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    The Computer Audiophile

    A View And Preview Of New APL HiFi Speakers

     

     

    At times, the joy that life attacks me with is unbearable and leads to gasping hysterical laughter. I find myself completely out of control and wonder how could life surprise me again and again and again, so completely. How could a man be a cynic? It is a sin.


    - Norm Macdonald  October 17, 1959 - September 14, 2021

     

     

    I started this article with a quote from the late comedian Norm Macdonald because it's so apropos. Norm's quote came several years into his terminal cancer diagnosis, that he kept a secret from the public, that ultimately took his life on Tuesday. Think about that. A guy who loved life so much even though he was dealt the most difficult of hands. That positivity is a beautiful thing and positively infectious. 


    As I said in a recent article about my visit to Schiit Audio to take part in a blind listening session, "I understand less than desirable jobs. My job now isn't one of them." Expanding on that a bit, I was recently invited to listen to two pairs of speakers from one of my favorite high end audio designers, Alex Peychev of APL HiFi. It started with the question, "Do you want to fly down here in the morning, spend the day listening, and fly back home in the evening?" Seriously, I have the best job in the world. 


    I love music and I love when music sounds as good as it can. Listening to my favorite music on world class audio systems, as a job, is the stuff of which dreams are made. What's more, flying to spend the day with @joelha, one of the most positive people I've ever met, who has a love of life, music, and high-end audio that is second to none. Think I'm playing it up a bit? Read this wonderful story written by Joel and you'll get a tiny sense of who he is: Medium.com

     


    First, a Little Business


    Joel has been a huge fan of APL HiFi products and its owner Alex Peychev for several years. The two first met at the Warsaw audio show and hit it off. Not long after, Joel obtained his first APL component. Then the next, and the next, and the addiction was real. Only joking about the addiction, but I've heard first-hand from Joel about each system upgrade and how much enjoyment APL products have brought to his music listening experience. A couple years ago Alex asked Joel to represent his products in the US market and Joel said he would help in any way he could. Keep in mind that this isn't Joel's day job, it isn't putting him into a new tax bracket, and "represent" should be used in the loosest sense of the word. Joel does what he can to help Alex because he believes in him and his products. 

     


    The Mini Audio Show


    I left my house before dawn, jumped on a flight to Omaha, NE, and was there before I could finish one episode of a podcast. After landing, I was off the plane and out the door within 10 minutes. I love that airport. 


    Joel and I immediately started talking about what else, audio. I brought my RAAL-requisite SR1a headphones and some music, and Joel setup the APL speakers the night before my arrival. It was like our own private audio show.


    Upon entering Joel's house, I saw a terrific listening environment. The environment is roughly 40 feet by 50 feet and 15 feet high. I call it an environment rather than a listening room because Joel has an open first floor that houses his audio system. Music has plenty of room to breathe in this environment, without getting lost like it can in the ballroom-sized listening rooms at some trade shows. I enjoyed seeing real world items throughout the space, rather than the acoustic panels required in my room.  Overall, it enabled me to listen to the music and the speakers much more than the room. 

     


    Brass Tacks: The Speakers 


    Alex Peychev's component designs for APL HiFi are some of the most natural sounding components I've ever heard. Upon hearing one of his DACs, I immediately say to myself, this is so Alex. After 30 seconds of listening to his speakers, I had no doubt they were his designs through and through. 


    The two models of speakers I heard in Omaha were “Agane” and “Endless”. The Agane speaker is a smaller three-way speaker with two cabinets. A smaller two-way speaker sits atop the larger bass-stand cabinet. I've included a photo of this speaker, as a picture is worth way more than a thousand of my words. 


    APL-HiFi-Agane-Speaker.jpgThe speaker, appropriately named “Endless”, is quite a bit larger than the Agane, but I won't offer dimensions because the version I heard was a prototype, with very unofficial cabinets. I can say the design I heard had three cabinets for each channel, but I don't know if this design will make it to final production. That's obviously up to Alex as he completes the fine sonic tuning and final cabinet design. I'm not publishing a photo of the Endless because I don't want to ring a bell that can't be unrung. It would be a disservice to both Alex and readers to show a design that is certain to change. 


    Let's get down to brass tacks. The speakers sound fantastic. In true Alex Peychev fashion, the materials are on the "natural" side, with silk dome tweeters and paper cone drivers. Don't even bring up beryllium to Alex, he isn't a fan. Both speakers feature a proprietary first order crossover design that Alex has worked on for years to perfect. Both the materials and the crossover combine to finally reproduce an ideal sound that Alex has had in his head for decades. He knows the sound he wants, and finally figured out how to achieve it. 


    I first listened to the Agane speakers, without the bass modules connected. This "little" speaker delivers a surprisingly large sound capable of filling Joel's large listening environment. It certainly can't pressurize the room, but let's not be foolish in asking the speaker to do so. Within the speaker's frequency limits, it's very solid and presents a soundstage with nice width and depth. It isn't an ultra-detailed ear splitter in any sense of the phrase and is more of a speaker one can listen to all day every day. 


