Aurum Cantus V2M loudspeaker

In the March 2008 Stereophile (Vol.31 No.3), I wrote favorably about the A-50T integrated amplifier from the Chinese company Cayin Audio. I was very impressed with its sound, appearance, and construction quality for the price: $1295. This positive experience led me to look into what other products Cayin's importer, VAS Industries, distributes here. More often than not, when a keen ear imports an interesting product into the US, that ear has also heard the good sounds of other products, as attested by the diverse product lines of distributors such as Music Hall and Sumiko. It turns out that VAS distributes Chinese loudspeakers made by Aurum Cantus, including seven two-channel models. I chose the entry-level design, the two-way V2M bookshelf speaker ($1890/pair), which combines a ribbon tweeter with a dynamic mid-woofer cone.

My first listening session was a bit delayed. After I'd unpacked the V2Ms, I spent some time staring at and, yes, fondling their gorgeous cabinets. The sleek, side panels of curved MDF are finished in a gorgeous, deep-gloss maple veneer (rosewood, cherry, and piano black are also available). I couldn't take my eyes off them. I can't remember when I've seen an affordable speaker this beautiful.

The Aurum Cantus V2M has a ribbon tweeter of pure aluminum. Although the tweeter is shielded, Aurum Cantus warns that its magnet still has a strong stray field, and recommends placing the speaker a minimum of 35" from any TV screen. The woofer has a composite cone made of Kevlar and nonwoven carbon fiber, a copper-clad aluminum voice-coil, and a magnet system with a Faraday ring. The crossover employs M-Cap Supreme MXP and Aurum Cantus MXP capacitors, milspec metal-oxide film resistors, and high-purity OFC-wound inductors. The shape of the cabinet—a truncated cone of MDF with a parabolic structure—was chosen to minimize resonances.

I sat the V2Ms on my trusty Celestion Si stands, which are loaded with lead shot and sand. I listened to the biwired V2Ms with their grilles off as well as on. Although the tonal balance didn't change, leaving the grilles on resulted in significantly less detail. So off they stayed during my listening sessions—as VAS Industries recommends.

The detailed and uncolored midrange reproduction of the Aurum Cantus V2M incited me to mine my collection of well-recorded vocal performances. On "'Round Midnight," from Ella Fitzgerald's Clap Hands, Hear Comes Charlie! (LP, Verve V-4053), every silky, voluptuous inflection of Fitzgerald's voice was so captivating that I scribbled: "She's talking to me. She's singing to me." The V2M reproduced every low-level phrasing inflection of Joni Mitchell's voice as she sang "Urge for Going," from Hits (CD, Reprise 46326-2), the speaker's ribbon tweeter flawlessly rendering her pristine and extended sibilants.

The V2M's ability to resolve detail let me listen far enough into many familiar recordings to hear them anew. Listening to Roger McGuinn's solo on Rickenbacker 12-string guitar on the Byrds' "Turn, Turn, Turn," rather than focus on his superb picking, I was drawn to Gene Clark's delicate tambourine counterrhythms way down in the mix, which were very clear, without a trace of smear. On Jesu, from Timothy Seelig's recording of John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57CD), I had never heard soprano Nancy Keith's solo line so boldly separated from the massed voices of the Turtle Creek Chorale. Nor had I ever before noticed the melodic, call-and-response interplay of oboist Dennis Brickman and flutist Michael Sullivan.

The V2M's ribbon tweeter was a big contributor to the speaker's superb resolution of detail. Normally, with speakers that combine a ribbon tweeter with dynamic drivers, and especially at such a low price, I'm wary of the risks that either the tweeter will be too bright or its sound will be disconnected from the rest of the frequency spectrum. That was not a problem for the V2M. With all recordings I played, the high frequencies were pristine, extended, and detailed, and provided an entirely coherent sonic presentation with the rest of the frequency spectrum. The massed string passages of Laurence Leighton Smith and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra's recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony 5 (LP, Sheffield Labs RP-25) were silky, extended, realistic, and reminiscent of a live orchestral performance in the pre-renovation Carnegie Hall.

The V2M's tweeter was quite fast as well. On works with well-recorded, densely textured transients, all details were reproduced without a trace of smear or edge. On Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, the composer and Jacques Février man the keyboards to execute some very difficult rapid passages with significant high-frequency content (UK LP, EMI ASD 517). Through the Aurum Cantus, the upper-register sparkle of the pianos was light, airy, delicate, and lightning-fast. The tweeter even sparkled with electronic rock. Listening to "Man/Machine," from Kraftwerk's Minimum/Maximum (CD, EMI ASW 60611), I was able to analyze the high-frequency filtering content of every rapid synthesizer patch on this deceptively simple-sounding work.