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July 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Superior Audio Equipment Review

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor
An unending oasis of musical reality.
Review By Dr. Michael Bump

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
- Benjamin Franklin

 

  As a professional musician and university professor of 36 years, I can appreciate the weight behind Benjamin Franklin's infamous quote. Though people may well forget what you say or present, engaging them holistically – mind, body, soul – often translates into a life-learning moment. Thus the question; Are we involved within the moment and, in turn, an extension of the moment? The power of music, in particular, is a spiritual transfer of learning energy. Whether performing, composing, teaching, or listening, the music never ceases to amaze me as the great communicator in life – a universal awareness toward the greater good.

As critical listeners, we audiophiles often toss around the term, involved, as a common (and viable) descriptor. It attempts to express our psycho-acoustic connection to recorded music reproduced through fine audio equipment. Critical listening for an audiophile requires a particular set of conditions to result in a holistically involved experience. Firstly, undivided attention on the part of the listener. Secondly, an environment conducive to undivided attention (For me, this usually requires waiting until all manner of pets, computer games, tv's, and spousal conversations have retired for the evening, when, at the stroke of midnight, I can sit back in the audio room, a glass of red wine, a turntable light, and get lost in a few favorite performances). How deeply we get lost is, of course, the game we audiophiles obsessively keep in play, maneuvering game 'pieces' in that quest for synergistic bliss among the recorded source, venue, equipment, placement, vs. our budget. It brings us back to the chessboard every time.

 

Music Re-Imagined
I recently had an opportunity to experience a fascinating new chess piece on our home audio gameboard. For some time, my curiosity had been piqued regarding Danish audio designer Michael BØrresen's development of a new loudspeaker utilizing an evolutionary proprietary driver. The company he and his creative / business partner, Lars Kristensen, would create in 2017 to support his efforts, bears his namesake, BØrresen Acoustics. Those who have had the good fortune of meeting/knowing Michael no doubt have realized him to be a genius and true intellectual in the fields of electrical engineering and acoustical physics, not to mention one of the nicest human beings you will ever know.

When conversing with Michael, you must hang on with absolute undivided attention, engaging all manner of listening skills in hopes of absorbing all he has to offer you. I can't say that I was necessarily prepared for this on our first conversation, although I did my best. And to be clear, Michael's incredible knowledge is not solely a scientific objective to create the perfect speaker. Rather, he is overwhelmingly motivated by a polished awareness of how science must accurately communicate the intangibles of musical performance, serving the art and its artists as close to reality as possible:

 

"For me, it's not about resolution, speed, etc., but about the ability to present music. When we can afford to do things right, the game is totally different. Performance is not about sound, this bass or that treble, etc. If you listen for those things, you overlook the music. The primary objective of a fine audio system should be to convey the emotion and intent of the artist."

 

Many will recognize Michael BØrresen as a former chief designer with Raidho/Scansonic, which was part of the Dantax Company (Scan-Speak, et al). Today, his partnership with CEO & Chief Manager, Lars Kristensen (Formerly associated with Nordost) includes three business entities: Aavik Acoustics (electronics), Ansuz Acoustics (cables, power treatment, network switches and racks) and BØrresen Acoustics (loudspeakers). The corporate trio is housed under the same roof and parent company, UpperLevel ApS, in Aalborg, Denmark.

To meet BØrresen Acoustics' objectives, it was necessary to start with a blank slate, rethinking every aspect of design and function in the development of a musical delivery instrument of the highest order. Everything is designed to serve the truth of musical presentation. Michael approaches this as a true craftsman. Everything he does, he does at the highest levels. To this end, both Lars and Michael remain intensely open to the pursuit and solutions of ideas well beyond current thought.

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

Loudspeakers Re-Invented
In my opinion, BØrresen Acoustics' driver technology represents one of the greatest advances in loudspeaker development in many years. All BØrresen drivers are completely proprietary designs, as are the crossovers. Custom parts abound throughout. An overriding objective was to reduce inherent distortion characteristics resulting from iron-driven magnetic fields. Consequently, Michael BØrresen developed bass/midrange drivers utilizing an iron-free technology - That is, replacing electromagnetic movement with four opposing neodymium ring magnets. These then squeeze the flux lines together over two solid copper rings that act as both poles and heatsinks. Instead of loading on one side of a magnetic field, these copper rings are loaded at two opposing fields.

