Mono & Stereo Richard Weiner
"My first room display at AXPONA 2019 could have been my last.
Destination Audio, my friend Joe Jurzec promised, was as good as its name: a series of products intended to stop our neurotic search for improvements. Get the horn-loaded Vista speaker, a pair of the company’s Type 45 or Type 50 tube amps, one of their tube preamps, and climb off the merry-go-round of tiny steps forward and back. Quit worrying about the newest, most exotic, or novel twist of audio engineering. Settle down and enjoy your music collection.
At this year’s AXPONA, Destination brought a new, smaller speaker, the NiKA. In this context, smaller is a comparative term. NiKA is an imposing four feet tall, two feet wide and two feet deep. There’s a 16” cone woofer in a ported box (the Vista has two, in a horn-loaded enclosure), a big metal horn loading the midrange driver, and a smaller treble horn. It’s finished handsomely, but the NiKA will not be confused with a lifestyle cube you conceal on the ceiling.
Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Ozawa/Chicago, Sony 69100) would be perfect to rattle the hotel room’s walls, right? I had it in my bag.
But I know Sam Wisniewski, who designed NiKA. He’s from Warsaw, and he loves Chopin. And who should play it but Artur Rubinstein? I passed over a set of the Nocturnes (EMI 64933).
We often forget that a concert grand piano is nine feet long and weighs a half ton. If you walk down the halls at a hifi show, you hear attempts to reproduce the sound of this instrument coming from book-sized speakers. The little boxes give cues, and your mind provides the body and heft of the real thing.
The Destination NiKA gave me Rubinstein, his Steinway and Chopin, all more authentically than I had heard it at any other show, and perhaps anywhere else. I didn’t have to imagine the size of the instrument, or its tonality. Rubinstein’s precise keyboard work was conveyed as it was recorded.
This was one of those musical experiences that don’t come along very often. I caught Sam’s eye to show how impressed I was, and he made a gesture on his forearm: the performance was giving him goosebumps.
I heard other speakers this big elsewhere at the show. They all cost more, but none was as coherent from top to bottom, and none even came close to this level of musical satisfaction"
Drew Gagliano The Audio Beatnik
“... While the room sounded impressive when playing back a digital source, this combination of room and equipment excelled when playing vinyl. When Art switched to some of his favorite records, I immediately thought to myself, “These speakers were made for vinyl”. They had an airy, effortless, and rich presentation that drew me in and kept me glued to my seat. Thoughts of visiting the next room faded away, as I quickly became captivated by how realistic they sounded. The NiKA horns had accurate tonal balance, with a wide and deep soundstage that allowed me to see right into the music. They were simply stunning... “
Myles B Astor Audionirvana
“What caught my ear here was what the speakers don’t do. The Nikas didn’t have that veiling and brightness commonly heard with horns. Yet the Destination Audio Nikas still had that aliveness and presence that horn lovers oh so treasure”.
"It was possibly the best executed classic horn system I've ever heard. It was certainly the most beautiful"
"Everybody should hear this system before they die"
"Destination Audio doesn't make stereos. They make art"
"I love tubes and horns. So naturally, when Jason and I were dividing up rooms, I leapt at the opportunity to cover Destination Audio, a company rumored to execute tubes and horns well, even in small hotel rooms.
We listened to the Kings Singers' "The Boxer," and I marveled at the depth of the soundstage and how, through such towering speakers, this beautiful male a cappella ensemble filled but did not overpower the limited-size room. Afterwards, we listened to "Ode to Billy Joe" by Patricia Barber, and the amount of detail and variation in each "snap" left me wanting more. As I'm listening, Greg Roberts of Volti Audio—another maker of horn speakers I deeply adore — happens to sit next to me. It's a beautiful thing when you see a show exhibitor take a break to sit down and enjoy another designer's offerings. As I dragged myself away in hopes of staying on schedule, I thought to myself, "what an exceptional way to start the final day of Axpona."
By Jana Dagdagan from Stereophile.com
I can’t say that resting on my opinion alone, everyone was talking about it. I was three floors away when I heard the praise and made a beeline for the elevators.
...that really stopped me in my tracks was the Destination Audio system. Headlined by their larger-than-your-refrigerator hand-crafted speakers, the sound in this room was absolutely intoxicating. These three-way designs are exceptionally sensitive and can be driven to 105dB at one meter with only 1 Watt. Each pair of these massive speakers takes about six months to build and the love that is put into them can be easily seen and heard.
Destination was also responsible for the lovely tube preamplifiers and power amplifiers driving these monster speakers. In spite of running a bit warm of neutral, the system was incredibly transparent and natural. Collectively, it offered a lush sound with some of the most intense imaging and stage depth at the show. You could almost reach out and touch the instruments in the room.
