There’s a single pair of copper WBT NextGen binding posts close to the bottom of the Figaro’s rear panel. The side panels, available in 17 colors, have a sexy high-gloss Xirallic finish, and the remainder of the loudspeaker is coated with a black polyurethane paint mixed with powdered stone for a texture that’s luxuriant, both visually and to the touch.
One miscalculation that Gaidelis freely admits to was the lack of adjustable spikes in his original design. Figaros sold in Europe have simple round puck-like feet. “I thought the speaker would be quite stable on a hard surface,” Gaidelis told me. “I completely forgot that, in some countries, there’s a tradition of having carpets everywhere. And thick carpets.” Ozan Turan had a Cypress company, called Custom Isolation Products, design substantial outrigger structures for all the Figaro models. Two heavy steel bars running perpendicular to the front-to-back axis of the speaker screw into the threads intended for the original feet and four massive spikes screw into the bars from below, with caps to accept the posts as they emerge from the top surface. The purchaser is provided with steel cups to accept the spikes’ points if the Figaros are deployed on a wood or tile surface. In my room, the spikes readily pierced the carpet and underlying acoustical pad to achieve firm contact with the concrete slab below, which was sonically advantageous.
As the Figaro L’s are two feet in depth and a rear-ported bass-reflex design, I had concerns that they’d need to be placed at some distance from the front wall to avoid low frequency bloat—and that, as a result, the front plane of the speakers would encroach unacceptably upon the listening position in my 225 square-foot room. I should not have worried. Oz Turan assured me that Figaros did fine when located close to a room boundary—in fact, he told me that one of the Figaro XLs set up in a 13' x 15' hotel room at RMAF 2018 was actually touching the wall with no ill-effect. I listened to the Figaro L’s with both solid-state and tube amplification, and with analog and digital sources. [See Associated Equipment.]
For nearly two months with the Figaro L’s as my primary loudspeaker, I was continually amazed by how such physically large transducers could effectively disappear. This was especially evident with small ensemble recordings where the goal was to put the performers in one’s room, such as the late David Wilson’s Abel/Steinberg Brahms/Debussy/Bartók violin sonata program. The scaling of instruments with well-made chamber music recordings—the Hanson Quartet’s recent two-disc set of Haydn quartets or my old standby for assessing this sonic parameter, Paavo Järvi’s account of L’histoire du soldat—reflects reality. There was no exaggeration of instrumental size, especially if the recordings were played back at an appropriate volume.
Timbral accuracy was gratifying. With a 2019 release of the Canadian woodwind quintet Pentaèdre performing arrangements of Mozart string quartets, the distinctive color of each member of the ensemble—flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn—were faithfully represented, as was the characteristic blend of these five voices combined. The rich, mellow sonority of divisi violas and cellos at the outset of the Ruhevoll movement from Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, as heard on a 1967 Philips LP with Bernard Haitink leading the Concertgebouw Orchestra, achieved the calming (but not soporific) effect that the composer was surely going for.
The Figaro L’s were revealing, both in terms of uncovering meaningful musical detail and demonstrating differences in recording technique. It was easy to hear that guitar doubles the pianist’s right hand melody on “LTMBBQ” from Wayne Horvitz’s Sweeter Than the Day album, as well as the contrast between the very “wet “ acoustic chosen for Artur Pizaro’s performances of Ravel’s keyboard music for Linn Records and the much drier one heard on Matti Raekallio’s Prokofiev piano sonata CDs for Ondine. Todd Rundgren recorded every instrumental and vocal part on the first three sides of his classic gatefold LP Something/Anything, this at a time when overdubbing wasn’t nearly as easy to do as it is now. The Figaros let one know when Todd actually brought this off (usually) and when his efforts to function as a one-man band were less than fully convincing.
