Not knowing bupkes from bernola. Except for Omega Loudspeakers under the baton of Louis Chochos, I'm not aware of commercial port-loaded widebanders. The vast majority uses variations on the rear horn. That doesn't mean ported single-driver speakers don't exist. It does mean they're uncommon. To their short list we now add the rear-ported L17. But that's not its only point of distinction. L'autre chose is the widebander itself: a Supravox unit. Whilst AER, Fostex, Lowther and Voxativ drivers make more or less regular stops at shows, these old-timey French do not. I'm not sure why. In 17 years on the beat, I've simply never knowingly crossed paths with one. Daniel would now address my glaring ignorance with typical Swiss neutrality; without mentioning it. How very civilized. Having heard PHY drivers in Ocellia speakers and in fact visited with Bernard Salabert, one of my francophone widebander legs was already on terra firma. With the L17, I would go from le mono to les stereo. I was equally virgin on ported widebanders. With Bernola, my audiophile education would pass another check point. All I could divine upfront with a bit of online digging was that the driver itself is rated for 64-19'000Hz and 4Ω, combines 5.5g of moving mass with a 2cm voice coil, paper cone and layered cellulose surround, a ferrite motor and cast aluminium basket.


CH vs. Eire. Before the L17 touched down, I mentally scanned our amp inventory for potential playmates. The 95dB rating suggested that Nelson Pass' 10wpc FirstWatt SIT1 could be most copasetic. With our 16Ω Zu Druid V, the Crayon CFA-1.2 is even better. Finally I had the 55-watt Linnenberg Allegro monos which double into 2Ω to deliver around 80 watts into the Swiss. Still in my mind, I suspected that the Allegro's 1MHz bandwidth and resultant speed might just be my happiest match. Either way, I felt ready for my blind date with the Bernese. The first surprise was the MIA port. It's actually just a hole in the rear wall without any attached port tube. I'd first seen a variation thereof with Zu's 'finger ports' which aim downward; and later with Franck Tchang's Tango speakers which had small breathing bores through its spine; a very small one for the tweeter, a larger one for the midrange and an oval three fingers wide for the paralleled woofers. In the flesh, Bernola's matte white paint was of fine quality but not on the level of a Zu/Voxativ lacquer. At 6'280 Swiss—about the equivalent of a Druid V—the L17 buyer misses out on the American's massive aluminium plinth, aluminium trim ring and aluminium tweeter horn, costly Radian compression tweeter, high-pass filter part and Griewe cartridge. The Bernola is just a simple box with very thick absorptive liner, one driver, some twisted hookup wiring and banana-only terminals. On how much raw stuff your euro actually buys when sprawled out on a garage floor in parts and materials, the Swiss felt a bit lightweight. That's not about sonic satisfaction. It's about perceived value. Here it syncs with the 10 most expensive cities to live list. Each year, Switzerland scores with Zürich and Geneva. Sometimes even Bern is included. Such pedigree monetizes itself. [According to Travel & Leisure, the 2016 list began with Singapore in the top spot, then continued with Zürich, Hong Kong, Geneva, Paris, London, NYC, Copenhagen, Seoul and Los Angeles.] Score one for moving to Ireland.


For some warm-up calisthenics, the L17 slipped into our video system where it displaced our usual German Physiks HRS-120. While I never thought the Goldmund/Job 225 an ideal match to begin with—in particular with regard to premature bass roll-off from overdamping such an efficient driver—it certainly made unproblematic sound on David Suchet's Poirot to serve the purpose before setting up the big system in search of the 'perfect' amp.