The sounds of sublimeness

True audiophiles are shunning sterile home cinema in favour of a return to two-channel purity.

By Ash Westerman 31/10/2016

Consider the shifts that have occurred over the past 30 or so years in the way in which we consume music. Vinyl records were poised for obsolescence with the arrival of the Compact Disc in the early 1980s. Cassette tapes were superseded by recording formats that disappeared faster than the typical Australian Idol finalist. Hands up anyone who remembers MiniDisc? Or DAT?

The Mp3 format and the global embrace of the iPod changed everything. At least, it did until the advent of streaming services forced Apple to bin its 5000-songs-in-your-pocket miracle and everything changed … again.

Yet, curiously, other key elements of the audio chain have moved at a far more glacial pace. Like loudspeaker design and construction. It’s been almost 100 years since two General Electric researchers, Rice and Kellogg (yes, seriously), patented the basic design from which sprang all subsequent moving-coil drive-unit designs, or what we know as ‘a speaker’.

The basic electrical, acoustical and mechanical principles have evolved little since, while good old timber (or MDF, medium-density fibreboard) for the speaker cabinets has also stubbornly resisted change.

But not anymore. Companies like Magico, located in Hayward, California, have begun crafting materials more commonly associated with the aerospace industry, or Formula 1 racing – think aluminium, titanium and variations of carbon-fibre – into high-end audio speakers. In doing so, Magico has reset what was thought possible in the quest for the ultimate speaker: that is, one that ‘disappears’, leaving just the music rendered like an other-worldly acoustic holograph across a virtual sound stage. Magico founder and CEO Alon Wolf is both engineer and musician. As evidenced by his vast new factory, he’s also clearly a fearless entrepreneur. Wolf is reticent on the total investment in Magico’s manufacturing operation, which has more CNC milling machines than many top-flight F1 teams, but he delights to talk about the materials and design that make his company’s products truly next-level, in every sense of the term.

Wolf dismisses the notion that Magico has reinvented the loudspeaker, or that the company is using new, mysterious materials. That said, like many other speaker designers, he is inclined to assign techy-sounding trademarked names like Nano-Tec to material innovations that are more evolutionary than revolutionary. (The Rohacell foam and carbon-nanotube material used in Magico’s Nano-Tec material, for example, are heavily employed by the aerospace industry for their stiffness and lightness.)

Meanwhile, there is no place for pulped-up dead tree at Magico. Instead, the flagship (well, sort of) Q7 Mk.II model is fronted by thick baffles of exactingly milled aircraft-grade aluminium, to which the drivers are affixed from the rear. Wolf objects to screws on baffles, and the ‘acoustic artefacts’ that he claims are caused by diffraction around them. “Screws come loose and eventually can’t be properly tightened, and they don’t sound good around tweeters,” he insists, but you also sense that visible screws may offend his delicate sense of aesthetic. Wolf says that aluminium provides ideal stiffness and mass, and is relatively easy to effectively damp without storing wave-induced energy. Because of this, it’s far superior to MDF. Reducing flex-induced resonances in MDF requires extensive internal bracing, which can create its own mechanical-energy issues, clouding or ‘colouring’ the sound.

Each Q7 weighs – get this – 340kg. Yes, aluminium is a light material, but when you engineer enough of the stuff into a Q7, you’ll need a couple of front-row forwards to assist in moving them around in your listening room.

Machined from aluminium and brass, the cabinet construction really needs to be seen from the inside to truly be appreciated. It looks a little like a mad architect’s scale model of a glassless high-rise city of the future. A cutaway version shows a complex internal structure of multiple, thick-walled chambers and 10 tubular truss rods that tightly secure the front baffle to the rear panel.

The frame system alone is assembled from more than 50 machined parts; one sidewall is perforated by nearly 100 threaded holes. More than 500 fasteners of various types are required for the cabinet’s construction, even before the front-baffle assembly is affixed to it. The outer, matte skin of anodised aluminium presents a pleasingly soft, muted finish available in a nearly infinite range of colours. The drivers themselves are magnificent things, built in stages in three countries, and using a complex mix of aluminium for the basket, titanium for the voicecoil and a type of carbon-fibre similar to that used for helicopter blades for the cone itself. Oh, and a diamond coating for the beryllium tweeter. Assembling a pair of Q7s will take one of Magico’s technicians more than a week. Without computer-controlled machining, bringing such a complex design to market would be impossible. As it is, these artworks are priced at $335,000 per pair.

And the sound that emanates from something so clearly brimming with tech, passion and zero compromise? It’s a combination that has had veteran audio reviewers searching for superlatives. Audio oracle Robert Harley wrote in The Absolute Sound: “The Q7 simply disappears as a transducer. This is the singularly most impressive product I have encountered in more than 23 years of full-time reviewing.”

