Beauhorn B2/2 Horn Loudspeaker System Reviewed

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Sorry to use 'horns' and 'bull' in the same sentence with the former not connected to the latter's skull, but horns are to me as a red rag to a bull. Veteran readers know that the only horn speakers that do not induce migraines in KK are Chave-era Lowthers, original Klipsch models (e.g. La Scala, Belle and the K'horn) and certain vintage masterpieces from Decca, Voigt, Tannoy et al. I could even spend many hours with a JBL Paragon. But modern horns? To me, they're simply part of a nasty and, indeed, underground political movement that exists only to further the cause of single-ended triodes.

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Because horns are pretty much the only speakers able to work adequately with amplifiers delivering less than 10W/ch, they are a natural salvation for those who bought into the single-ended triode craze. As S.E.T.s have even greater problems than a mere dearth of power, including incredibly soggy frequency extremes, horns also suited the S.E.T. purveyors' purposes by compensating with a bass cut-off at one end and screaming treble at the other. By sheer accident, some S.E.T./horn packages even sound listenable.

Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule, I still dream about Loth-X and Wavac valve amps, while designers including Tim de Paravicini, Be Yamamura and a few others have worked with either or both S.E.T. and horn technologies without acting like the 'useful idiots' of the power-brokers behind the conspiracy. (If you think Kessler is paranoid, then you're in denial about behind-the-scenes 'persuasion' in the audio industry...even when the stakes are as low as selling horns and valves. Coercion isn't the sole preserve of vast corporations with money and lawyers. )

Why this long preamble? Because I firmly believe that the chaps behind Beauhorn are too genteel and downright 'British' to be part of any great scheme, maybe even naïve. They simply, genuinely and deeply believe in what they're doing. If not, then how could they produce something as ridiculous-looking as the Beauhorn B2.2 and deliver it with a straight face?

Make no mistake: in an industry littered with absurd-looking products, the Beauhorn is a monumental - emphasis on the 'mental' - achievement. It drew peals of laughter from everyone who saw the pair in my room. Except for a friend's wife, who gave me a withering look, like an antidote to Viagra, and turned on her heels and left. It has been likened in every UK show report or review, since the birth of the B2 in 2001, to the BBC2 logo. And it's not just grotesque: the Beauhorn's size is enough to cause concern, with a footprint of 13in wide and 30in deep, and standing an imposing 47in tall. Finished in a cheesy metallic gold paint, reminiscent of a car re-spray at a local chop shop, it looks home-made and, well, psychotic. Beauhorn will apply other colours to it, but the words 'polish' and 'turd' spring to mind.

And there's not a lot to the speaker, truth be told. Made from 19mm MDF, the enclosure houses nothing inside bar a minimum of bracing. Those of you who swear buy the audio tyre-kicking trick of rapping a cabinet will reel back in horror: it's like tapping on Dracula's bed, minus the Transylvanian earth to damp it. Then again, it doesn't need anything inside, because this is, as with the majority of horns, a single-drive unit system. No crossover, no convoluted internal transmission path, just a rear-loaded horn firing out at the bottom.

Replacing the Fostex 168 Sigma of the still-available Beauhorn B2 is an ATD driver from Italy; all-new itself, the ATD is enjoying its first-ever commercial appearance in this UK speaker. It measures 5in in diameter, with a 3.5in cone mounted on a pleated, doped fabric surround; the cone's material is paper pulp with 'added exotic wood fibres'. The driver features a 1in voice coil, made from oxygen-free copper on Kapton former, and it has a ceramic, shielded magnet. This is fed to a single set of Gold Scorpion terminals. (If there's one good thing about single-driver horns, it's that they preclude worries about bi-wiring.) No grille spoils the view of the ATD, but Beauhorn protects it with a couple of clever bent-wire barriers that will prevent the entry of elbows in not fingers.

Also part of the '2.2' brief is a new plinth that can also be added to the plain vanilla B2. The VibraPlinth is an isolation platform that flies in the face of those who believe that speakers should be bolted to the floor to withstand Force 10 gales. Damned if I understand what's going on in it, a box that appears to be mounted on some elastic material guaranteed NOT to present a rigid platform. The Beauhorn Boys' eyes lit up when I likened it to Max Townshend's rocking platforms and they agreed that Max's philosophy, rather than that of the fixed-to-terra-firma brigade, was similar to their own.

While the listening tests confirmed that the anticipated results of a wiggly platform were not forthcoming - no image smearing, no bass overhang - the VibraPlinth is a disconcerting device to use. Y'see, it allows the speakers to rock left-and-right, and I have visions of someone leaning on a B2.2 and pushing it over. Yes, it was confirmed that the speaker can lean too far if you push on it. Be warned.

Read more about the B2/2 loudspeakers on Page 2.

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