g




After perusing their site, another question I had was on the business model. It says that Audionautics build exclusively to order. No-volume production is practiced also by the recently reviewed Cygnus Audio or Zugspitz Klang firms. For a maker, it's a financially far safer bet. No built-up inventories gather dust whilst loading up their outstanding balance sheet. But to customers, dealers and distributors who want it now, it can look like a lack of commitment. Is their supplier financially fully invested or as minimally as possible? Audionautics write that their way accommodates custom stains and various lacquer options on their Beech; and extra care with each build. Traditionally very low-volume production implies higher per-unit manufacturing costs. Scale of operation doesn't factor. That reflects higher than necessary end-user pricing. But perhaps they did store sufficient pre-built cabs to merely finish off a pair in whatever stain and/or clear sealant an order reflects? That'd make for faster turnarounds than true one-ups.


As our Welsh expat explained whose current day job supplies upscale entertainment systems for private planes and yachts—hence custom speakers of his own design—Audionautics are still new enough to operate as a quasi custom shop. At present this means 3-4 week order times but also 2-week in-home audition privileges. As business ramps up and Neil can place larger orders with his cabinet shop, the order times will shorten. For now and in his domestic market, Neil offers personal delivery and setup. He really enjoys the contact with end users to assure complete satisfaction. With two younger kids in his own crib, no dedicated listening room and a tidy system based on Cyrus electronics, he favours compact - compact electronics, compact speakers. It's the physical dimensions of the S-Series which determined the woofer size and decommissioned a force-cancelling array to keep the baffle narrow.


The folded tweeter aka air-motion tweeter is of his own design. Like the other drivers, it is manufactured in the US. All S-Series filters use 1st-order slopes. They hinge at 280Hz and 5'000Hz. With the spikes set to 1.5cm, the tuning on a hard floor, of what looks like a port but lacks a tube to be just a simple hole, is said to be 38Hz. For plush carpets, Neil offers alternate longer footers. Or a customer could use a wood or stone tile instead.


As suspected, the woofer's 88dB efficiency value sets the speaker's overall sensitivity. The 9 x 82dB/ea. paralleled mids are thus padded down a bit. Neil did experiment with multiple tweeters but didn't feel they brought anything useful to the party. Ditto for different wood species like Maple, Walnut and Birch. Beech made the final cut on sonics, looks and ease of manufacture. Its grain structure and light colouring even allow for blue and red stains. A pair each of those colours are already out in the field.


Swiss-made, the cabinets are sourced from a local shop in Luzern. The brand's coming-out party was at HighEnd Suisse 2014. A monitor version on a wooden stand, with the S-Series top four drivers but another woofer, is currently on the drawing board. Audionautics will attend HighEnd Suisse again this year. Should growth and export interest justify it, by 2016 they may make their first splash at an international show like Munich or Warsaw.


As these close-ups show, the vertical driver array—which doesn't run down the baffle's exact centre line but moves that away a bit from the woofer side—conceals its mounting bolts behind the solid-wood face. Getting at those drivers would require removal of the inset back panel. The sharply defined dust caps of the mids with their raised edges nearly look like separate dome tweeters but aren't. They do however show sign of life up to 15'000Hz we're told.


Of physically low mass to be easy to manoeuvre; compact to befit living not audio geek spaces; particularly attractive in the natural unstained Beech, the Swiss-made Audionautics S-Series is unmarred by flashy badges—there's merely a modest logo stamped into the top's wood—and made a very friendly first impression. So did its maker. For the full-on hifi geek inspection, flip the page.