My publisher does sometimes accuse me of being too concerned with the weird and the wacky. I do indeed look for unusual loudspeakers in particular, knowing that there's no such thing as the perfect design, and that it's up to me to point out and evaluate the compromises involved in any design.
One particularly challenging ideal is the single driver speaker system that works properly throughout the audio band. It has the obvious advantage of simplicity and overall coherence, but invariably experiences difficulties, especially towards the audio band extremes.
That said, no speaker type shows a greater variation between models, from a vintage Voigt corner horn to a Japanese Feastrex field-coil design. The Soundkaos Wave 40 (HIFICRITIC Vol8 No4) is one of the best I've heard recently, but it's also very costly and not strictly speaking a single driver system, as it includes a tweeter and an equalisation network.
The best value for money I've encountered was the Bodnar Sandglass Fantasy (HIFICRITIC Vol6 No4), a Polish horn design based on a 200mm twin-cone driver from Hungary's Sonido. It works rather well, but is bulky, far from pretty, and not currently available in the UK. (Sheffield-based Fidelity Art, has switched to handling Sonido's somewhat similar looking Aion.)
I should also mention the Cain & Cain (subsequently known as Lovecraft Designs) Abby, a rather attractive quarter-wave design based on a Fostex driver, which I reviewed for another magazine back in 2008. However, its founder died that same year, and LovecraftDesigns.com seems to be currently up for sale. This very issue contains my review of the Jordan Aurora system, which is even more unusual than most of the others. However, much the same is true of the horn-loaded models from Berlin-based Voxativ. (The Pi model [Vol7 No2] might have been too small alone, but it now has an intriguing matching dipole subwoofer that was quite a hit at the Munich show.)
A far more 'multi-national' rival comes from the East, where the Japanese Eclipse brand takes a very different approach for its various TD (time domain) models (egVol5 No1), mounting full-range drivers in large alloy 'dinosaur eggs', with hefty integral stands. All is defiantly contemporary in style and metal construction, and therefore represents a complete contrast to the Finnish newcomer discussed in the next paragraph.
The latest brand on the single full-range driver scene is called Existence Loudspeakers, and is imported from Finland by G-Point Audio (headed by our Jazz reviewer Greg Drygala). The Euphoric sits on the second rung of a six step ladder of increasingly large models. It's not exactly fashionable, being a 30 litre stand-mount, nor cheap (£3,000 plus £750 for the stands), but it is unusually attractive because the woodworking involved is quite exquisite, as well as rather different from the norm.
Irrespective of fashion or price, this speaker is a beautiful object, but it also actually works rather well. It's not perfect – no single full-range driver speaker system is, in my experience – but it does work much better than most. Measured under in-room far-field conditions, an almost universal characteristic of these single full-range driver systems is an upper-mid peak followed by a treble roll-off. But perhaps only the Bodnar rivals the Euphoric in avoiding significant upper-mid exaggeration and maintaining the treble output (though it does have some bass tuning difficulties). A more detailed review of this fascinating speaker will be featured our next issue.