Audio Physic Cardeas
With Burmester Reference Electronics

by Keijo Tanskanen


Autumn 2009 was a hard one for me. I just had too many other and more important activities than audio, so I could not write as many Highendnews articles as I hoped for. Also I could not visit all the events which I wanted to. Because of this I ranked the events and only the most interesting one was done. I got to know that Audio Physic had released a new speaker, Cardeas, and it was going to be introduced at Hifiguru during their open doors. The most important event was found.

Hifiguru’s event was limited to one day only. Because I was unable to make my visit at this time I did it the day before. Hifiguru had arranged their listening room so that two separate set-ups were presented, naturally both purely from the high-end class. I listened to the Acapella Violon Mk IV set-up last year and the listening experience was nothing but rewarding. Although a new BelCanto front end was included and I was slightly curious about the changes in the sound I had to pass this set-up.

Afterwards I heard that many of the visitors had liked the Acapella set-up over the Cardeas set-up, for example because of its further neutrality and its overall ability to deliver more natural timbres and tone colours. Actually this did not surprise me at all, but the inspections must also be done a bit more deeply, widely and if possible also more objectively. Besides these more or less miscellaneous listening results it is good to know that Acapella Violon Mk IV is much more expensive than Audio Physic Cardeas (26.750 euros against 17.990 euros). Referring to my previous experiences of the Violon Mk IV set-up I think that the game was certainly not so clear what it seemed to be at first sight for someone. On the contrary it could be more or less preference dependent, once again.

The system consisted of brand new Audio Physic Cardeas speakers, Burmester’s 069 CD player, Burmester 077 preamplifier and Burmester 909 stereo amplifier. Interconnects and speaker cables were Bertrams and a power conditioner was Burmester 948. During the event Clearaudio’s vinyl equipment was also demonstrated.

The look of the presented set-up was nothing but stunning. The Burmester 909 amp was really enormous; I mean it was huge and exceptionally good looking! Hifiguru’s excellent listening room did not have any new acoustic treatment; instead the speakers were located nearer to the back wall than usual. The arrangement was done because of the two set-up demonstration. In my opinion this kind of speaker location reduced only minimally, or even not at all, the quality of the sound.

Burmester 909: This is AN AMP!

Audio Physic has always manufactured great speakers, especially when taking into account the relationship between price and quality. Having launched the Avanti V, Audio Physic had a tough call to make a new model to beat it. Finally they did it. The name of Caldera's successor was Cardeas. For this model Audio Physic brought a great amount of new finesse and complexity such as a new cabinet construction, new elements and four-way operation. Already the specifications reveal that hard engineering had been done.

Audio Physic Cardeas: A Master of Revelation!

It took a moment to get into the sound. I don’t know if this was because of warming-up and/or finding a proper amount of volume (loud enough!). Anyway opening the full sonic world took a while. Once found I had such a great time that two hours passed quite imperceptibly. I listened to numerous personally well known CDs and at the end of the session Hifiguru played a couple of his favourites as well. These samples also worked very well and actually confirmed my results. As a whole the session was very effective and every music sample gave its individual added point for reviewing.

After having slightly conflicting listening experiences of the Audio Physic Caldera in different kinds of listening rooms about five years ago, I was relieved to notice that the bass of the Cardeas was much drier, more accurate and clearly more extended. Caldera delivered a bit too much energy in the certain region of bass which caused remarkable difficulties in fitting it into smaller rooms. Additionally the bass of Caldera was not particularly extensive for its size. Now with the Cardeas there is no such problem at all. The bass extensions were great and absolutely wide enough. Even the lowest tones of organ had a good sense of energy, although they were not quite as impressive as for example in the case of the Kronos. Anyway the bass extension was the field where the Cardeas and its front end beat even my Watt Puppy 7 system, but it must also be said that my system is still ahead in bass definition and dynamics. Well, belonging to the second best group in bass accuracy is definitely not a shame, actually it is an achievement!

The midrange was more difficult to evaluate as a whole. On one hand it had excellent transparency, clarity and dynamic features but on the other hand there were slight signs of coloration as well. This was not necessarily purely in the area of midrange because upper bass had generally the same sonic characteristic which can also be referred to as the slight con in cohesiveness (evaluated later). I would still say that in its demanding price class the Cardeas is a great and quite neutral speaker in this area as well but surely it is not among the very best speakers I have heard, which also are typically much more expensive.

The treble was where the Cardeas shone most distinctively. The benefits of the Avanti V development seemed to be successfully utilized. I just could not find any remarkable flaws and the result was comparable to the very best treble performances I have heard. Only, the highs in some music samples and timbres might have a bit too much energy, but it is quite hard to prove this was caused by the system/treble unit and not by samples. Naturally the silver cabling of the set-up and even the other front end components may have some influence on this phenomenon as well. Anyway, I truly appreciated the treble performance and for example the sound of the cymbals and bells were tremendously delivered, clearly better than the Caldera and Kronos set-ups ever did and actually better than most of the high-end set-ups I have heard so far.

