Pylon Audio S.A. (which stands for
‘Inc.' in Polish) is a very young company, started in 2011. Yet straight from
the beginning, even before the formal registration procedure was completed, they
had one product ready for manufacturing, the Pylon Pearl loudspeakers which I
received for a review. What you need to know is that the know-how and the people
involved in Pylon Audio are not newcomers to the audio market. Pylon has its
roots in another Polish company, namely Tonsil. Tonsil was established in the
town of Wrzesnia (Poland) in 1945 on the initiative of the Polish Radio, to
serve as a technical background for broadcasting stations. Between 1973 and 1974
Tonsil manufactured speaker drivers on license from Peerless-MB and Pioneer,
used in loudspeaker designs from these two Japanese companies as well as others,
all over the world.
After a democratic transition in Poland in 1989,
when People's Republic of Poland changed into Republic of Poland and centrally
planned economy gave way for free market, Tonsil was initially doing quite well.
In addition to its core business, i.e. manufacturing of speaker drivers, the
company manufactured speaker cabinets for many British companies, such as
Wharfedale and Tannoy, as well as whole loudspeakers, mostly less expensive
models of these and other companies. Tonsil was the largest manufacturer of
drivers and speakers in Europe, boasting one of the largest (if not the largest)
anechoic testing chamber in this part of the world, as well as a team of
specialist and engineers. However, it could not withstand growing competition
from the Far East manufacturers and was divided into separate, smaller
companies. At this moment Tonsil remains in suspension – its bankruptcy was
declared in 2004. Nevertheless, its daughter companies have been doing much
In Poland, Tonsil is best known for its very good
speaker drivers and loudspeakers, which at one time used to be an object of
desire for Polish music lovers. Over the years, however, it was becoming less
and less competitive against world leaders – not because of inferior technical
thought or components, but rather due to more old-school design and less
efficient marketing. The most important, however, in this case is the know-how
accumulated over almost 70 years of Tonsil operation. What's all this got to do
with Pylon Audio? Well, the Pylon engineers, including Mr. Jujka, previously
worked in various Tonsil sub-companies. As it seems, SPX Soundstation also has
direct ties to the company from Wrzesnia, which can be seen in their drivers'
design and their terminology.
I said, the speakers are a three-way, free-standing rear-vented design, with
Polish drivers from STX. The speakers are really gorgeous and it is evident that
the woofer is housed in a large chamber. The front is black lacquered and has
chamfered edges that bring to mind Avalon speakers. The front baffle is quite
thick, but these are still not very heavy speakers. They look very nice. Even
the PVC finish is pretty cool as you need to get close to see that it is not a
natural veneer. Anyway, for a small additional cost you can get the latter and
to my eyes it is worth it! Then we have the specs on the Sapphire speakers:
I think that even the above short description received in an
e-mail from Mr. Mateusz Jujka, head of Pylon Audio, should be enough to give
away the subject of this review. It tells us that they will be loudspeakers,
that it is a three-way design, that Pylon Audio designed the speaker drivers in
close cooperation with another Polish manufacturer, STXSoundstation. As such, it
is therefore a Polish product, nearly from A to Z. Only the wiring and crossover
components are sourced from abroad.
Looking at the speakers' price it is not difficult to conclude
that some corners had to be cut somewhere. The speakers are manufactured almost
entirely in Poland, which naturally reduces the cost of labor and, to a certain
extent, the cost of materials. Still, the price of 3,100 PLN ($1000 USD) for a
pair of nice, large, three-way floorstanders coming not from China but from a
European country, seems to be difficult to comprehend. Cost savings can be seen
first of all in not too thick cabinet walls (18 mm at this cabinet size is
really the minimum), not quite ideal fitting of the front baffle with the sides,
and the used speaker terminals which, although very nice and sturdy with a WBT
look, WBT they are not.
Locally manufactured drivers also helped to reduce the final
price. Nevertheless, their quality is surprisingly high, supported by
measurements and manufacturer's years of experience. The tweeter has a soft dome
and a rather large suspension made of one piece of material – saturated carbon
fiber. The front plate is made of solid cast duralumin and the coil bobbin of
Kapton. The design employs a double Ferrite magnet with copper Faraday rings for
the linearization of the magnetic field. The GDWK-10-250-8-awx driver custom
modified by Pylon clearly indicates Tonsil legacy as it is a Tonsil designation.
It is an extremely robust, technically advanced design. The modified driver is
called Pylon Audio PST T-100.08.
is handled by a 14 cm Pylon Audio PSM 15-150.08 driver, with resonant frequency
of 110 Hz and a multiple-impregnated cellulose cone. The large magnet also
employs linearizing Faraday rings. Low frequencies are reproduced by a 22 cm
Pylon Audio PSW 22-200.08 woofer with a coated paper cone, similar to that used
in the midrange driver. The baskets of both drivers are made of extruded metal
sheet. A more detailed description of all drivers can be found on the STX
website. The manufacturer specifies the speakers' frequency range between 35 Hz
to 22 kHz (-2dB), their impedance is 8 Ohms and they are rated as having a high
90dB/W/m sensitivity. The speakers' dimensions are 240 x 1000 x 300 mm and their
weight is 22 kg each. They do not have grilles.
matters most is their coherence. I could not really hear drivers' transition
ranges and when I did, it was more due to a slight drop of dynamics, a slight
lowering of definition, rather than any problems with tonal balance. The
speakers sound very, very coherent over the whole range – from the bottom to
the top. The combination of these characteristics, and others that I will soon
discuss, proved very well when I auditioned the two albums: Astigmatic
by Krzysztof Komeda and A Day at Jazz Spot
‘Basie' (Komeda Quintet, "Astigmatic", Polish Jazz Vol.5,
PolskieNagraniaMuza, PNCD 905, CD; "A Day at Jazz Spot ‘Basie'", Stereo Sound
Reference Record, SSRR6-7, SACD/CD).