The result reduces inductance by more than 90% of traditional drivers, taking away unwanted vibrations increasing current flow on-demand, and ultimately resulting in a much faster driver with less phase rotation / less impedance variations. Lower frequency performance in particular becomes very tight and well-focused. The 4.8" driver membrane material consists of two thin carbon-fiber wafers affixed on both sides of a Nomex honeycomb core (Similar to the body makeup used on Formula-1 type racing cars).

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

Following on the virtues of the Raidho ribbon tweeter, the BØrresen Acoustics ribbon is a 96dB/W/m sensitive, transformer-less design, using Neodym-magnets as drivers. With an ultra-light membrane weight of less than 0.01 grams, it is made from a PEM (polymer foil) that extends into the 100+kHz range, essentially allowing for no upper-frequency limitations with instantaneous response. The design operates as an open-backed dipole, the rarefaction wave exiting the triangular vents at the sides of the cabinet. An additional unique feature is the use of tuned ports calibrated for musically relevant frequencies. The bottle-opener-like designs break up port noise/turbulence, providing for smoother bass response. The function is much like that on the back of Formula One race cars. For BØrresen Acoustics speakers, it allows for easier room placement (can sit closer to the back wall, if necessary) without bass boom.

The cabinet's aileron-like profile (sim. to Raidho designs) follows in the stylish shapes initially created by the late Franco Serbelin from Sonus Faber, enhancing depth while minimizing width and overall footprint.

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

Decoupler discs, called "Darkz," are a series of efficient footers to ground the speaker cabinet to the stand, designed via sister company, Ansuz Acoustics. Each footer consists of three discs separated by 3 ball bearings. The discs come in four alloys (anodized aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, extra-hardened aluminum, and extra-hardened titanium) that allow for four different sonic qualities (I was provided with the extra-hardened titanium). They can also be used on floorstander speaker feet, as well as any component in a high-end audio system (including cable lifters). They are mechanically tuned to allow vibrations a pathway out of the component, keep it isolated.

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

The 01 stand is considered an equal part of the acoustic as well as the aesthetic intent of the cabinet design, working in tandem to achieve a synthesized presentation. Relatively lightweight material and shape are designed in such a way as to transfer and dissipate vibration energy to the floor. Both the highly designed stand feet and Darkz footers on the cabinet platform offer two decoupler points to isolate cabinets. Combined, both speaker and stand present a true work of art in both form and function. With an elegant modern Scandinavian appearance, they melt beautifully into the décor of any home. One is immediately aware that the BØrresen Acoustics 01 speakers are not just audio equipment, but offer the presence of exceptional musical art sculptures, akin to those of the Baschet brothers or David Letellier.

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

Music Re-Created
The 01 monitors are designed to serve as a point of reference – a definition. The 02, 03, and 05 floorstanders progressively offer the same characteristics in tonal quality and balance, while providing greater mid-range clarity, bass response, and a larger sound presentation – Essentially, the experience becomes more palpable, more of what it already is with the 01.

This leads me to a key observation of my listening time with the BØrresen Acoustics 01: At no time did the term "monitor" really enter my consciousness. They were, in a word, complete. Yes, if I had thought about them as monitors, I would not hesitate in stating they are the finest such speakers I've ever heard. The fact that they are not "full-range" floorstanders never compromised my listening experience. Most importantly, the 01 musically involved me in ways that transcended the listening venue, and brought me to the gig. For one who has spent a great deal of time on stage, I gravitate towards an audio experience that closely re-creates what I'm familiar with - The visceral reality of actuating an acoustic instrument alongside others around me in the creation of music, while simultaneously engaging with the venue's (and listener's) responses/contributions to the music.

So what is it exactly that these "monitors" offer in creating a holistically-involving musical experience? For starters, they present an amazing and realistic sense of scale. If any readers had the good fortune of visiting the NextLevel HiFi room at last Fall's RMAF 2019, you no doubt experienced the 01 filling an exceptionally large room (greater than 22,000 cubic ft) with a concert hall-like performance, having no issues fully pressurizing the room. Then in my home 14x17 audio room, they provided a similar experience by moving beyond the walls and ceiling. Again, it's a moment that transports the listener, adapting the room to the recorded venue.

