by John Stancavage
To break the awkward silence as the door closes, everyone usually glances at each other’s name badges and invariably somebody will ask, “What’s the best stuff you’ve heard so far?”
Every year, there seems to be a different couple of names that bubble up during these impromptu two-minute conversations. This year, I kept hearing, “Raidho. Check it out.” “Raidho. Expensive, but they’ll blow you away.” Or, just plain “Raidho,” said with a shake of the head and a big grin.
Raidho Acoustics makes one of the few lines of high-end speakers I’ve not auditioned at any length, so after two days of hearing the company win the elevator election, I ventured over, notebook in hand.
When I walked in, Raidho’s Lars Kristensen was playing the late Hawaiian singer Israel “Iz” Kaʻano’i Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.”
Normally, this track is not my cup of tea, but the sound on the Raidho system was phenomenal. Iz’s plucked ukulele sounded like it was being played right there, in the room, and his unadorned, refreshingly non-autotuned voice was beautiful.
“Those are the D-1s,” said Kristensen, pointing to the small, stand-mounted speakers, before I could even get the question out of my mouth.
“They are $26,000 a pair, with the stands,” he continued, again before I could ask.
We played some more music. In each case, the D-1s seemed to have nearly unmatched clarity in the upper frequencies, along with incredible detail, speed and pinpoint imaging. Bass was also surprisingly good, for a minimonitor.
Suddenly, it was easy to see why these speakers were capturing the popular vote at RMAF. This was the kind of sound that makes you start thinking that a second mortgage for your audio habit makes all the sense in the world.
“Your speakers are fantastic,” I told Kristensen. “So, I have to ask — and I mean this in the nicest possible way — why so much?”
Kristensen, to my relief, didn’t take offense or get attitudinal. He just smiled warmly and grabbed a raw speaker on the table next to him.
“This is why,” he said, handing me some of the separate components. “We develop and manufacture all of our speakers completely in-house.”
The magnet I was holding was surprisingly heavy. Kristensen explained that Raidho uses a unique, open-structured, push-pull magnet system that is exceedingly linear.
In the case of the D-1, it is mated to another Raidho innovation, a mid-bass driver that features a ceramic membrane sandwiched between two layers of very thin diamond material. The diamond coating adds stiffness and greatly reduces resonances and colorations.
To match such a pure mid-bass, Raidho developed a sealed-ribbon tweeter with very strong neodymium magnets. The weight of the membrane in the tweeter is just 0.02 grams.
“A dome tweeter stores energy. Our ribbon, in contrast, doesn’t store any energy, and it has no resonances,” Kristensen said.
Raidho’s heroic efforts to eliminate distortion pay off in an incredibly clean sound. Even turning up the volume fails to bring out any edginess. All this, of course, sets a high bar for the rest of your system. If something’s not up to par anywhere in the chain, you’re going to notice it. Raidho recommends 50 watts per channel, but says they’ve also had good luck with lower-powered tube amps.
At RMAF, the Raidho speakers were a good match for the Constellation Audio electronics driving them, including the Centaur monoblock amplifiers. Cable was by Ansuz Acoustics and room treatments were from Alberto Sabbatini.
I left the Raidho room thinking about the old adage that you get what you pay for. In audio, as much as we might wish it to be so, there are no magical shortcuts. But for those who really appreciate magnificent engineering, and can afford the sticker price, I’d put Raidho at the top of a short list of must-hear speakers.
Editors Note: The “not entry-level” Constellation Audio gear is what was driving the little Raidhos: Virgo II, Centaur and the line conditioners.