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Loiminchay Audio Chagall Loudspeaker Review

December 2, 2008 By Steve Guttenberg



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Loiminchay Audio Chagall

One from the Heart

A friend once asked me what makes a high-end speaker high-end, other than its lofty MSRP. Yes, it's a given they should sound spectacular, but a high-end speaker is more than an appliance, it's a portal of sorts.

A great speaker's presence should communicate gravitas, and I really believe they ought to be admired for their physical beauty.

Enter Loiminchay.

Far too many high-end wannabes are ugly, downright strange or boring monoliths. You are after all, going to live with them, so they should look at least as good as they sound. My pulse better quicken during my first encounter or the speaker won't make it to the second date.

Loiminchay Audio's Chagall's first impression is a strong one, decked out as it is with a complex array of curves and faceted surfaces, it absolutely, positively looks the part.

The Chagall was designed in New York by Loiminchay's President, Patrick Chu. He originally set out to design and build an ultimate speaker just for himself, and three years later decided to offer three limited-edition models—the Degas, Chagall, and Kandinsky—to the cognoscenti market. Loiminchay's artisan workers produce a total of just fifty pairs of speakers each year.

The Chagall's MultiPly Birch Laminate isn't a veneered finish—no, the cabinet is built up from 26 mm sheets, bonded together to form a solid mass of wood.

Once the bonding is completed the wood is carved to create openings for the drivers and the speaker's internal volume. The unique construction method required equally inspired manufacturing techniques, so Loiminchay's workers created their own tools to make the cabinets.

The factory's temperature and humidity are precisely controlled; the workers pamper the Birch and Cherry woods as if they were going to be used to build fine music instruments.

The Chagall is a two-box design; the lower enclosure houses the woofer,and the upper unit houses the midrange and tweeter. The Chagall's top unit is also sold separately as the Degas speaker ($30,000 a pair).

The Chagall's drive units are all edge of the art designs, ergo the ultra-lightweight, yet super-hard 1-inch diamond tweeter's response reaches 40 kilohertz to produce unrivaled texture and nuance in the upper frequencies.

The high-performance 6.8-inch ceramic midrange and 8.6-inch woofer are sourced from Germany, each built to Loiminchay's specifications.

The speaker's crossover network uses German and Danish parts and was designed by Loiminchay engineers. All internal wiring is pure silver. The cabinet's insides are stuffed with lamb's wool from Australia.

The Chagall's 8.6-inch woofer is mounted onto a 1-inch thick concrete plinth, which is, in turn wrapped in leather. The entire woofer/concrete/leather assembly is rigidly mounted to the lower cabinet, all in an effort to damp and control the woofer's considerable energy within the cabinet.

I've never seen anything like it.

The cabinets are finished in sixteen, very thin coats of lacquer (inside and out). Each coat is hand-polished, just as it would be on a piano, and I have to tell you that the lacquer is a sight to behold.

Clear coat and piano black are the two standard finishes. Custom colors are available on special request, but Mr. Chu prefers the clear finish to reveal the intricate craftsmanship of his cabinets.

The speakers are built in Loiminchay's small factory in China that employs 15 craftsmen. Mr. Chu visits six times a year to oversee production.

Honestly, I didn't "get" the Loiminchay aesthetic from looking at photographs, but gazing upon the Chagall in Mr. Chu's personal listening room in Queens, New York was an almost spiritual experience. It's a truly dazzling design.

The sound is at first blush, organic, soulful, not the least bit hi-fi, I was listening to an a cappella CD of The Persuasions Sing the Beatles. The voices emerged perfectly-sized, three-dimensional, and most impressively of all, with a flesh and blood presence.

It was as if I was hanging out in the control room during the Persuasions' recording session, and the Chagall speakers were bringing all the guys—Jerry, Jim, Ray and Jayotis -- back to life. And not just the voices, I could almost hear the Persuasions voices filling the acoustic space of St. Peters Episcopal Church in NYC where the album was recorded. The Chagalls didn't miss a thing.

Next, I popped on one of my favorite jazz CDs of all time, The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn. Recorded in 1958 the music was brought back to life so faithfully that I had to stop to take it all in. The MJQ's piano, vibes, bass and drums were vivid, yet "relaxed" in the way live, unamplified music actually sounds.

I attribute the fidelity, first to the recording itself, then to the Chagall's keen balance and to its superlative diamond tweeter. It's funny, the very best tweeters don't highlight treble detail or "air," no they just go about their business. I've played the ...At Music Inn LP and CD over dozens of speakers over the years, but the Chagalls were among the most natural sounding.

Hard rock wasn't as satisfying with the White Stripes Elephant CD, their best if you ask me. Jack and Meg White's ferocious guitar and drums workouts came through loud and clear, but the Chagall's bass didn't have the control and impact I'd expect.

I doubt it was the Chagalls running out of steam, methinks Mr. Chu's 50 watt tube amplifiers were the prime culprits. I gather he's not a rock and roller. I have no doubt the Chagalls would kick out the jams with a more powerful amplifier, but I did not get to experience that first-hand.

Loiminchay is also known as a maker of luxury quality pens, which are sought after by collectors around the world. I queried Mr Chu about the pen/loudspeaker connection, and he just laughed and said they are both his passions. Clearly, the man doesn't tackle anything without full commitment to do his very best.
 
So yes, I was drawn to the quality of the Chagall's presentation, and its ability to breathe life into recordings was exceptional. The Loiminchay Chagall is visually and sonically, a work of art.

PRICE: $48,500/pair
CONTACT: 212.941.7488, loiminchayaudio.com

 Loiminchay Audio Chagall

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