Twenty-Five years young…
By Roy Gregory
Those disappointed by the absence of the Vox horn speakers from the Living Voice room in Munich would have done well to swallow that disappointment, take a seat and enjoy the performance of a speaker they could actually afford. After all, if you can afford the Vox Olympians (or Vox Palladians) you don’t need to visit a hi-fi show to hear them. There’s a purpose built listening room back in the UK where you can enjoy them at your leisure. What Living Voice brought to Munich was the latest version of the Auditorium OBX, the RW4, most recent instalment in the Living Voice story, a saga that started over 25 years ago. But for all of the mightily impressive performance on show in Munich – and despite the modest size and price of the OBX RW4 speakers in the Living Voice system, they still had one of the best sounding and most enjoyable rooms at the show – the subject of this review reaches back further still, to where it all began with the original Auditorium.
Longevity is an increasingly rare commodity when it comes to audio equipment. The lifespan of high-end digital products can be measured in months, while product revisions are seemingly now an annual event – or in some cases necessity – if only to attract renewed press attention or churn the products sitting, stagnant in the retail pipeline. Which is ironic, given that long-term satisfaction really should be every customer’s goal, as well as representing the best possible return on investment. Yet Living Voice’s Auditorium is a loudspeaker that has remained conceptually and outwardly unchanged for a quarter of a century. Not only has it enjoyed uninterrupted production for 25 years, in that time it has spawned the visually identical Avatar, IBX, OBX and OBX RW derivatives – not replacement models but a carefully calculated range, offering clearly defined steps in performance. The original Auditorium cost around £1,500/pr and quarter of a century later, the various models are spread in price from £6,050 to £15,400, yet they are still all but outwardly indistinguishable, one from another. In one sense it is a marketeer’s nightmare but in another it is a powerful demonstration of the power in the original concept.
Although the concept behind and the appearance of the Auditorium series have remained constant, the individual models have also constantly evolved, with changes to cabinet materials, crossover components, high-frequency units and cabling. The last model to emerge, the OBX with its outboard crossover, took almost a decade to appear and since then, it has been through four generational changes. Each and every model in the line has been through a similar developmental process. Imagine if Volkswagen had stuck with the bodywork of the original Golf and simply developed it under the skin. That’s what you’ve got with the Auditorium speaker range – except that in this case, the current models are even more fun than the originals. But also like the various Golfs, they’re all based on the entry level Auditorium model. If the OBX is the GTi and the RW is the R32, it’s still the Auditorium that anchors the range, providing the topological foundation on which all the other models rest: and the Auditorium just passed 25 with a major facelift – and a new spring in its step. Meet the Auditorium R25A, a speaker to engage and excite, surprise and delight. Meet a speaker that, 25-years on, is still delivering exceptional musical value in budget esoteric systems, at a time when high-value and high-performance seem to be mutually exclusive.