I decided to focus on the new brands exhibiting at AXPONA 2022, or at least some of the companies that had returned with completely new or redesigned product line-ups. Of those, three loudspeaker manufacturers caught my immediate attention: Aretai, Rethm, and Valorem.
Harkening from Latvia, Aretai brought their entry-level two-way bookshelf Contra 100S ($7,500/pr USD) for demonstration in Room 1515. The other models in the Aretai lineup include the floor-standing Contra 200F ($25,000/pr) and the mighty Contra 350F ($50,000/pr). Aretai immediately won a Red Dot Design Award after the company’s debut at the 2018 Munich show. All three designs share a waveguide-loaded tweeter in a sealed box. The Contra 100S played quite deep for a two-way, going all the way down to 30Hz! The 100S also had superb imaging and bass extension.
Rethm, who made a name in the past with high-efficiency single-driver loudspeakers, now has a fully redesigned line-up. Designed and manufactured in India, the Rethm Aarka ($6000) was creating a sparkly sound stage with strong bass authority from such a minimalist system. This is a powered speaker with a full-range wizzer-cone phase plug driver driven by a hybrid-tube 25 watt amplifier mated with 100 watt Class AB dual 6-inch bass drivers.
Efficiency was 94db, there is no crossover, but the bass has an adjustable low-pass filter. The 25 watt amp can be bypassed if desired, but this minimalist system was being driven by a iFi DAC/Streamer to showcase how easy these are to set up and make great music. There are three other models in the lineup, with the flagship Saadhana costing $17,500/pr. While not exactly one of the new brands at AXPONA, Rethm is certainly welcome back to the world of high-end audio.
After starting a speaker company during the height of COVID-19 in 2020, Valorem Audio was finally debuting their new Somnium ($8,400/pr) two-way stand mount speakers. This new company manufactures loudspeakers out of Addison, IL (a Chicago suburb), a currently features three speakers in the lineup. With the entry level prices starting at $2,200/pr USD, Valorem looks to be a contender in the hot two-way market. The Somnium played deep for a small bookshelf model, and it sounded great to my ears. All three of these new brands at AXPONA 2022 are deserving of your attention.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2022 or about the other new brands at AXPONA, 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.