuz rabbit hole. The first cut, “Pá Lante,” is another dense, festival of analog goodness. Lots of cool sounds and textures in this one. I loved how the Audiovector R 6 Arreté played the super, low-frequency drum overdub that appears on certain beats. It was very believable that Audiovector lists the response going down to 23Hz, cause the sub frequencies were bangin’ in my room. I wish I could remember exactly what that drum was. Maybe it was a mallet hitting a bass drum? A low tuned floor tom? Some rare ethnic drum? I recorded and mixed this tune but it was 20 years ago and on that day there was a pretty big crowd in Sunset Sound-Studio One. Most everybody was, shall we say, getting into the mood. Producer Steve Berlin and I embraced the chaos as best we could. Beware of contact highs in the workplace.
The Platter Party
I use “15 Steps” off Radiohead’s In Rainbows to get a bead on a component’s ability to portray imaging. This tune opens with a ridiculously wide spray of effected percussion. Then, the acoustic drum kit enters in mono right up the middle and when the heavily distorted, phase manipulated percussion disappears for the band groove, an electric guitar comes in hard left. I listen for how dramatic the contrast is between all these elements. This cut sounded great on the Audiovector R 6 Arreté. Maybe not quite as holographic as it sounds when playing the flashback inducing QLN Prestige Threes, but very impressive, nonetheless. With the R 6s, Thom Yorke sounded more than sufficiently tortured.
Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut album is a beautiful sounding recording with lots of luscious dynamic range. I don’t always love this brand of reverbed, indie folk/songwriter kind of stuff but it worked for me here. Phil Ek on mixing duties, mastering by Ed Brooks, and lacquer cutting by John Golden–all get big ups from me for this sonic goodness. Big, deep, wide, and warm on the R 6s.
I know it’s an audiophile cliche, but I seriously enjoyed the latest boxed set vinyl reissue from Dire Straits. I played ‘em all but started with an old fav, side one of Love Over Gold. Daaaaaang. “Telegraph Road” into “Private Investigations” gave me all the feels. Played on a system with a very linear high-frequency response, it’s a hair on the bright side, but recording/mixing engineer Neil Dorfsman shot his Zen Arrow and it landed in such a sweet spot on the tonality/dynamic range target, made even better by that custom designed Audiovector AMT tweeter. Plenty of reach-out-and-touch-me moments when Knopfler’s smoke and whiskey tinged vocal sits front and center. Plus his right-hand style of fingers-on-strings (as opposed to using a pick) puts an extra helping of expressiveness to his guitar parts that were fully revealed by the R 6s. Additional points for everything staying nice and clear during the dense, high energy guitar solo vamp out.
I was curious, so I dug out my old, original copy of this album. My original copy sounded quite a bit better, much beefier on the bottom end and much sweeter on top. Who knows what happened with the reissue, although I have an idea. The new boxed set reissue has a GZ Media scribe in the dead wax. GZ cuts production parts on a Neumann DMM lathe and uses a proprietary computer program to analyze the program in advance. Besides the difference in sound from cutting to copper versus lacquer, the GZ software generates parameters ensuring no overcuts or lift-outs without having to do time-consuming dry runs and test cuts. This may be good for minimizing time and cost (thereby maximizing profit), but not exactly the way a caring cutter pushes things to the edge of the limitation of the medium, which is crucial for best sonics.
The Ultimate Listening Machine
When thinking about how to describe my satisfaction and joy while living with the Audiovector R 6 Arreté loudspeakers in my system, a car analogy came to mind. If ultimate (gasoline-powered) performance without regard to anything else is your aim, you might consider something exotic like a Ferrari or maybe a Lamborghini. How ‘bout a road-ready Ford GT-40?
I haven’t driven a Lambo (or a GT-40), but I have driven a few Ferraris. While it’s gonna cost ya serious cabbage to have access to all that speed and high-G cornering ability, the models I drove had no power assist for the steering, a heavy, clunky feeling clutch, and a coarse gearbox. Plus, you can feel every pebble on the road. Good luck with that climate control or virtually any creature comforts. Yeah, the sound of the engine is uniquely rad, the acceleration and cornering is pure sex, and things smooth out on the north side of 120 mph, but not quite the car I would want for everyday driving.
I’d much rather have my BMW 428i with its chip controlled twin-turbo four-banger and smooth as silk six-speed stick. All the creature comforts with plenty of speed and cornering agility when I change the microprocessor setting to Speed 2. It’s a two-door coupe with rear-wheel drive and manual transmission so it still has the vibe of an enthusiast’s sports car but none of the drawbacks. Packed with tech, but at its core it’s a super fun drive AND the AC always blows cool.
The Audiovector R 6 Arreté reminded me of that. Maybe more like a cushy model of Porsche, to further refine my car analogy. Lots of performance with none of the finicky quirks. For a cool $35,000 you get sleek, contemporary styling with phenomenally refined and beautifully voiced sonics that land smack dab in the middle of the listenability/accuracy matrix.
I found the Audiovector R 6 Arreté to be a sumptuous aural feast that was very easy to fall in love with. You will too. Highly recommended.