    After getting comfortable with the sound of the two-way top cabinet, Joel connected the bass module below for a much fuller presentation. I'm unsure how Alex does it, but even the bass module sounded "pure Peychev." People who've heard APL components will know immediately what I'm talking about and are likely nodding their heads in agreement as they read this. The bass module didn't add slam to the presentation but added the foundational bottom end in such a pleasing way that I had no interest in going back to just the smaller top cabinet. That isn't a sleight to the smaller cabinet, but is more of a "once you hear it there's no going back"  comment. 


    After "spinning" many tunes through Roon and the Agane speakers, it was time for the Endless. As strange as this may sound, I had no idea what the speakers were named when I sat down to listen. This turned out to be fortuitous. One of the first things I noticed with the Endless speaker was an incredible attack, decay, sustain, and release. The decay and sustain went on forever. It was reminiscent of going to a concert when the audience controls itself by withholding its applause until the music is 100% over. It's a beautiful thing to hear that last ounce of decay all the way through.


    To nobody's surprise the absolute showstopper (in a good way) was heard when I played Midnight Sugar from the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio. As a side note, do other people's computers auto-correct the name Tsuyoshi appropriately? Mine does. Perhaps that's a sign I'm way too far down the Japanese jazz rabbit hole. Anyway, listening to Midnight Sugar through the APL HiFi Endless was a very memorable experience to say the least. 


    Presented in front of me though these speakers was Tsuyoshi Yamamoto on piano, Isoo Fukui on bass, and Tetsujiroh Obara on drums. The only things missing for the presentation to be more like a live jazz club experience, were the clanking of wine glasses and a smoke machine. The soundstage of the Endless speakers is off the charts. From front to back and left to right, it's insanely three dimensional. This presentation is the exact opposite of that delivered from some horn speakers that are much more in one's face. The Endless just present this space full of music rather than push it out to the listener. It's like an invitation to come hear what's being presented rather than the speakers bringing it to you.


    Tsuyoshi Yamamoto's piano sounded like I've never heard it previously. In fact, I spent about an hour listening through my own system last night just to compare what I heard from memory. The presentation of this piano in my own system is vastly different from the APL Endless in Joel's listening environment. I can't say which one is more accurate to the original performance, I can only describe the sonic differences. 


    On the APL Endless I could picture the piano in a large space behind the left speaker. There was this huge openness to each note as it went on endlessly into the empty spaces around the piano. If anything, the Endless is about a presentation of natural sound that is tailor-made for an acoustic jazz trio. On my own system, in my acoustically treated listening room, the sound isn't nearly as large. The piano is much more localized with much less decay than can be heard through the Endless.


    Isoo Fukui's bass was as impressive through the Endless as it is through my own system, but again very different. On my system the bass has more texture and feel to it, versus a greater spatial presence through the APL Endless. This also has something to do with the listening environments because Fukui's bass, on this and many other recordings, can reach out and hit the listener in my room as if he was playing right in front of a speaker. Through the Endless, it's much more about a natural sonic presentation or a hologram. Fukui's bass is but one part of the larger hologram that makes up the entire APL Endless presentation. 


    Based on this extended listening session and my conversations with audiophiles over the years, I'm excited for this speaker to make it into production and for people to hear it in their own environments. Listeners who know what they want out of a speaker or audio system, who value natural sound, endless decay, and a soundstage like none other, will most certainly want to put APL speakers on their short list. The price of the Agane top-module starts at $8,000 per pair and the bass-stand starts at $7,500 per pair (price depends on finish). APL HiFi has yet to put a price on the Endless because it is still in prototype stage. 


    Alex has managed to toe the fine line between overly detailed and lush bloom, with a first order crossover design that's uniquely APL and produces sound that's 100% Alex Peychev. 

     


    What a Day 


    I wish I could write up everything we talked about and listened to that day, but at a certain point it becomes gluttonous. I had so much fun talking audio, listening to great music, and getting the chance to hear the latest creations from Alex Peychev. 


    Perhaps one of the good things to come from the cancelation of audio shows lately, was this trip. Yes, we geeked out on all things audio and music, but far and away the best thing about the trip was meeting Joel's four three-year-olds. Yes, four kids that are three-years-old (read the above linked article if you skipped it). I was overwhelmed by the smiles, laughter, and interest the kids showed in my dad-humor. When getting into Joel's car to head to the airport, all four kids followed me to the door and gave me a send-off that I'll never forget. Four three- year-olds all yelling "bye, bye, bye, bye ..." to "uncle" Chris was absolutely delightful.

     

     

    More information about APL HiFI - https://aplhifi.com




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    You truely have the best job!  i love the look of the "glass" base under the speakers.  In my view this whole hobby is about great listening, even though I get caught up in the bits-and-bobs way too often.

     

    Thank you @The Computer Audiophile for sharing more.

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    I wondered about the glass myself. I mean I heard Waterfall speakers, which are tempered glass cabinets and they did sound stellar.

     

     

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    The glass was just used by Joel as a platform on which to set the speakers and made it easy to move around. 

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    Very cool!  Thanks for the super write up, I especially appreciate the comparison to your own system.  They sound like beautiful speakers, I will hope to find a place in in or near Mass to hear them

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    There is this thing called a Solar Tour where you go around and look at different solar system installs.  We could have Audiophile Tours........  Properly Vetted of course....

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    55 minutes ago, bobfa said:

    There is this thing called a Solar Tour where you go around and look at different solar system installs.  We could have Audiophile Tours........  Properly Vetted of course....

    Would be really fun. 

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    7 hours ago, PeterG said:

     I especially appreciate the comparison to your own system.  

    Me too, especially since you didn't get into the minutiae, but rather compared broad impressions.  

     

    Alex has been working on the crossover and speakers for a long, long time.  I was a fan of his work way back when he was modding Denon universal players and he was working on speakers (and amps) soon after that.  He always knew the sound he was looking for for each component. 

     

    Thanks, Chris for the review and doing the hard work we don't do  ;)     

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    The GRAVITAS NB-M speakers also look good - they include some good design decisions - shame they don't mention anything on specified sensitivity or off axis response.

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    4 minutes ago, joelha said:

    For the record, Chris' visit had to be a bigger treat for me than for him.

     

    Chris gets to go all over the world to factories and dealers to hear the most interesting equipment and talk to the most interesting people in the industry.

     

    How many industry people visit my home?

     

    What's more, Chris is one of the kindest and most decent people I've met. He is, to use a Yiddish term, a "mensch" which, loosely translated, means: what a person is supposed to be.

     

    As for the specifics of the article, for which I'm very grateful, the pieces under the speakers are one inch thick acrylic. They are both for vibration absorption and, yes, to make the speakers easier to move.

     

    My assistance to APL is a true labor of love. Like Chris, Alex Peychev is also a true "mensch". I could write an article about his many acts of kindness and decency.

     

    But, for me to take time away from four three-year-olds, my wife and my primary business, the product also has to be outstanding. And it is.

     

    As a hobbyist, I'll say, I've replaced every component I previously owned with APL components and speakers.

     

    I'm not going to make this message a lengthy ad for APL. I'll just say from a music enjoyment and personal perspective, my association with APL has been a joy.

     

    Thanks very much, Chris, for taking the time to visit and write about the experience.

     

    Our kids are looking forward to seeing Uncle Chris again.

     

    Joel

     

     

     

     

    You’re far too kind Joel :~)

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    20 hours ago, bobfa said:

    There is this thing called a Solar Tour where you go around and look at different solar system installs.  We could have Audiophile Tours........  Properly Vetted of course....

     

     

    Interesting idea.....

     

     

    Of course I am low to mid-fi :D

     

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    10 hours ago, alwayslearning said:

    It's unfortunate that APL doesn't have more recognition in the USA. Maybe his speakers will help to spread the word. 

    I'm OK without recognition, but would never be OK without a listen before buying.  Google APL US dealers--it appears to be just Joel's living room.  My sense is that we are a year or two away from being able to listen/buy. 

     

    This is not a complaint of APL/Joel, just the hard reality of trying to break into a tough market.  Let's hope this review helps!

     

    (Joel, if the rest of us come to visit, can we get a sandwich or at least some cookies?)

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    I know a dealer looking for nice speakers with wood cabinets. Yes, the carry KEF, but the others Rockport, Magico, Golden Ear and, Estelon do have wood cabinets. People come into their shop looking for speakers with nice wood cabinets that sound good.

     

    I know it is crazy but hey, it is what it is.

     

    PM me and I will give the info to you. 

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    15 hours ago, PeterG said:

    I'm OK without recognition, but would never be OK without a listen before buying.  Google APL US dealers--it appears to be just Joel's living room.  My sense is that we are a year or two away from being able to listen/buy. 

     

    This is not a complaint of APL/Joel, just the hard reality of trying to break into a tough market.  Let's hope this review helps!

     

    (Joel, if the rest of us come to visit, can we get a sandwich or at least some cookies?)

    Not only can you get some cookies but, given that my wife is native-born Chinese and Jewish (please read the article on Medium (https://medium.com/mind-cafe/how-to-marry-and-have-four-newborns-at-60-ecdc23e8e4a8) if you went to know more), you can get home-made kosher Chinese here. 

     

    I'll pick any of you up and return you to the airport. 

     

    Who's in?

     

    Joel

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    18 hours ago, joelha said:

    Not only can you get some cookies but, given that my wife is native-born Chinese and Jewish (please read the article on Medium (https://medium.com/mind-cafe/how-to-marry-and-have-four-newborns-at-60-ecdc23e8e4a8) if you went to know more), you can get home-made kosher Chinese here. 

     

    I'll pick any of you up and return you to the airport. 

     

    Who's in?

     

    Joel

    Hi Joel,

    Thank you for sharing a beautiful and personal story.  The path to success is rarely a straight line

    Peter

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    That's very nice of you to say, Peter.

     

    And as for paths in life, truer words have not been spoken.

     

    Thanks.

     

    Joel

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    Seems like it was a great experience.

    The organizers could have thought about making a video...

    :-)

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