Sometimes you hear something, or see something, and you’re instantly intrigued – like a good mystery novel. A switch is flipped in your mind, and once flipped, you can’t just turn it off. So it was in Denver as I walked past the Nokturne Audio room. The beautiful Chris Harban-plinthed Linn LP12 immediately caught my eye, and I did an about-face, darted into the room, and sat down as Nokturne’s Thomas O’Keefe was discussing his custom LP12 stand (Noktable $599 USD).
That’s when I noticed the Ekos SE tonearm, and Kandid LOMC cartridge, Radikal DC power supply, and I realized this was probably a full Klimax-level LP12. I was informed it was indeed the $24,000 USD Sondek flagship… that’s when the plot thickened. My eyes started looking around the room at the racks overflowing with simple-looking black boxes, and the catchy blue, and white speakers that were shoved right back against the wall… interesting. In the middle of this I realized my whole body was moving to the music: always a dead giveaway that something genuinely musical was taking place, because I don’t move around much when listening to systems at shows. “Dun-dun DUN!”
The black boxes taking up all the rack space belonged to Fredrik Lejonklou, an audio engineer, and designer who hails from Uppsala, Sweden. He had a number of pre-amplifiers (Sagatun Stereo $4,950 USD, and Mono $4,950 USD each), power amplifiers (Tundra Stereo $4,490, and Mono $4,950 each), and two phono stages on display (Slipsik $1,495, and Gaio $895 USD). I didn’t get to hear the phono stages because the LP12, being a Klimax version was fitted with the Urika MC stage mounted internally to the suspended base. The sound being passed along from the Linn through the Lejonklou gear was amazingly powerful, deep, had spot-on tone, and timbre to strings, and horns, and the JBL two-ways were pressurizing the room with absolute authority. No boominess, no flab, just gobs of tuneful, tight bass that wasn’t overwhelming the highs or mids at all, just a gorgeous, balanced, harmonic registration to the ears. As impressed as I was with Lejonklou’s amplification, and how it got right out of the way of what the LP12 was peeling out from the vinyl groove, it was the simple JBL 3677 horn-throated speakers on stands pushed against the wall that I found was piquing my interest the most once I had gotten over the initial visual impact of the Linn, and pretty symmetry of the hi-fi’s presentation on the simple, yet elegant Harmoni Racks.
I’m a big fan of simple, two-way speakers., especially ones that can be shoved in corners, or up against walls so they are not only out of the way, but using room-boundary reinforcement to add life-like scale, and timbre to instruments, and voices. The fact that these little JBLs sounded so damn good, and so damn big, was not the main thing about them which was zapping my brain. It was the price. $883 per speaker. $883 USD… just let that sink in for a moment. These little 99 dB efficient, eight Ohm beauties (little, but not light – they come in at 85 lbs each) are rated from 40Hz to 20 KHz.
With a 1.75 in pure titanium diaphragm compression driver handling high frequencies, and 15-inch mid/bass driver handling the bottom end, and fitted with custom Anders Erling stands (contact Nokturne to pre-order), these little cinema-based transducers absolutely floored me with their ability to communicate the raw emotional conviction of great music. Although they may be designed for use in movie theaters, their supreme high-efficiency opens them up to use with low-powered SET tube amplification, so I could see these working incredibly well in my home apartment… or perhaps yours?