Acoustique Quality Passion Loudspeaker

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EdVanwinkle100_1.jpg“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel)

Up until very recently, I was unaware of Acoustique Quality, a loudspeaker manufacture based in the Czech Republic. But all that changed when introduced to Boris Meltsner (their U.S. Distributor). Meltsner is a personable Russian fellow with a remarkably interesting resume. Besides designing and manufacturing a line of electronics (Amped America), Meltsner imports, distributes and retails audio products through Audio Legacy (theaudiolegacy.com). He has also had a long history as an authorized repair center for large and well-known manufacturers: Bose, McIntosh, and Adcom. In fact, as Meltsner was unpacking the speakers from their “very substantial” packaging (I spent 30 years in the Packaging Industry, so I feel qualified to make that statement) of interior foam pieces cradling each speaker inside of sturdy wooden crates; he regaled us with interesting war stories about his life in the audio biz. The one that stood out was about the time he met Dr. Amar Bose. If I followed this correctly (Meltsner has a “very substantial” Russian accent!),  he met to discuss becoming an authorized service center for Bose. As they talked, Bose learned that Meltsner had a master’s degree in Engineering. Meltsner explained, his background in engineering led to a deep and a bit of a cantankerous dive into some arcane engineering concepts. The upshot, afterward, being that Dr. Bose instructed his people to put Meltsner high up on their list of authorized servicers. 

Like I said, “interesting resume”!

After meeting Meltsner, I did a little online research about both him and AQ.

With a quick perusal of their website, I discovered that AQ offers around 30 different speaker models along with electronics, cables, stands, and more. I was impressed that there was quite a body of work behind this previously unknown “to me” company.

But since we are focusing on the AQ Passion, let me share with you the following from their website…

The flagship in the AQ fleet. 

The Passion Loudspeakers are based on 25 years of expert loudspeaker design and the exquisite lines of the highly advanced enclosure designed by industrial design studio Novague. Passion took two years to develop with progressive know-how of the preceding Donna series. The cost was no object in developing the Passion series, which established new absolute criteria and desire for impeccable musical delivery. Out of this passionate desire, Passion was born. Novague is a cutting-edge industrial Design Studio based in the Czech Republic that has received many design accolades. Their name is synonymous with ERKO R2 Car, The EDGE Chair, the Favorit bicycle, and the Solaris motorboat.

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The AQ Passion is designed as a three-way transducer with a finely tuned bass reflex enclosure to achieve full-range sound. The baffle is an asymmetrical shell consisting of a proprietary sandwich laminated wood-fiber material with an integrated active system of internal damping. The Danish Scan-Speak drivers were selected throughout, providing impeccable integration.

Vinshine 250x250.jpgThe tweeter section is highlighted by a 1″ Illuminator high-frequency driver with a field of six neodymium magnets, forming a symmetrical drive SD-2 with its own acoustic chamber. Positive impact on the directional characteristics of high frequencies has integrated aluminum phase plug, which also provides heat dissipation. The illuminator has a maximally balanced frequency response of up to 45 kHz. The oscillating part is composed of half of the toroid and not a spherical cap, as usual. In order to reduce the diffraction, a rubberized damping rosette is inserted around the tweeter’s membrane. The Scan-Speak midrange driver seamlessly compliments the tweeter section. It has a symmetrical drive SD-3, where a neodymium magnet generates the magnetic field. A sophisticated cone with integrated flat ridges is designed to suppress the standing waves and is attached to linear rubber suspension. The 3D sculpted baffle below the midrange features a 10″ Revelator bass driver attached with metric tensile strength bolts. This 10″ Revelator has an advanced carbon fiber reinforced paper cone and has extremely low distortion and high power.

The Spatial 3D speaker baffle/enclosure is critical to achieving an extremely flat phase response. With its proper spatial orientation, the acoustic axis of the loudspeaker is directed to the seated listener, not the floor, as is typical for standard although expensive speakers. Additionally, flush mounting of the drivers eliminates edge diffraction. Asymmetrically shaped enclosure eliminates interior standing waves and provides outstanding rigidity to the loudspeaker. The resulting sound is highly accurate and pristine.

