Whilst the front baffle of the oval tweeter head is massive 25mm aluminium which peters out to 10mm at the edges, the remainder of this sideways egg is still MDF. Already announced is a replacement machined from solid aluminium stock which will also do away with the current bolts. Rothleitner cited increased treble precision and improved spatiality from his even more rigid tweeter housing. As should be crystal by now, Ichos Schallwandler prefer mechanical solutions to require avoiding errors at the driver source. Otherwise one must fall back on response corrections with more or less complex networks and notch filters which attenuate and degrade the signal as is Mr. Ichos' stern conviction. Doing it all in the mechanical domain was far from a walk in the park, he remembers. It also meant identifying suppliers who proved both willing and capable to accompany him on the involved lengthy R&D, then commit to and maintain significant hand labour with top QC. The enclosures come from a traditional furniture maker in the Steiermark who over time have specialized in the production of top-quality speaker cabs. This enables Robert to offer custom finishes. Be it the wife's favourite shade of lipstick, a particularly exotic veneer or even advanced inlays, most anything is on the menu once cost and schedule have been agreed upon.


Before lunch.  Usually bigger review loaners ship by lorry. In this instance, Ichos delivered in person to oversee the initial install. The Sunday morning set aside for it netted two insights. One and no surprise was that in the wake of longer travels and particularly cold nights in a van, speakers need some time to acclimate or they sound harsh and glassy. Two and less expected was how these Austrian boxes didn't at all cotton to being kept on a short leash by their amplifier. My all-purpose weapon of choice is the Audionet Amp1 V2 stereo power amp. It's blessed with beaucoup power to manhandle all possible loads. On Rothleitner's widebanders, it failed, however. I had a classic mismatch on my hands, likely because low output impedance aka high damping factor led to desiccated mechanical behaviour. This didn't change with time and a counter check with a 240wpc Devialet D-Premier did no better. What to do when stuck in the mud? Time for lunch and a beer or two.


After lunch. Once back, I swapped the Audionet for Tenor Audio's 75Wi, so-called output-transformer-less or OTL valve amps with no irons between bottles and voice coils to be a purist concept with extreme phase fidelity. But OTL do need to see high and preferably linear impedance. As quite flat 8Ω loads, the Ichos N°Two complied not just on paper. Out of the gate the speakers' overall performance took mega steps forward. The only item Rothleitner still wasn't completely happy about was relative shyness of bass mass. Changing location from free field to a lot closer to my front corners and wall altered this fundamentally. Now the Ichos sounded as grown up as they looked and Robert Rothleitner started to smile.


Once he'd hoofed it back toward Vienna, I came to terms with the aesthetics. Despite the oval heads, I couldn't pretend they weren't boxy. Do any of us know what bio-gas plants look like? Actually, that was a bit unfair. With a bit of black piano lacquer and a few Swarowski crystals along the front, the Ichos N°2 should make it past most households' gate keepers. Sonically the OTL wedding had plenty of good news to share. Kari Bremnes' Svarta Bjørn contains bass salvos which overtax many a speaker to have me hit 'next' in a hurry. My two 12-inch widebanders dug into this excellent production of the attractive Norwegian without misses. That was a first in quite some time even if the promised 33Hz in my room was closer to -3dB@40Hz. But with such LF violence on hand, discussions on exactly how many decibels blitz through your room at what frequency become quite academic. Certain was that whilst the OTL didn't quite hit the wiry striated infrasonic records of superior transistors, they did keep up on power and definition. My €18'800/pr Acapella La Campanella do wring out a tad more articulation but that said, the stacked low-frequency waves on "Sangen om halstørkleet som va gienglemt" showed no fat or soft edges with the N°Two either.

Apparently the floor-facing orientation of the horn mouth was beneficial for not triggering room modes. With the bass-potent Bremnes record, many otherwise capable speakers lean toward the boomy or woolly. The Viennese scaled that hurdle with clearance to spare. Thankfully many days of intensive auditions later, I still hadn't come across any diva antics to allow the Canadian valve monos to lay it on heavy with their silky nonchalance in the mid and upper ranges. This was supported by a tweeter clearly not tuned for bite. The same was true for the vocal band which in the transition to the upper bass showed potent tone and saturated colours.


It was only in the upper mids where I noted a small depression, possibly the result of an overdamped area on the widebander. As it happened, this was triggered only by the bomb-shell operatics of Maria Callas. As Elvira on Bellini's Il puritani [EMI Japan's EAC 77283 pressing], our prima donna assoluta applied atypical self restraint. Her usually brilliant soprano was unusually shy and matte where Kari Bremnes' alto had completely bypassed this blind spot on the mirror. Were the Ichos opera haters? If so, everything else cleared customs, be it Peter, Paul & Mary, Harry Belafonte or Niels Lofgren's overplayed Acoustic Live. The performance always felt natural and balanced and exceptionally so with acoustic instruments. It probably is true that widebanders as a breed can suffer particular tonal aberrations but save for the Callas exception, I didn't hear any. Still, ultra-conservative disciples of ascetic neutrality would likely favour my Progressive Audio Extreme2 actives. Just so, less audiophile productions tend to do well with a small dose of extra vocal warmth and solidity in the power region. It's possible too that this tweeter was down a dB or two in favour of long-term comfort over textbook linearity. But then, if that's your objection, the N°Two would likely be all wrong for you to begin with.