I can imagine that it has been really difficult to develop a high quality cross-over for this kind of four-way speaker. Although the four bandwidths were very well clued to each other I could still notice a slight lack when the whole audio bandwidth was analysed in a manner of tonal coherence. I could find sub-bass and treble having a slightly different kind of nature than upper bass and midrange. Well, this kind of tiny compromise will be widely made for compelling reasons even in the case of much more expensive “no-compromise speakers”. This may sound bad but actually is minor. I mean, typically one will find an integration of a separate subwoofer much more problematic, easily leading to much more disparate results!

Audio Physic speakers have always been admired because of their soundstaging features. The Cardeas even seemed to extend this reputation, at least with this kind of front end. The sonic picture was hand touchable transparent and dimensional, just an exemplary presentation. Also focusing and imaging were on the level where only the reference speakers and set-ups stand. It was simply very easy to locate the players, instruments and their scale. When compared to my memories of the sound of the Kronos and Caldera set-ups I would bet that the soundstaging features of this set-up had more clarity and definition. Are you surprised?

You may have heard a credo “no loss of fine detail”. Well, this may sound like just a phrase but when talking about Audio Physic speakers it is actually the truth. Resolution of the Audio Physic speakers has always been on a very respected level and even more so with the Cardeas. The amount of low level information was stunning. Even the lowest level breaths and licks were beautifully served, just like I wanted them to be for my taste. There are numerous audiophiles who will be over-loaded by the information during this kind of presentation, but is this a fault of the system? In my opinion it is not at all. The music information must be delivered fully and without forgiveness in my philosophy. If someone does not like revealing sound he/she is free to choose other kinds of speakers and equipment. The Cardeas is just a revealing high-end speaker and the Burmester Reference front end fed it just right.

The Cardeas delivered plenty of realism which was naturally furthered by the Burmester’s top-notch equipment. Although the tonal neutrality and coherency in certain sonic areas left something to hope for, my listening results were just great. If I did not have my W/P 7 and I had a budget limited to18.000 euros the Cardeas would now be at the top of my list, just besides the Wilson Duette, which has slightly different strengths. And yes, I could live with the sound world which Cardeas delivered, but having experienced a bit better this will not happen. Anyway, I am sure that for enthusiasts who prefer realism and revelation over forgiveness and smoothness the Audio Physic Cardeas may well be a perfect choice. Using proper front end, which Hifiguru unquestionably had during my visit, Cardeas can easily give full satisfaction. But these speakers will also work with much cheaper front end like the Burmester Rondo series. Also one can then enjoy the same sonic marvels which I mentioned before. So, Audio Physic has developed a speaker which delivers stunning frequency extensions, tremendous treble performance and excellent overall dynamics with well known but even bettered resolution and soundstaging features. Next year, in 2010, they can happily and without contextual pressures celebrate their 25th anniversary with Cardeas. Only two questions arise - what kind of speaker can be developed above the Cardeas and how much will it cost?

Cardeas Specifications:
- Tweeter /HHCT II: Dual basket / Active Cone Damping II/CCAW (Copper Clad Aluminum Wire)
- Midrange/Special HHCM- Version: copper clad pole piece /CCAW (Copper Clad Aluminum Wire) voice coil
- Tweeter mounted on SSC (String Suspension Concept)construction
- Midrange mounted on SSC construction
- Tweeter/Midrange/Woofer-Midrange with Active Cone Damping II
- 10“ Long-stroke Subwoofer
- 10“ Passive Radiator
- All-Aluminum-Cone-Concept : All drive units work with ceramic coated aluminum cones
- VCT + : Each high quality binding post (WBT 705) is mounted on its independent SSC -element
- Multi – chamber cabinet in double wall construction
- Tweeter cross over is directly wired – no PCB or extra cables involved
- Tweeter cross over uses new generation of capacitors with optimized resonance behavior
- Aluminum face plate
Cardeas Technical Data:
- Height: 1190mm / 46.9“
- Width: 305mm / 12”
- Depth: 595mm / 23.4”
- Required space (Width x Depth): 410mm x 595mm / 16.1” x 23.4”
- Weight: 55kg
- Recommended Amplifier Power: 40W – 350W
- Frequency Response: 25Hz – 40kHz
- Sensitivity: 89dB
- Nominal Impedance 4 ohms
- Woofer (1 x active / 1 x passive): 260mm / 10”
- Woofer-Midrange: 2 x 150mm / 5.9” HHCM
- Midrange: 1 x 150mm / 5.9” HHCM
- Tweeter: 1 x 39mm / 1 ¾ “ HHCT II
- Four-Way design /crossover freq.: 100Hz, 350Hz, 2800Hz
Prices in Finland:
Cherry/Ash Black/Walnut/Maple 17.990 euros
White High Gloss/Black High Gloss/Macassar Ebony 19.990 euros