Bogdan Audio Creations
Art Deco Speaker
List Price: $2,000/pr
You may know Mr. Bogdan Petrescu for his amplifiers utilizing NOS vintage electrical components to yield a classic sound with modern engineering. You may know him for his cost-no-object and well accepted loudspeakers, or you may not know him at all. Pity for the latter as this gentile import from Romania is doing justice to the lost adage “Made in the U.S.A.” in Ohio, one speaker at a time; now affordable with the Art Deco. It's ported on the bottom and weighs 45 lbs.
With a small footprint the dimensions are 34" high, 10" wide and 13" deep.
Bogdan’s journey began with an 8” full range speaker from an old console radio nearly 30 years ago and has continuously been evolving into his products of today. The Art Deco was inspired by the early Grundig speakers from the 50’s and 60’s. Bogdan feels they were far ahead of their time, and in particular the design of the Art Deco remind me of a modernized Raumklang IV speaker.
I'm not familiar with Grundig Loudspeakers, but I must say Bogdan seems to draws from some very good inspiration if they sound similar to the Art Deco. Build quality is superb, top notch, and oozes of attention to detail. The best part of it all is simply the marriage quality with the knowledge that the designer’s two hands were the ones molding them from raw material to speaker. Spousal acceptance factor is extremely high and the sophisticated look with a classic theme will fit very well, anywhere. Solid is an understatement when trying to describe the density of the cabinets. In fact I have two band-aids on my knuckles in a slightly obsessive fit of utter failure trying to find the hollow spot. Come to find out, Bogdan uses dual-wall construction with layers of solid oak and MDF adding up to a wall thickness of 1¾”, with bracing, and six layers of MDF stacked toward the bottom of the cabinet to stabilize these monoliths while supplying the necessary thickness to create the port for the enclosure. Sheesh! The should come with a warning, but the nearly 60lb weight of them should have been enough of a give-away. The pair I was sent was in a stained oak with the optional grills but the Art deco is available in just about any color stain one can want. In lieu of oak, the solid wood surfaces can be made in solid Cherry. As stated earlier these dense cabinets are made by Bogdan himself, one pair at a time to order and seemingly he refuses to have it any other way. It is a level of craftsmanship and pride in the product being delivered that once defined a generation again reborn. I for one appreciate it, and as a Mojo fan I know you will too!
The coaxial driver compliment is birthed by Seas of Norway. While it lacks blond braids and a horned helmet, it’s polypropylene cone with inverted surround and silk dome tweeter are backed by a gigantic motor as to be expected from the land of the Vikings. Seas is a popular brand among high end manufacturers for good reason. Their drivers traditionally offer very linear performance with extremely low distortion while maintaining dynamic control and integrity even when the volume control gets, well, out of control! There is truly no such thing as a free lunch. Seas drivers tend to be cantankerous to work with and often require a talented hand to extract their inner beauty, but when a designer gets them right man can they sing! Not just the design, but the crossover components are also of top notch consisting of Solen and Clarity capacitors, Mundorf resistors, and Air core inductors. Bogdan states a crossover point of 2400 Hz. It is very encouraging to see such design cohesion between the driver/electronic/cabinet relationship. A simple item seemingly lost on so many speakers in the $2500 arena, which may just separate the Art Deco from the pack.
When I first receive a loudspeaker for review, I ask the manufacturer to provide me with nothing more than the consumer receives and I will break out the pry bar of questions later. I do this to be as blind as possible to what is going on with what matters most: The music. I often get distracted by words like “advanced technology” and technical explanations like “the Kniffelin pins secure the Johnson rods to the cabinet such that the Gonkulator overcomes the dark matter generated by the woofer”. Technology can be a funny thing in the world of loudspeakers because the use of it does not always mean better sonic or useful results. There are toaster ovens which can be turned on by smart phones, but do we really need it (rhetorical, please move on)? Over the years of selling HIFI, running in audiophile circles, vesting a good deal of time and effort into design, and reviewing I have concluded that a good chunk of speakers usually do not make for a great five minuet demo in a big box store. For whatever reason, higher quality speakers that portray the music tend to be more romantic rather than sloppy one night stands.
In the macro the Art Deco is laid back, perhaps half-way back in the concert hall, airs to the warm side of a sonic signature and possess just enough bass presence with a small enough foot-print to have a significant advantage over a stand-mount speaker. Yet when describing a speaker as a half-back it usually means you are giving up some resolution for a more macro view of the sound. No matter how I tried, I could not get the Art Deco to fail in resolving inner details just about anywhere in their absolutely enormous and pinpoint soundstage. They maintained this integrity at moderate to high volumes even with content pushing them well out of their comfort zone. The treble which seemed slightly subdued initially, was actually acceptable for the price tag and extended.
The midrange is full and proud perhaps with a touch of hesitation at times but always of accurate and acceptable quality while being polite enough to manage the occasional guilty pleasure we all have stashed away in our music collection. The bass response is very controlled but not extended. They are not slam monsters, nor are they speed demons but the solid bass response which has almost the quality of an acoustic suspension type enclosure. The overall balance carries their price well, and while not flawed they had one trait that got to me several times.
