By Dr. Panagiotis Karavitis
Calling a speaker system “Vox Olympian” could be considered a blasphemy. You can be one of two things, either a megalomaniac, or very convinced that you have created something beyond the ordinary. I will let you decide which is the case here. Some facts first.
The company behind Vox Olympian, Living Voice, was founded in 1991 by Kevin Scott. They have produced several speaker systems in the past so a few years back they decided it was time to go ahead and manufacture a statement product. I know what you are thinking, just about every company with a speaker costing more than $100K has a brochure with pretty much the same story printed in fancy letters.
But not every company has 2,000 man hours behind every speaker. Nor everybody can say that employs unique, custom designed drivers by a historic name of the ‘30s such as Vitavox. And this is among the few speakers that was designed specifically with single ended triodes in mind and with a sensitivity of over 100dB will grant you all the benefits of such amplifiers.
I believe the pictures speak for themselves, these are not just the best finished speakers I have ever laid my eyes on, they are the best finished single product in the whole hi-fi business, bar none.
This is where the tricky staff begins.. They don’t come cheap. They are actually a bit expensive. Let’s call them for what they are, Very Expensive. The show pair with extra double flavor topping (finished in some of the finest wood trims), complete with double woofer cabinets and electronics by Kondo was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 mil $. Approximately two-thirds of this were the speakers alone, then one must add Kondo’s KSL M77 pre-amp, a pair of Gakuohs, a second pair of Kaguras and a KSL DAC which was fed by the CEC TL0.3 belt driven CD transport. All electronics were fed by a custom battery cell power station (you don’t want the “dirty” mains spoiling your sound, do you?).
Mr. Scott has excellent taste in music, and we both enjoy Shostakovich, but I will describe my sensations based on Harmonia Mundi’s production of Don Giovanni with Rene Jacobs on the direction. During the overture I found the system being unexpectedly dynamic and vigorous, at least more than one would expect from a few watts of SET amplification. Of course, part of this must be attributed to the double 15” woofers that completed the system. The integration between the woofers and the main speakers was remarkable; the result was more of a “tutti” than the simple sum of the parts, a sensation almost constant in other rooms where the use of external subs was also implemented. When Weisser and Pendatchanska started singing I felt like being immersed in their voices. Timbre was truly natural with a sense of recitative joy, a trademark of Jacobs direction. Compared to other horn speaker designs, this one has the units closely packed together and the typical issue of “acoustic gaps” between the drivers simply did not exist.
Issues? I can think of just one, the price. In fact this system usually ends up installed in mega yachts where a million $$$ more is peanuts. It’s a good thing that live Opera performances cost much, much less.