One of the best sounding rooms at AXPONA was from a totally unfamiliar brand called Göbel. Now my friend Elliot Goldman had been making a little noise on facebook about their cables and his becoming their exclusive U.S. distributor but I wasn’t sure what they would sound like. Even the challenging small rooms couldn’t stop these Aeon speakers from producing some of the best sound at this very competitive show. Why did these speakers sound so good?
Certainly Elliot’s excellent CH Precision electronics helped. Rafe has already done a great job describing how terrific this super-pricey brand sounds. But I felt the speakers which use unique “bending wave” technology were doing something special. But how did Elliot wind up partnering with this company?
Elliot, who had a very successful hifi shop in South Florida and had previously worked for well-known Lyric Hifi in New York, did some research and found them. They have been making speakers in Germany for 14 years. Elliot and founder Oliver Gobel talked on the phone for an hour and a half. It felt right to Elliot so he and a business partner flew to Munich where they visited the factory and suppliers. They heard the speakers and thought they sounded really good. But Elliot, a fastidious setup guy, wondered if he could set them up better back home. Elliot and a partner moved forward and became distributors. They’ve been building out space in Davie, Florida for a showroom which should open sometime in June. Elliot explained at the price point of $140K for the Aeon, he really has to deliver the high quality setup and overall customer experience at the level such a customer expects.
Oliver Gobel himself showed up at Axpona. I was impressed with both his knowledge and demeanor. My guess is that Elliot is a decent judge of character and sound. The speaker is fairly sculptural in look with three bass drivers on the lower portion of the tower and a black square just under the gloss white top edge that produces the highs and midrange using bending wave technology. The entire look is quite nice in my opinion, certainly modern but not so large to stand out too much in the living room.
Bending wave technology in the black square area has some advantages. The carbon fiber driver has very wide bandwidth covers frequencies from 170 hz to 31 khz. Amazingly enough, the dispersion is as good as it gets with 180 degree dispersion! Think about the ripples that occur when you throw a stone in a pond. Those waves are similar in many ways to the sound propagating off the Bending Wave membrane which is made from a special kind of wood with resin and compression technology. By mimicking the stone impulse and resulting ripples on the pond, the membrane creates sound waves that are phase coherent. A third advantage is that the light mass of the bending wave membrane avoids problems with mass inertia allowing for very quick response and, hence, dynamics. The only downside is that edge reflections on the membrane have to be eliminated and Gobel has solved this by using technology to properly suspend the membrane in its bracket. They also use incisions on the 9-layer membrane itself to reduce these edge reflections. I’m still learning how the membrane precisely works but the sound is somewhat similar to a top Stax electrostatic headphone but with more body, presumably due to better phase coherency than electrostatics.
But most importantly, the sound is well, effortless. Some digital tracks just flowed out of the speaker in a very natural way. Vocals were rich as smooth. It was like the bending wave was mating very well with the CH Precision gear to produce very low distortion sound. I spent some quality time in this room even though I was perpetually short on time from having to visit a lot of rooms for coverage.
Elliot mentioned another important factor in the sound, the Gobel cables which he feels are very special, calling them “ultra quiet”. As you can see in one of my photos, they appear very solidly constructed.
All in all, a very auspicious debut from Oliver and Elliot! One of the very best rooms at Axpona and I will keep in touch with Elliot as the new business launches in the U.S. I’m planning a visit to the Florida showroom when it opens. I want to hear these innovative speakers again!