I’ve listened to Rethm loudspeakers on two occasions, both many years ago. The first time I was amazed–I had just started to explore the idea of single-driver speakers and SETs, and Art Dudley (back in the days of Listener) thought the world of them. The second occasion, however, was dreadful. It was a mish-mash of several products that I really liked and for some reason they didn’t mesh. I had to leave the room quickly.
My third exposure to Rethm loudspeakers, the only high-end audio company I can think of that is based in India, was here at AXPONA 2022. I thought to myself, “will it be really good or really horrid?” Fortunately, Rethm has come out with a new line of speakers that are both attractive and ambitious, all for a reasonable amount of money.
The Rethm loudspeakers room couldn’t have been more simple. It consisted of the new Rethm Aarka and a tiny little iFi preamplifier/DAC/streamer. The Aarkas are basically a pair of single-driver monitors, the first “bookshelf” models from this company. The secret? The Aarkas are active–a 95wpc class AB solid state amp powers the rear-mounted subwoofers, and a 25 wpc hybrid amplifier with FET output and 6H6P driver stage power the 5″ full-range driver. Yes, tubes. One small 6H6P is located on a shelf right below the baffle. You get all this for a surprising $6,000/pair USD.
I was impressed by the sound–nice bass, big open sound. I don’t know if I was recognized when I entered the room, but once I sat down the Rethm crew started playing “Yulunga” from Dead Can Dance’s Into the Labyrinth. That’s right, the Rethm Aarkas were immediately subjected to the Yulunga Test, that single soft whomp of a big drum a minute or two in. While these Rethm loudspeakers didn’t quite push the bass underneath the floorboards as most large speakers will do–I wouldn’t have expected bass slam from the Rethm loudspeakers of yore–the Aarka managed to create the visceral textures that bring out the bass fundamentals in a detailed and enjoyable way.
Rethm loudspeakers aren’t quite mainstream–even with an active design–and the single-driver sound is still a bit idiosyncratic. But both Grover Neville and I really enjoyed them, and Grover signed up for a review. If you’re a Rethm loudspeakers fan, or a single-driver fan, this is a speaker that will appeal to a larger audience than ever.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2022, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the show direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.