Heady praise – but what, you may ask, would you feed to a potentially perfect pair of speakers?

The old hi-fi adage still stands: rubbish in; rubbish out. Not even the Q7s will save a master work that has been compressed within a byte of its life by the evils of the Mp3 format and its wilful discarding of audio information.

Almost certainly, Q7 shoppers will be active in the so-called ‘two-channel revival’, shunning a multi-speaker home theatre set-up (or at least banishing it to another part of the house) and revelling in an ‘ultra-high-resolution front end’. That’s audiophile-speak for the music source, be it records, CDs or high-resolution files. Says Nigel Ng, product and operations manager of Advance Audio Australia, the vinyl revival continues apace. “Plenty of high-end customers not only love the tonal quality of vinyl, they love the tactility of it, the sense of occasion, the artwork, the whole feel. Yes, they will have other sources, like CD and high-resolution streaming, but a premium turntable has – again – become a must-have for audio purists.”

Turntables from Clearaudio, designed and built in Erlangen, Germany, range from around $2000 to a scarcely believable $250,000. Says Ng, “There’s plenty of activity in the area around $2000, which does buy a perfectly nice and good-sounding turntable for a mid-level audio system. For us, though, we see the most volume around the $30,000 range. In 2012, we sold more turntables than we had in the previous three years combined, and that has kept pace.”

The flagship of the Clearaudio line-up is the Statement. It stands over 1.3 metres tall, weighs more than 350 kilos and is, at around $250,000, similarly priced to a Porsche 911 Carrera S. Ng explains that its initial conception was brought about by a UAE customer who could not find a turntable that provided stable operation on his super-yacht.

After some serious engineering, the Statement and its 80kg self-levelling pendulum system was deemed the solution.
“Clearaudio built it for this customer with the intention that it would be a one-off,” explains Ng. “But it soon became apparent there was a ready market for the Statement and it became a production model.” Ng confides that, as a sales incentive, any distributor who sells five Statements is rewarded with a top-spec BMW motorcycle.

“We are three down; two to go,” Ng says, sounding almost ready to zip up his leathers.

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How To Make the Ultimate Hangover Cure

Is this the ultimate cocktail to know by heart?

By Belinda Aucott-christie 29/05/2024

The Savoy in London, a beacon of luxury and opulence, holds a significant place in British history as the nation’s first luxury hotel. It was a haven where the affluent sought to experience a taste of royalty. Interestingly, it was within these grand walls that the alleged liquid remedy for hangovers, The Corpse Reviver, was born.

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Due to its medicinal qualities, this cocktail has passed into drinking folklore, making its recipe a right of passage for any lush.

The Corpse Reviver is aptly named for its life-affirming qualities and claimed ability to knock a hangover on the head.

It’s reassuring to know that the dreaded hangover was such a cause of social consternation in the late 1940s, that it demanded a creative response from Savoy’s hotel bar staff. We’ll drink to that.

Adding to the Corpse Reviver’s allure is the mystery surrounding its creation. Was it the ingenious work of Savoy bartender Johnny Johnson or the creative genius of Joe Gilmore? The exact timeline of its inception between 1948 and 1954 remains a tantalising enigma. 

It’s a zesty, slightly sour hangover cure with a cheeky touch of absinthe shining through. If your hangover is very bad, add a little more syrup to the mix.

To make, take a cocktail shaker and add equal parts dry gin, triple sec, lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc (3/4 of a shot each). 

Add a tiny dash of sugar syrup and absinthe, shake all ingredients with ice until very cold, strain and pour into a chilled coupe.

Garnish with a chic lemon twist and say cheerio to your hangover. 

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ThirdHome Arrives Down Under

The global home-swap club targeting Australia’s millionaires.

By Belinda Aucott 24/05/2024

Wayne Shealy made his name developing resorts from New England to the Caribbean, and shifting more than $3 billion in luxury real estate. In 2010 he started ThirdHome to let luxury homeowners leverage the empty parts of properties in their portfolio to enjoy better holidays. Billed as an exclusive community of ‘neighbours’, ThirdHome now facilitates swapping second and third homes for the super-wealthy.

Wade Shealy, CEO and Founder of ThirdHome, a luxury home-swapping membership program. THIRDHOME

While the glamorous international portfolio spans illustrious private residences, including castles, ranches and chalets, it has been extended to private islands, pieds-à-terre, safari camps, wineries, boutique hotels and yachts.