We often think of and listen for dimensionality in terms of stage of the recorded venue. I have to say however that, for perhaps the first time in my audio experiences, I was able to identify depth within the instrumental envelope itself. Not just linearity of envelope, but three-dimensionality of the sound source and its actuation. As a performer, I could hear 360 around the initiation and subsequent dispersion of instrumental energy. It's more than standing on the stage or sitting in the audience, it's having your hands on / close to the entity and experiencing the moment. The 01 presented this convincingly.

Another trait I admire is the sense of immediacy and clarity in all aspects of the musical envelope. It's not just that transients are crystal clear, with strident-free upper frequencies and super-tight lower frequencies, but that the speed of such allows timbral characteristics of musical sources to be represented truthfully. Above all, there's integrity to the envelope – That is, no aspect is exaggerated for effect, but retains believability. Relatedly, truth in tone is front and center in the music, with organicity so vivid that it seems touchable.

Ok, I'll go ahead here and acknowledge that these are, in fact, monitors, only insofar as to make the following point: The BØrresen Acoustics 01 has low-frequency extension the likes of which I've never experienced... from a monitor. Nothing artificial, just incredible reach that maintains grip and natural truth-to-source. Similarly, I've never heard such effortless and seemingly limitless upper frequencies as provided by these amazing ribbons. Wonderfully smooth/delicate highs - Nothing etched or scratchy.

Another key trait that must be mentioned is the uncanny presence of microdynamics and the subsequent degree of information retrieval they allow for. Clear harmonic separation of instrumental sources and an immediacy of transient characteristics greatly help get this right. However, there's perhaps something more to it. Speed, finesse, and efficiency from these innovative drivers allow the recorded signal to be delivered in absolute authenticity. Admittedly, this may translate to outstanding transients on the front end, but psycho-acoustically, this creates an anticipation within the listener – an awareness – that truly energizes the room, in turn, energizing the listening experience.

 

BØrresen Acoustics 01 Two-Way Monitor Review

 

A Few Reference Examples
AKA Trio – Joy. [CD / Bendigedig]
Antonio Forcione (acoustic guitars), Seckou Keita (koras), Adriano Adewale (percussion) come from three different continents, speaking three different languages, formed by three different cultures and musical traditions. The resulting amalgam has brought great color and spirit to this recording. Though Adriano has performed with Antonio for some years (Tears of Joy, Sketches of Africa, et al), Seckou's presence is a wonderful new voice, with all three artists communicating an eclectic musical language. Bob Schult (of the former Ridge Street Audio Designs) first enlightened me many years ago to Antonio's music via one of his compilation "test" CDs, for which I am grateful.

The extensive collection of acoustic instrumental colors in Joy offers a sonic playground for reference listening. Through the 01, I am re-acquainted with the correct balance among these musicians. Nothing is emphasized in a manner unintended by artists or engineers. The tactile presence of fingers, nails, hands in contact with all manner of strings, and hand drums raises goosebumps. Leading edges rise unfettered in an experience that is amazingly reflective of a top-shelf pair of headphones - That nearfield-yet-spacial-surround-sound head-to-toe sonic experience. All I can say is, wow!

 

Jeff Hamilton Trio – The Best Things Happen. [CD / Azica]
"Moonbird"& "C Jam Blues" are two great reference pieces for Jeff's brushwork artistry and effective drum kit mic-ing techniques. If you want to know what your audio system can do at low amplitude listening, check these tracks out. The 01 knows how to retain body and dimensionality at these lower listening levels. Above all, Jeff knows how to swing a band. The 01 let you feel every sensual element of the swing, from the feathered bass, to the placement of the stick on the ride, to that just right laid back walking line in the double bass. I also love this recording overall for its spot-on stage placement and imagery.

 

Skywalk – The Bohemians. [LP / MCA-Zebra]
Though I spun other LPs with the 01, this one remains one of my eldest references. Back in the 1980's, I was obsessed with this little-known Canadian fusion group (Many may recognize one of the tunes, "Jesse James," as an early background for the WeatherChannel). Killer talent in every position of the band with outstanding recording and engineering skills behind the board. Kat Hendrikse, in particular, masterfully dialed in an excellent electro-acoustic synthesis of the drum kit and early experimentation with loop patches and real-time samplings via Linn Drum programming. "Grandstand" and the title track stand out as spotlights to Hendrikse's virtuosity.

But again, talent abounds in all directions within the group, with this recording giving your system a ride. The 01 demonstrated the frequency extremes of "Grandstand" with ease, opening the basement frequency doors with incredible firm clarity and control. With eyes closed, one would never know these were monitors. The sense of stage within this recording was something I never fully appreciated until hearing with the 01. Crystal clear source placement, space, and depth were outstanding. The closing track, "The Torchbearer," had all the subtle, nostalgic late-night 80s jazz seductions that one might hope for. Again, and without sounding too cliché, just try closing your eyes and not feeling the band in the room....

 

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio – Diz... [CD / Blue Note]
For anyone who has had the good fortune of experiencing this trio live, you know they can blow out the stage with their flights of virtuosity. Audiences are taken on a seemingly effortless, amazing musical journey and returned safely at the end to the comfort of their seats. I've seen them twice, each time leaving the concert wishing my ears had a second (even third and fourth) time to go back and listen for all that my feeble brain could not absorb. Thank goodness we have audio recordings! This homage to Dizzy Gillespie is the Trio's finest recording (IMHO). Rubalcaba's melodic, and harmonic vocabulary runs seemingly untethered if it weren't for the solid grounding of Ron Carter and Julio Barreto. The dialogue among them is uncanny, a collective synergy that is truly seamless, yet displaying an individual confidence that can stand all on its own for minutes on end. I've always "gotten it" with this recording, but for the first time, the 01 brought true human energy and connection to the experience. It was an "in the room" moment never to be forgotten.

 

 

Coda
At first impression, one will likely be drawn into the incredible level of resolution the Borresen Acoustics 01 present. Quickly, however, observant ears will note this isn't another audio parlor trick via tight bass and artificially extended upper frequencies to gain attention. True, they are direct and vivid, but they are foremost musical. It is the realism of image, stage, the balance of envelope, and timbral authenticity that keep you there. Their presentation is not one that you have to process or has to grow on you. Their improvement to whatever you've been accustomed to is obvious. Immediately, subtleties you were unaware of in well-worn references are being introduced for the first time. A smile is permanently affixed to your face, and you're left thinking, "you've got to be kidding."

At the heart of it all, I simply and thoroughly enjoyed listening to music through these speakers. Often, I would take time out from writing this review to go back and listen for a point I was attempting to compose, only to find that the rest of the evening flew by as I was once again kidnapped in my listening room.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, these are expensive – by anyone's standard. Are they worth it? That of course is an answer left to the ears (and eyes) of the beholder. What I can say is, if one is capable of commanding this level of audio investment, the return will be an unending oasis of musical reality, brought to you in ways likely unimagined. One thing's for certain, the BØrresen Acoustics 01 will involve you, and you will learn much. And lest we never overlook, we're all here for the music.

Humble appreciation is extended to Tyler and Dana Mueller of NextLevel HiFi and Gated HiFi Distribution respectively, who helped facilitate this review by providing the speakers, connecting me with Michael BØrresen, and extending their expert and thoughtful advice.

 

 

 

Reference System
Preamp: VAC Signature mkII SE (with phono)
Amplifier: Merrill Veritas monoblocks
Digital Source: Esoteric K-03
Analog Source: VPI Scoutmaster Signature (w/ Dynavector XV-1s cart)
Speakers: Daedalus Athena v.2
Sub: Velodyne DD10+
Cables: JPS Aluminata pc's, i/c's (XLR & RCA), JPS SC3 speaker cables
Power Conditioning: Running Springs Haley

 

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Specifications
Type: Two-way stand-mounted monitor speaker
Frequency Response: 50Hz to 50kHz
Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m
Impedance: >6 Ohms
Recommended Amplifier: More than 50 Watts
Dimensions With Stand: 43.4" x 10.2" x 17.7" (HxWxD)
Dimensions For Cabinet Only: 14.5" x 7.2" x 16.3" (HxWxD)
Weight With Stand 39.68 lbs.
Weight For Cabinet Only: 25.35 lbs.
Price As Reviewed: $35,000 with Walnut veneer and Darkz T2 Supreme resonance control discs).
Monitor Stands: $5000
Also available in custom colors – High gloss finish.

 

 

Company Information
BØrresen Acoustics ApS
Rebslagervej 4
9000 Aalborg
Denmark

E-mail: sales@ansuz-acoustics.com
Website: www.Borresen-Acoustics.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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