The more time you spend in and around the audio industry, the more apparent it becomes that some companies are noisier than others, forever trumpeting a new model, a new technology, or a ground-breaking advance – each and every one guaranteed to transform your system, your listening pleasure, your very existence… It’s almost as if they believe that sufficient sturm und drang will overcome both market resistance and any shortcomings in their products.
In stark contrast, you’ll also start to notice companies that seem intent only on the immediate business at hand, concentrating on designing and building product, while believing that those products will speak for themselves. It’s a refreshingly self-effacing approach, but the risk is that excellent products struggle to achieve the reputation and sales they deserve, while customers miss out on potentially superior performance. Of course, that’s partly why magazines exist: one of their functions is to redress that balance, drawing attention to unsung excellence – and you don’t get many companies that blow their own trumpet less than Vienna Acoustics.
Founded in 1989, Vienna Acoustics has become a byword for quiet excellence, with a reputation for producing beautifully crafted and subtly distinctive speaker designs. Conventional at first glance, look a little longer and you’d soon discover that there was nothing ‘me-too’ about Vienna’s products. They follow neither fad nor fashion – and that includes eschewing the current trend for stratospheric pricing. The Music reviewed here is the company’s flagship, a substantial and elegantly engineered floorstander, with each cabinet weighing in at a grunt-inducing 82 kg and displaying exemplary standards of fit and finish that many a high-end manufacturer can only dream about. They also display six drivers in a four-way topology, all but the ScanSpeak super-tweeter being in-house designs sporting proprietary technology and including the company’s signature, flat-faced dual-concentric mid/treble unit, housed in a pivoted and tilting ‘head’. Even the crates they arrive in are a significant cut above the norm, from the material they’re built out of to the product identity plates screwed to their lids. But as impressive as The Music is in physical and aesthetic terms, it doesn’t prepare you for the sheer scale, power, and musical impact of their performance. This isn’t just a flagship speaker because it’s Vienna’s most expensive product: it’s a genuine flagship performer when compared to the competition. Everything about this product quietly proclaims its quality and attention to detail, yet The Music costs £21,000 per pair. Any product that really does deliver the performance benefits of a specialist audiophile atelier producer, at a price-point more commonly associated with global mass-marketeers like B&W or KEF, is worthy of both considerable respect and closer attention.
One of the nice things about The Music is that it wears its technological heart proudly on its sleeve. One of the first things you notice about The Music are the “spoke patterns” on the drivers, the flat diaphragm on the midrange unit, and that pose-able head. Together they encapsulate exactly what sets The Music (and Vienna Acoustics) apart from the crowd – and what makes this speaker such an astonishing performer. Let’s start with the bass drivers. Dissatisfied by the trade offs between the colouration levels of older cone technology and the dynamic gains but harmonic losses of new generation materials, Vienna set out to develop their own material, finally settling on a proprietary (and decidedly unfashionable) mix based on TPX thermoplastic and polypropylene that they dubbed XPP. This delivered the excellent thermal stability and self-damping required for low colouration and rich, natural harmonics, while the creation of the unique, ribbed ‘Spider’ cone, complete with radial buttresses, provided the essential stiffness required for good dynamic and phase response, so long the Achilles heel of plastic cones.