Turin Castle in Forfar, Scotland. THIRDHOME

Purpose-built for people who own at least two residences and have homes to spare valued at over $2 million, all applicants are vetted and assessed, before being allowed to join. With a global portfolio across 100 countries and 2500 destinations, Shealy is now focusing on Australia.

“We’re super excited for the next chapter of our Australian journey,” Shealy says, from his horse farm outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. 

“We know there’s an extremely healthy appetite for Australians with second homes wanting to become members, who love to travel and want to enjoy exclusive access to the world’s more exceptional stays for a fraction of the price,” he says of his motivation for extending the network Down Under.  He notes that by cleverly utilising the downtime in their own homes, they can fund extravagant trips they may have never dreamt possible. Doing so in a gated community that values trust and respect.

Château De Vézins in Loire Valley, France. THIRDHOME

The spirit of sharing drives the sservice, with ThirdHome members acquiring points in the system each time they open their doors to others. This makes it a self-regulating community backed by solid technology and vigilant management that keeps applicants A-grade.

“Our members are house proud and guest proud,” he adds. “They want the guests to have a great experience.”

Learn more about membership and the rules of engagement here

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Art for Investment

A new private gallery in Sydney helps collectors enter the secondary market.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 24/05/2024

When Art Basel opens next month in Switzerland, it will do so with fresh power under its wings. In 2022 the global art market totalled $67.8 billion, showing 3 percent year-on-year growth*. This year, art topped Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index, with prices rising by 11 percent over 2023. According to most reports, art is now a positively appreciating asset class. By comparison, the values of rare whisky, classic cars, handbags, and furniture fell.

This raises the question of how to invest wisely in art and ensure the sound provenance of your investment. Jesse Jack De Deyne and Boris Cornelissen from A Secondary Eye are here to help art collectors. Conceived as a private gallery with rotating exhibitions, the space is designed to help serious investors confidently buy and sell.

“We offer access to some of the finest works entering the secondary market in Australia and operate with a stringent provenance framework in place,” says Jess Jack De Deyne from the company’s top-floor space overlooking leafy Queen Street in Sydney’s Woollahra.

De Deyne and Cornelissen opened in May with a presentation of rare works by Rover Thomas, the late East Kimberly artist who represented Australia at the 1990 Venice Biennale.

Rover Thomas, Desert Meeting Place, 1994 natural earth pigments on canvas.

De Deyne specialises in Indigenous Australian art and comes to Sydney with a background as a Director in an Aboriginal Arts Centre and working for a leading auction house. Cornelissen is a former contemporary art specialist from Sotheby’s in London and Hong Kong.

“We are most effective when a prospective client comes to us with a specific artwork in mind,” explains De Deyne. “They may have recently been to Canberra to visit the highly regarded exhibition of Emily Kame Kngwarreye at the National Gallery of Australia and there is a specific period of the artist that they are drawn to. Through our contacts, we may be able to help source available related works that would not necessarily appear at auction.” 

Though A Secondary Eye was founded in 2020 in Brisbane, De Denye says the larger pool of collectors drew them down to Sydney. The new gallery’s private aspect seems to be a key selling point for the duo, who prize discretion and private sales. 

Rover Thomas, Lake Argyle, 1994 natural earth pigments on canvas

“Whereas auctions are publicly advertised, a private dealer can offer a work discreetly to a handful of clients without over-exposing it. And we can also present works in a more considered way through curated, high-quality exhibitions that tell the story of each work.”

While some may be intimidated by entering the art market, these art dealers say exposure to the art world is key to unlocking its potential. “Take the time to attend art fairs, exhibitions and auction viewings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for advice. With time and experience, you will learn what you are drawn to and how the offered prices sit relative to other works in the market.”

In an art world overflowing with rules, customs, and jargon, De Deyne is quick to clarify the key difference between dealers and advisers for newbies. 

“An art dealer helps collectors buy and sell artworks and therefore has a commercial incentive in selling a work. The best art advisors work independently, often on a retainer, and don’t profit from the transaction, which means they can give their clients honest advice. 

De Deyne and Cornelissen are well-placed to help people get a foot in the market, no matter how experienced they are. Ultimately, they preach to the choir, appealing most to fine art collectors searching for a specific work. 

“We work in a niche area and ultimately attract people who share our interests. Art collectors, particularly on the secondary market, often follow the art, rather than the person selling it.”

Follow A Secondary Eye here for future exhibitions. 

*According to the 2023 Art Market 2023, authored by Dr. Clare McAndrew, Founder of Arts Economics and published by Art Basel in partnership with UBS

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Watch of the Week: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph

Roger Dubuis unveils its innovative chronograph collection in Australia for the very first time.

