Terry London has always had a great passion for music, especially jazz, and has amassed a collection of over 7,000 CDs covering the history of this uniquely American art form. Even in his teenage years, Terry developed a passion for auditioning different systems and components to see if they could come anywhere close to the sound of live music, and has for the last forty years had great fun and pleasure chasing this illusion in his two-channel home system.
Terry is a practitioner of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy by day, and runs the Chicago Institute for REBT. He has also authored nine books on this of type psychotherapy and education.
I have always had a strong interest in reviewing a speaker that is manufactured by Aurum Cantus--for two reasons. First, this 30-year-old company is a highly respected OEM of the finest quality ribbon, AMT, and cone drivers that are used by scores of well-known U.S. and EU speaker companies. Second, my beloved reference speakers, Lawrence Audio Cellos, use all Aurum Cantus drivers with superlative results.
Numerous positive reviews have been written about Aurum Cantus speakers in Asian and European audiophile journals. However, when it comes to the American press (both online and in print), very few reviews have been published because the company has had no American profile (mainly due to the fact that there was no U.S. importer). When I learned that Audiophile Direct is now representing the Aurum Cantus line in America, I immediately contacted Roger DuNaier, president of Audiophile Direct, to discuss what model I could review. Mr. DuNaier and I came to the conclusion that the V7F, which retails for $3,500/pair, would be the best choice--because of its price and the advantages it brings by being a relatively compact floorstander. Audiophile Direct uses a direct-sales model, which includes free shipping and a 60-day audition period. This business model helps to radically keep the price down. You will shortly see why I consider the V7F speaker to be one of the most remarkable bargains in high-end audio.
The demo pair of V7F speakers that was shipped to me was clad in a top-tier piano lacquer rosewood that would do justice to a pair of Sonus Faber speakers. The front baffle and the pedestal/base are in piano lacquer black. The V7F sides' slope elegantly toward the back of the speaker, and the front baffle slightly angles backward to time array the four front-mounted drivers. The V7F speaker is one of the most beautiful speakers I have had in for review in quite a long time.
The V7F is a three-way vented box design. Each speaker weighs 99 pounds and measures 42.52 inches high by 12.83 inches wide by 17.48 inches deep. It uses the latest generation of Aurum Cantus drivers: the tweeter is a 4.33-inch aluminum ribbon, the midrange driver is a 6.5-inch sandwich cone of non-woven carbon fiber, and the two seven-inch sandwich cone woofers are composed of non-woven carbon. The V7F speaker's frequency range is 37 Hz to 40 kHz. Its sensitivity is 89 dB, and its impedance is eight ohms (minimum 6.4 ohms). I drove the V7F speakers with all kinds of solid-state and tube-based amplifiers and found them to be an easy load. They performed beautifully with high- and low-current/watt amplifiers. Behind each speaker are two pairs of high-quality, 18mm, gold-plated copper connectors. Just above the connectors is where the port for the woofers is located.
With my first selection, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse!), two impressive attributes of the V7F's performance were on display. First, it images like a world-class two-way, stand-mounted speaker. The V7F completely disappeared and created a large, highly layered/accurate soundstage, with all the players appearing to be in their respective sections on the stage. The high-end frequencies were very detailed with great air/decays; the V7F's ribbon tweeter is one "sweet" transducer because it never sounds etched, yet it gives all the micro-details that are contained in the music. The midrange blended seamlessly with the ribbon driver's frequencies and allowed all the details to emerge with natural timbres/tones. Secondly, the V7F's overall transparency and resolution were at a level that would allow this speaker to compete with dramatically more expensive speakers. It delivers the smallest details in the music in a silky smooth manner; therefore, it never becomes analytical/mechanical to listen to or leads to listener fatigue.
My next selection was by jazz giant and alto saxophonist Phil Wood. The album American Songbook (Kind of Blue Records) was recorded at an audiophile level, and it demonstrated another virtue of the V7F's performance. When the quintet fired up their speed and volume, these speakers delivered the overall dynamics, pace, kick, and lower-level extension of the acoustic bass and bass drum in an effortless, accurate manner. Additionally, its lower frequency production is powerful and goes deep, with an accurate and tight performance; therefore, no subwoofer was needed with music.
Lastly, I chose the great blues guitarist Luther Allison's album Live in Chicago (Alligator Records) to see how the V7F would handle the raw/sizzling electrical guitar and organ playing of this live recording. I often heard this great blues man in small clubs when I was growing up in Chicago, and I know how powerful his guitar playing can be. These speakers easily delivered all of the punch of this music and filled my room at very high volume levels with absolutely no distortion or smearing of the details of Allison's guitar solos.
• The Aurum Cantus V7F speaker's build quality is superlative, and the physical appearance is beautiful.
• It can be driven with virtually any type of amplifier and would fit into a very high-end system or an entry-level home theatre rig.
• It produces natural/vivid tonality, has excellent transparency/micro-details, and can pressurize a room with its lower frequency range.
• The V7F can image like a world-class two-way, stand-mount speaker, yet it adds on the power and extension of a much larger floorstander in a rather compact enclosure.
• You can drive the V7F with just about any type of amplifier; however, because of its reference-level transparency/resolution, it will reveal any shortcomings in your upstream equipment.
• If you place the V7F into a very small acoustic space, it might overload your room with its powerful low-end extension and sound boomy.
Comparison and Competition
There are two floorstanding speakers in the price range of the Aurum Cantus V7F that I have experience with that would be its natural competitors: the Vandersteen 3A Signature, listed at $4,775/pair, and the PSB Imagine T2, at $3,498/pair. When it comes to the Vandersteen 3A Signature's performance, its top end sounded rolled off, and lacked the micro-details of the V7F's high-end frequencies. Another aspect that should be noted is that it also could not compete with the V7F's overall transparency throughout the total frequency range. On the other hand, the PSB Imagine T2 fared much better regarding overall dynamics and punch; however, its high-end performance still fell quite short of the wonderful ribbon tweeter of the V7F regarding air/decays and an overall detailed yet sweet but never harsh presentation.
I expected that any speaker designed and built by Aurum Cantus would be quite a good music maker. I assumed, based on how my Lawrence Audio Cello speakers perform with their Aurum Cantus drivers, that the Aurum Cantus' in-house chiefs could probably cook up a fine-sounding speaker. However, I was quite shocked at how wonderful the V7F speakers were, both in visual appearance and overall performance. When you consider its cost, the V7F becomes one of the greatest bargains of the year. The V7F is one of the most attractive speakers in its overall shape and natural wood veneer. It reminds me very much of a "baby" Rockport speaker in its style and shape; however, any Rockport model costs thousands of dollars more. The piano lacquer rosewood veneer is so impressive, compared with the veneer/finish of some very high-end speakers. You could buy six or seven V7F speakers for the price of just one of these other companies' models.
Of course, its appearance means nothing if the V7F doesn't perform at a high level...but it does--offering reference-level transparency/resolution, truth in timbres/tonality, terrific soundstaging/imaging, excellent overall dynamics/punch, and detailed yet sweet top-end extension. It's simply a fantastic performer for $3,500/pair--and remember, you also get to have a 60-day grace period for home auditions. The ultimate compliment a reviewer can give to a product is if they purchase it for their own system, and that's exactly what I did. The V7F is now my new reference speaker for in my smaller upstairs system.