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 Cassette tapes were superseded by recording formats that disappeared faster than the typical Australian Idol finalist.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.


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

First Drive: The Porsche 911 S/T Is a Feral Beast That Handles the Road Like an Olympic Bobsledder

The commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the GT3 RS and includes a 518 hp engine.

By Basem Wasef 23/10/2023

The soul of any sports car comes down to the alchemy of its tuning—how the engine, suspension, and chassis blend into a chorus of sensations. The secret sauce of the new Porsche 911 S/T, developed as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the brand’s flagship model, is more potent than most; in fact, it makes a serious case for being the most driver-focused 911 of all time.

Sharing the S/T designation with the homologation special from the 1960s, the (mostly) innocuously styled commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the more visually extroverted GT3 RS. Yet what the S/T, starting at $290,000, lacks in fender cutouts and massive spoilers it makes up for in directness: a flat-six power plant that revs to 9,000 rpm, a motorsport-derived double-wishbone suspension, and a manual gearbox. It’s a delightfully feral combination.

Rossen Gargolov

Whereas the automatic-transmission GT3 RS is ruthlessly configured for maximum downforce and minimum lap times, the S/T is dialed in for the road—particularly the Southern Italian ones on which we’re testing the car, which happen to be the very same used by product manager Uwe Braun, Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT line, and racing legend Walter Röhrl to finalize its calibration. The car reacts to throttle pressure with eerie deftness, spinning its 518 hp engine with thrilling immediacy, thanks to shorter gear ratios.

The steering response is similarly transparent, as direct as an unfiltered Marlboro, and the body follows with the agility of an Olympic bobsledder. Some of that purity of feeling is the result of addition through subtraction: Power-sapping elements including a hydraulic clutch and rear-axle steering were ditched, which also enabled the battery to be downsized for even more weight savings. The final result, with its carbon-fiber body panels, thinner glass, magnesium wheels, and reduced sound deadening, is the lightest 992-series variant on record, with roughly the same mass as the esteemed 911 R from 2016.

Driver engagement is further bolstered by the astounding crispness of the short-throw gearbox. The S/T fits hand in glove with narrow twisties and epic sweepers, or really any stretch that rewards mechanical grip and the ability to juke through hairpin corners. The cabin experience is slightly less raucous than the 911 R, but more raw than the wingless 911 GT3 Touring, with an intrusive clatter at idle due to the single-mass flywheel and featherlight clutch. Porsche cognoscenti will no doubt view the disturbance in the same way that hardcore Ducatisti revere the tambourine-like rattle of a traditional dry clutch: as an analog badge of honor.

The main bragging right, though, may just be owning one. In a nod to the year the 911 debuted, only 1,963 examples of the S/T will be built. Considering the seven-year-old 911 R started life at$295,000 and has since fetched upwards of $790,000, this new lightweight could bring proportionately heavy returns—if you can be pried from behind the wheel long enough to sell it, that is.

Images by Rossen Gargolov

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Gentlemanly Restraint 

Art and science collide in the the newly released BR03A watch collection by Bell & Ross.

By Belinda Aucott 02/11/2023

In keeping with the brand’s design salute to aviation and military equipment, the pared-back face of the Bell & Ross BR03 Automatic takes its cue from the instrumentation in cockpits. It’s unabashedly minimal and confidently masculine style is set to make it a future classic.

Faithful to the codes that underpin the brand’s identity, the new utilitarian offerings sit within a smaller 41-mm case (a slight departure from the original at 42 mm Diver, Chrono or GMT.) and has a reduced lug width and slimmer hands. The changes extend to the watch movement, which has been updated with a BR-CAL.302 calibre. The watch is waterproof to 300 metres and offers a power reserve of 54 hours.

While the new collection offers an elegant sufficiency of colourways, from a stealthy black to more decorative bronze face with a tan strap, each is a faithful rendition of the stylish “rounded square, four-screw” motif that is Bell & Ross’s calling card.



For extra slickness, the all-black Phantom and Nightlum models have a stealthy, secret-agent appeal, offering up a new take on masculine restraint.

Yet even the more decorative styles, like the black face with contrasting army-green band, feel eminently versatile and easy to wear. The 60’s simplicity and legibility of the face is what makes it so distinctive and functional.

For example, the BR 03-92 Nightlum, with its black matte case and dial, and bright green indices and hands, offers a great contrast during the day and emits useful luminosity at night.

A watch that begs to be read, the the BR03-A stands up to scrutiny, and looks just as good next to a crisp, white cuff as it does at the end of a matte, black wetsuit.

That’s a claim not many watch collections can make. 

Explore the collection.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Timeless Glamour & Music Aboard The Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Lose yourself in a luxury journey, aboard an Art Deco train from Paris

By Belinda Aucott 03/11/2023

Watching the unseen corners of Europe unfold gently outside your train, window can be thirsty work, right? That’s why Belmond Hotels is once again staging a culinary train journey from Paris to Venice, aboard the glittering Art Deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

To celebrate diversity and inclusion in the LBTQ+ community, another unforgettable train ride is slated for 2 November.

