David Hart is not your average loudspeaker builder, his creations are never conventional and usually very expensive, but that's because of the way they are made. The latest addition to the range takes that approach to another level altogether, the Aural Pleasure is a solid bronze casting that weighs 50 kilos yet it's only 400mm high without its stand!
You can see the appeal of the material to the dedicated audiophile, and when cast in the curvaceous shape chosen by Hart for the AP, you can see that it has not inconsiderable aesthetic appeal as well. The casting was made by a firm in Basingstoke that usually produces one-off sculptures.
This is a sealed, infinite baffle design by the way, so don't try and find the port as it ain't there!
The internal shape of the casting should effectively kill off standing waves and the lack of flat surfaces means that it would be stiff even if it weren't made of such substantial metal, 22mm thick.
As you might imagine the Aural Pleasure does not sound like most other speakers,
What makes the AP so interesting is the absence of cabinet colouration of the usual variety. This is a colouration that we hear with so many speakers that it's almost taken it for granted, we assume it's part of the record whereas it is, in fact, the sound of wooden panels resonating and adding to the sound, albeit in a fairly euphonic fashion...
One manufacturer, Kiso Acoustic, even takes the opposite approach by using guitar-making techniques in the cabinet, so that the sound is, at least, tuneful. The opposite approach is much more impressive, however. When you take cabinet vibration out of the picture, the sound hits the room with a speed and precision that is quite extraordinary, the deeper the notes the more incredible it sounds. I doubt that even Kraftwerk will have heard their music sound so tight, precisely defined and dynamic. It brings the speed of the midband to the bass and drives the room in a totally visceral yet clean and controlled fashion.
The phrase sonic boom comes to mind as being more apt than most to describe the way tracks by the German bass meisters hit the listening seat. it's not something I've encountered from a speaker of any size before. Dropping Speed Caravan into the mix had me grinning ear to ear, usually their stuff sounds impressive but disturbing because the sound is so compressed and the bass gets wooden cabinets so energised. But with all this power channelled from the drive unit alone you are presented with a clean, clear and immediate version of events that left me breathless and hungry for more.
I was totally distracted by the system for way too long, this is primarily because this speaker is so fast and loves to be played at high levels. There is little or no compression with level, and you can hear right into the mix, whether it be Miles' So What or Gregorio Paniagua's La Folia. The tone of Coltrane's sax on the former is glorious, I guess the speaker's shape and material is not so different to a brass horn. That said you can also appreciate the timbre of the double bass on the track to a far greater extent than usual.
An extraordinary yet idiosyncratic speaker, its bass extension and exposed midband means that you need a powerful, yet super-clean amplifier to get the best out of it. But the fact that it can do things that no other speaker can – and in such a musically cohesive manner – makes it addictive. It's not unlike a Decca London cartridge, dynamic and at times astonishing, once you hear what it can do with your favourite records you forgive its foibles and are converted to the sound of bronze