Vive la difference! The Women's Lib movement gave us lady CEOs in suits. How about Boxes' Lib? It too is a different game. For starters, think big-driver sound. For anyone who did the running math, it's apparent how here we face beaucoup air motion with a 3.25-inch² equivalent tweeter plus two 8" Ø mids and one 18" Ø woofer. Actually, it's twice that per channel since the back waves aren't absorbed; and four times that for a stereo pair. That's a lot of acoustic energy to flood the room. However, there's that most practical dipolar trademark dispersion with its lateral nulls colloquially known as figure 8. As far as our auditory senses goes, the side walls delete from the equation. Rather than act cramped or overloaded from so much displacement, our room kept perfectly quiet and wide. Even though in hindsight it ought not to have been, the sheer quantity of sound was the first surprise. Unlike with direct radiators, it meant full bandwidth energy in front and behind the speakers. Though in the listening seat our ears aren't back there but over here, the ear/brain clearly recognizes there's sound there. That's just like with real instruments. Those don't only radiate forward either. This produced a demonstrably different sensation of tonal mass and instrumental or vocal bodies; and accelerated dynamic scaling. By that I mean that very small upward increments on the throttle produced disproportionately large in-room increases of volume compared to our conventional box speakers. Putting out twice as much acoustic energy as those do by being an open baffle—and doing so with triple or quadruple the usual cone surface—factored audibly on the SPL and dynamic contrast meters.

Whizzers outside might make for an even more effective "figure eight" sidewall cancellation in the upper midrange.

Considering raw driver surface figures, I expected LF to dominate, to overshadow and damp that skinny open-backed Serbian ribbon. Not even close. Cymbals, gongs, chimes and Tibetan singing bowls in fact were the most realistic I ever had. Overtones mixed and glimmered with incredible fades. That's when my grey matter blinked. A gong really was the perfect equivalent for how an open-baffle driver operates. A gong is a relatively thin oscillating metal circle hung vertically to radiate front and back. It is free to ring out in both directions without stuffy constraints, boundaries or early reflections. That same dispersion principle communicated itself with the Libération. It gave the entire presentation an uncanny sense of breath, expansion and freedom.



30Hz bass was buxom, juicy and swingé. That last aspect is key. Having hosted the 12" 3-way acoustic suspension Ubiq Audio Model 1 a week earlier, its bass quality had been drier, poppier and pushier. My mind flashed on the image of an Olympic sprinter kicking off from a starting block. He generates that explosive forward momentum by having his coiled force push away from a solid resistance. With the Slovenian sealed box, that solid resistance was the box's curved rear wall and its compressed air inside. It generated a specific punch violence which the Libération replaced with elasticity and swing. Having my ears within inches of the 18-inch woofer, I was very surprised by the amount of kick it really exhibited with bass drums. Yet four metres away in the actual seat, that same vigor was clearly tamer. Tone and reach lacked for nothing. They simply did not exhibit that same forced propulsive attack edge in front of the same powerful air compression. As a result, Libération bass felt freer and easier if by the same token also less guttural, explosive and forced. Collating these first impressions, it's intrinsic that tone textures would have been generous and wet rather than damped and dry. Without snuffing out half its drivers' output inside an enclosure additionally stuffed with absorbent materials and lined in bitumen, these Swiss open baffles played it bigger and more expansive. Even at 10 metres seated around our kitchen table, that quality held. Not only didn't the sound collapse or run out of reach as it were, it retained its inherent juiciness and room saturation. From a tonal balance perspective, the sound wasn't dark. From a tonal mass perspective, it was decidedly heavy however. As such, certain elements of 'dark' applied even though not in the customary meaning of lacking treble energy.

Not pulling but counting teeth. The gun-metal grey pebbled leather is the standard baffle finish.

Intermediate conclusion. When it comes to costly, mechanically through-engineered speakers, hearing the box mostly no longer factors relative to pervasive warmth aka blur, fuzz and indecision from talkative cabs. On that front, going boxless made a smaller difference than expected (though financially it's big when the box is usually the costliest part of a hi-tech speaker, an expense which the Libération applies to its drivers instead). The major offset was likely due to the elimination of thru-cone reflections whereby some acoustic energies trapped inside an enclosure evacuate through the driver membranes; and the simultaneous elimination of asymmetrical driver loading and its associated effects on choking off the rear wave. Playing outside the box is a routine trick of small monitors. We say that their boxes disappear as apparent sound sources. By contrast however, they neither generate anywhere near the same room-filling sonic saturation; nor do they exhibit the same unshackled feel. Getting rid of the box altogether still has a different flavour. Employing big cone surfaces to cover the desired bandwidth factors as well. So does dipole radiation which effectively doubles our cone surface. The resultant in-room behaviour is closer to how actual instruments and singers affect a space. Unlike an omni however, the soundkaos has very limited lateral dispersion. Along its side edges, out-of-phase front/rear energies cancel. Concomitant lack of sidewall reflections is probably why its imaging wasn't as diffusive as true omnipolars tend to be.


Where aficionados of hyper-locked chiseled images with limned edges must make adjustments is with the Libération's buoyantly expansive sizing of images. It's not that they laterally balloon. Singers don't suddenly flaunt engorged melon-sized throats. Guitar fret boards don't lengthen like extension ladders. Still, images do enlarge in the depth dimension. There's plainly more 'behind' them. But because these drivers don't kick off from virtual sprinter blocks, they lack those incisive transient pricks which can give images their punched-up outlines. Unmistakably placed in space, these images were airier and of softer contours.The final initial surprise was that despite their squattier quasi humanoid profile, these transducers cast their virtual stage at standard not reduced height. No rug rat rockers here!

No visible wires between the head and bass units; nor between each and the vertical Walnut brace.