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Loudspeakers | floor-standing

Horn Acoustic

Manufacturer: HORN ACOUSTIC
Price (in Poland): 12 000 euro/pair



Provided for test by: HORN ACOUSTIC


Established in 2017 in Poznań, the HORN ACOUSTIC is a result of collaboration between Messrs Rafał Szczepaniak and Marek Kostrzyński. The manufacturer wants to specialize in loudspeakers and horn speakers. For now, they offer only one model - VIVO, that we received for a review.

n the beginning was the Word:

We are a Polish company that manufactures horn speakers. Currently, we offer the Vivo model and we have developed the low-midrange driver for it ourselves. (…)

Rafał Szczepaniak
Horn Acoustic

It was a short email asking for a review. Since we try to review as many interesting products as possible, and Polish products prepared by small businesses have absolute priority with us, there could be only answer:

We will be happy to review your loudspeakers – it so luckily happens that we are currently planning an issue dedicated to Polish products. (…)

Wojciech Pacuła
„High Fidelity”

Mr. Rafał arrived with the speakers on one of those incredibly warm and stuffy days - it was only in the evening that a heavy storm came over Krakow, which cooled the city a bit and gave people a moment to shake off dullness. He brought the speakers in his car, without boxes, because otherwise they would not fit. This is a sight that I know almost by heart, probably all audio companies start this way. And another characteristic element is the commitment of the owner of the company and hunger for success. It's a good sign, otherwise it wouldn't work out, because the audio industry is extremely inhospitable to beginner producers.


One of the strategies that allows such small businesses to appear on the hi-fi map is to propose something different from the mainstream, and at the same time known enough not to create an impression of a newcomer from space. HORN ACOUSTIC seems to be perfectly located in the middle of our ecosphere - on the one hand it proposes horn speakers, which is rather rare, and on the other hand ... horn speaker is a solution known since the air was moved for the first time by the vibrating membrane moved using electric signal in the world's first loudspeaker.

The "horn loudspeakers" used for the Vivo model, currently the only one in the Horn Acoustic offer, is not exactly precise term – a membrane of only one driver is actually loaded with a horn, i.e. the tweeter. It is a compression driver with a Mylar membrane with a diameter of 1.75" and a neodymium magnetic system. And it is loaded with a large tractrix horn. The horn was made of epoxy resin, and the driver was mounted in a large, rigid cylinder on the upper baffle of the mid-woofer cabinet.

The second driver in Vivo, i.e. the mid-woofer, works in a classic housing, vented with bass-reflex. This does not mean that it is an ordinary unit, because it was made by Horn Acoustic. This is one of the characteristic features of new Polish manufacturers - if possible, they design the drivers for their constructions, because only then can they be sure that they will meet their requirements.

The W10.8 driver is a 10-inch “underhand” woofer - the whole coil moves in a magnetic field. The driver will perform very well in relatively small rooms. The parameters of the W10.8 transducer have been optimized for enclosures with a size of about 50 - 70 liters, in this volume the driver will work optimally.

The driver has been designed and manufactured from scratch according to our uncompromising assumptions. Ultra-linear bottom suspension, coil, ferrite-neodymium magnetic system, coated cellulose membrane, reinforced aluminum basket, rubber top suspension, made by a reputable German manufacturer. The whole is completed with a perforated dust cap.

source: company materials

Let us add that the W10.8's membrane was covered with a coating used by violin-makers - such coatings are intended to suppress the membrane's own vibrations and improve its rigidity.

In this way, what we have is basically a classic, two-way passive system, whose distinguishing feature is, however, a large size horn placed on its top. Why bother so much? Mr. Rafał points out that they wanted to achieve high sensitivity and high, stable impedance. That's why they designed their own driver, which they assemble themselves, that's why they used a horn. And the horn is important also for another reason: due to the drastic increase in sensitivity, the diaphragm of a driver loaded in such way almost does not move, which results in much lower distortions of the driver, and it operates in a linear range.

And that's why at the end of the second decade of the 21st century we still come across such solutions - they still have the advantages that help them find their supporters. Usually, these supporters turn into fans and then into followers. There is something in the sound of such designs that we can't get with any other. The owners of the Avantgarde Acoustic, Acapella Audio Arts, Klipsch, JBL, Blumenhofer or Polish: hORNS by Auto -Tech speakers know that very well.


WOJCIECH PACUŁA: When did you start the Horn Acoustic?
RAFAŁ SZCZEPANIAK: Formally it was established in 2017 – that's when we participated in the Audio Video Show 2017.

