The Vimberg Amea (website) loudspeaker is a two-way, stand-mounted loudspeaker. I’m bringing this up first for a very good reason.
When I first arrived at the front door of the Part-Time Audiophile headquarters more than two years ago, Scot Hull asked me what I wanted to review. The first thing out of my mouth was “world-class two-way monitors,” or something like that. If you know me, you know I love the little two-ways, especially when they don’t sound like two-way stand-mounted monitors because someone put some serious effort into the design.
As a result, I’ve reviewed all sorts of wonderful two-way monitors that strive for state-of-the-art performance. They don’t reach down to 20 Hz (or even 45 or 50 sometimes), but they do such a great job at everything else, and I can think of about four or five of these li’l loudspeakers that I could buy and enjoy for the rest of my life without clamoring for something that goes a little deeper in the bass. I’ve even said as much in a couple of recent reviews.
I did not expect the Vimberg Amea. (No one does, I’ve heard.) I knew it was going to be special—I’ve heard Tidal Audio speakers, and the slightly less complicated Vimberg designs, on several occasions thanks to Doug White of The Voice That Is! They have that “perfect” sound that makes my job as a reviewer very difficult. But a stand-mounted 2-way Tidal Audio or Vimberg model? Where’s the sign-out sheet? I want to hear this NOW.
I’ve been lucky to spend a few weeks with this ghostly matte white pair of Vimberg Amea loudspeakers in my listening room. The only way to describe them is like this: they’re not a two-way stand-mounted loudspeaker when you close your eyes. Other than the pinpoint imaging and coherence of these German works of art, they sound like something really big. I’m not saying the Ameas are little speakers that sound like big speakers, nor am I declaring anything about “punching above their weight” or “defying the laws of physics.” I’m saying that when you close your eyes, you can usually pick out the sound of a small monitor from a field of big towers. It usually has to do with scale, but not always. Close your eyes with the Amea? I can’t tell any difference.
They’re not two-way monitors. They’re something else. Something bigger. Perhaps that’s why I’m reluctant to call the Vimberg Amea the best two-way bookshelf monitor I’ve heard, because those speakers are over there and the Amea is way over here. It’s quickly becoming apples and oranges, at least for me.
Waiting for Amea
Before the Vimberg Ameas arrived from Wynn Audio, the new US distributor, I had a chat with Doug White—a must for all things Tidal Audio in this country. Doug wanted to tell me the back story on the Ameas, which happened to coincide with a question I had in my head about Tidal Audio:
“If the Vimberg Amea is this spectacular, what would the Tidal Audio version of the Amea sound like?”
The answer from Doug—and right before him, Eric Franklin Shook—is that there once was a Tidal Audio Amea. I was shown photos of it, and yes it looks like the Tidal Audio version of the Vimberg—beautiful glossy wood veneers, lots of shiny bits of precious metal here and there, and an optional diamond tweeter for the Amea Diacera version. It was discontinued seven years ago, probably for the usual uninteresting reasons, but Jorn Janczak of Tidal Audio wanted to bring it back—for under $20,000 per pair. He just couldn’t do it as a Tidal Audio Amea because of the extra time and craftsmanship and materials it would take.
As Doug White recalls:
“I had been nagging him about bringing back the Amea for some time. Jorn when came to AXPONA to support me at the show April 2018. It was when it was decided he could bring back the Amea as a Vimberg model. He made the decision, after seeing what was out there, that an updated Amea would be of service to the market who loved, or needed, a two-way stand mount speaker.”
Finally, Doug did mention something that was more comparable to a Tidal Audio Amea, and that’s the new Vimberg Amea with the diamond tweeter option, which is called the Amea D. It’s a $10,000 option, making the Amea suddenly a $25,000 two-way bookshelf monitor. Would that be my ultimate two-way stand-mount speaker? Can the sparkly diamond tweeters make me forget that $10,000 buys some very awesome and complete loudspeakers?
This is where Scot Hull chimed in. “I have the Tidal Audio Pianos with the diamond tweeter and oh my Lord you have to hear the difference it makes. It’s HUGE.” Thanks for moving the goalposts, Scot.
