Audio Physic Virgo loudspeaker Page 2

At just under $5000/pair, the Virgos will also make a healthy chunk of your bank account disappear. At first glance this German-made speaker doesn't look like it could be worth that kind of money. It's a skinny runt, narrow and tall—like a minimonitor with a pituitary problem. In fact, the Avanti ($7500/pair), the next speaker up in the Audio Physic line, is a minimonitor, inserted into a square hole in a tall skinny box—a box with two small, side-mounted, floor-level woofers built in.

The Virgo is of one piece: while the two sets of binding posts on the Avantis are separated by a couple of feet, the Virgo's are more conventionally spaced 1" apart. The Virgo stands about 41" tall, 6½" wide, and 16" deep. The width:height ratio makes them appear taller than they really are.

As with Ken Kantor's NHT designs, the objective with the Virgo was to reduce diffraction with a narrow frontal area, preserved throughout the frequency band by side-mounting the bass drivers. While the NHT 3.3 sports a single, 12" acoustic-suspension woofer mounted at the back side of the very deep cabinet, the Virgo design utilizes a pair of front-ported (near the floor), 6", doped-paper Vifa woofers—one on each side of the cabinet mounted about 1½' off the floor and close to the front of the box, and custom-built to Audio Physic's specs.

Designer Joachim Gerhard introduced this basic configuration six years ago with the original Virgo. The version under review here, introduced at the January '95 Winter Consumer Electronics Show, features new drivers, a reworked crossover, and woofers placed closer to the floor.

As with the 3.3, the Virgo's tall, narrow design would be unstable without help down below; it comes standard with a thick, heavy MDF base fitted with spikes. I auditioned the speakers with the optional metal outrigger spiked feet, which, like those on the 3.3, screw into the bottom of the cabinet at a 90-degree angle, thus widening the footprint and raising the cabinet a few inches off the floor.

Gerhard crosses the woofers over at 350Hz to a 4" treated-paper Vifa midrange driver—a standard design with a modified voice-coil—which in turn is crossed over at 3.5kHz to a 3/4" aluminum-dome tweeter. The dome is anodized on both sides to give a very thin layer of aluminum oxide. According to Gerhard, the tweeter is unique—fabricated from a combination of technologies bought from different companies and decoupled from the baffle via three elastomer plugs instead of screws or bolts.

The mid- and high-frequency drivers are stacked close together near the top of the thick, matte-black, radiused MDF baffle. The baffle format is duplicated on the rear of the cabinet, forming a neat-looking sandwich filled, in the case of the review sample, with a nourishing-looking bird's-eye maple veneer on all four sides. The importer informs me that this subtle finish will be available in limited quantities at a premium.

German loudspeakers are renowned for their accomplished cabinet construction, and the Virgo is no exception: the quality of the woodwork, the fit'n'finish, and the integrity of the box are first-rate—as it had better be in a luxury-priced compact design such as this. The Virgo is sleek and attractive (though no match for Italian cabinetry) from every angle—though ironically, least so from the listening position, where it's all blackfaced and businesslike.

The twin-circuit-board crossover is mounted directly behind the double set of binding posts on the inside of a removable panel cut out of the back baffle. I removed the six hex-head screws to take a look at the guts but didn't get far because of the short lengths of wire between the drivers and the boards.

What I could see was a simple, circuit-board-mounted, three-element bass crossover—a 22µF electrolytic cap; a 3.3 ohm, 5W power resistor; and a small copper-coiled inductor—wired to the lower set of binding posts. Above was a larger, 12-element mid-/HF crossover board with three large 100µF electrolytic caps, three small copper inductors, three smaller caps, and a pair of power resistors. Both boards were screwed to the panel via nylon standoffs; the space between was filled with damping material.

Many of the components, and two lengths of wire running from the binding posts to the board, were damped with globs of epoxy. Those wires, and the ones connecting the drivers to the crossover boards, were laughably thin—22-gauge or thinner. Laughable, as in imagining audiophiles hooking up their garden-hose cables to the binding posts, not knowing that lurking on the other side was anorexia cableosa. When I asked Gerhard about the wire, he told me it was a proprietary, extremely stiff solid-core cable that he chose on the basis of sound, not looks. That was obvious from looking at it—no "politically correct" designer would choose that capellini on the basis of looks!

Also noticeable in the box was a copious amount of damping material. Not visible were the five tuned chambers through which the woofers' back wave has to travel to get to the port. Each chamber in the Virgo has a unique higher-pitched resonant frequency. The port scheme was designed to both break up the cabinet's natural one-frequency free-air resonance and add bracing.