Who is we?
Me and Marek Kostrzyński – he has the most knowledge in the company. We've known each other for years - Marek helps me with technical matters, the rest I do alone, including production. Marek has a great ear and we have similar tastes, so we play well together (Marek Kostrzyński is the main technologist of the Pylon Audio company, responsible for the development of the Pylon Audio Emerald - ed.).

So informally the company operated even before that?
Yes, we started already in 2012. The history of the Vivo design is quite long - we started with a three-way speaker, but we gave it up. It turned out that it would have to play in really large rooms. A larger cubature was needed, a greater distance from the listener, so that the acoustic sources could properly match together. So we stopped this project and decided to prepare two-way, passive speakers.

One of early prototypes – still a 3-way design

Vivo was in development for many years because we were in no hurry - we improved everything that we didn't like. We designed the bass / midrange driver ourselves, from scratch. We prepared the lower suspension, we bought the upper one, we glued the membrane ourselves - it is a sectional paper membrane - we assembled it all and checked different types of each of these elements. There were some prototypes out there before we found what we liked.

What about the tweeter?
It's a product of Italian company RCF, that this year celebrated its 70-th anniversary. It is the ND-350 model with neodymium magnet and Mylar membrane.

And the horn?
We designed the horn ourselves, we also make it ourselves. This is a gel coat cast, which is a variety of yacht resin. The crossover is also of our design - it's a key element. Although it is quite simple in itself, because we advocate simplicity in audio.

Why did you use horn?
In my opinion – and Marek agrees - the horn has features unattainable for an ordinary driver, that is: speed, low distortion - the diaphragm almost does not travel at all - the sound of the horn is palpable and saturated. Of course, I'm talking about a well-tuned horn :) And the efficiency - we wanted it to be as high as possible. In Vivo it's around 92 dB. The impedance drop is small, the minimum is around 8 Ω, and nominally it's a 10-ohm design.

What system did you use when fine-tuning your speakers?
We use the Ancient Audio AIR CD Player, Conrad Johnson ACT-1 preamplifier, and power amp of our own design featuring 845 tubes in the output.

Which means it is a tube system?
Yes, we do believe that tubes are the best way to amplify audio signal :) ▪

Vivo were meticulously made and feature a neat form. Their appearance evokes the Ascendo and Langerton speakers. They are finished with high gloss black lacquer, the tweeter tube is also black. At the back you can see a bass-reflex outlet, very short, resembling a lousy hole.

The resonance of this system was set at 40 Hz. There is also an aluminum, round nameplate, with Aucharm loudspeaker terminals made of gold-plated copper with carbon fiber body. The whole stands on four steel spikes.


The speakers were delivered and set up by the owner of the company. As he said he prefers them set up in such a way that their axes cross behind the listener. This was the case here too - after a short listening session he placed them so that their axes crossed around 1 m behind the listening spot. The listening room in which they were designed in has a surface of 25 m2, but Mr. Rafał was sitting in his place bit farther away from the speakers than in my place. As usual, it turned out that they sound best when placed in the same place where my reference loudspeakers, Harbeth M40.1, are always placed. Manufacturer drives them with tube electronics, but my Soulution 710 transistor amplifier turned out to be a perfect partner for them. I think they should rather be partnered with powerful amplifiers, with good current efficiency.

Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

  • Art Pepper, Intensity, Contemporary Records/Universal Music Japan UCCO-5114, “Jazz The Best Legendary 150 | No. 114”, CD (1957/2006)
  • Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Darkroom | Interscope Records 60257750155, CD (2019)
  • Dire Straits, Dire Straits, Vertigo/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-40008, Platinum SHM-CD (1978/2013)
  • Dominic Miller & Neil Stacey, New Dawn, Naim naimcd066, CD (2002)
  • Frank Sinatra, Nice’n’Easy, Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity UDCD 790, „24kt Gold Collectors Edition”, Gold-CD (1960/2002)
  • Diana Krall, The Girl In The Other Room, Verve 0602498620465, SACD/CD (2004)
  • Novika, Tricks of Life, Kayax 013 CD (2006)
  • Yes, The Yes Album, Atlantic/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15903, “7 inch mini LP”, SACD/CD (1971/2014)

The Vivo sound in such a radically different way from what I know from other horn loudspeakers, at least from majority of them, that the initial expectations - unrestricted dynamics, sound impact, richness of metal cymbals - are disturbed in the first dozen or so seconds of listening. This is not a slow process of moving away from assumptions, but a sudden jump to a completely different platform.

The Polish loudspeakers sound warm and dense. I am almost certain that while tuning them designer excluded such terms as: "hissing", "bright", "clamorous", "light", "dry" from the equation, and if they did appeared, they were not used in the same way as they usually are. Because there is nothing bright about their sound, no shadow of exaggeration in presenting details. They sound, in truth, in a similar way to the classic speakers from the BBC "school", including my Harbeth M40.1.

