AXPONA 2016: Sultry bombast with Reference 3A and Merrill Audio


axponaIt’s probably no secret that one of my favorite-of-all-time loudspeakers is a Reference 3a (an “MM de Capo”, for the record), so whenever I get the chance to check out what the brand is up to, it’s a must-see stop on the train.

What’s new — aside from the continuous and on-going improvement of all of the speakers in the line?

The Reflector ($12k/pair). This speaker looks like a “regular” two-way, but lacks the “regular” Ref3a canted-face, common to most of their designs. In fact, the only giveaway (from the front) that it is a Ref3a design is the driver complement — a large mid/bass woofer sporting a “Surreal Acoustic Lens” paired with a beryllium tweeter. That tweeter, here, sits in a wave-guide, a feature that’s typically been reserved for their floor-standing speakers. The other neat feature? That “cladding” — it’s glass. Two layers of glass, actually, bonded with a layer of absorbent material constrained between them. The result? Mass mass massy master masserstein. That is one dense cabinet! Think 75lbs … each.

AXPONA coverage brought to you by Underwood HiFi, Exogal and Emerald Physics

Sadly, I didn’t get to hear them — they had been rotated out to accommodate some fussy audiophile who wanted to hear the new Taksim, a $7k floor-standing two-way loudspeaker. Taksim is yet another crossover-less design for Reference 3a, but one that purportedly can reach down to 31Hz (considerably lower than either of the other two speakers shown here.

All Reference 3a speakers sport a “Nextel matte coated cabinet which reduces diffraction effects and absorbs surface vibrations.” Not my favorite finish, but then, most of them are also available in traditional wood veneers upon request.

Taksim, for the record, is a ballsy f***ing speaker. Boom!

Part of that is, no doubt, due to the electronics powering this room, which came courtesy of Merrill Audio.

The new Cara preamplifier ($3,500) is a remote-controlled dual-mono and two-chassis (it has an external power supply) box, wrapped up in steel. Neat feature — Cara will let you “normalize” your volume by input. That is, if you have a source that tends to be a little quiet, you can give it an invisible and pre-set bump to bring it up to the level of the rest, or/likewise, you can knock down one of your louder sources to come back into line. Plus or minus 12dB is the range there. The pre has a 115dB range (max), and an SNR of 110dB/THD of .002%, and presents a 100kΩ input impedance/50Ω output impedance. The display, which has a variable brightness, is big and easy to read.

Also in the rack, a pair of Thor monoblock amplifiers (review here). A Veritas mono was on static display, below.

About Scot Hull 1039 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.

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