AudioKinesis Bienville Suite on TAS "Most Significant Products" Axpona 2016 list

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Andrew Quint of The Absolute Sound included the AudioKinesis Bienville Suite among his five "Most Significant Products" list in the category of speakers under $20K at the 2016 Axpona show:  (scroll down about 2/5 of the way)

A bit of background:  Andrew listened and was apparently intrigued by what he heard and got up to have a closer look at the speakers.   He looked around back and saw the rear-firing drivers and questioned me about them.   I explained that they added beneficial late-arrival reverberant energy, and he was skeptical about the net benefit.  He asked me if that wouldn't mask the acoustics on the recording.  I said no, that it would actually make it easier to hear the acoustics of the venue on the recording.

Andrew challenged that with a thumb drive, asking us to play a classical piece recorded in a hall that he was very familiar with (I don't remember the piece or the hall), among others.  Fortunately for me, Brian Walsh was there to run the system so we were able to play the selections Andrew wanted to hear from his thumb drive.   When we were finished, I asked Andrew how we did.  Paraphrasing (because my brain was still foggy from lack of sleep), he said "It passed.  It's not a gimmick, it works.  I could clearly hear the such-and-such hall." 

So that was a really nice validation of what we're doing in the Bienville Suite. 

I think that was on Friday; wish Andrew had come by late Saturday or Sunday, because by then the speakers were finally "dialed in".   You see, I had been overly conservative in setting the level of the Swarm, as I didn't want a bass-heavy recording to give anyone the impression that the Swarm was boomy.  Jtwrace and some of his friends came by, and he told me that he thought the Swarm needed to be turned up about 2 dB.  I resisted but after a while decided he was right, so I made the adjustment.  This was Saturday morning. 

But with the Swarm now set properly, the top end was a bit soft.  I planned to make a change to the resistors on the back of the cab at the end of the day Saturday, but the opportunity arose earlier while Brian was preparing to play a record.   I raised the top end by about 1.5 dB, and imo that's when the speakers really "clicked".   We began getting compliments from people who had heard the same recording of "Fanfare for the Common Man" in some of the megabuck bigrooms, who said that it sounded more natural in our room.   In my opinion this illustrates one advantage of the adjustable top end (via the resistors-in-cups on the back of the cabinet):  We can restore subjective system balance after making an adjustment to the bottom end of the spectrum. 

My personal biggest feather-in-the-hat moment came Sunday afternoon, when a vision-impaired audiophile came in and listened for quite a while.   At one point I asked him if he could tell that he was listening to horns, and he said no, he couldn't.  YESSSS!! <fistpump>  That was the best validation I could hope for that we're doing horns right.  Turns out the vision-impaired audiophile was Audio Asylum member "Mr, Peabody", who posted his impressions of this and other rooms on the Audio Asylum General page yesterday. 

I had fun telling people that we were going to demonstrate a combination that is seldom found together:  deep bass, tight bass, and hotel room.  I think the Swarm came through very well; the integration was judged to be "seamless" by many who commented, and in my inevitably highly biased opinion we were getting some of the most natural-sounding bass I've heard at an audio show by the time I had made the Saturday afternoon adjustments. 


I fully agree about the bass, as found in my little review.

The treble was a little better on Sunday, but probably could have been even a bit higher. I find that's got a dependance on how fatiguing the electronics might be, as per your preference for a little lowered treble is something that helps when fatigue is at even a "normal" level.

And I agree that despite using a compression driver in a horn, it didn't even hint at being the yelling device one might fear.


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Congratulations on the nice reviews! Well deserved

Your room was very good and I wish I could have spent some more time in it. Very effortless, engaging and pleasing sound. The "invisible" swarm system is really something special.


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Congrats Duke!

If you make it to RMAF, we'll hook up...if not, I have family in Dallas... :thumb:



Congrats Duke!   :thumb:  it certainly is well deserved.


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Good to hear, Duke... Congrats!  :thumb:


Great to see this recognition Duke and congrats  :thumb:

These guys had a great sounding room right out of the gate early Friday, which is really tough to do. Then, of course, there is the no sleep, car dead by the side of the road, etc. just to make things more interesting.

Brian Walsh

Great to see this recognition Duke and congrats  :thumb:

These guys had a great sounding room right out of the gate early Friday, which is really tough to do. Then, of course, there is the no sleep, car dead by the side of the road, etc. just to make things more interesting.

Got that right, Tom! The trip up here was a nightmare for Duke due to the alternator failure in Oklahoma, but we managed to pull this one out of the fire and managed to get things going in time for the start of the show. I have to admit, though, the turntable didn't sound all that hot on Friday because I hadn't set up the cartridge much at all. But I got it done early Saturday before the start, and man, it was a whole different animal.

Anyone who's ever done a show knows things can happen, and Murphy can always show up at the party. Duke got through the rough spots and rightfully earned a gold star in my book for toughing it out. He's that kind of guy, a real pleasure to work with, always lighthearted and fun yet very professional. We joke around to keep our sanity, especially when we're so worn out we feel like collapsing.

We're absolutely thrilled with the show comments!


Gents-  When and where is the Lone Star Fest in Dallas this year and will these speakers be there.  Thanks.


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I'll elaborate a bit on the recording in question and what I heard in my brief audition of Duke's new speaker.

The recording was a FLAC rip of the CD layer of an RCO Live SACD: Shostakovich—Symphony No. 15; Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink conductor. It's a live recording from March of 2010 (Haitink made a much earlier recording of the same piece with the London Philharmonic; he was the first person to record all the Shostakovich symphonies.) For a couple of years, this has been my go-to symphonic recording when I have just a short time to get a sense of an unfamiliar system. It's an excellent performance, something I can listen to repeatedly without going nuts, which is important at a show. In terms of audiophilia, it's an extremely detailed yet atmospheric representation of an orchestra, with excellent dynamics and fully characterized instrumental colors (bells, solo turns by violin, flute, piccolo, string bass, trumpet, etc.) And—with the right audio gear—it successfully renders the essence of (IMO) one of the greatest 3 or 4 concert halls on earth, the Concertgebouw (thus the orchestra's name) in Amsterdam. I've heard music there, and there's truly a sense of sound being present in the air around you.

The multichannel program on the RCO Live SACDs (there are dozens) get this last aspect right; so did the Bienville Suite, nearly to the same degree, despite the presence of only two channels. My concern when Duke told me about the rear-firing drivers was that this would impart some generic, Bose-like spaciousness to the recording, but that wasn't the case—what I heard was the unique acoustic signature of the Concertgebouw.

So, a splendidly realized design—a pleasure to listen to.

Andy Quint


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Duke, are you setting up at the LSAF?


Thank you all very much.  And especially thank you Andy for registering and posting!  I'm out of town again right now with only a few minutes here...

I won't be exhibiting at Lone Star this year because it's the same weekend as the Dallas International Guitar Show, and I'm working on developing one or two of products for the guitar market so I need to learn more about it and that show is like a golden opportunity.  I'd say that 3/4 of my business is in prosound these days, so that's where I'm doing the most R&D right now.