For all the sophistication and pleasure the Art Deco provide, they do suffer slightly from small speaker syndrome. I am unsure these would ever fill a large livings pace, and lack the outright presence and berth of a large tower which I waited for in some of big endings and never received. At times it is as if the Art Deco has a sort of traction control on the sound. The speaker will never let the music get too big where it loses control of the sound. Over time this proved to be one of the Deco’s biggest strengths to spite the “almost there” sonic size one expects from even a small floorstander. Here’s How:
Blue Man Group’s “Audio” is an aural assault from out of this world. It is filled with various PVC instruments of the Blue Men’s creation backed with electric guitar and massive drumming. On the Track “PVC IV”, the start is quiet with three blue men playing in front of you. The Bogdan Art Deco placed them in space as good as any speaker I can recall. Each paddle hit on the pipes having convincing “th” at the beginning of each hit and body as the pipe resonates the each note. Throughout the volleying the three of them trade 1/16th note parts with swelling dynamics concluding with a unison cadence. Musically it is quite interesting, and the Deco’s definitely were capturing the all out fun behind the madness. The song then grows with drums. So many speakers fail at this point because when stretched to realistic levels this dynamic album can chew up speakers and spit them out. The Deco’s did not fail, due in large part to the seemly active traction control. As the dynamics grow, they tend to clamp them and control the sonic result before it gets out of hand. They never lose their presentation or integrity, perhaps just miss the huge impact of a larger speaker. As if that was not enough the song continues to grow to a climax with multiple drums sounding off and a concert bass drum exploding at the far bottom octave. A personal demo favorite of mine, I have heard many speakers make unholy noises once the big boy arrives down low ultimately showing the control of the driver/box combo and just how well the designer balanced the two. The Deco’s has a sup rising “"thereness"” with it. At least at the initial hit. Again, they never lost their control or came unwound right to the last enormous note. I have only experienced the gross ability to handle this song on the best of loudspeakers, and the Art Deco handled it with class and grace.
12 string guitarist and all blues, Hans Theessink’s ol’ timey sound off his album “Call Me” has a lot to offer. The classic by Chuck Berry “Mabellene” is a toe-tappin’ ride starting with Hans’ baritone voice and slide 12 string that when reproduced properly snaps the listener to attention. The Art Deco’s were very good at capturing this feeling, as well as resolving the trio of horns and airy background vocals. The Deco’s seemed to shine under the conditions of up-beat blues. Their ability to sort out all of the information, place it into the soundstage, and never losing focus of each instruments micro-dynamics and timbre was very enjoyable and respectably larger than their price. It was now becoming clear that resolution with musical integrity was the story told by the Art Deco’s. This continues in “The Soul of Song” which is a groovy tone starting with a mandolin solo followed by of all things, a Tuba… Complete insanity or musical genius I will let you decide but it is refreshing to hear something other than a stringed bass instrument well used in the context of its intended purpose. Bogdan certainly got the bass right when the Deco’s are asked to reproduce bass within the range of unplugged instruments. For all the nagging I have done around their impact and presence I definitely tip my hat to the control and tonality of the bass. The tuba was very full and was captured from the attack of every puff to the rich and huge resonance of the massive bell. One more and I will put this addictive album to bed. “Cuckoo” is a haunting melody with just Hans, his 12 string, and soulful background singers. The effortless space the Deco’s recreate in this song was a hoot! The vocals are rich and true while staying well separated even though at times there may have been a hint of congestion in the upper mids, which was noticeable, but most certainly not annoying or distracting. The Deco’s were again confirming they are truly a high fidelity loudspeaker separating it from the lesser by capturing the essence of the music.
The Harry Allen Quartet was a joy to listen to. This humongous and spacious recording was pouring out of the Deco’s in a quantity that got the toes tapping. Harry’s Tenor sax rang through with speed and a true sense of what defines the soul of the instrument and why so many fall in love with it. The drums were snappy and dynamic, the piano full and resolved. This is not a close mic’ed recording rather an open session in a large hall. One of the very few recordings that defines live, unamplified music for me. There are many speakers that just lose the ability to reproduce this type of music with it’s true and intended message. Bogdan’s Art Deco's never lost their hold on the truth and that is what music reproduction is about.
The “$2500-ish” price bracket opens the playing field for a lot of loudspeakers of all shapes and sizes. From tiny monitors like the PSB Synchrony One B, to the monstrous Tekton Pendragons a loudspeaker company truly has to place a product right where it fits. There are sacrifices that have to be made as the expectation of a speaker carrying the price tag of a decent family vacation cannot be anything less than high fidelity, yet this meager price in the world of high end challenges the designer to make diamonds from coal. Barring an economics lesson there is no way to use “the best” components at this price and there is also no way to cut corners, yet the anticipated result from the end user is a serious loudspeaker that not only meets but exceeds their expectations. In comes the niche. The Bogdan Audio Creations Art Deco fills a nice void for the end user. While some sacrifice looks, the Art Deco can be easily considered a piece of furniture in any living room and I would go so far as to call them a discussion piece. Others may sacrifice dynamics and impact to gain speed and timbre and even at their worst held their price point. Lastly, some will sacrifice the speed and timbre to recreate large dynamics and heavy impact. Perhaps the latter was largest sacrifice made, but the Art Deco handled hard-hitting music with ease and grace while never losing their manners.
The Art Deco is a grown up, mature speaker. For those of you who do not want to re-create a KISS concert from the 80’s anymore, but sip a good bourbon on a Friday evening, sit back and drown yourself in music while not creating a scene, Bogdan Audio Creations had the right speaker for you. Narrowing further, if you primarily listen to jazz, acoustic blues, chamber classical/choir, folk, or any other types of intimate setting music the Art Deco is very at home with capturing these genres well. For $2000/pr they look great, sound great in the above context, and certainly carry a good value for the hard earned dollar.
At 88db sensitivity, amplifier choice is important. In a moderate sized room, think at least 60 watts per channel.
Impedance: 8 ohms
Frequency Response: 46Hz-25,000Hz
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