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The sound of seven million

The sound of seven million

Seven million for an audio system? OK, so it’s seven million Polish Zloty, which only works out at about $1.75m, but even so… it’s hardly chicken feed. This system was one of the highlights of this weekend’s Warsaw Audio Show, and comprised top of the range CEC transport with the finest Kondo Sound Labs can offer in terms of amplification and culminating in a pair of the vast Living Voice Vox Olympian horn loudspeakers met with the similarly huge Vox Elysian bass units.

The loudspeakers are custom made in the UK, take months to build, and end up employing a number of the best ‘lost art’ artisan woodworkers, metalworkers, cabinetmakers, and more. As a consequence, the build quality is off the scale. The Vox Olympian and Vox Elysian are a quiet success story, with an order book stretching far into the future (the burr walnut set were made for an owner who takes deliver after the show). Owning a set of Vox Olympians will set you back the wrong side of $400,000, and the Vox Elysian will cost a cool $250,000 or more. And yet if you ordered a pair today, you’d go on a very select list and receive your speakers probably in early 2017.

It’s our reactions to these little factoids that marks the difference between English-speaking audiophiles and our trans-national counterparts. It’s fairly impossible to mention a $400,000 loudspeaker without ‘kill the messenger’ style opprobrium, blaming Living Voice for everything from destroying the polar ice caps on down, and with that any one who dare mention the existence of such a device. Whereas in Poland, it was all over the local and national TV stations, with a ‘what must it be like?’ discussions. Seven times over, including at least one interview on national breakfast TV – can you imagine a million dollar system making it onto Good Morning America, or a million pound one making it on BBC Breakfast?

Those who attended the show seemed more than satisfied by the sound the system was making, and the large room was always full. This reflects the reaction to a very similar system that was played at Munich earlier this year.

And yet, this never seems to be reflected in reactions to price from forums, with people more concerned in expressing outrage in such profligate spending on audio. They ignore the idea that market forces and not neo-Stalinist proclamations drive what does and does not sell out there in the real world, and that if products like this thrive, then the skilled workers making these products thrive too.

Unless something truly life-changing happens, I will never be able to afford a pair of these Living Voice speakers, and especially not the speakers with the subs. I will never even be able to listen to them at home without some fairly awkward home rebuilding process. But I’m glad things like this exist. Not because they are rich people’s playthings, and not even because of the publicity they brought to the industry during the Warsaw Show. But because they show just what people are capable of doing. They push the envelope, or at least one of the envelopes.

That should deserve some praise, but I suspect the last line of this will be where the hatred begins… 

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