The first album is Volume 5 in a prestigious Polish Jazz
series, beautifully remastered in 24-bit by Mss. Marta Szeliga and Joanna
Szczepanska and issued as a CD. The young Komeda (the album was recorded in
1965) who later became the much valued composer of music to 65 movies, including
"Rosemary's Child" by another Pole, Roman Polanski, arguably reached the peak of
his creativity on "Astigmatic", helped by Tomasz Stanko on trumpet. The album
sounds remarkably lively, well-defined and focused. The Pylons showed all this
admirably, equally well presenting the exceptionally recorded cymbals. It was
immediately obvious that the tweeter is fantastic; such quality is usually
offered by speakers costing 10,000 PLN ($3000 USD) and more. As a comparison,
the companies like Wharfedale or Castle (both part of IAG group) use much lesser
quality tweeters. Even Monitor Audio, with its gold dome C-CAM tweeter does not
sound as good in this range. Only the expensive tweeters from Seas and Scan
Speak can show something more – more weight, deeper saturation. The Polish
driver's definition is really outstanding, resembling ribbon tweeters. It also
has similar tonality.
The other album is a sampler. Or actually a "collection"
selected by Shoji "Swifty" Sugawara for the Japanese Stereo
Sound magazine. I do not usually buy samplers and when offered one, I
normally put it in a box with albums "for later listens". This one is different;
I personally asked Mr. Yoshi Hontai, the representative of such manufacturers as
Leben, Acoustic Revive etc., to buy it for me. I have most of the original
albums from which come the selected tracks, usually in beautiful Japanese
re-editions, but this is really an exceptional set! Also includes a very
attractive package to boot! Again, the Pylons showed similar characteristics as
with the Komeda album – very fast sound attack, no sluggish bass whatsoever
and good focusing. What is especially worth mentioning is the low end.
Recordings from this period (1950s – 60s) do not really offer much bass. Even
double basses are usually light and showed from the rear. Most of speakers do
them disservice, accenting the higher bass and trying to "beef up" instruments'
presence in this range. The Pylons were different. They maintained good
proportions between the low end and the midrange with a smooth transition
between the two and without accenting either driver separately.
At the same time, the Stereo
Sound sampler revealed something that has to be a conscious choice of
the Pylon designers, the consequence of using these drivers and not others, and
which eventually results in them not being the ideal speakers, with alternatives
within a similar price range. They do not offer a particularly saturated sound.
I mean, it is not lacking anything in particular, yet listening to the Castles
from the Knight line or even the Monitor Audio Bronze BX shows that higher
midrange as well as midbass can be better saturated. There is no thinning out,
that's not the case. As I said, the overall tonal balance seems to be
exceptionally well maintained. It is more about saturation with harmonics, a
more "mature" sound that can be achieved. The Pylon Sapphires are rather
transparent, easy and free than fleshy. In order to verify that I used two vocal
recordings, namely, "All of Me – The Debonair Mr. Hartman" by Johnny Hartman,
originally issued by Bethlehem and remastered by JVC in K2HD, and Beverly Kenney's
"… sings with Jimmy Jones and ‘The Basie-ites.'" The former was recorded in
1956, the latter a year later. Both are mono recordings.
The voices of Kenney and Hartman had great definition;
soundstage was well differentiated and selective. However, in both cases a
slight domination of the range between 2kHz to 3kHz resulted in the singers
sounding lighter than on my reference speakers. The sound was very good but
there was a feeling as if something needed to be tweaked in the audio system
before the speakers. The coloration of the range which I described, however, can
be subjective, not an objective "peak". It often happens that if some part of
frequency response is slightly attenuated, the neighboring range seems
accentuated. And so it is probably in this case – not fully saturated midrange
makes us "hear" stronger treble.
The Pylon Sapphire speakers are moderately priced and nicely finished. They employ very cool drivers, with a special nod to the tweeter. The manufacturing quality is good; however, it might be worth paying more attention to proper fitting of the front baffle with the rest of the cabinet. On the other hand, that could be an isolated problem of the particular pair of speakers I reviewed – one of the first that had been manufactured. Poland, for many associated with Komeda, Stanko, Mozdzer, Chopin, Penderecki, Lutoslawski, Gorecki, Preissner, A.P. Kaczmarek (in Polish it goes like this: Komeda, Stańko, Możdżer, Chopin, Penderecki, Lutosławski, Górecki, Preissner, A.P. Kaczmarek) – only to stay within the music circle – is also a place where a lot of audio equipment is manufactured. Some manufacturers quickly disappear. For years others "navigate" between DIY, single orders and full production. Pylon Audio is a comparatively large manufacturer, cooperating with other high productivity companies and everything indicates that its plans are more ambitious than most of boutique-like, tiny manufacturers.