Living Voice designer Kevin Scott explains something of his motivation, objectives and key decisions in the development of the Vox Olympian Horn Loudspeaker System.
The Vox Olympian is our premier loudspeaker. It is a complex 4-way horn, designed and entirely hand-made in England using venerable and time honoured techniques. It is unique in both concept and execution.
We have been making horn-loaded loudspeakers since 1990 and in some ways the Vox Olympian is a continuation of this. Sometime during 2005 I started working on an idea for a new design that was purely for my own personal pleasure – an exercise in making a loudspeaker free from any commercial considerations. I was pursuing absolute performance with no intention of making it publicly available in the Living Voice portfolio. However as it developed and matured, there arose an irresistible urge to make it available to our long term clients who expressed interest. This involved production engineering the design – a mammoth task in itself – bestowing it with a quality of fit and finish that matched its musical performance…
If pure and unadulterated musical performance is your objective I cannot see a good reason why you would not choose to use horn technology. It has far greater fidelity, scale, energy and dynamic range than conventional driver loading techniques can even dream of. The very high efficiency of horns has the compound benefit of allowing the use of inherently superior amplifier technology; amplifiers that are concerned with musical values, tonal quality and human expression rather than power output and load tolerance.
There are two considerations in choosing a cabinet material; one is its engineering properties and the other is its influence on the character of the sound – both of these considerations need to be balanced equally. After prototyping numerous materials we chose to use a bespoke fine-ply beech substrate. This is a dense, homogenous and dimensionally stable material that can be worked to very fine engineering tolerances. From an audio perspective it is beautifully benign, neither adding or subtracting anything from the tonal or dynamic aspects of music programme. It sounds human and supple. The mid-range driver, HF driver and horn, and SHF driver enclosure all make use of LG2* bronze. This material has a similarly attractive balance in terms of tone colour, ease of dynamics and natural musicality. By far our preference over all other materials that we prototyped in these applications.
*LG2 is an alloy of 85& copper, 5% zinc, 5% lead and 5& tin.
Its shape and aesthetics are determined by the extensive use of the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence – the natural laws of geometry that are at the heart of the Vox Olympians’ acoustic design. This internal geometry translates directly to the cabinet exterior which by default acquires natural classical proportions.
Of course the Vox Olympians are built to order, and so there are endless choices of woods and finish. However our preference is Macassar Ebony with Amboyna Burl and Anigre Ripple – this combination is a time-honoured Art Deco classic associated with master furniture maker Emile Ruhlmann. This finish compliments the form and proprtions of the speaker as a whole. The craftsmanship by our cabinet makers is second to none. They are based in the UK and are one of only a small number of cabinet makers left today who can produce work of such extraordinary detail, drawing on years of experience from interior decors and luxury yachts.
The crossover is entirely passive. There is the facility to use individual lengths of cable for each driver via the four pairs of binding posts on the back of the cabinet. There are level adjustments for the mid and HF frequencies that allow fine tuning, as well as a facility for the installer to adjust the physical position of the HF and Super HF units to compensate for different room acoustics and amplifier characteristics.
Yes. The Vox Olympian can be used independently or it can be supplemented with a choice of two dedicated subwoofers for full bandwidth performance. These are the Vox Elysian and Vox Basso. The Vox Elysian is the top of the range horn loaded subwoofer and the Vox Basso is a more compact reflex loaded model. Please refer to this page for more information on our sub-bass cabinets.
The Vox Olympian can be partnered with one of two subwoofers, the Vox Elysian and the Vox Basso.Vox Series Subwoofers
The immediate impression is majestic, effortless and of a sheer scale not previously experienced. At the same time, and almost magically, there is a whispered delicacy, nuance and intimacy. As audiophiles and music lovers we see our equipment as a means to achieve a direct connection to the musical experience, to genuinely inhabit music and have it come to life within us. When we are really moved we experience transcendence and this becomes addictive – the Vox Olympian feeds this addiction. Their naturalism and effortlessness allow you to forget the ‘here and now’ and move beyond ‘sound’ into the realm of pure musical experience. Hubble telescope-like resolution allows us to inhabit a complex world of emotional landscapes without boundaries in a way that we have never experienced before. The way the Vox Olympian captures and expresses music is profound and elemental.
During a lifetime of empirical testing and critical listening you develop a library of component technologies from which to draw. All components have a signature, and their sound quality characteristics need to be judged and balanced in the context of the whole. We use different technologies in different applications, and very often we combine technologies to create the results that we are looking for. We use fine recordings with the best and most demanding musical performances when selecting these components; choosing those that ask the most searching and challenging questions during our loudspeaker design process. Obviously this requires a developed musical sensibility and a focus on musical values, rather than simply on strict aspects of sound quality. We want to capture the art of musical performance which can only be achieved by ear. For me it is the best way, the only way, to make an emotional connection and produce something that touches the human soul.
The Bass driver is a 15” unit with a powerful 6kg Al Ni Co magnet assembly and a stiff, light conical paper diaphragm. This driver is loaded through a complex faceted phase plug into the throat of the folded exponential bass horn.
The Mid driver has a powerful 6kg Al Ni Co magnet structure to control a 75mm chemically hardened aluminium diaphragm with integrated former onto which the voice coil is wound. The diaphragm loads to the 300Hz mid-range radial exponential horn through a complex radial phase plug.
The HF driver uses a powerful Al Ni Co magnet structure and a complex phase plug. The diaphragm and former are made from a single piece of vacuum deposited atomised Beryllium. This is a very high tech process that allows the production of a diaphragm with vanishingly low mass and remarkable stiffness and it allows the 48mm diaphragm to operate up to 22kHz.
The Super HF driver uses a powerful Rare-earth cobalt magnet structure, a 35mm vacuum deposited atomised Beryllium diaphragm loaded through a complex radial phase plug into a slot dispersive horn. This unit operates up to 45kHz.
The Vox Olympian is able to deliver its full performance in both large and small rooms. Its even dispersion pattern across its full bandwidth makes room interactions consistent, predictable and easy to control. We have installed Vox Olympian in rooms that are both huge and small, rooms with high reverberant field and rooms with an over-damped acoustic. In each case it is possible to achieve our desired performance objectives by virtue of the inherent flexibility of the Vox Olympians’ design. In most instances our acoustician performs a detailed room analysis, preferably after a site visit, and armed with a set of architects drawings and construction data can provide a detailed specification for implementing an ideal acoustic environment in any room – and this includes those rooms with the most challenging materials and dimensions.
Yes. In fact we do this quite regularly. On the rear of the Vox Olympian cabinet there are 4 pairs of binding posts: one pair for each filter network and driver. So if you were slightly eccentric and didn't mind the real estate you could use four pairs of mono amplifiers - as long as you had a pre-amp that could drive them adequately. This is an unlikely scenario but bi-amping with two pairs of monos is not unusual and can manifest quite considerable joys. It is important to have identical amplifiers: one pair is used to drive the 15" mid/bass drivers, and the other pair is used to drive the mid, HF, and SHF drivers. The benefit is that it separates the more difficult load seen by the bass amplifier, leaving the amplifier responsible for driving the mid, HF and SHF range with an easy and undisrupted life. This improves fine low level resolution, preserves filigree, increases scale and does wonders for overall organisation, particularly on dense programme material.
It is not really about power, it is about quality. For example, using a 30 watt amplifier with the Vox Olympian is the equivalent of using 1.35kw on a 90dB speaker. An 8watt amplifier using just a single 300B power valve, of which there are many beautiful examples, has the equivalent power relationship with the Vox Olympian as a 250watt amplifier driving a 90dB speaker.
Because the Vox Olympian has such a high sensitivity and presents such an easy load the best performance will undoubtedly come from Class A valve (tube) amplifiers: these may be either single-ended or push-pull designs, each has its own virtues. What is for sure is that they do not need to be complicated or powerful. These purist designs concentrate their energies on preserving the instrument timbres and tonal colours in all their natural beauty, while also allowing dynamics to be resolved with ease and freedom.
We have reduced the timescale for completion from 9 months to 5 months, however this can depend on the choice of veneers and finishes – high gloss finishes take at least 8 weeks longer. When exotic veneers are specified our cabinet maker may have to travel throughout Europe to find veneer stock of a suitable size, quality and quantity. If the order includes a pair of matching Vox Elysian subwoofers this challenge is increased.
Yes, there is a 5 year warranty on the parts and electronics.
Installation is an integral part of the Vox Series purchasing experience. Every pair of Vox Series speakers is installed by us no matter where in the world. This process takes 3 or 4 days to optimise the performance of the room. Please refer to our ‘Installation’ page for more detailed information on the process.
They are two branches of the same company, both headed up by Kevin Scott. Further detail on the ‘DA Connection’ page.