[Publisher’s note: Hahahahahha]
Still, I feel honored and special to review the Vimberg Amea as I received them, with their Accuton “ceramic” drivers—a 173mm midrange driver, a 30mm tweeter, and a passive 220mm passive bass radiator facing the rear. (Another reason why we can’t look at the Amea as just another two-way bookshelf speaker.) That’s when I noted that I’d never reviewed a speaker with ceramic drivers before—cool! (Although, as I write this a pair of Martens have just been shipped to my home.)
I know what you’re thinking. The Vimberg Amea loudspeakers are probably yet another precious, premium bookshelf that costs as much as a new car from the same country. At $15,000 per pair, they are expensive, but I knew that wasn’t going to be as outrageous as it sounds. These are not your typical two-way mini-monitors, the kind that weighs maybe 15 to 20 pounds each, the kind that is easy to shlep around in one arm.
The Vimberg Amea weighs 44 pounds each. That’s not the heaviest monitor I’ve hoisted onto a 24” stand, but it’s close. They’re big, too—roughly 9” wide by 15” deep and nearly 20” high. When I pick one up, I realize that it isn’t about mass or weight as much as solidity. I’m talking about a perfect weight balance created by an exquisitely made enclosure. In my arms, the Ameas felt differently than almost any other speaker I’ve embraced. They feel precise and functional and preternaturally balanced as far as the weight is concerned.
The innards must be equally impressive. I thought about getting a screwdriver and poking around inside—HAHA! No, I didn’t! You must have me confused with another reviewer. But I will reiterate some of the features and specs: 86 dB with a 5-ohm impedance, components sourced from Dueland, Mundorf and Mogami. Vimberg’s exclusive MRD cabinets can be covered in several different finishes: Velvetec black or white is standard; gloss black and white, along with special colors, are optional. My pair came in the Velvetec Summit White, and I can’t believe I’ve found a white cabinet that I actually like. It has a beautiful texture and feel and, most importantly, no fingerprints!
I connected the Vimberg Ameas to two separate types of amplification. First, I used my personal reference amps, the Pureaudio Control preamplifier and Pureaudio Duo2 stereo amplifier. I usually have the Duo2 running in Pure Class A mode, which is 25wpc. This wasn’t quite enough juice, and I started hearing a strange noise that was, um, wait a minute. Is the amp clipping?
Remember in the old days, when a reviewer would talk about driving an amp to clipping just to find out where the limits are? I don’t do that. Mostly it’s because I don’t listen to music at really loud levels, but I just feel like getting an amp to clip is like screeching your tires whenever you take off down the street. So I switched the mode setting on the Duo2 to 100wpc Class AB, and this turned out to be an excellent match—the Pureaudio gear can be almost warm and tube-like, which is a striking match with the Vimberg’s precision and detail.
The party started, however, when the Jeff Rowland Design Group Continuum 2 integrated arrived with the new phono card upgrade. We’re talking 400wpc, maybe the most I’ve ever commandeered. The Continuum 2 is more neutral than the Pureaudio, but I also lost some of that distinct warmth I love. What I did get, however, was an incredible leap in the retrieval of fine detail that was often exhilarating.
Jorn explains the sound of the Amea like this:
“All our speakers just reflect the “temperature” which has been injected by the system (setup and recording). The speaker itself just converts voltage into sonics to be able to listen what was being delivered as music signal.”
By this time I had also grounded my system using all the Nordost Qkore grounding products, on top of my AudioQuest Niagara 3000 power conditioner. I’m still in awe of the complete silence of my system right now. I felt like I could hear every little thing the Ameas contributed to the whole.
I was concerned with getting proper 24” stands for the Vimberg Amea. My existing 24” Quadraspire stands, augmented with constrained layer damping materials from Les Davis Audio, are excellent stands as long as you’re using lighter monitors, maybe under 25 lbs each. With heavier monitors such as my Brigadier Audio BA-2s, or the Opera Callas I used to import, or the Joseph Audio Pulsar2 Graphenes I just reviewed, the Quadraspires could be a little precarious—so much so it made me nervous. When I placed the Ameas on the Quadraspires, however, they were as stable as can be. I’m not sure why—new home, new floors–but I stuck with them.
If I purchased the Ameas, however, I’d also try to get something more massive from the likes of Rogoz or at least Sound Anchors. Fill ‘em up with lead and mercury and small rocks and bolt them to the floor. (Doug White just mentioned to me that he’s just ordered custom stands from Rogoz for his pair of Ameas.)
Finally, can I say a little something about these Argento binding posts made from fiber-reinforced polymer? Can everyone else just throw theirs away and start using these? The way the double cones interact with spades when you’re tightening down—it’s just an amazing feeling, so smooth and precise and secure.
Many of you know I like my warmth, and I’m not afraid to say that prefer certain colorations in my audio. I’m someone who listens to vinyl, sometimes with tubes, sometimes with SETs. Most of the Tidal Audio loudspeakers I’ve heard, however, were extremely neutral. So are the Vimberg Ameas.
That didn’t mean, of course, that the sound of the Ameas wasn’t to my liking because they were too cold or analytical or, God forbid, “accurate.” One of the things I’ve learned about my somewhat malleable taste in hi-fi over the last couple of years is that I want both. I need warmth—my attraction to music is based on the idea that it should make my brain STFU for at least a few minutes. That’s the warmth I need, that lush romanticism that seduces you and then you wake up in a La Quinta in El Centro, CA two days later and you can’t remember a darned thing.
But I dig getting plenty of detail as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of the warmth. In fact, I’ve discovered that they’re not mutually exclusive. That’s what happens when you’re lucky enough to hear the Really Really Good Stuff. That’s what you get with the Vimberg Amea.
I found myself drawn to a lot of Latin jazz and experimental jazz while listening to the Ameas, mostly because I loved how these German speakers were able to translate very complex percussion pieces in a clear and logical manner. On Julian Gerstin’s Littoral Zone, which is mostly Gerstin beating on drums and gongs and bells and coffee makers, I felt like I had uncovered a whole new layer to the sounds being created. You know how the strike of a drum comes in three parts—the strike of the stick on the drum head, the drum head filling with sound, and then the sound of the beat as it fills the room? Through the Vimberg Ameas, I felt like I was hearing a few additional steps I hadn’t heard before—the movement of the stick through the air, the movement of the body of the drummer, and the echoes that have completely different patterns based on their position in the room.
A heard two sounds delivered with perfection with the Vimberg Ameas—the sound of a kick drum on a somewhat conventional kit, and the lowest note on the double bass. Both energized the room while the fundamental note remained focused in space. The Ameas go down to 35 Hz, but that sounds silly when you can hear the power of those low notes so clearly. I’ve had big, expensive loudspeakers in that could do 20 Hz, but I wouldn’t trade the Vimbergs in to get them.
As sort of a farewell listening session with the Vimberg Ameas and the Continuum 2 combo, I decided to listen to Beck’s Sea Change. (MFSL CD, if that’s important to you.) Someone mentioned that album out of the blue—I think it was Dave McNair in his Acora Acoustics review—and suddenly I thought “I have to hear this with the Vimberg-Rowland combo immediately!”
It was everything I’d hoped for and more. I’m not sure if the Vimberg Amea is the only speaker I’ve had in my listening room that really fleshed out those reticent string orchestra arrangements from the rest of the mix—I’ve hosted lots of giant speakers in my home since 2002—but it might be the most convincing. I know I’ve been trying to avoid referring to the Ameas as a small speaker, but this is where I have to point out the sheer surprise I felt at the complex layerings that can often sound buried deep in the music. They defy physics! They punch above their weight! Derp derpity derp derp derp!
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed Sea Change more. If you remember that amazing last minute or two of “Lonesome Tears,” you’ll have an inkling of just how spectacular the Vimberg Ameas really are and what they can do.
Are the Vimberg Ameas the best two-way stand-mounted loudspeakers I’ve heard? Maybe. I’m not sure I’ve heard them all yet. Plus, the very idea that there’s a Vimberg Amea out there with the optional diamond tweeter makes me a little crazy. I need to hear that soon. I need to know how much better it can possibly get.
Once again, please don’t ask me how the Vimberg Amea compares to another two-way monitors out there. This is a beautifully made and meticulously engineered loudspeaker that needs to be evaluated and classified by one important criterion: sound quality. Is the price of this speaker justified by the sound quality? Big time. Do you need a big massive tower with a 12” woofer array to experience full-range sound in your listening room? I don’t. I can’t imagine needing anything that these “2-way bookshelf monitors” can’t supply.
Texas sized 10-4 on that Editor’s Choice Award, too.