Aretai 100S loudspeakers with Benchmark DAC3, LA4, and AHB2s

Discovering new products from new companies is one of the best parts about audio shows. As much as we enjoy seeing familiar industry faces and brands, it's also great to meet new ones.

Aretai was founded in 2018 by Janis Irbe, the technical designer, and Edgars Zvirgzdiņš, the product designer, who hail from Latvia. At AXPONA Aretai presented the 100S entry model from their inaugural Contra collection of loudspeakers. That collection, which also includes the 200F floorstander and flagship 350F floorstander, won Irbe a Red Dot Award for Product Design in 2022.

The Aretai 100S stand-mounts ($7500/pair) look cool and sleek in their matte-black enclosures but are apparently filled with serious science from decades of studying published AES papers and their own R&D. The 100S 2.5-way's sealed box is made of MDF and "a special sandwiched plywood," Irbe told me.

In dramatic white, the horn-loaded tweeter atop the enclosure stands out. Encased in its CNC-milled housing with its own waveguide is a doped-silk ring radiator. Janis explained that this keeps the center fixed to maintain correct phase. The waveguide widens the sweet spot in width and height (above and below)—so your pets can also enjoy the music, Zvirgzdiņš told me with a grin. A pair of 6" woofers, one on front, the other offset on back, pumped out pretty impressive bass. Their diaphragms are made of polypropylene. A unique filter design and bipole radiation pattern also help extend the low end-reportedly down to 30Hz. I heard plenty of punch and energy from those small speakers, too.

Demo playback came from Tidal on an Aurender N200, controlled by an iPad mini, into a Benchmark DAC3 B D/A processor into a Benchmark LA4 preamplifier into a pair of Benchmark AHB2 monoblock amplifiers. Cabling was by Benchmark. The ubiquitous "So What" sounded full and clear with pretty realistic trumpet and sax tones. Plenty of sound, with air and a sense of spaciousness, filled room 1515. Even a track as familiar as that Miles Davis sounded full, fresh, and inviting—even well off-axis.