Amphion Argon 3
Amphion is one of the companies that do not build speakers for anechoic chambers, measurements and purely theoretical situations. Finns know that speakers must work well in normal living rooms, and good cooperation with room space is more important than rhodium plated sockets or compatibility with power amplifier. Their goal is to construct speakers that are not sensitive to the acoustics of the room. This is probably not possible to achieve for one hundred percent, but at least you know that someone is thinking about the speaker-room system, and not just putting audiophile speakers in a nice box.
The founder of Amphion brand has a fairly good understanding of acoustics, because in his loudspeakers he applies solutions that require preparation and experience. Innovative waveguides, controlled dispersion... These are not stories of heartfelt vocals and listening to the silver wires in the moonlight. Anssi Hyvönen knows what he’s doing, because even recording studios use Amphion speakers. Scandinavians do not boast any one success, but it is no surprise that this philosophy appeals to professionals. And besides, it is likely that five minutes of listening was more for them than cheap talk.
Design and functionality
When I heard that Argon 3 will be delivered to our office, I did not know the exact price yet, and initially I could not guess their position in the catalog. I knew that the Argon series means hi-end products, but there are also floorstanding L models which have to be more expensive than simple monitors. I found lots of photos online, but it was not clear what is the difference between Argon 1 and Argon 3. Even on the manufacturer's website they look almost identical. In reality, of course, they are different in size. The model we’re talking about is suitable for larger rooms, but still it is a medium-sized, two-way monitor. In some recording studios Argon 3 is even used as a near-field speaker, in the horizontal position. Research has been made, but the bottom line is this - Argon 3 is the best monitor in Amphion’s catalogue.
Probably that’s why the box in which the speakers arrived looked ordinary, but was extremely heavy for its size. I didn’t find anything extravagant during unpacking - no love letters from the manufacturer, fragrant contributions, golden spikes or velvet pouches. I pulled the speakers out of the polystyrene pressings, took off the bag, placed them on stands and plugged the cables. That is all. Enclosures are massive, but simple as quadratic equations. Is this true or just an illusion? Let's check. Only the drivers attract attention. Woofer is an aluminium cone covered with a fine metal mesh grille filling the gap between the metal basket and the front wall of the cabinet. High frequencies come from dome tweeter placed in a shallow, but wide tube. On the back we find elegant speaker terminals and bass-reflex tunnel. And this is not simply a plastic tube. It looks rather as if someone had carved it together with the whole cabinet. Now I knew that the thick screws holding on the woofer will be loosened soon;-) I had to find out what is inside, but I will write about it later.
There are two practical issues worth mentioning. Firstly, Argons need a suitably heavy and rigid stands. Forget about thin tops on flimsy, single legs. The second issue is the finish. Monitors are available in three natural veneers (cherry, birch and walnut) and I guarantee that each of them looks wonderfully. I have seen Amphion speakers in such finishes, and I think that the woodwork is much better here than in the products of famous companies, before whom audiophiles with moustaches kneel and pray. I tested a pair in a white matt lacquer, which for many people will be probably the most versatile option. For me though it’s the least attractive version. Of course you can disagree with me. However I have recently seen Argon 3L’s (basically the same design in the floorstanding form) in black matt paint and I have to say that it looks really cool. Placed next to regular audiophile speakers, Amphions in this finish will look like a F-117 flying next to the Airbus A320.
I am not surprised that the Argon 3 appeals to professionals' taste. These are one of those monitor speakers which offer a full-range, level and strong sound. Their priority is telling the whole truth about music, but they don’t do it rudely. Quite the opposite - they enchant speed, openness and the ability to create a fresh aura around sounds, like the Scandinavian air. Aesthetics of studio sound is often associated with specific, dry sound temperature, general hardness and claustrophobic space. Fortunately you will not experience any of these things here. Performance of Argon 3 reminds me of Sennheiser HD 700 headphones, which also offer a sound full of details but in a nice way. These headphones do not fear difficult challenges, but they do it all in such a way that it’s hard not to like them. If you are looking for speakers with fast, detailed and spatial sound, you will fall in love with Amphions right away.
These speakers play with such energy, that I have listened to them without changing anything for a long time. After a few days I realized that tuning the angle or distance from the walls can improve performance. To my surprise, the small changes of settings didn’t make much difference. Obviously some things have improved, but the differences were smaller than usual. I wouldn’t say that Argon 3 are completely insensitive to the acoustics of your listening room, but certainly this factor has less impact here than in the other speakers. Finally, the Finnish monitors were located 60 cm from the back wall and were spaced quite widely and pointed almost straight at my head. This arrangement allowed me to get the most direct sound, but still with the whiff of the fresh air.
What seduced me most in their performance? In addition to the clarity and soundstage, certainly it was the scale presentation. As I already mentioned, Argon 3 have a full-range sound, but I don’t mean that the bass rumbles like crazy. The situation is more like listening to a medium-sized floorstanding speakers which can go very low down, but do it in a sensitive and proper manner. Sound of these speakers is full of information, but designers managed to avoid the mess at the same time. Their second biggest advantage is the versatility of music genres. The nature of the sound does not change if you play metal, jazz or dense electronic music. For me it is important because I listen to a variety of music, and when the constructor of speakers says that the model is created just for jazz... You know what I mean. Amphions were not built for a specific genre - they just play the music you like the most, and they do it with the greatest pleasure. Cons? It is really hard to say... A cool sound temperature may be a problem for some people. This is not a clinical cold yet, but if paper or polypropylene membranes go gently in the direction of heat, the metal speakers put on a cool objectivity, without coloration. But this is not surprising, because the company is based in Kuopio. If you are curious what I mean, please look at Google Earth where it is.
Build quality and technical parameters
Amphion Argon 3 is a two-way monitor speaker with a vented box. Low tones are operated by a 18-cm driver with aluminium diaphragm, while the top part of the frequency range comes from a titanium dome with a characteristic waveguide. Crossover point was set quite low, at 1600 Hz. Sensitivity is speciﬁed at 87 dB into 8 ohms. Recommended power of the amplifier is in the range of 20-150 W. It is difficult to say something about the internal structure of these sets from the outside, but the removal of the lower speaker revealed some secrets. First of all we have here an interesting construction of the bass-reflex tunnel. The port is mounted in a kind of grid with semicircular notches. Is this solution used to eliminate the vibrations of the tunnel itself, or perhaps it’s goal is to strengthen the cabinet? It is difficult to say. There may be many benefits of this. The second important issue is the damping. Patches of foam were put inside the enclosure in very specific places. Their location is certainly not a matter of chance, because nobody would push the foam, for example, below the grid of the bass-reflex port, without any reason. Crossover is hidden at the back of the cabinet and built from high quality components, some of them even custom made for Amphion. Thick wires were used for cabling the whole system, and their ends have been soldered to the terminals of the drivers. Maybe it is a little thing, but I am glad to see this. Another detail is a foam ring which separates the metal basket of the speaker and the cabinet. Robust magnet of the woofer is also shielded metal can. As for the tweeter, it’s hard to say anything because we were not able to remove it.
Audiolab 8200A, Naim CD5 XS, Naim NAC 152 XS, Naim NAP 155 XS, Sevenrods ROD4, Albedo Geo, Enerr Tablette 6S, Gigawatt LC-2 mkII, Audioquest NRG-2, Ostoja T1.
If you like warm and romantic speakers, Amphion Argon 3 will probably not appeal to your taste. But I am looking for speed, transparency and experience of being close to the music. Finnish monitors offer exactly that, with a touch of the character of professional audio gear. I must admit that I really liked them. I was trying to avoid exaltation in this review, but it was difficult. Amphions are simply outstanding. And as an apology for my exaggeration, I have to say that this is not only my opinion.
Speaker type: monitor, two-way
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: (H/W/D) 38/19,1/30,5 cm
Weight: 11 kg/piece
Price: $2795 (black or white), $2995 (real-wood veneer)