Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, once said in a speech, “The sidelines are not where you want to live your life. The world needs you in the arena.” Arthur Marker, Founder of Arya Audio Lab, was once a staff at the “Audio Tuning” and “Acoustic Validation” departments of Apple respectively in 2015 and 2016 under the leadership of Gary Geaves, who was once the head of R/D at Bowers and Wilkins.
I wonder if Tim Cook knows Arthur has done something extraordinarily outstanding in the field of audio - the Air Blade is cutting edge technological tour de force tweeter with 180 degree dispersion capability from 1khz to 20khz. There is no voice coil, and hence no inductance behaviour warranting linearities. It is easy to drive because efficiency is high at 95db. The ratio of the visible diaphragm to the active area that moves the air is 1:8 for Air Blade versus 1:1 for dynamic driver and 1:4 for Air Motion tweeter. In my opinion, this is a big deal, very big deal. The technical mastery of it dwarfs all competition.
The air blade is NOT a super tweeter. Let me repeat again, it is NOT a super tweeter. It is a tweeter. And why do I need an extra tweeter when there is a pair in every speakers? In the case of Cessaro Wagner Silver Signature at AE Sheung Wan showroom, there is a TAD 2001 tweeter behind the golden horn. Without the air blade, there is only ONE best seating position to embrace the full glory of the system. As frequency reaches higher and higher, directivity becomes stronger and stronger. The narrow dispersion characteristic of existing tweeter technology restricts the optimal listening position to a single point. Performance of the system thus varies tremendously with respect to different seat position.
Now that the air blade comes into play game-changing the whole listening experience because it augments the existing tweeter by beefing up off-axis responses up to 180 degree with minimal rolloff. The change from complete emptiness to full enrichment of off-axis tweeter responses is equivalent to the change from the optic of a small window to a panoramic cinematic soundscape. With the air blade, now I can comprehend Sophie Mutter was indeed playing the “Schindlers’ List” theme song by her Lord Dunn Raven violin made by Stradivarius. Because harmonic of the Lord Raven could radiate 180 degree with energy. The tiger roaring quality of the violin described by Mutter is now better understood.
Likewise, the presence of the cello made by Amati performed by Daniil Shafran was palpable due to 180 degree radiation of energy akin to a real cello. Indeed, I could fully “see” the size of the Amati cello is slightly smaller than normal consistent with descriptions in literature. Under the magic fingering of Shafran, there was no hint of the Amati cello lacking power. Without the air blade, I could not tell the size of Amati cello is smaller. Instead, It is likely to be described as larger with warmer mid range under the orthodox audiophile language. The addition of air blade to the system game-changes the realism of all musical instruments immensely.
The impact on electric guitar is equally stunning such as Jimmy Page performing in the last few minutes of “Stairway to Heaven” The theme of Stairway to Heaven kept on unfolding into more layers and moods. The composition overlay kept opening up through its passage on every emotional and musical level. With the air blade, his Fender Telecaster (Led Zeppling Studio Recording) radiated in an intricate manner of “all hell broke loose”. The whole room is filled with musical energy everywhere penetrating into the body and mind. Without the air blade, the kaledescopic layer of mood collapsed into a monochromatic desert. This was an unforgettable listening experience to my core group who had lately pay a visit to AE Sheung Wan showroom.
Integrating the Air Blade with the Cessaro Wagner is conditional on: (1) the crossover point, (2) the volume level and (3) physical placement of it. The crossover point of the 2-way Wagner Silver Signature is around 3,500hz , which is where the TAD tweeter starts taking over the job from the mid/bass driver. During the first week, I set the volume level at full volume of 0db. My logic was dictated by the specification. Wagner has a sensitivity of 98db, whereas the corresponding sensitivity for Air Blade is 95db, 3db lower than Wagner. That was why I set the volume at 0db. I was attracted to the reproduction of violin and cello in the first week. Harmonics simply radiated everywhere. Imaging was even more solid as I could easily trace the originating focal point of whatever energy within the sound field.
In the 2nd week, I applied Argento FMR jumper and Esprit Gaia speaker cable (especially designed for tweeter application) to the system. The agility of attack improved markedly when I played JEFF BECK’s master sound vinyl. However, I began to feel the tweeter drawing more attention than it should be. I started experimenting pushing the physical location of the Air Blade towards the back wall (behind the speakers) by 1/4 of an inch. It worked for some music but didn’t work for others. Eventually, I figured out my logic of following the specs to integrate the tweeter and the main speaker was not holistically correct.
The cruz of the issue is that the air blade always radiates more energy than the tweeter of the main speaker because the former generates air 180 degree whereas the latter generates energy in a very narrow angle. As a result, I decided to reduce the volume to -3db from 0db. The harmonious relationship restored immediately. However, the top end lacked some sparkles and the tiger-roaring posture required by the Lord Dunn Raven violin was inadequate at some musical passages. The finishing touch was then by gradually moving forward the physical placement of the Air Blade by 1/5 of an inch, towards the listening position this time, until it clicked with my sense and sensibility. I was very happy. This iteration took me 3 working days to figure out.
However, this was not the end. If existing tweeter technology misses so much off-axis energy and resolution, isn’t it better the augmentation to start earlier the better? Why am I crossing so high at 3,500hz? Pavarotti in his prime, produces most of his sound with third harmonic, just one octave lower at 1.4 kHz. Do I have to strictly follow the spec?
To cut a long story short, the optimal crossover frequency in my system for air blade is 3,000hz instead of 3,500hz. ( I could lower it to 2,500hz, and even 2,000hz but overlapping on-axis was obvious.). This is where I achieved the most harmonious relationship between it and the main speaker. It also confirms the transition point from the low/mid to the tweeter of the main does not exactly occur at 3,500hz. It is very likely the mid/low driver begins rolling off earlier at around 3,200hz.
Groundbreaking original work has to be recognised, in my opinion. It is also of my own experiences knowing well the stress of staying at the leading edge is often compounded by rigidity of peers’ mindset to new ideas. The high end audio industry has tremendous deficit in where true credit must be due. I am doing my little part of endorsing young talent like Arthur Marker.
To borrow from Tim Cook again, he said “There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers. Steve Job never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.”