A Winning Residence
One winter afternoon I answered a call from Warwick Freemantle of Pure Music Group. In somewhat enigmatic fashion Warwick invited me to a warehouse in Surry Hills. I was intrigued, and even more so when on arriving I discovered he’d been visited by a Martion.
The warehouse is the residence of John Winning, entrepreneur, sailor and CEO of century old family business, The Winning Group. The Martion was Basil Martion, a German speaker manufacturer with a penchant for horn loading.
When I arrived Basil was busy tuning in a pair of his Orgon “active 4-way spherical wave horns”. In this installation each “speaker” consists of three gorgeous opalescent white horns (tweeter, mid and upper bass) mounted on dual bass horns, each driven by an 18 inch driver. I didn’t get the opportunity to hear the Orgons properly dialed in but the short listen I had left me in no doubt that they are a speaker capable of astonishing scale and impact.
It is impossible to go further without giving some sense of what John Winning has done with his warehouse conversion. The property features soaring herringbone ceilings, original timber flooring, exposed vintage bricks and ironbark structural columns. The floor space, across two levels, comfortably exceeds 1,000 square meters.
Internally, Winning has tastefully retained the best original features but boldly extended the concept of a warehouse renovation with stylish touches, finishes and lighting leaving visitors in no doubt that this is a money no object dream home.
Downstairs is a large dance floor, or enormous lounge area, where the Orgons have pride of place. The DJ desk from which the music flows has two Martion Bullfrog monitors that can spin around to double as a center speaker when the drop down projector screen is deployed and the room switches to AV mode. Did I mention that one wall of the room is glass, and that it serves as a wall of the swimming pool?
Basil Martion’s speakers grace spaces including Harry’s New York Bar in Hanover, Bar am Lutzowplatz in Berlin, Orfeu Negro Disco in Bieleefeld, FarOut Disco in Berlin and Tiffany Disco in Mannheim, but surely this must rank as one of his coolest installation venues.
If downstairs is cool, the upper level is out of this world. The capacious space is dominated by a giant plastic “cloud” that serves as Winning’s bedroom. Check out the photos because at this stage words fail me. It took chutzpah to even contemplate this “bedroom” and it is pulled off brilliantly.
I eventually tear my eyes away from the cloud and pay attention to the horns on this level, a pair of Martion Einhorns. These elegant devices are a 54cm horn mounted on a cabinet that houses an 18 inch horn loaded woofer – the same used in the majestic Orgons. The bass horn relies on corner loading and in this installation the corners were created by glass “phantom” corners. Both visually and aurally the result is brilliant.
At 118dB sensitivity this is my favourite type of speaker, capable of dynamics and scale that no box speaker can come close to. The Einhorns also image well. More astounding again, and overcoming a typical weakness of horns, they have a decidedly naturally sized presentation, without “upsizing” the soundstage artificially – the price so often paid for the dynamic swing and slam that horns provide.
Even in the space they’re inhabiting, which may as well be an arena and essentially had a wall to the right and no other walls, either behind, in front or to the left, the Einhorns sounded sublime and generated a realistic sound stage. Indeed, although the Organs were not properly dialed in when I heard them, from what I heard I believe I may have preferred the Einhorns in any event.
I heard the Einhorns being fed by a computer. There was no high-end digital transport in the middle. Even with this most minimalistic set up they sounded superb. Imaging, which is not usually a strong point of horns, was precise. Voices were naturally resonant and instruments were rendered accurately. The 18 inch bass horn plumbs the depths with ease, and the horn loading takes care of any concern that such a large diaphragm will sound slow by comparison with the sparkling alacrity of the 54cm horn.
From what I saw, Basil Martion is meticulous about his installations and his speakers offer serious flexibility to cater for user preference. Active crossovers and amps customised for the drivers provide enormous advantages over the suck it and see approach audiophiles so often take with amp and speaker matching. How do the ability to easily tune your setup and EQ to your room, never worrying about impedance and guaranteeing the most efficient possible power handling sound to you? Of course, there are no speaker cables either.
Add to that that the Einhorns can be supplied with an analogue crossover or with DSP, configured with either valve or solid state amps and supplied with either the Orgon Bass Horn (which I heard) or with a down-firing bass driver and you get a sense of just what flexibility Basil Martion and Pure Music Group are offering their customers. This really is a wealth of options otherwise only available to those prepared to DIY.
The Einhorns were at least equal to any other $45K speaker and amp setup I have heard, albeit it was a short listening session and not a detailed audition in my own, familiar listening room. I know $45K is hardly chump change, but for a level of performance only available with the most exotic setups, and with a degree of flexibility that almost guarantees optimal setup for your room and listening preferences, the Einhorns are a veritable bargain. Anyone looking for set of speakers and amps at anywhere near this price point or above simply must make sure they hear a pair.
I would be prepared to trade some body parts for the chance to hear a pair of valve equipped Einhorns in my own home. I can’t shake the feeling that they’d give my Avantgarde Trios and Dartzeel power amp a red hot run for their money. I’m genuinely uncertain as to which would come out on top.
Mr Winning is certainly onto a winner with his choice of audio equipment. That it is being retailed in Australia by Warwick Freemantle of Pure Music Group, who is one of the real gentlemen of Australian audio and always a pleasure to deal with, is a bonus, especially as to get the most from the Martions customers will need good advice on setup and installation and at least a couple of home visits.
I tip my hat to this amazing warehouse conversion and its equally amazing audio installation.