Early 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.
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?