On the journey, ample servings of decadent cuisine will be served and live entertainment will play looooong into the night. Trans-DJ Honey Dijon and Dresden’s Purple Disco Machine are both part of the disco-house line-up.

Passengers are encouraged to dress in black-tie or cocktail attire, before they head to the bar and dining carriages to enjoy their night, where they are promised ‘unapologetic extravagance’,.

Negronis, martinis, spritzes and sours will all be on offer as the sunlight fades.

So-hot-right-now French chef Jean Imbert is also in the kitchen rattling the pans for guests.

Imber puts a garden-green-goodness twist on Gallic traditions. He regularly cooks for the who’s-who. Imbert recently co-created a food concept for Dior in Paris, worked with Pharrell Williams to present a dinner in Miami, and he’s even been invited to Cheval Blanc St-Barth to cater luxe LVMH-owned property.

The young chef is vowing to create no less than ‘culinary perfection’ in motion with his own passion for fresh seasonal produce. There’ll be plenty of Beluga caviar, seared scallops, and lobster vol-au-vents.

“I want to create beautiful moments which complement the train, which is the true star,” says Imbert of his hands-on approach to delectable pastries and twists on elegant Euro classics.

“Its unique legacy is something we take pride in respecting, while evolving a new sense of style and purpose that will captivate a new generation.”

Check the timetable for the itinerary of lush inclusions here.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

From Electric Surfboards to Biodegradable Golf Balls: 8 Eco-Conscious Yacht Toys for Green and Clean Fun

Just add water and forget the eco-guilt.

By Gemma Harris 18/10/2023

Without toys, yachts would be kind of sedentary. There’s nothing wrong with an alfresco meal, sunsets on the flybridge and daily massages. But toys add zest to life on board, while creating a deeper connection with the water. These days, there are a growing number of options for eco-friendly gadgets and equipment that deliver a greener way to play. These eight toys range from do-it-yourself-propulsion (waterborne fitness bikes) to electric foiling boards, from kayaks made of 100 percent recycled plastics to non-toxic, biodegradable golf balls with fish food inside. Your on-water adrenaline rushes don’t always have to be about noise and gas fumes. They can be fun, silent, and eco-conscious.

A game of golf isn’t just for land. Guests can play their best handicap from the deck with Albus Golf’s eco-friendly golf balls. The ecological and biodegradable golf balls are 100 percent safe for marine flora and fauna, and manufactured with non-contaminating materials. The balls will biodegrade within 48 hours after hitting the ocean and release the fish food contained in their core. For a complete golfing experience, add a floating FunAir green. From $3100 (FunAir Yacht Golf) and $315 a box (golf balls).

Fliteboard Series 2.0

The future of surf is electric, and Fliteboard offers an emissions-free and environmentally friendly electric hydrofoil. Flying over the water has never been as efficient and low impact, using new technologies with less than 750 watts of electric power. This second series boasts various performance factors for all riding styles. It also features an increased trigger range from 20 to 40 degrees for more precision and control. Fliteboard designed this series for every possible foiling ability, from newbies to wave-carvers. From $22,000.

Manta 5 Hydrofoiler XE-1

Hailing from New Zealand and using America’s Cup technology, Manta 5 offers the first hydrofoil bike. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 replicates the cycling experience on the water. Powered by fitness-level pedaling and assisted by the onboard battery, top speeds can reach up to 19 km per hour. The two hydrofoils are carbon fibre, and the frame is aircraft-grade aluminium. The onboard Garmin computer will relay all the stats. The effortless gliding sensation will accompany you through a workout, exploration or just circling the boat. From $950.

Mo-Jet’s Jet Board

Imagine five toys in one: The Mo Jet delivers just that. From jet surfing, bodyboarding, and e-foiling to scooter diving. This versatile, German-built toy is perfect for those who cannot decide. The Mo-jet uses a cool modular system allowing you to switch between activities. Whether you want to stand, be dragged around or dive, you can have it all. It even has a life-saving module and a 2.8m rescue electric surfboard. Made from environmentally friendly and recyclable polyethene, it also ticks the eco-conscious boxes. Complete with an 11kW electric water jet, it charges in 75 mins, offering up to 30 mins of fun. Adrenaline junkies will also not be disappointed, since speed surges from 0 to 27 knots in 3 seconds. From $18,000.

Silent Yachts Tender ST400

Driven by innovation and solar energy, Silent Yachts recently launched its first electric tender, the ST400. The 13-footer has clean-cut lines and is built with either an electric jet drive or a conventional electric outboard engine. The ST400 reaches speeds above 20 knots. From $110,000.

Osiris Outdoor ‘Reprisal’ Kayak

Kayaks are ideal for preserving and protecting nature, but they’re usually manufactured with materials that will last decades longer than we will and therefore not too eco-friendly. Founded by US outdoor enthusiasts, Osiris Outdoor has created a new type of personal boat. “The Reprisal” kayak is manufactured in the US entirely from recycled plastics (around 27 kgs) that are purchased from recycling facilities. The sustainable manufacturing process isn’t its only selling point; the lightweight Reprisals have spacious storage compartments, rod holders and a watertight hatch for gadgets. Complete with a matte-black finish for a stylish look. From $1100.