So they present the vocals beautifully. Frank Sinatra from the Nice'N'Easy, the version prepared by Mobile Fidelity before they started to release SACD discs, on a gold CD, had a large volume, was clearly in the front, and the velvet timbre of his voice was simply captivating. Similarly, I mean incredibly natural, sounded the Art Pepper's Intensity. Recorded for Contemporary Records by Roy Du Nanna, it sounds intensely but without any internal "bristling". Polish loudspeakers built up a bit of tension between individual instruments, glued them together a bit, but also perfectly reflected the natural fluidity of this recording.

Pepper's album also showed me something that I expect from horn loudspeakers, ones of high sensitivity, but which is not imposed by Vivo, but appears only when it should: dynamics. These designs hide that feature a bit, but when needed they do hit listener quickly, accurately, with a dry slam, immediately encapsulated by "body" of sustain and decay.

That's what happened on Pepper's album, and that's what I also heard on Diana Krall's The Girl in the Other Room. Krall's album is definitely not as good in terms of sound quality as the Intencity, but it is still a good recording. Vivo presented the internal tension between the instruments, built a large, dense and deep soundstage and fantastically conveyed the Antony Wilson's guitar. The vocal was presented in the front, quite close to me, just like Sinatra's before.

Only once I heard something like that at home also with horn loudspeakers, large, floor-standing JBLs, namely they took out the room from the equation offering a sound as if I was sitting with big headphones on. It was the same sensation of tangible sound pressure, as opposed to "interior sound", as is usually the case. Interestingly, these loudspeakers do not require listener sitting still in optimal position - they kept a stable soundstage even when I was moving my head left and right. The center of the stage moved when I was doing it and the edges remained stable - really cool!

As I've said, it is a warm, dense, full-blooded sound with incredible dynamics and a tendency to emphasize the foreground. When looking at the large woofer used in them, this should not come as a surprise. The system was tuned low and the idea was to play BASS! This is the kind of loudspeakers that do not exaggerate with the low tones performance, these do not hum when they are not there, but when fed with deep bass from the amplifier, they pick it up and saturate, refine, complement it.

That's way the albums I usually use in my test, such as: Laurie Anderson's Homeland, Tricks of Life by Noviki, Silence by Aquavoice, or New Dawn by the Dominic Miller & Neil Young sounded so beautifully. Billie Eilish' When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? sounded really well too. The sound was low, soft, pulsing, with well-defined, quiet vocals in the middle. It is one of the most important features of these speakers - they indicate the size of the sound sources very well, without enlarging them. Whatever is in the front is bigger, but that's exactly what one can hear during live performance.

These speakers simply offer a very mature, nice performance that one can spend many hours with, whatever the preferred music genre is. However, it is worth remembering that the selected solutions also define what is appropriate for this particular design. For example, you have to sit a little further away from the speakers than when using classic constructions. They build a stable, large foreground in front of us, close to us, and thus require a further perspective from which one should listen to them.

They are also not – interestingly - particularly selective because they are focused on fluidity and warmth of the presentation. Therefore it is not an open sound. The bass goes low, with good control, but it does not go as low as with my Harbeths and is not defined so well. They require our attention, it is difficult to listen to them in the background - they generate sound pressure that encloses us in their "bubble" of sound and emotions. And they require expensive accompanying electronics.

| Summary

Vivo are horn speakers that do not really sound like ones. They use the advantages of this technique, such as speed, palpability, immediacy, and bypass the flaws associated with it, such as brightness and sound coloration. Their tone is focused on a lower midrange, and its upper part, in the range - between 2-3kHz seems calm and withdrawn. That's why no recording sounded unpleasant. But this is also why it is not a sound that could be called "open".

This is quite an expensive and surprising design. Surprising for two reasons, the first of which was described in the previous paragraph, and the second is related to its maturity. It's a great sound, which many companies achieve only after years of trials and experimentation, and some never get there. The Horn Acoustic company has a lot of work ahead of it - they must now think of a whole series of speakers with a coherent concept and sound and only then one will be able to say whether Viva was the so-called "golden shot" or an introduction of something bigger. Here and now these are world-class speakers offering high-end sound.

Specifications (according to manufacturer)

Nominal power: 15/150W
Nominal impedance: 10Ω
Minimum impedance: 8Ω
Frequency range: 35-20 000Hz
Sensitivity: 92dB/1W/1m
Dimensions (W x H x D): 310 x 1300 x 360 + 115mm
Weight: 43kg/pc.


Reference system 2018

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC