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Feature Article - "Czech Hi-Fi: Part II" - July, 2000

Milan Cernohorsky - Editor, EUROPE

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In Part I, I gave you a quick overview of Czech Hi-Fi component manufacturers. Pavel Dudek's DP Audio was the first company I took a close look at.  His power amplifiers and preamps serve as a referential set at many Czech and Moravian audition studios despite the fact that the Czech market is abundant in foreign component brands.  This time, I would like to focus on some other Czech companies that also have excellent build quality.

Ri Audio


In 1966, the Pekra company, a producer of active and passive speaker switches took over the well-established brand Fox Audio. This was the starting  point for Ri Audio, a line of components that utilized both the experience with their original product line and their own research and development laboratory. The Ri Audio component line comprises several types of phono preamps, active preamps, a passive control unit, and two types of mono block amplifiers of high performance quality. If nothing else, I must mention their pure class A  power amplifier, the MK-1, the active preamp API, and passive preamp PP1. Their products offer characteristics well beyond the price  category they fall into.

Au/Ra Rational Audio

 

Au/Ra was founded in 1988 by a Czech Hi-Fi aficionado, Mr. Jiri Janda. He was one of the founders of British NAD and took part in launching the legendary 3020 integrated amplifier.  Much to everyone's loss, he passed away last summer. However, he managed  to set up a progressive business focused on customers seeking high quality products at a reasonable price. At first, most of the company's output was being exported to Western Europe.  Among their products at that time were, for instance, the Z1  amplifier and the G1 turntable. Nowadays, three lines form  the backbone of the company: Exclusive, Classic, and Mini. The photo shown above illustrates their Z7A power amplifier (part of their Exclusive line), very  original in many details.  The company also produces several types of speaker systems and cables. 1998 saw the beginning of the designing and manufacturing  process of the ABX model, a system designed for non-biased component comparisons by means of blindfold testing. At the same time, the development and manufacturing of the components in the Exclusive line was getting started. Specifically, it was the Accumulative Power source for the A2Z amplifier and the D7A  precision volume regulator. Their G7E turntable has received many accolades.

Speaker Systems

I dare say that Czech speaker manufacturers have developed a firm position in the domestic market during the past few years and are successfully entering other European markets thanks to the sound characteristics and the quality of manufacturing of their products. The Czech Republic has a long tradition of speaker driver and complete speaker system production.  It used to be a major  supplier for the whole of Eastern Europe and partly to Germany.  After 1989, with the collapse of the Communist regime, several  companies emerged that draw on and further develop this tradition. I'd like to introduce to you, my trans-Atlantic friends (trans-Pacific if you take the long way around), at least two of the companies that form the very top of  the Czech market.

Shan

This currently very successful company was established in 1993.  In the course of the five following years, it climbed to its present prominent position in the speaker system market. For most of its systems, it uses high quality Danish Vifa drivers (the Aztec line). For the top models (the Emotion line), it uses Focal drivers. The tweeter features a titanium oxide (tioxide) foil membrane, while the woofer has a Kevlar fiber membrane hardened and muted by a special plastic coating with fine Polyglas grains. Great attention has also been paid to the crossovers and enclosures. The crossovers use polypropylene capacitors and air core inductors. All speakers have provisions for bi-wiring. Enclosures are made of MDF and have significant cross bracing. Polyester fiber is used for internal damping, and lacquered veneer is utilized as the finish. The top models of Shan include floor standers, the Emotion 550, Emotion 520, and a rack system, the Emotion-500.

Xavian

An Italian designer, Robert Barletta, living currently in Prague, and his team of collaborators, have set a very  high manufacturing quality standard. The company was established  in 1994. Their products are sought by audiophiles worldwide, as well as purists who enjoy great sound along with top notch build quality. Xavian uses ScanSpeak and Peerless drivers. The manufacturing quality of the enclosures has become an unchallenged rule with Italian producers.  Xavian offers two lines of products: Suona and Xn.  Suona includes the rack system Primissima, two floor systems -  Colona and Grand Colona - and a home theater system called the Center.  Their top line is represented by the XN products. These include stand systems XN 125, 185, 250, 270 and Xavian's flagship - the  floor system XN 350. This last mentioned 3+1/2-way system premiered at the November Prague Top Audio 1999 exhibition. Xavian's products are truly first class and are comparable with all top quality speaker systems around the world.

 

- Milan Cernohorsky -

 

Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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