"Those immense horns that were being powered superbly with only 1.5 watts per channel were simply breathtaking in their sound and otherworldly in their soundstage. I first walked into a live recording of Johnny Cash and thought I was on the stage with him. It takes the gentleman who owns the company and his five man team literally six months to build a single pair of these magnificent speakers. I made no less than three trips back to that room just to listen to various musical selections played back through the horns and sat in near disbelief at the sound that came out of them. The richness of the sound, the depth, and immense air of the notes as they surrounded you were simply breathtaking. If it possible for anything to be said to be a bargain at $95,000.00 a pair. I am currently looking into selling body parts I can get along without to fund a pair of these but sadly, realize I will never have the means".
By far the largest of the speakers in this segment of our coverage, not toDestination_single2R.jpg mention the heaviest, the Destination 3-Way Horn Speaker is also, not surprisingly, the most sensitive at an astonishing 105 dB specification. Theoretically a 2-watt amplifier could cause permanent hearing damage within 5 minutes with these speakers! But a speaker system like this isn’t at all about sheer loudness. The advantage of overkill construction like this is, at nominal sound pressure levels, the drivers are well within their most optimum parameters of operation, which means this system will be extremely linear at normal loudness levels. The dynamic peaks will also not be truncated or compressed at all, so you get the full impact of the recording. Distortion should be almost entirely absent in a design like this. In fact, the Destination 3-Way Horn Speakers were being powered by the 1.8 watt Destination Audio tube amplifiers, and were cruising along with more than enough headroom. The speaker design resembles some of the classic speaker components of the past, with a Klipsch Jubilee-esque low-frequency horn (the cabinet part of the speaker) and a Bi-Radial horn of the type conceived by Don Keele Jr. in 1980 and used on a number of subsequent, highly-regarded JBL speakers. Even though such large speakers were crammed inside such a small hotel room, they still sounded great. Although, I would imagine they could do quite a bit better in a larger room. The Destination 3-Way Horn Speakers are very expensive, but considering a set are handmade using old-world techniques taking 6 months to produce, and uses customized drivers, it should be regarded as a lifetime investment, and as such, look to be priced appropriately.
However, it was not the only flawless system with files in the main role – Destination Audio is a tiny Polish “boutique” company. The sound that I heard from its horn speakers was outstanding. Niemen’s voice that I know inside out was incredibly natural. Additionally loaded low midrange did not spoil anything, but added realism to the whole thing. That was incredible pleasure!
Horn speakers with a wooden Destination Audio midrange horn. It was possible to achieve this effect thanks to company electronics with 45 tube power amps (1.5 W per channel!), and also – perhaps above everything else – Entreq cables and conditioners. A lot of wood, tubes and a fantastic effect.
"Destination audio with complete SET tube front end and legendary horn speakers, which reminded a little of the 2360 JBL Constant Directivity horns. Unlike the case of FM Acoustics, where the room was a bit too big for the set-up setup, Destination Audio was certainly too small for these huge horns. This did however little to the experience. Destination Audio showed what makes a really good horn loudspeaker, to make synonymous very fine details so audible and tangible that one could even ask yourself, if that does not even go beyond the resolution of a very good headphone. And neither was it a Polish company, which until then was unknown to us, and which astonished us."
"Destination Audio mit komplettem SET-Röhren-Frontend und sagenhaften Hornlautsprechern, die ein wenig an die 2360 JBL Constant Directivity Hörner erinnerten. Anders als im Fall von FM Acoustics, wo der Raum für das gespielte Setup etwas zu groß erschien, war bei Destination Audio der Raum sicher zu klein für diese gewaltigen Hörner. Das tat dem Erlebnis aber nur wenig Abbruch. Destination Audio zeigte, was einen richtig guten Hornlautsprecher ausmacht, nämlich auch allerfeinste Details derart hörbar und erlebbar zu machen, dass man sich mitunter sogar fragen durfte, ob das nicht sogar über die Auflösung eines sehr guten Kopfhörers hinausgeht. Und weder war es eine uns bis dahin unbekannte polnische Firma, die uns zum Staunen brachte."
"Odetchnijmy na chwilę od słuchawek, ale nie od lampowego stylu. Bowiem system stworzony przez Destination Audio to ekskluzywne brzmienie w najlepszym lampowym wydaniu. Oparte o triody 45 a nie 300B i wobec ich małej mocy całe z głośnikami tubowymi, które uważam za najlepsze. Nie tak, jak to najczęściej widujemy, że tuba to głośniki wysoko i ewentualnie także średniotonowy, ale również z tubowym basem, zmieniającym postać dźwięku.
Z zachwytem rozpisywałem się o tym brzmieniu i nie będę tego powtarzał, ale niezwykle pracochłonne głośniki tubowe za grubo ponad dwieście tysięcy i dedykowany im tor lampowy, na czele z dzieloną na cztery sekcją wzmocnienia, brzmią tak fenomenalnie i tak bezpośrednio wkładają słuchacza w muzykę, że warte są każdych pieniędzy. Tym większy tytuł do chluby, że wszystko to polska myśl techniczna, dzięki czemu z podniesionym czołem stawać możemy naprzeciw najlepszym głośnikom i torom zza każdej granicy i zza każdego morza. Gdyby mnie było stać, taki tor stałby u mnie. Chyba więcej nie muszę mówić?"
Relacja Piotra Ryki z wizyty u Destination Audio