I am sure, that when I would ask an aspiring music lover a difficult question, from the area of loudspeaker building – “What is the main characteristic of the loudspeakers manufactured by the German company Gauder Akustik?” – the response would surely be the continued usage of ceramic Accuton drivers. Yes, those porcelain based, white, mesh covered (to protect the fragile membranes) are the hallmark of this brand. But this is not the whole truth, as when you take the time to have a closer look at their catalog, in its lower parts, we will find a few products, where the sound is generated by speakers with aluminum diaphragms. I am talking about the Arcona series, which, after many years of market success, gained a new version. This introduction of the new version resulted in the current test of the newest product from Gauder Akustik, the Arcona 100 Mk II, provided by the Katowice based distributor RCM.
Looking at the attached pictures of the Arcona 100 Mk II and confronting them with the previous version, you can immediately spot two differences. First, and most important one, as it very much determines the sonic characteristics of this version, is the replacement of the AMT tweeter with an Accuton one. The second one is only visual, giving the loudspeaker a more coherent look, as all the drivers were painted in the same color as the cabinet – black. Looking at the construction of the cabinets themselves, their sides are still curved, going from the front baffle to the back. They were also painted in glossy black, adding a tad of nobility to the design. Talking about technicalities, we have here a three-way construction, where there are two bass drivers at the bottom, a single midrange driver and a the mentioned ceramic tweeter on top. But that is only the front. The back is mostly rounded, but to place the single wire terminals and the socket for bass amount adjustment – a wire jumper is used for this purpose – there is a flat place designed in the lower part of the cabinet. Finalizing the description of the looks of those speakers I cannot omit the information, that the loudspeakers are standing on four spikes as standard, but you ca use a small upgrade (which is actually quite big in sonic terms, but about that in a moment) by exchanging those spikes for spiked aluminum feet, which also extend the support base of the speakers.
Before I move to the main part of the review, there is important information I need to share. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there was a part, that I checked with my own ears. What am I talking about? Well, the test had two versions. The first one, using the spikes supplied with the speakrs, was short and had only the purpose of comparing the sound of the new to the old Arcona. But still it did happen and I will start my description with that. So how do I rate that approach? Good. And this not due to the cosmetic improvements of the produced sound, but by being offered a very even sound, and this time with a less bloated lower part. The bass was not as dominating as with the previous version, but acts as support to the rest of the sound spectrum. Is it a pity? You do not need to worry, the constructors thought about everything, and if you need more lower registers with the Mk II, you can increase their amount using the jumper. But I was very satisfied with the tonal balance proposed by the tested speakers, as it was by far not anorectic, but knew when to support the other parts of the sound spectrum by appropriate oomph. That was the case on the standard spikes. However things got more colorful when time came to bolt-on the feet extending the loudspeaker base. What does this mean? You may not believe that, but music gained a lot of brilliant volatility. This was no more an act of thoughtless reproduction of notes, often forceful, but building of an airier virtual stage, which never assaults the listener. In short, the sound got a shot of vitality, something very pleasant, what directly translated into higher pleasure of listening to music. Of course I do not claim, that the first attempt was a failure comparable only to the middle ages, but I am slightly exaggerating the effect to show you, what was the direction and amount of change. From my end I must confess, that once I heard, what difference was made by this upgrade, when I would be buying them, I cannot imagine listening to music in different configuration. Why? For once because many interesting reproductions of music, which require from the loudspeakers good vitality and close to the real world suspension in the air of the reproduced notes from small baroque ensembles. But not only those, as this kind of reproduction is also expected by many contemporary genres, headed by jazz. So if you listen to that kind of music, I am absolutely convinced, that even a tryout of the better loudspeaker support will result in buying this additional upgrade. But OK. This is my opinion about the changes introduced by this accessory. But how was it with certain music? Here things are easier. From the very beginning the portfolio of Gauder Akustik was associated with coping well with heavier genres, what was again confirmed by Metallica and the concert disc “S&M”. And that not only in case of reproducing a well-constructed wall of sound – I always listen to this disc quite loud – but also due to increasing the openness of the reproduction, what increased the impression of being there, on the live event. It was a little different, but equally good, with electronic music. This one cannot reproduce the reality of a live event, as it was generated in computers, but due the mentioned openness of sound, it is filling the space between speakers completely. The low frequencies were strong, saturation of the midrange was good and it was more expressive on the top end, compared to the older version. Why more expressive? Well, this was clearly shown by my beloved jazz. I am talking about the reproduction of treble as presented in the context of cymbals. With the AMT tweeter I had always the impression, that the cymbals are made from a too thin metal sheet, I would even say, from metal foil, which can be moved by the slightest breeze. Seemingly everything was there, but it was strangely aethereal and thin. Yet in this case we are dealing with a piece of heavy, thick, round metal, what was ideally shown by the Accuton tweeter. How? It was just that with each hit of the cymbal you could hear the resistance it poses to the drumstick, what translated into a bigger amount of the wood making up the drumstick in the sound and its more noble decay. I know, those are nuances, but they are very important to us, and this is the reason I am talking about this so much. Of course you cannot forget about the influence of the better stability of the speakers on the projection of the sound picture in jazz and classical music. Compared to the older version it was like upping the threshold one notch, or translating this into something more comprehensible, it improved the placement of the sounds in the ether, what in jazz, playing with silence, as well as sacral pieces needing cooperation with the churches’ interiors is very important, if not to say, necessary.
I do not know, how deep are the changes to cross-overs done during the overhaul made by Roland Gauder, the owner of the brand and the main designer of the speakers in one – the tweeter you can just see – but the new version of the Arcona 100 Mk II is much better than its predecessor. And this is not just cosmetics, but as you can see from the text above, those are hard things, that allow us to enjoy our music in a more faithful way. Is this an offering for everybody? Frankly speaking, I see no counterindications for anyone. Of course, if someone is focused on paper drivers’ sound from speakers like Tannoy, or tubes like Avantgarde Acoustic, then that person will probably not decide to buy the tested today, sleek and rounded German speakers. However I think that even such person, when listening to the Arcona will appreciate their attempt at showing a world full of energy and swing, and this is what music is about.
Well, they say never the same river twice, but it cannot be denied, that faith is deceitful and can tangle our paths in such a way, that the past catches up with us, or history is making a full circle turn and we start where we left off. This kind of coincidence, similar in its unexpectedness, happened with the tested loudspeakers, as on one hand it became a reason for my private retrospection, and about that in just a second, on the other, it was a great example of how we can observe evolution within a given brand, something we mentioned in our last publication. But first things first. In terms of retrospection – the readers who follow my writing most probably noticed something that happened in December 2018, when I changed my Gauder Arcona 80 for the Dynaudio Contour 30. The 80 were great, and I have very good memories about them, but the Danish speakers offered “bigger” and livelier sound, what, taking into account my musical taste, was just bulls-eye. But one and a half year have passed and in the meantime Dr. Roland Gauder showed a second generation of his catalog opening Arcona to the world. A generation, which in the times of “cost optimization” is not only surprising, but seems also to be a splendid example of the mentioned brand evolution and at the same time reference to my past speakers. So to not prolong this introduction too much I invite you to meet the loudspeakers placed one notch above the 80, the Gauder Arcona 100 Mk II.
It cannot be denied, that besides a slight change of the name, which could indicate only some kind of face-lifting, the new installment of the Gauder kept only the general shape of the cabinet and placement of the drivers from its brethren, everything else underwent a certain revolution. Let us Focus on the visible things first. The cabinets are the same as before, there is nothing to tell about. They are made from 22mm MDF and the side walls are rounded and flow together at the back. The three 7” drivers in the front, using X-Pulse membranes, went to the dark side of the force, with which I mean, that the diaphragms were changed from milk white to satin black. The two lower drivers reproduce bass, while the third one is responsible for the midrange. On top there is the tweeter, and in fact it is the cherry on top, because instead of the, otherwise very good, AMT, the Arcona Mk II feature a new ceramic driver, designed with Accuton, covered with the characteristic mesh. The change of the tweeter needed a change in the cross-over, but please do not worry. There were no savings there and we still have a fully symmetrical topology with a 50dB/oct. slope, based on Mundorf components.
Another novelty is a jumper, allowing to modify the amount of lower frequencies, which is located above the single WBT Nextgen wire terminals, we know already from the previous version. This solution is known in the higher Gauder models and seems to be a logical step towards the full unification of the company offerings, and might be a foreshadowing of things happening in the Mk 3, where hopefully we will see classy porcelain Accutons instead of the polymer coated aluminum midrange and bass X-Pulse drivers. But enough of those wishful thinking and foretokens, it is time to stand firm on the ground, where there are things happening too. As usual with the Gauder, at least with most models, the bass-reflex port is blowing to the floor, and besides the adjustable spikes, there is an option to use the so called Spike Extension, which increases the stability of the speaker, and, according to the company materials, allow for even better control of the reproduced sound spectrum. Due to the support of the Polish distributor, the Katowice based RCM, we were able to test the manufacturer’s declarations during the test, because we received the standard spikes as well as the optional extensions in the delivered package.
In the Katowice listening room the 100 played for only a dozen or so hours, I added almost a week to this runtime before starting with critical listening. And in addition we immediately mounted the Spike Extension to be able to spot changes compared to standard spikes. Why this way round? The reason is blatantly obvious – every regress is perceived much stronger than progress, and thus it is easier to catch any assets and nuances we are deprived of, when going back.
Now returning to the black tested speakers, from the first sounds of the energetic album “Aequilibrium” from the Italian, progressive power-metal formation Noveria, it was clear, that the new version of the “budget” Gauder is absolutely not afraid of the harder sounds and feels in such murderous, for the human senses that is, climates fares like a fish in the water. Even without the jumper set to increase the amount of lower notes, the bass is going down very low, and at that, it was in great balance between a truly iron-hand control and pleasure provoking roundness. Due to that the ecstatic drum passages of Omar Campitelli supported by Adrea Acangeli violently stroking the strings of the base guitar could enchant with their diversity, and not flow together into a formless pulp. Also the juicy and full of epic bombast guitar riffs of Francesco Mattei did not need to be ashamed of anything, as each and every time the Gauder made every effort to show their richness and Dream Theater like virtuosity. The important part is, that in this merciless wall of sound, there was no trace of chaos. Each, even most broken melodic line, had sense, every accord was in put into context, and the vocals do not exist for themselves, but were part of the whole. Frankly speaking, I was most afraid of the top end, as the AMT used to date in the Arcona seemed not only a good, but an ideal choice. And in some way I was right, as “seemed” was in this case key, and the exchange of the yellow harmonica to the porcelain cone brought the Arcona to another level of resolution and refinement. If someone expected the dulling, attributed to the Accuton, or the “deficit” of airiness of the stage, then I am sorry – not this time. Dr. Gauder knows the Accuton like no-one else, and it is worth noticing, that the drivers applied in his speakers are often especially modified. Of course you should not expect the same kind of freedom and shine like in the much more expensive Vescova Mk II, equipped with diamond tweeters, but the direction of the modifications introduced by the constructor is in that way.
Changing the repertoire to something quieter showed the German floorstanders from a surprisingly lyrical perspective. The still warm, full of moody, mellow sounds bathing in electronic sauce, only about fifteen minutes long EP “Bedroom EP” Selah Sue sounded extremely coherent and dense. The loudspeakers immediately “disappeared” from our listening room; they just plainly dematerialized, like classy monitors, and we remained there with the music. The matte vocal sound of the singer was not the result of the way the speakers presented it, but from the native timbre this red-headed vocalist has. It was similar with the even more rough sounding Barb Jungr, who, on the disc “Hard Rain [The Songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen]”, can be very harsh on systems reproducing sibilants somewhat too enthusiastic. Yet with the Gauder in the sound path, the mentioned singer was treated with appropriate attention, but without crossing the thin line between palpability and aggressiveness.
The ability to reproduce lower frequencies was tested by our on call disc “Khmer” from Nils Petter Molvær, where the synthetic bass reached levels, where the devil is saying “good night” and even with the blinds open, there is darkness everywhere. Additionally those truly infrasound, ambient movements did not disturb the rest of the sound spectrum, where the acoustic guitar of Roger Ludvigsen and the leader’s trumpet reside.
A small change, placing the speakers upside down and changing the Spike Extension to standard spikes and turning them back to the proper way … and ouch. No, this is not bad sound, as the character of the speakers remained, but telling the truth, everything lost motoric and resolution. I can easily say that the sound “sat down” and the timing, which was ever present to that moment, disappeared somewhere. A repeat of what we just listened to showed, that you can live with the sound, but you should not reach to far back with your memory, to how the 100 played with the optional supports on.
Things improved the following day, when the comparison was not so direct and fresh. People say that time is a healer, and probably here this became true, as the trauma I felt the previous day disappeared. However if you would agree for a listening session with the distributor, I would warmly encourage you to have those Gauder speakers equipped with the Spike Extension. Then you will be able to hear the full potential of the speaker.
The Gauder Arcona 100 Mk II are big, three-way, floorstanding loudspeakers, so no repertoire is able to shake them. And they are absolutely better than their, very good on their own, predecessor. This gives them credit of trust from the start, which they not only did not spend, but even extend with other assets coming from the use of a ceramic tweeter and redesign of the cross-over. So if you have appropriately sized listening room and a high current, or just strong, amplification, then you should have a peek at the tested speakers just from curiosity.
System used in this test:
– CD transport” CEC TL 0 3.0
– DAC: dCS Vivaldi DAC 2.0
– Reference clock: Mutec REF 10
– Reclocker: Mutec MC-3+USB
– Shunyata Research Sigma CLOCK
– Shunyata Sigma NR
– Preamplifier: Robert Koda Takumi K-15
– Power amplifier: Gryphon Mephisto Stereo
– Loudspeakers: Trenner & Friedl “ISIS”
– Speaker Cables: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC RCA: Hijri „Million”, Vermouth Audio Reference
– IC XLR: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
– Power cables: Harmonix X-DC 350M2R Improved Version, Furutech NanoFlux NCF Furutech DPS-4 + FI-E50 NCF(R)/ FI-50(R), Hijiri Nagomi; Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord
– Table: SOLID BASE VI
– Accessories: Harmonix TU 505EX MK II, Stillpoints ULTRA SS, Stillpoints ULTRA MINI, antivibration platform by SOLID TECH, Harmonix AC Enacom Improved for 100-240V, Harmonix Room Tuning Mini Disk RFA-80i
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
– Acoustic treatments by Artnovion
Drive: SME 30/2
Arm: SME V
Cartridge: MIYAJIMA MADAKE
Phonostage: RCM THERIAA
Step-up: Thrax Trajan
Price: 37 850 PLN
Construction: 3-way double woofer bassreflex loudspeaker system
Impedance: 4 [Ohm]
Power Handling: 270 [Watt]
Dimentions (H x W x D): 114 x 21 x 39 [cm]
Weight: 29 [kg]
Finish: piano finish black and white