By Josh Bozin 21/05/2024

When avant-garde Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis revealed its highly anticipated Chronograph Collection halfway through 2023, it was a testament to its haute horology department in creating such a technical marvel for everyday use. Long at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technological excellence, Roger Dubuis (pronounced Ro-ger Du-BWEE) is no stranger to such acclaim.

Now, fans down under will finally get a taste of the collection that made headlines, with the official Australian unveiling of its Chronograph Collection. Representing precision engineering, extraordinary craftsmanship, and audacious design, this collection, now in its fifth generation, continues to redefine the chronograph category.

Roger Dubuis Australia welcomes the Excalibur Spider Collection to the market, featuring the exquisite Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph, as well as the Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph (a timepiece made in partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse). Each model speaks at lengths to the future of ‘Hyper Horology’—watchmaking, as Roger Dubuis puts it, that pushes the boundaries of traditional watchmaking.

Roger Dubuis

“Roger Dubuis proposes a unique blend of contemporary design and haute horlogerie and the Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is the perfect illustration of this craft,” says Sadry Keiser, Chief Marketing Officer. “For its design, we took inspiration from the MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph, while we decided to power the timepiece with an iconic complication, the flyback chronograph, also marking its come back in the Maison’s collections.”

The Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is bold and flashy—a chronograph made to be seen, especially at its 45mm size. But Roger Dubuis wouldn’t have it any other way. The supercar-inspired watch is certainly captivating in the flesh. Its multi-dimensional design reveals different layers of technical genius as you spend time with it: from its case crafted from lightweight carbon to its hyper-resistant ceramic bezel, black DLC titanium crown, open case back with sapphire crystal, and elegant rubber strap to tie the watch together, it’s a sporty yet incredibly refined timepiece.

The new RD780 chronograph calibre powers the chronograph, a movement fully integrated with two patents: one linked to the second hand of the chronograph and the other to the display of the minute counter. The chronograph also features a flyback function.

The complete set is now available at the Sydney Boutique for those wishing to see the Roger Dubuis Chronograph Collection firsthand.

Roger-Dubuis

 

Roger-Dubuis

Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph
Diameter: 45mm
Material: C-SMC Carbon case
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: RD780 calibre
Complication: Chronograph, date
Functions: hours, minutes, and central seconds
Power reserve: 72 hours

Bracelet: Black rubber strap

Availability: upon request
Price: $150,000


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Thanks to NETGEAR, the First Quad-Band WiFi 7 Mesh System Has Arrived

Elite WiFi performance for your whole home.

By Robb Report 30/05/2024

There’s no denying that in today’s era of technological innovation, home living and entertainment have reached unprecedented heights. In fact, modern home technology is so advanced that we can now enjoy futuristic comforts at the touch of a button (or the flick of a switch).

But one caveat to overcome before enjoying such modern perks: you need ultra-fast Wi-Fi to feed internet-hungry devices, especially when our dependence on Wi-Fi will only grow. Enter, NETGEAR’s latest Wi-Fi technology, set to change the performance of your whole home.

NETGEAR

The NETGEAR Orbi 970 Series Quad-Band WiFi 7 Mesh System is the first of its kind in the category of Wi-Fi technology, unlocking the extraordinary power of WiFi 7 (with 2.4 x faster speeds than WiFi 6). The Orbi 970 Series elevates what most households love, like streaming movies in the highest possible quality, linking wireless speakers throughout your home to play concert-quality music in every room, and gaming like a pro without any lag or drop-outs. But the Orbi 970 Series will also drastically improve your workflow, from email and colleague chats to taking Zoom calls and more.

Leveraging over 25 years of NETGEAR engineering innovation and exclusive patented technology, the Orbi 970 Series will service all of today’s needs, as well as tomorrow’s—in a country like Australia, where internet standards lag behind the rest of the world, residential multi-gigabit speeds will become a godsend. With unparalleled performance based on cutting-edge, patented technology, the Orbi 970 Series will continue to grow with its users, especially as our homes get “smarter”; relying on technology, such as the Orbi 970 Series, will be paramount.

And design doesn’t have to be compromised, either. Wi-Fi might not necessarily be the sexiest topic out there (very few Wi-Fi routers exist that you could call “design-drive”), but the Orbi 970 Series changes that. Thanks to a new sophisticated design, the Orbi 970 Series is elegant enough to blend seamlessly with your home décor.

Netgear

Best of all, thanks to a one-year NETGEAR Armour included with your purchase, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your family and your home are protected with an automatic security shield across your connected devices.

The NETGEAR Orbi 970 series Quad Band WiFi 7 Mesh System retails for $4,299. To learn more, visit the website here.

 

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