AudioSolutions Figaro L Loudspeaker

Punching Above Its Weight

Equipment report
Categories:
Floorstanding
AudioSolutions Figaro L Loudspeaker

I can tell you exactly what was playing at the moment I concluded that the AudioSolutions Figaro L was a great loudspeaker, and it might surprise you. It surprised me.

Mostly, I use classical music to assess audio gear, less because of the “live, unamplified music in a real space” paradigm than because it’s what I know best. When I was young, I aspired to be an orchestral trombonist (that this didn’t happen makes the musical world today a better place), and I do still get to around thirty performances a year—symphonic, choral, chamber, keyboard, and opera. I’ve published over a thousand classical record reviews, in TAS and elsewhere. 

But one afternoon, after the Figaro L’s had been installed here for a few weeks and were sufficiently broken-in for critical listening, I was struck by a sudden urge to hear 1980s synth-pop. I fired up Tidal and navigated right to my favorite specimen, Madonna’s “Cherish” from Like a Prayer, released in 1989. It was mesmerizing. The rock-solid foundation of Jeff Porcaro’s propulsive drumming and the potent synthesized bass—I assume that the Material Girl’s co-composer and co-producer for the album, Patrick Leonard, was responsible—support a joyous earworm of a melody, surrounded by a halo of churchy backing vocals with the chorus and, throughout, discreet triadic harmonies on keyboards that are continually resolving from dissonance to affirming consonance. The song, the arrangement, and the engineering are pure pop genius that I appreciated as never before with these speakers hailing from the unlikely place of Vilnius, Lithuania. As loud as I cranked it, the music maintained intelligibility, coherence, and logic. I immediately called up other examples of the genre—”Take on Me” (A-Ha), “Don’t You Want Me Baby” (Human League), “Valerie” (Steve Winwood)—and enjoyed myself in a way that’s all-too-rare with canned music. What did the neighbors think? And would Handel, Mahler, and Shostakovich ever be the same?

The neighbors weren’t home and classical music still engaged me when I returned to a Beethoven quartet set I was working my way through. But I’d come to the realization that AudioSolutions has the potential to become a “disruptor” in the small universe that is perfectionist audio.

Gediminas Gaidelis, an acoustic and electrical engineer who, though only in his early 30s, is already greatly experienced as an audio designer, founded AudioSolutions in 2011. During the Warsaw Audio Video Show last fall, I met with Gaidelis in a quiet corner of the Golden Tulip Hotel lobby and asked him what he did before starting his company. Smiling, he answered with one word: “Speakers.” Gaidelis has been building them seriously since he was a teenager and his interest in woodworking and electronics goes back further than that: At the age of five, young Gediminas extracted a couple of drivers from a Soviet entertainment console and installed them in a cardboard enclosure with steel bolts for binding posts. They worked. Before AudioSolutions, Gaidelis had a successful run building loudspeakers for the local Lithuanian market, but the demand for high-performance products costing more than 1000 euros wasn’t great and, after several years of R&D, Gaidelis raised his sights and launched AudioSolutions. He now has six employees and has cultivated significant markets in Poland, Germany, and China, with distribution in a total of 25 countries. Ozan Turan in Los Angeles (High End By Oz) began importing the brand into North America in 2018 and currently supports five dealers in the United States.

In addition to the diminutive Guimbarde—that’s French for Jew’s harp, an odd name for any audio product—AudioSolutions produces four multi-model lines of loudspeakers. In ascending order of price, parts-quality, manufacturing tolerances, and man-hours required for their fabrication, they are the Overture, Figaro, Virtuoso, and Vantage series. The Figaro line includes bookshelf and center-channel two-ways plus a quartet of three-way floorstanders, the S, M, L, and XL models. (Just think of T-shirt sizes.) The Figaro L, the subject of this review, is a substantial box with curved sides measuring 14" (W) x 48.4" (H) x 24.3" (D). The weight is 150 pounds per speaker, though in their sturdy wooden crates that increases considerably. Unpacking and, especially, repacking these babies is at least a two-person undertaking. The Figaro L’s bulk is just one of many factors that make their selling price of $10,000 per pair remarkable. Apart from the cost of getting the speakers from Lithuania to the U.S., it ran Turan $900 to ship the Figaro’s from L.A. to me in Philadelphia.

And that’s without the second set of grilles. Uniquely, in my experience, Figaro loudspeakers ship with two sets of front baffles, one with protective fabric and one without, both manifesting the same “power response.” The enclosures themselves employ a self-locking technique borrowed from Japanese woodworking and are manufactured from a combination of MDF and plywood. Contributing further to the substantial weight of AudioSolutions loudspeakers is their “box-in-a-box” design, partially implemented in the Figaro line. There are three internal compartments within the cabinet, one for the tweeter and one for each pair of midrange and bass drivers. As massive as the Figaros are, Gaidelis maintains that they’d have to be a lot heavier to achieve the results he’s getting without these construction methodologies. To further reduce vibration within the enclosure, natural and synthetic wool are applied and Gaidelis has carefully considered the internal geometry of his cabinets to advantageously reflect and absorb sound.

All the loudspeakers in the Figaro series have drivers sourced from the Danish company SB Acoustics; they are manufactured to AudioSolution’s specifications in Indonesia. High frequencies in the Figaro L are handled by a 1" silk dome tweeter with “mini-horn” loading, thanks to an integral waveguide. Above and below the tweeter are 6" ER paper cone midrange drivers (the “ER” signifies “extra rigid”); a pair of 9" woofers toward the bottom of the cabinet completes the driver complement. The speaker is ported to the rear. The crossovers use different slopes and topologies for different parts of the frequency spectrum; it’s described cryptically by Gaidelis as a “complex phase and acoustical phase-linear crossover with minimum delay.” For non-EE types such as myself, it’s enough to know that the design is asymmetric, with crossover points at 400Hz and 4kHz. The frequency range handled by the midrange drivers is exceptionally wide, the goal being to reduce crossover distortions in the critical midband. Sensitivity is rated at 92dB and the L’s nominal impedance is 4 ohms.

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