“Maqam” is an Arabic word meaning a spiritual station, where the seeker finds him after sincerely treading the spiritual path for a while.
Most probably the aim of Audiozen was to indicate a passage stage along the technical course of the company, emphasizing the fact that the realized models are just points of arrival and starting points along the path of the future development.
ReMusic has already spoken of Audiozen in the occasion of the test we made on the Mantra Special Edition phono preamplifier reviewed by Fabio Barbato, who was so enthusiast to buy it and use it steadily in his reference system.
Today we are going to test the Audiozen maQam loudspeaker. A two-way backloaded bass reflex, featuring a cabinet with an inner volume of about fifteen liters: a real evergreen among the bookshelf speakers!
You might ask what to expect from a speaker with such features and, most of all, which is the reason why a designer takes at stab once again at a design usually chosen by the absolute beginners DIYers.
A designer that I personally know: Antonino Pistone, the owner of Audiozen, who is anything but banal. So, after all these considerations, I was very thrilled about this system but also I was afraid of being disappointed by something apparently comparable to other speakers.
Since the beginning the maQam gives the impression of a trim product. The tested model is the most valuable: lucid lacquered Glossy Black, but you can choose the cheaper white or opaque black version. The midwoofer is a 165 mm Ciare HW175 240 W with a bullet phase plug and a tweeter with 25 mm soft dome made in Italy. The flanges of the transducers are in aluminum and the MDF cabinet is a precise handmade piece with the flanges perfectly aligned with the baffle. Moreover the tolerances of the speakers built-in grooves are extremely reduced. The inner medium-density soundproof material has been used only underside with parsimony and it covers also the 12 dB/oct crossover. The crossover point is at 3.500 Hz and it is realized with capacitors and Jantzen coils together with air soldered metal sheet resistances that have been firmly stuck on the bottom. The Supra wiring is in pure copper. Not bad these components, I would say.
The Bass-reflex via rear-firing port has a length of about 21 cm, the 6 cm external diameter is just below the magnet of the tweeter. Apparently everything is simple and clean. The cabinet is not particularly muffled, I would say it could result resonant on average.
Notwithstanding some break-in of the company, I have thought, considering the 91 dB of efficiency, to connect the maQam to my valve system with an Audio Innovation 500 integrated amplifier.
I was right.
The Audiozen maQam have shown their best merits since the first track I have played. Roberto Daris’ accordion is underlined mostly in the reproduction of the central zone of the keyboard, thanks to the clearness and liquidity of the midrange which is open and well defined.
It is clear that the maQam do not suffer of what can be considered the classical faults within this speakers typology. Considering that the two-way reflex bookshelf loudspeakers with a small internal volume, have obvious and unavoidable performance limits in giving back the recorded event, they usually resort to “special effects”, I mean a bit forced bass frequencies or rather prominent high frequencies. They try to surprise the listener with sounds that seem impossible to come out from small boxes or with chiseled hyper details, which at the beginning are really impressive but in the long term they bother you.
Nothing of the kind happens with this two-way Audiozen system.
The maQam display a top-notch timbric balance, with very few flaws in the dynamic intensity of the frequencies. The piano of M. Vatter, in Klangbilder vol. 2, comes to the aid with a splendid reproduction of the grand piano, model D Steinway & Sons, which occupies the stage in a proportionate way, without being too big or too small. The percussive nature of the prince of the instruments is worthily seconded by the Italian couple without preferring any octave of the keyboard. Clearly, the keys on the left do not have that immanence that only the big woofer can give back. The left keys occasionally lay themselves open to slight dynamic compressions, but everything else is naturalness and right tonality. The jazz music by De Aloe Quartet, Bjork On The Moon, in streaming from Deezer, reveals the excellent timbric skills in the reproduction of the acoustic instruments. Once again, I can state that the main peculiarity of the maQam is the clearness in the emission of the mid frequencies and the outcome is a musical picture of pleasant contemplation.
I’ve got the idea that the long gestation of the design is due essentially to the research of the exact two-ways crossover, in order to avoid any twisting or praising of a particular zone of the frequency response and to try the seeking of the best emission tonal response instead. This way of conducing the speaker refinement has lead to transparency in the mid and mid-bass frequencies, the range where practically lays the most part of the music. The music sensitivity of the designer Antonino Pistone has played an important role: in fact he has avoided the trap of the technical research exasperated by the response linearity or, as I told before, the research of the harmful “special effect”.
Also with the classical music the excellent class of the maQam is evident. The symphonic music enables me to evaluate the great ability of rendering the sound image. This important parameter is given with high values of three-dimension spatiality surely helped by the bass-reflex via rear-firing port. This wide musical window continues to have good minute details through which it is possible to recognize the single instrument hidden into the orchestral mass.
I say again. The listener can recognize at the same time both the good recreation of the detail and of the mid range, and a good imaging depth. This is not a small time, isn’t it? For me, honestly, it is a remarkable outcome!
Obviously, it is not all a bed of roses. If you listen to rock music the maQam are not the best for you, because here is missing the impact that it is typical of the quick transients of this kind of music, while ballads are very enjoyable with their soft chord progressions of the electric bass and the non intrusive solos of the electric guitar. Let’s say that the maQam do not seem to prefer the sound pressures and the violent harmonic peaks made of quick cues and sudden releases.
I have connected the Audiozen speakers to my class A transistor power amps getting amazing results also with this more demanding solution. The maQam accent the quality of the upstream amplification being, in this case, a good litmus test as far as the evaluation of the amplification in use is concerned.
Particular care has to be taken when choosing the power cables. Effectively the maQam emphasize the maim features of the cables, so the White Gold have seemed very refined and musically correct, the HiDiamond Power +1 very muscular and full and the Boomerang very defined and easy.
The maQam like better heavy stands on spikes which allow a solid match with the floor. This is mainly due to the need of second the cabinet resonances that, I think, have been studied to get a right musical accord.
In my opinion the Audiozen maQam are excellent loudspeakers and I make no effort in defining them as the LS3/5A Made in Italy. With these mythic English loudspeakers they have in common the capacity of a spontaneous and natural reproduction which, despite the evident physical and technical limits, can move the chords of your emotion. After all music is emotion, isn’t it?
As last thing, a consideration about the price which has to deal with the typical economies of scale of the handcrafted realizations. The maQam are completely handmade by the designer, who personally takes care of every fundamental aspect for a correct tuning of the single piece. If you consider this aspect properly, well, maybe the cost will appear congruous.
A fine loudspeaker which deserves to be listened to with attention, maybe in one of the next Italian audio exhibitions. A realization completely made in Italy which testify, once more, that the same thing can be made in hundreds of different ways. We, Italians, can make it in the best way!
Official technical specifications:
Type: bookshelf loudspeaker, two-way, rear bass reflex loaded
Applicable power: 20-120watt RMS
Sensitivity: from 91dB to 2,83V for one meter
Frequency response: 48-22.000Hz +/-3dB
Impedance: 8ohm nominal
Tweeter: 25mm soft dome tweeter
Woofer: 165mm with damped cellulose membrane, rubber suspension, ogival bullet phase plug
Internal cables: Supra Classic in pure copper
Cabinet material: MDF
Available finish: white, black and lacquered black
Size: 350x220x280mm (WxHxD)
Official Italian dealer: direct sale, to the Audiozen website
Official current price in Italy: 1,599.00 EUR per pair with white and black finish; 1,699.00 EUR per pair with Glossy Black finish
Associated equipment: to Roberto "The Rock" Rocchi’ system