The Highest quality internal wiring is used throughout. It features Solid Core and DBS system, and it is thermally soldered. The AQ Passion’s internal crossover features hand-selected, matched components that are point to point soldered on a 10mm panel. An Aircore woofer coil uses impressive 4mm2 high purity copper wire that makes the AQ Passion loudspeaker behave more like an audiophile two-way and with a powerful low-end.” Finish Black High Gloss, White High Gloss, Custom finishes available upon request.

The Road to Passion…

Gtt 2018a.gifAfter I had first made phone contact with Meltsner and we started to discuss the logistics of when and where he would bring the speakers, it dawned on me that getting them to my usual place for reviews, my condo, was going to be a problem, as my wife and I were just on the verge of having some construction done; so, it just wasn’t a good time for me. But I was excited (and passionate!) about this review opportunity, so I leaned on my friend Sam to allow us to take over the good-sized living room in his house. It did not take much cajoling as Sam is one of my constant audio buddies, and he thought rightly, as it turned out, that this could be an exciting journey.  

Even though I was not on my home court, I have spent many an hour at Sam’s, and I felt that this would not be doing a disservice to these speakers. Besides, Sam has three quality systems in his house, and I thought we would have access to a good selection of equipment to try out with the AQ’s.

So, the listening begins using Sam’s Behold Gentle G192 solid-state, integrated amp. The Behold is rated at 40W into 8 Ohms and 80W into 4 Ohms. So, given that the Passion is a 6 Ohm load, it provided 60 watts. Of course, this turned out to be less than ideal because the living room is relatively large, and the speaker has an 89 dB rated sensitivity. As we tried to go from compensating in terms of volume settings, it became apparent that this would be a bit of a compromise. We all felt that the sound was a bit closed-in and had trouble getting out of the box. Overall, the “sound” was kind of good but was having difficulty creating a convincing, dimensional soundstage. There seemed to be a lot of detail (probably thanks to the high pedigree Scan Speak drivers!?), but everything seemed dimensionally flat. Pondering began. Maybe it is not the lack of power? Perhaps the speakers needed to be broken in?  

Then I remembered Meltsner saying that this particular pair was used only once, at a show, and then were re-packed up, in their fine packaging, and have been sitting around for the last 2-3 yrs. Therefore, we decided to have them play as constantly as Sam could stand to explore different options while giving them every opportunity to “season.”

Meltsner quipped that the AQ Passions would probably sound best with his AMPED AMERICA electronics during the initial set-up. Later, I decided to take him up on that, but for the first couple of weeks, we just kept them burning in, with the Behold Gentle, hoping they would turn a corner and blossom into something more in keeping with their cost. Every day or two, we would reconvene at Sam’s and access their progress. We pulled out all the tried-and-true tactics to give them every chance to shine:  toe-in, toe-out, further into the room, closer to the front wall. All made a difference but not enough to turn the caterpillar into a butterfly. At least not yet.  Slowly but surely, as time passed, we all agreed that progress was being made. I said earlier that the “sound” was good, but we were not adequately drawn into the “music.” But as we shall see, that was going to change!

“Passion is Energy. Feel the power that comes from what excites you.” (Oprah Winfrey)

After a couple of weeks of break-in, we all liked the Passions. Hell, we even liked them a lot, but we just were not passionate about them. Remember, initially; we were operating on two presumptions: One – that they needed some serious break-in, and Two, the lack of power probably compromised them. So, as we ran through our reference songs and vacillated between “this sounds very good” to “this doesn’t sound up to par,” we could not be sure if it were due to lack of break-in or lack of power. We kept marking on a curve. And even with that, there was the occasional shout-out of outright excellence! 

So, arrangements were made to borrow Meltsner’s AMPED AMERICA amp and preamp combo. To make a long story short, Hallelujah!!  As one of our great philosophers – Oprah – opined: “Passion is Energy.”

In our case, here I would say, Energy created Passion!

Maybe what the AQ Passions needed was a good long break-in? Or perhaps it was the power differential. (Remember, we went from ~60 W/chan. to something closer to 600 W/chan.)  Or maybe it was both! Either way, it became quickly evident that we would get a much more accurate view of their capabilities.

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