The Fanatic Ray Eco SUP Paddleboard

Declared as the most sustainable SUP, the Ray Eco is the brainchild of the Zero Emissions Project and BoardLab, supported by Fanatic. Glass and carbon fibre have been replaced with sustainable Kiri tree wood. And you can forget toxic varnishes and resins; organic linseed oil has been used to seal the board and maintain its durability. This fast, light, and stable board is truly one of a kind, not available off the rack. This craftsman’s love for detail and preservation is another first-class quality of the board. From $10,000

Northern Light Composite X Clean Sailors EcoOptimist

One of the most popular, single-handed dinghies in sailing’s history, the tiny Optimist has undergone a sustainable revival. Northern Light Composites and not-for-profit Clean Sailors have teamed up to launch the first sustainable and recyclable Optimist. Using natural fibres and eco-sustainable resins, The EcoOptimist supports a new circular economy in yachting. OneSail also produces the sail with a low-carbon-footprint manufacturing process. From $6000.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

The 50 Best Cocktail Bars in the World, According to a New Ranking

The World’s 50 Best organisation gave the Spanish bar Sips top honours during an awards ceremony in Singapore.

By Tori Latham 18/10/2023

If you’re looking for the best bar in the world, you better head to Barcelona.
Sips, from the industry luminaries Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez, was named the No. 1 bar on the planet in the latest World’s 50 Best Bars ranking. The organisation held its annual awards ceremony on Tuesday in Singapore, the first time it hosted the gathering in Asia. Sips, which only opened two years ago, moved up to the top spot from No. 3 last year.
“Sips was destined for greatness even before it rocketed into the list at No. 37 just a few short months after opening in 2021,” William Drew, the director of content for 50 Best, said in a statement.
“The bar seamlessly translates contemporary innovation and technical precision into a playful cocktail programme, accompanied by the warmest hospitality, making it a worthy winner of The World’s Best Bar 2023 title.”
Coming in second was North America’s best bar: New York City’s Double Chicken Please. The top five was rounded out by Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy, Barcelona’s Paradiso (last year’s No. 1), and London’s Connaught Bar. The highest new entry was Seoul’s Zest at No. 18, while the highest climber was Oslo’s Himkok, which moved up to No. 10 from No. 43 last year.
Barcelona may be home to two of the top five bars, but London has cemented its status as the cocktail capital of the world: The English city had five bars make the list, more than any other town represented. Along with Connaught Bar in the top five, Tayēr + Elementary came in at No. 8, and Satan’s Whiskers (No. 28), A Bar With Shapes for a Name (No. 35), and Scarfes Bar (No. 41) all made the grade too.
The United States similarly had a good showing this year. New York City, in particular, is home to a number of the best bars: Overstory (No. 17) and Katana Kitten (No. 27) joined Double Chicken Please on the list.
Elsewhere, Miami’s Café La Trova hit No. 24 and New Orleans’s Jewel of the South snuck in at No. 49, bringing the Big Easy back to the ranking for the first time since 2014.
To celebrate their accomplishments, all of this year’s winners deserve a drink—made by somebody else at least just this once.
Check out the full list of the 50 best bars in the world below.
1. Sips, Barcelona
2. Double Chicken Please, New York
3. Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City
4. Paradiso, Barcelona
5. Connaught Bar, London
6. Little Red Door, Paris
7. Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
8. Tayēr + Elementary, London
9. Alquímico, Cartagena
10. Himkok, Oslo
11. Tres Monos, Buenos Aires
12. Line, Athens
13. BKK Social Club, Bangkok
14. Jigger & Pony, Singapore
15. Maybe Sammy, Sydney
16. Salmon Guru, Madrid
17. Overstory, New York
18. Zest, Seoul
19. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, Bangkok
20. Coa, Hong Kong
21. Drink Kong, Rome
22. Hanky Panky, Mexico City
23. Caretaker’s Cottage, Melbourne
24. Café La Trova, Miami
25. Baba au Rum, Athens
26. CoChinChina, Buenos Aires
27. Katana Kitten, New York
28. Satan’s Whiskers, London
29. Wax On, Berlin
30. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
31. Röda Huset, Stockholm
32. Sago House, Singapore
33. Freni e Frizioni, Rome
34. Argo, Hong Kong
35. A Bar With Shapes for a Name, London
36. The SG Club, Tokyo
37. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
38. The Cambridge Public House, Paris
39. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
40. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai
41. Scarfes Bar, London
42. 1930, Milan
43. Carnaval, Lima
44. L’Antiquario, Naples
45. Baltra Bar, Mexico City
46. Locale Firenze, Florence
47. The Clumsies, Athens
48. Atlas, Singapore
49. Jewel of the South, New Orleans
50. Galaxy Bar, Dubai

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected