A man stands in front of a rack full of audio electronics. On the top shelf, a turntable. Next to it, an amplifier. Below that, a phono stage. The man pulls a record from its sleeve, places it on the platter and lowers the needle. This process is conducted with care and precision. Through the loudspeakers that flank this high-end audio system, we hear the needle find the record’s groove…
It’s a familiar scene – one that plays out time and again at almost every audio show around the world. However, we’re not at a hotel on the edge of town. We’re at a large apartment in the centre of Berlin. Think of it as an audio show with only one exhibit.
If this show were ‘all about the people’, I’d tell you that our host for the afternoon was one André Schwager, local representative of Mach One Classics who distribute Spatial Audio in Germany. But it isn’t all about the people.
If this show were ‘all about the music’, I’d tell you we listened to two cuts from the 2016 remaster of Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, two from Peter Gabriel Plays Live and two from Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine. But it isn’t all about the music.
No – this show demo was all about the audio hardware, specifically Spatial Audio’s Hologram M3 Turbo S loudspeakers. From within Germany, and recalling ELAC’s Eurozoned Uni-Fi range, these American open baffles have been tweaked aesthetically and sonically for the European market by Schwager and Mach One Classics mainman Robert Andorf.
The basic ingredients remain the same as the US model: a pair of 15” Eminence drivers – not off the shelf but built to Spatial’s specifications – with the uppermost housing a coaxially-aligned wide bandwidth compression driver.
The Hologram series are an everyman open baffle speaker: they’re more affordable; they connote and IKEA aesthetic and – most importantly – no geeking around is required for setup. Unlike Shaw’s previous active loudspeaker endeavour with Emerald Physics, Spatial’s Hologram M3 (and M4) require no outboard active crossover. Pretty much any amplifier gets us off the ground.
For the EU iteration, Schwager and Andorf have gone with a slightly modified passive crossover network. “I don’t know if Clayton (Shaw) changed it on the US version as well, you might want to ask him though”, says Schwager. I shall – when I see him in person in a few weeks.
All drivers are shipped to Mach One Classics directly from the Spatial shop in Ogden, Utah. The baffles are not. To side-step the hefty shipping costs of having two-layer HDF panels sent across the Atlantic, the European M3 Turbo S are made under licence in Bavaria but with three-layer MDF (30mm + 8mm + 30mm).
Mach One Classics’ woodshop is based in Manching, 10km south of Ingolstadt. Cutting, CNC-milling, MDF sandwich construction and veneer application all take place here.
Standard finishes (€4500/pair) are either black or white paint. A red version – this commentator’s favourite – is reportedly in the works.
After that come “special” finishes (€5000/pair): FENIX NTM, a nanoparticle based material which leaves no fingerprints; a wood veneer like Rose Oak; a SaRaiFo veneer like Apple Tree or Ebony or Santos Palisander, the latter seen in Schwager’s apartment.
Mach One Classics also have a metal guy, one Albert Lapp, who takes care of the feet and spikes, both redesigned for this Eurozoned version. Lapp and his €1,000,000 machine live in Neuburg an der Donau, 20km west of Ingolstadt.
Final assembly takes place at Andorf’s store in the heart of Ingolstadt. From there the loudspeakers are sent out to customers and/or dealers.
Schwager elaborates: “Starting in June, Robert will have (what he calls) the ‘First Ingolstädter Lautsprecher-Manufaktur’. The idea is to have people see and experience how the loudspeakers are assembled. We even had this idea of having a live-cam filming the assembly: say you order a red veneer version with a specific serial number; you then get a code to enter into the website and once assembly starts you can watch Robert and Oscar build your new speakers.”
How do they sound? I could tell you that I heard better extension in the top end but such an assertion is instantly robbed of reliability given Schwager’s unfamiliar (to me) room. Less debatable is Spatial’s ability to dynamically illuminate music at lower SPLs, just like the previously reviewed M4 Turbo S.
For a sonic assessment that readers can hang their hat (and wallet) on, an audio show report comes up woefully short, no matter how optimistic we feel about our ability to make a judgement call. Like any piece of audio gear, loudspeakers must be heard in a familiar room. A lounge or dedicated listening room. In my case, that’s the DARhaus. It turns out that my Neu-Bau apartment is a mere twenty minutes walk from Schwager’s.
Before the Euro-modded M3 Turbo S speakers land for review, we’ll be seeing Spatial Audio’s Clayton Shaw, along with André Schwager and Robert Andorf of Mach One Classics, at Munich High-End in a few weeks. From the floor of the M.O.C., expect to see further coverage of the European-ized Hologram M3 Turbo S as well as Shaw’s forthcoming active monsters, the X1 Uniwave.
Don’t expect shot-in-the-dark SQ evaluation or empty cliche espousal that it’s all about the music/people. It isn’t. DAR is not Pitchfork or Rolling Stone. Neither is it a country club. Music and people are both pleasant side dishes but they aren’t the main meal. That remains audio hardware.