TL-Audio Open Doors 31.1.2009

By Keijo Tanskanen

Tapani Lappi has typically had a high-end set-up from the heaviest class, despite of changing components quite regularly. For business it is anyway much more reasonable to demonstrate more moderate priced systems. Lately Tapani has arranged his open doors event independently from the other audio happenings, just because he has not found any real benefits of the synchronization. Also he has thought that it is quite necessary to have new products for demonstrations. This time three new products were presented: Acapella 5th Avenue Mk II and Audio Physic Sitara speakers and Burmester 082 integrated amplifier. All of them were listenable, but as a part of different systems.

Just a short time before this event Tapani had got brand new Sound Lab Majestic 845 electrostatic speakers for his best set-up. I got a quick listening session with them as well. Although the Sound Labs were not burned-in the first impressions were nothing but extremely promising. By help of these speakers Tapani will obviously get listening results which are quite near what the set-ups with Acapella Triolon Excalibur and Wilson Maxx 2 speakers have delivered in TL-Audio’s listening room. A deeper analysis needs naturally another visit.


Acapella 5th Avenue Mk II was a very interesting speaker with its quite special construction: midrange woofer and tweeter were directed up and bass woofer down. The other two speakers, Burmester B-25 and Audio Physic Sitara, had more conventional construction. All of the three speakers had Burmester front end and Transparent cabling, but from different price class. Naturally this consciously made decision caused that a direct comparison between the speakers was impossible to do very accurately. Also it is good to know that this kind of demonstration will not enable optimal placement for speakers and this may cause remarkable reductions for performance. Anyway, I suppose that at least the most intrusive sonic differences existed because of the different speakers.

First set-up:
Acapella 5th Avenue Mk II speakers
Burmester 001 CD player
Burmester 036 mono blocks
Transparent Reference XL MM2 interconnects
Transparent Reference XL MM2 speaker cables

Second set-up:
Burmester B-25 speakers
Burmester 061 CD player
Burmester 082 integrated amplifier
Transparent Music Wave Ultra MM2 interconnects
Transparent Music Wave speaker cables

Third set-up:
Audio Physic Sitara speakers
Burmester 052 CD player
Burmester 051 integrated amplifier
Transparent Music Wave Ultra MM2 interconnects
Transparent Music Wave speaker cables

Tapani played mainly CDs which I frequently use for testing (George Duke: After Hours, Stanley Clarke: The Bass IC-Collection, Diana Krall: Love Scenes…). This and an easy exchange of set-ups helped greatly making an analysis. After an hour listening session the most of the results were already booked. Actually the differences were uncommonly clear.

I’ll begin from the third set-up which had Audio Physic Sitara speakers. This set-up delivered quite an average performance, especially when compared to the other two and more expensive set-ups. Clearly the strengths of the sound were a very good balance and some kind of indistinguishableness. The ability to create very live-like sound staging, which is usually an overwhelming feature of AP speakers, was a bit more limited than I expected. I suppose that the limitations in a speaker placement caused this, at least mostly. I noticed couple of more or less subtle aberrations as well. Probably the most intrusive ones were slight rumbling and the lacks in control and clarity. Of course it must be strongly pointed out that Sitara is dramatically cheaper than the other two speakers (approximately 1/3 of the price of Acapella and Burmester) and that the front end was less expensive. Also Tapani and Hifiguru told that the Sitara was less burned-in of the three speakers. So, it is (again) unfair to give very hard judgement, and actually it would not be necessary at all when taking account the price of the system. Sitara set-up delivered a good performance for its price and I believe it could have been remarkably better if the vendor-recommended speaker placement had been possible and in-burning had been finished.

The second system had Burmester B-25 speakers. The sound was very powerful especially in bass. Treble was quite clean and it also had aggressiveness which suited very well for my taste. This set-up was clearly at its best when more dynamic and bass-rich music was played. When I said this to Tapani, he said just being thinking the same! Sound staging was very stable and quite dimensional. Still, when comparing to the sound of reference set-ups, there were numerous sonic features which could have been bettered.
For example the midrange was “only” averagely clear, and the coherency from bass to midrange and from midrange to treble could have been better. But still it was a pleasure to listen to the music, and actually that is what really matters. The over-all sound of this set-up reminded a lot what the Burmester 995 Mk II set-up delivered in TL-Audio over a year and half ago. When compared to the other two set-ups, this one delivered the most focused sonic picture, the best treble and by a short margin the punchiest bass.

The third set-up had Acapella 5th Avenue Mk II speakers and the most expensive front end. From the very first seconds it was easy to notice that the sound was unconventional, almost totally in a positive manner. It was accurate, enormously immaterial and airy. Also one could take a seat almost everywhere in the listening room and enjoy the music. There was no serious sweet spot at all! This is a tremendous benefit especially when numerous listeners are in a room. The coherency was also excellent all through the delivered bandwidth. I was faced with slight limitations of the speaker (very likely because of the speaker) when I analysed frequency extensions of both ends and a maximum punch of music. Of course the frequency response rolled off clearly earlier and the limits of dynamics was easier to achieve than for example in the case of monstrous Acapella Triolon Excalibur set-up which I listened to some time ago. The soundstaging was also tremendous. If I had not seen the speakers, I could have easily thought that there must be really big speakers behind the phenomenon. But there was a slight lack in the focussing. I tried to localize the players, but it was quite challenging all the time. So, naturally the reference class stayed still unreachable (the dependency of price and quality is relevant here as well) but a very special listening experience was achieved instead.

The Audio Physic Sitara set-up was clearly demonstrated under unfavourable circumstances. I think this caused that it couldn’t make me very impressed. I am quite convinced that Sitara can give satisfaction for numerous audio enthusiasts if it will be located in an appropriate listening room and the vendor-recommended speaker placement can be done. The Burmester B-25 set-up will have my very high recommendations. It had remarkably high quality sound and it could not be beaten by the other set-ups in some sonic features. Anyway, Acapella 5th Avenue Mk II set-up was a winner of the visit and earned my highest of the three recommendations. The appearance of the 5th Avenue was beautiful and it can be taken as a piece of high quality furniture. That is why I suppose that 5th Avenue Mk II will also have an acceptance of women. This is very rarely done by high-end components! The over-all sound of the 5th Avenue Mk II set-up had numerous excellent features and the listening results were superior to an average performance. Despite of lacking last bits of accuracy and impressiveness Acapella 5th Avenue Mk II set-up achieved easily the level of high-end by its flattest of the three performances. Besides this 5th Avenue set-up delivered a tremendous sonic picture which might well remind a real 5th Avenue!