RMAF 2015: Alta Audio Rhea, a real contender


rmaf-2015-200x200Early in the show day on Friday, my friend Ken Furst came up and was very excited about the Alta Audio Rhea speakers and suggested I take a look. Ken has never steered me wrong, so I made sure it was one of the first rooms I hit on the fifth floor of the atrium. And, Ken was right — this was a great speaker — what I heard was a gorgeous mid-band and wonderful bass. While everyone was buzzing about this or that, in my mind, these Rhea speakers, while more money, were right up there as one of the most important affordable finds at the show.

Digital source was aqua acoustic quality La Diva CD transport feeding the aqua acoustic quality La Scala MkII DAC from Aqua HiFi, fed from Antipodes DS and DX servers. In the middle, was a Nuprime DAC-10 preamp and a pair of Nuprime Ref20 mono-blocks.

The analog source was a Grand Prix Monaco v1.5 turntable, mounted with the Triplanar Ultimate arm (a thing of real beauty by the way); the Lyra Scala cartridge was feeding a Tom Evans Groove + phono stage.

Cabling used throughout was from Waveform Fidelity.

860x300 PTA NOBLE RMAF-01
RMAF 2015 coverage brought to you by Noble Audio! Click for more ….

The cabinetry on the speakers is superb; shaped like a mini-tower, but more square, and the sides flare out like a pyramid at the base. The finish is a lovely rosewood, and there are four silver spikes under each corner. Drivers are interesting: a long and narrow ribbon tweeter up top and a 7” wide-band mid-woofer a couple of inches below. Tweeter is a 3rd generation design with excellent transient response, high power handling, and low distortion. The cabinet is made from a material called DampHard, which uses multiple layers of wood and damping material to kill resonances. Frequency response is 32hz to 47khz. A 4 ohm load, the sensitivity is 87.5 db at one meter.

Most important, of course, is the sound: I found them highly resolving, but very musical and they sounded excellent with either source. Bass was terrific – not too loose or too high in output. Alta Audio designer Michael Levy claimed their cabinets contributed significantly to the bass reproduction:

XTL stands for Extended Transmission Line, an Alta Audio proprietary technology used in all our speakers. We developed XTL using specialized sonic geometry to tune our cabinets like musical instruments, allowing all our speakers to deliver unprecedented clear, fast, and powerful bass.

Standard transmission lines can make the bass slow and distorted. The difference between Alta XTL and a standard transmission line is that we tune the cabinet at multiple frequencies, not just one. Think of it like a cello amplifying and extending the notes played off the strings. Our cabinets are tuned to extend the bass of a driver, giving a clean fast bass response that is in a different class than standard transmission line designs.

Coupled with our DampHard technology, Alta XTL shines to create a clear and musical extended resonance free cabinet.

The Alta Audio Rhea retails for $4,500 a pair but sounds far more expensive for the clarity, flow, and dynamics delivered. Shopping in this price range? You need to hear the Rhea first … or is that Furst?


About Lee Scoggins 118 Articles
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Lee got interested in audio listening to his Dad’s system in the late 70s and he started making cassettes from LPs. By the early 80s he got swept up in the CD wave that was launching which led to a love of discs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Later while working on Wall Street in the 90s, Lee started working on blues, jazz and classical sessions for Chesky Records and learned record engineering by apprenticeship. Lee was involved in the first high resolution recordings which eventually became the DVD-Audio format. Lee now does recordings of small orchestras and string quartets in the Atlanta area. Lee's current system consists of Audio Research Reference electronics and Wilson Audio speakers.


  1. I heard the Rhea myself at RMAF, and was also very impressed. One of my favorite speakers at the show, and I could actually afford them!

  2. You might as well decide that a Stradivarius can be judged by its strings. The drivers are only a small part of what makes a speaker, and as for the cabinetry, The shape, the materials, the DampHard (it certainly is not just MDF) and the transmission line are far larger contributors to the sound. Once those goals are achieved, you only need to choose the correct crossover, and tune it properly. I wish you the best of luck on the venture.

  3. Seriously, a Dayton RS-180 and a Fountek ribbon in a MDF box is a bargain at $4500? Oh, but it has DampHard. Whatever, you guys need to spend more time self-educating and less time swallowing the line of BS manufacturers feed you.

    • Um, thanks for sharing Alex.

      I’m just guessing here, but speakers usually don’t equal the sum of their parts. In fact, most speakers are just a collection of off-the-shelf-parts, but these then have to be wired together and voiced. If you believe that this is a trivial task, and one not worthy of the price tag this vendor has hung on their efforts — that you, for example, might be able to do not just better but much better for that price — then have at it, man. That’s what they call “market opportunity”.

      But shitting on a product, or the guy that liked it, because you “did the math” is more than a little obtuse. Next time, try harder.

    • ..thx for stopping by and taking a dump on the proceedings. Don’t forget to wipe..

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