Audiozen maQam loudspeakers

31.08.2012..

 

Maqaam (also known as maqām) or maqaamat (plural), translating to "stations" in Arabic, is a term that references the various stages a Sufi's soul must attain in its search for God.

Most probably, the aim of Audiozen was to indicate a passage point along the technical journey of the company, emphasizing the fact that the models they realize 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 loudspeakers. A two-way speaker with a reflex back port and a cabinet with an inner volume of about fifteen liters: a true evergreen among the bookshelf speakers! You might ask what to expect from a product with such features and, most of all, which is the reason why a manufacturer deals once again with a design usually chosen by the absolute DIYers beginners.

A manufacturer that I know personally: Antonino Pistone, Audiozen’s owner, who is anything but banal. So, after all these considerations, I was very thrilled to test this system but I was also afraid of being disappointed by something apparently comparable to other speakers.

 

The maQam gives immediately the impression of a trim product. The model object of our test is the most valuable: lucid lacquered Glossy Black, but you can choose the less expensive model in white or opaque black. The midwoofer is a 165 mm Ciare HW175 240W 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 built-in grooves are extremely reduced. The inner medium-density soundproof material has been used only underside with parsimony and it covers also the 12dB/oct crossover. The crossover point is at 3.500 Hz and is realized with capacitors and Jantzen coils together with air soldered metal sheet resistances 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 external diameter is 6 cm and just below the magnet of the tweeter. Apparently, everything is simple and tidy. The cabinet is not particularly dumped, I would say quite resonant.

 

Notwithstanding the run-in made by the company, I have thought, considering the 91dB of efficiency, to connect the maQam to my tube system with an Audio Innovation 500 integrated amplifier.

 

I was right.

 

The Audiozen maQam have shown their best merits from the very first track. Roberto Daris’ accordion is underlined mostly in the playback of the central zone of the keyboard, thanks to the clearness and liquidity of the midrange that is open and well defined.

It is clear that the maQam do not suffer the classical faults of this typology of speakers. Considering that the two-way reflex bookshelf loudspeakers with a small internal volume have obvious and unavoidable 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 impressive but in the long term, are fatiguing.

 

Nothing of the kind happens with this two-way Audiozen system.

 

The maQam display a top-notch tonal 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 playback of the grand piano, model D Steinway & Sons, which occupies the stage in a proportionate way, without being too big or too small. The Italian speakers worthily second the percussive nature of the prince of the instruments 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 tonal 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 think 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 seeking the best tonal response of emission 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 reflex back 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 depth of image. This is not a minor, 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 typical impact of the quick transients of this kind of music, while the ballads are very enjoyable with their soft chord progressions of the electric bass and the non-intrusive solos of the electric guitar. Let us say that the maQam do not seem to prefer the sound pressures and the violent harmonic peaks made of quick attacks 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 amplification being, in this case, a good litmus test to evaluate it.

 

Particular care has to be taken when choosing the power cables. Effectively the maQam emphasize the main features of the cables, so the White Gold seem 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 that 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 that deserves to be listened to with attention, maybe in one of the next Italian audio shows. A realization completely made in Italy that 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

Weight: 11kg

Size: 350x220x280mm (WxHxD)

Official Italian dealer: direct sale, to 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

by Roberto Rocchi
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