Eternally Yours

When I first saw a photo of this speaker, it reminded me of a Mexican chiminea, a free-standing clay fireplace with a bulbous lower body and tall, thin smokestack. But the only heat generated by this bad boy is of the sonic variety. Born of a collaboration between Serbian ribbon-speaker specialist RAAL and American pro-audio designer Requisite Audio, the RAAL Requisite Eternity is the world's only speaker with a cast-bronze woofer enclosure.

That enclosure is roughly cubical with rounded edges and circular openings on each face, and it can be made in a wide variety of textures and colors. Why bronze? It's acoustically inert with resonances far above any problematic frequencies, and it lends a certain aesthetic weight to the product, not to mention a physical weight—each speaker tips the scale at 175 pounds.

Nestled within the one-piece bronze enclosure are five 15-inch paper-cone woofers facing outward in a balanced-force configuration with one side left completely open. This open-baffle design lets you orient the speaker for best bass performance in different rooms and is said to work well for jazz and orchestral music. Alternatively, the Eternity is available with three 15-inch woofers facing upward with the other holes sealed, which is more appropriate for slammin' rock and dance tunes.

Next up the food chain are 18 2.5-inch aluminum-cone midrange drivers arranged in vertical groups of three on a hexagonal column above the woofers. Above the midranges are 15 5-inch-long aluminum-ribbon tweeters, also in a cylindrical configuration. One of the most impressive claims for this design is that the apparent acoustic origins of the tweeters, midrange drivers, and woofers are perfectly in line with each other, making this the only time-aligned omnidirectional speaker in existence.

The Eternity is available with two crossover options—a passive analog design and the DEQX digital crossover, which can be used together in different frequency ranges if desired. With DEQX, the speaker's overall frequency response is spec'd at 30Hz to 20kHz, 1.5dB, while the analog crossover yields a frequency response from 40Hz to 40kHz, 4 or 5dB (this is difficult to measure with an omni speaker). Each driver section exhibits an impressive sensitivity of 96dB/W/m, allowing the speaker to play plenty loud with moderate power, though the ribbons can handle up to 1500 watts.

I've always been skeptical about omnidirectional speakers, thinking that sound waves reflecting from walls behind them should interact with the direct sound in unpredictable ways. But according to Danny McKinney of Requisite Audio, omni speakers actually energize the room evenly throughout the entire sonic spectrum, whereas with conventional speakers, the highs are "beamed" toward the listener and not reflected from the side walls as much as they are from the wall behind the listener, changing the high-to-low balance.

Naturally, Eternity doesn't come cheap—you'll shell out $88,000 for a pair of these exotic speakers (designer Aleksandar Radisavljevic not included!). I've never heard them, but they've garnered lots of glowing comments in the audiophile press, so I plan to check them out at the next CES. I can't wait to hear for myself if they generate the kind of sonic heat their shape suggests.