Dynamics were impressive, as with the aggressively miked acoustic guitar on that audio show favorite, Nils Lofgren’s “Keith Don’t Go.” The ability to resolve the most complex scores was excellent, the cacophonous third movement of Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth, a 2020 Grammy nominee for Best Engineered Classical Album, being a good example. The image specificity and soundstage reproduction on my usual reference for large ensemble spatiality, Haitink’s recording of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 15 for RCO Live, was pretty much what I hear with my usual Magicos. Low frequency-wise, bass was without overhang. Orchestral weight was satisfying, and deep organ pedal notes, such as those heard on the live recording of the Saint-Saëns “Organ” Symphony performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the 2006 inaugural concert of the Dobson instrument installed in Verizon Hall, support the veracity of AudioSolutions’ LF specification of 25Hz. If you want your pant legs to flap, you’ll need a subwoofer though you will risk wrecking the wonderful top-to-bottom balance of the Figaro L. Pant leg flapping is overrated, anyway.
This honor-roll-caliber sonic report card notwithstanding, I’m not, please note, maintaining that the AudioSolutions Figaro L is the Best Speaker on Earth. First of all, I’ve not yet had the opportunity to hear Gaidelis’ top models and then there are the many justly admired brands that I am quite familiar with. My Magicos reproduce music with a speed, refinement, and complete lack of coloration that brings life to recordings of all genres. Likewise, Von Schweikert, Wilson, YG, Rockport, and others build loudspeakers that manifest—for lack of a better word—an organicity that the Figaro L doesn’t quite achieve. But not for $10,000. And this is what I meant earlier when referring to the Figaro as a “disruptor.” Eastern Europe is a part of the world where the artisanal skills and engineering chops required to design and manufacture world-class loudspeaker flourish in an environment where the costs of production are significantly lower than in the West. The Figaro L’s punch well above their considerable weight—if, by weight, you mean their sticker price. They are, by a wide margin, the best speaker I’ve had in my listening room costing $10k or less, and if your budget is anywhere close to that you should find your way to an AudioSolutions dealer, or at least make it to one of the several audio shows to which Oz Turan plans to bring Figaros this year.
With the Figaro L’s scheduled for pickup, I wanted to hear something special to remember them by. My choice was a 1980 album that I once couldn’t get enough of, Frontline, by a band called The Elevators. The Elevators were from Western Massachusetts but became quite popular around Boston as the New Wave movement gathered momentum. They had the same instrumental lineup as another Boston band, The Cars, and like that group, wrote short catchy songs with stop-and-go rhythms and quirky lyrics (“Love is like wearing a Rayon shirt/ Making me itch and making me sweat”). But, unlike The Cars, it was one and done: There was no second Elevators album. If there was a CD version of Frontline, I missed it, and it’s currently not being streamed. So, as impulsively as I called up “Cherish” on Tidal, I found my copy of The Elevators’ only album and cued it up on the VPI for the first time in 25 years. The songs crackled with the same off-kilter energy I recall my younger self being so addicted to, and my mood brightened. Was I surprised? Not this time.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Floorstanding, three-way, bass-reflex
Driver complement: 1x 1" silk dome tweeter, 2x 6" paper cone midranges, 2x 9" paper cone woofers
Frequency response: 25Hz–25kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Dimensions: 14" x 48.4" x 24.3" without outrigger/spikes
Weight: 150 lbs. each
Price: $10,000/pair (steel outrigger bars with 4 spikes adds $650)
LT-09109 Vilnius, Lithuania
Digital sources: Oppo BDP-103 (transport), T+A DAC 8 DSD, Baetis Reference 2 music computer, MusiCHI SRV-01 server, Ideon Master Time re-clocking platform, Synology DS1813+ plus DX 513 NAS file storage
Analog source: VPI Scoutmaster and JMW Memorial tonearm, Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III cartridge
Preamp/processor: Anthem D2v
Phonostage: Audio Research PH2
Power ampifiers: Pass XA 60.8, Pass Aleph 0s, David Berning Quadrature Z
Loudspeakers: Magico S3 Mk2, Magico S1 Mk2, Magico S-Sub
Cables: Transparent Gen 5 interconnects and speaker cables, Cardas interconnects, Shunyata Anaconda USB, Ideon USB, Revelation Audio Labs AES/EBU, Transparent Premium HDMI, Apogee Wyde Eye SPDIF, Pangea AC-1 45E power cord
A/C power: 20-amp dedicated line, Transparent Ultra PowerBank