Looking For My End Game Loudspeakers - Stenheim Reference Ultime Two vs. AudioNec EVO3 Signature

dcc

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Nov 4, 2012
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In my system's thread, I hinted that I have been looking at acquiring my end game loudspeakers.https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/my-little-barn.26426/page-7

I started my quest about two years ago. After many listening sessions at different places and hifi shows, I shortlisted two pairs of loudspeakers: the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two and the AudioNec EVO 3 Signature. Both are tall towers featuring a d'Appolito design similar to the Focus Audio Master 2 that had been residing in my system for the last 13 years.

IMG_5097.jpeg

Thanks to trade shows taking place the same weekend in my area, I was fortunate having the two pairs being demoed by their respective designers and local distributors in my home system with one pair on the Friday and the other one on the following Monday. This allowed me to make the most informed decision in selecting the loudspeakers I plan keeping until I go 6 feet under.

The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two is a 3 way loudspeaker with a massive aluminium cabinet and six independent, internal chambers for the drivers and the crossover. The build quality is top notch. Because of their metal enclosures, these loudspeakers are heavy with a weight of 231 kg/509 lbs each. They are also more compact than the Focus Audio which is quite welcome in my listening room.

The AudioNec EVO3 Signature is a 4 way loudspeaker with 4 separate enclosures for the sub and low drivers whereas the medium and the tweeter drivers are attached to the open frame. The medium driver is a duopole which covers a large frequency spectrum from 400 Hz to 10 kHz. The external crossover is contained in a separate enclosure. Though of the same size as my current loudspeakers, the Audionec are visually less intrusive especially in their standard black and white finish. Their total weight including the external cross over is about 120 kg/265 lbs each.

I selected a list of vinyl and tapes that I played in the exact same sequential order for both listening sessions.

IMG_5481.jpeg

The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two were the first ones to arrive. Jean-Pascal, the CEO of Stenheim meticulously set up the loudspeakers and I was in for a treat.
FullSizeRender.jpeg

FullSizeRender.jpeg

We bi-amped the loudspeakers with the Krell Evolution One mono blocks driving the bass and the Tenor Audio driving the MTM. This proved to be an excellent set up. At the trade show where they were demoed, the Ultime Two were bi-amped with a pair of darTZeel NHB 108s and I had a feeling that a little more punch would have been welcome whereas with my electronics there was plenty.

The Stenheim are transparent, fast with tight bass and an impressive layered soundstage. The integration of the drivers is perfect with an excellent tonal balance. The music flows with ease and there is no fatigue even after a very long listening session. The word "natural sound" has become somewhat contentious on WBF but these loudspeakers tick all the boxes of my personal perception of naturalness. These are no show off loudspeakers.

We proceeded the same way with the AudioNec EVO3 Signature. As the external crossovers of the demo pair had never been tested in bi-amping mode. Francis, the designer of the loudspeakers did not not want to take any risk and advised not to try bi-amping. He however assured me that, if I were to select the EVO3 as my loudspeakers, he would ensure building the external crossover for bi-amping.

I chose the Tenor Audio 175S for the demo as it is more subtle in the medium and highs than the Krell mono blocs. However I could sense a lack of tight bass though the Tenor Audio is not shy on that front. Though on paper, the EVO3 are easy to drive, my home demo showed that they need some juice to get them shining at their best. I guess that this might be due to the four way/the multiple drivers arrangement or that the synergy with the Tenor Audio was not optimal.

IMG_0025.jpeg

IMG_0023.jpeg

The AudioNec are fast and transparent with a wonderful sound especially on strings and voice. They are on the "warm side".

Compared to the Stenheim, the piano was not as authoritative and the soundstage was not as deep and precise.

I had to make a choice and the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two loudspeakers were the clear winner. I ordered them and and they should land in my listening room before Christmas.



I will report once they get delivered.
 
Last edited:

Mike Lavigne

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Apr 25, 2010
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congrats on your choice of the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two speakers. what a great opportunity to demo both large speakers in your room back to back like that.

Bravo for jumping on that chance!
 
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bonzo75

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Awesome. There is a very nice system in London with Stenheim Ultime 2 and CH Precision 10 stack. Very deep stage, great bass, coherent.
 

heihei

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Awesome. There is a very nice system in London with Stenheim Ultime 2 and CH Precision 10 stack. Very deep stage, great bass, coherent.
Is that Art Audio?
 

heihei

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Wow incredible opportunity to home demo 2 pairs of speakers of that quality. Were the Audionec being run fully passive?
 

bonzo75

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matakana

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In my system's thread, I hinted that I have been looking at acquiring my end game loudspeakers.https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/my-little-barn.26426/page-7

I started my quest about two years ago. After many listening sessions at different places and hifi shows, I shortlisted two pairs of loudspeakers: the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two and the AudioNec EVO 3 Signature. Both are tall towers featuring a d'Appolito design similar to the Focus Audio Master 2 that had been residing in my system for the last 13 years.

View attachment 118425

Thanks to trade shows taking place the same weekend in my area, I was fortunate having the two pairs being demoed by their respective designers and local distributors in my home system with one pair on the Friday and the other one on the following Monday. This allowed me to make the most informed decision in selecting the loudspeakers I plan keeping until I go 6 feet under.

The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two is a 3 way loudspeaker with a massive aluminium cabinet and six independent, internal chambers for the drivers and the crossover. The build quality is top notch. Because of their metal enclosures, these loudspeakers are heavy with a weight of 231 kg/509 lbs each. They are also more compact than the Focus Audio which is quite welcome in my listening room.

The AudioNec EVO3 Signature is a 4 way loudspeaker with 4 separate enclosures for the sub and low drivers whereas the medium and the tweeter drivers are attached to the open frame. The medium driver is a duopole which covers a large frequency spectrum from 400 Hz to 10 kHz. The external crossover is contained in a separate enclosure. Though of the same size as my current loudspeakers, the Audionec are visually less intrusive especially in their standard black and white finish. Their total weight including the external cross over is about 120 kg/265 lbs each.

I selected a list of vinyl and tapes that I played in the exact same sequential order for both listening sessions.

View attachment 118426

The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two were the first ones to arrive. Jean-Pascal, the CEO of Stenheim meticulously set up the loudspeakers and I was in for a treat.
View attachment 118427

View attachment 118428

We bi-amped the loudspeakers with the Krell Evolution One mono blocks driving the bass and the Tenor Audio driving the MTM. This proved to be an excellent set up. At the trade show where they were demoed, the Ultime Two were bi-amped with a pair of darTZeel NHB 108s and I had a feeling that a little more punch would have been welcome whereas with my electronics there was plenty.

The Stenheim are transparent, fast with tight bass and an impressive layered soundstage. The integration of the drivers is perfect with an excellent tonal balance. The music flows with ease and there is no fatigue even after a very long listening session. The word "natural sound" has become somewhat contentious on WBF but these loudspeakers tick all the boxes of my personal perception of naturalness. These are no show off loudspeakers.

We proceeded the same way with the AudioNec EVO3 Signature. As the external crossovers of the demo pair had never been tested in bi-amping mode. Francis, the designer of the loudspeakers did not not want to take any risk and advised not to try bi-amping. He however assured me that, if I were to chose the EVO3 as my loudspeakers, he would ensure building the external crossover for bi-amping.

I chose the Tenor Audio 175S for the demo as it is more subtle in the medium and highs than the Krell mono blocs. However I could sense a lack of tight bass though the Tenor Audio is not shy on that front. Though on paper, the EVO3 are easy to drive, my home demo showed that they need some juice to get them shining at their best. I guess that this might be due to the four way/the multiple drivers arrangement or that the synergy with the Tenor Audio was not optimal.

View attachment 118429

View attachment 118430

The AudioNec are fast and transparent with a wonderful sound especially on strings and voice. They are on the "warm side".

Compared to the Stenheim, the piano was not as authoritative and the soundstage was not as deep and precise.

I had to make a choice and the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two loudspeakers were the clear winner. I ordered them and and they should land in my listening room before Christmas.



I will report once they get delivered.
Very interesting, and thank you for your report, it should be a very merry Christmas indeed ! Very happy listening.
 
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orfeo_monteverdi

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2015
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[please forgive my poor English]

Congrats!
Those (cone) speakers are totally amazing, especially for music lovers who attend live concerts and are exposed to live, unamplified performances.

I was gobsmacked by what I heard, even in show conditions (mainly in the sweet spot, during 3 hours, various kinds of music).
Body and speed. Naturalness and attack. Physicality and agility.
The naturalness, granularity and "chestiness" of human voices were perfect.
On close-up recordings, the 'p' (voiceless consonant, "occlusive", bilabial) let feel the air projected from the lips, in a way (nearly) similar to extremely good high efficiency speakers, paradoxically without the faintest feeling of projection or "oppression" (forgive my English...)

Enjoy!





As I wrote on your blog (My Little Barn) that I discovered today:
[...] I confidently can say that I am 110% sure I know what your final choice will be....
// Reference Ultime 2 indeed...

Only based on several hours of attentive listening in show conditions, I think I can say that in my opinion, and for myself, the Stenheim Reference Ultime 2 is the second speaker I know which deserves accessing the "supra-lunar world", as I wrote elsewhere, about the other (horn) loudspeaker, which now is no longer alone there, and is joined by a...cone speaker:
An additional category should be created to encompass such sonic achievements (this is not 'just' high-end, it is obviously something else).
Plato divided the Universe into sub-lunar world (beneath the Moon's orbit, human world made of ephemeral imperfection) and supra-lunar world (beyond the Moon's orbit, world of Ideas, Gods and perfection). I don't know in which category I would classify this [loudspeaker], really.
And, obviously, the passive version that was demonstrated, is a a reviewer's dream (linear, easy to drive, etc).

Very nice choice of music for your comparison protocol, BTW.
I like the Pergolesi Stabat Mater by René Jacobs, and Sebastian Hennig, that little boy could put an amplifier down on his knees with the wrong speakers. Fortunately, the Stenheim Reference Ultime 2 seem to be super easy to drive (96 dB/8 Ohms).


(at the show, François, the demonstrator, played a record I enjoyed very much: Beethoven, cello&piano sonata by Pierre Fournier and Friedrich Gulda, DG. Amazing to hear the Stenheim playing this, I thought I was listening to great horns, as the "raspy" sound of the bow dancing staccato on the strings sounded so "raw", genuinely unpolished, yet supremely civilized.​
1697752340210.png
I see it got a Diapason d'Or (French magazine).​
At the show, the demonstrator played only records, mainly originals - audacious and somewhat "risky" decision -. One could regularly hear a few "slags"; it was not to everyone's taste. But criticizing the output in those circumstances is, imho, similar to shooting the messenger)​
 
Last edited:

ashandger

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2013
406
174
348
In my system's thread, I hinted that I have been looking at acquiring my end game loudspeakers.https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/my-little-barn.26426/page-7

I started my quest about two years ago. After many listening sessions at different places and hifi shows, I shortlisted two pairs of loudspeakers: the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two and the AudioNec EVO 3 Signature. Both are tall towers featuring a d'Appolito design similar to the Focus Audio Master 2 that had been residing in my system for the last 13 years.

View attachment 118425

Thanks to trade shows taking place the same weekend in my area, I was fortunate having the two pairs being demoed by their respective designers and local distributors in my home system with one pair on the Friday and the other one on the following Monday. This allowed me to make the most informed decision in selecting the loudspeakers I plan keeping until I go 6 feet under.

The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two is a 3 way loudspeaker with a massive aluminium cabinet and six independent, internal chambers for the drivers and the crossover. The build quality is top notch. Because of their metal enclosures, these loudspeakers are heavy with a weight of 231 kg/509 lbs each. They are also more compact than the Focus Audio which is quite welcome in my listening room.

The AudioNec EVO3 Signature is a 4 way loudspeaker with 4 separate enclosures for the sub and low drivers whereas the medium and the tweeter drivers are attached to the open frame. The medium driver is a duopole which covers a large frequency spectrum from 400 Hz to 10 kHz. The external crossover is contained in a separate enclosure. Though of the same size as my current loudspeakers, the Audionec are visually less intrusive especially in their standard black and white finish. Their total weight including the external cross over is about 120 kg/265 lbs each.

I selected a list of vinyl and tapes that I played in the exact same sequential order for both listening sessions.

View attachment 118426

The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two were the first ones to arrive. Jean-Pascal, the CEO of Stenheim meticulously set up the loudspeakers and I was in for a treat.
View attachment 118427

View attachment 118428

We bi-amped the loudspeakers with the Krell Evolution One mono blocks driving the bass and the Tenor Audio driving the MTM. This proved to be an excellent set up. At the trade show where they were demoed, the Ultime Two were bi-amped with a pair of darTZeel NHB 108s and I had a feeling that a little more punch would have been welcome whereas with my electronics there was plenty.

The Stenheim are transparent, fast with tight bass and an impressive layered soundstage. The integration of the drivers is perfect with an excellent tonal balance. The music flows with ease and there is no fatigue even after a very long listening session. The word "natural sound" has become somewhat contentious on WBF but these loudspeakers tick all the boxes of my personal perception of naturalness. These are no show off loudspeakers.

We proceeded the same way with the AudioNec EVO3 Signature. As the external crossovers of the demo pair had never been tested in bi-amping mode. Francis, the designer of the loudspeakers did not not want to take any risk and advised not to try bi-amping. He however assured me that, if I were to chose the EVO3 as my loudspeakers, he would ensure building the external crossover for bi-amping.

I chose the Tenor Audio 175S for the demo as it is more subtle in the medium and highs than the Krell mono blocs. However I could sense a lack of tight bass though the Tenor Audio is not shy on that front. Though on paper, the EVO3 are easy to drive, my home demo showed that they need some juice to get them shining at their best. I guess that this might be due to the four way/the multiple drivers arrangement or that the synergy with the Tenor Audio was not optimal.

View attachment 118429

View attachment 118430

The AudioNec are fast and transparent with a wonderful sound especially on strings and voice. They are on the "warm side".

Compared to the Stenheim, the piano was not as authoritative and the soundstage was not as deep and precise.

I had to make a choice and the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two loudspeakers were the clear winner. I ordered them and and they should land in my listening room before Christmas.



I will report once they get delivered.
A big congrats on your amazing new speakers. I am sure you can't wait for Xmas! May I ask if other than bass punch, did the Dartzeel 108 based system at the show exhibit all the other great qualities you have described, especially the naturalness....I appreciate show conditions will always be limiting? Also, is your full system listed somewhere....I think you are using Thrax preamp? Judging from the photos, looks like you are able to place the speakers quite close to the side walls without any compromise which is great info to have. Many thanks
 

dcc

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Nov 4, 2012
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My system is listed in my profile under the "About" thumbnail and there is also a dedicated thread "My Little Barn" https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/my-little-barn.26426/

All the qualities that I described could be found back during the show demo with the pair of darTZeel 108S bearing in mind that my analog front end is also more qualitative than the one that was used during the show.
 

ashandger

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2013
406
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348
Wonderful. Many thanks for the feedback. I believe Roy Gregory is due to review these speakers in the near future.
 

shakti

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May 9, 2015
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Congratulation to your decision, I really like Stenheim speakers and have some friends with Alumine 3 and 5, so I decided to get more familiar with their house sound using a pair of Alumine 2 in a second listening room.

coming from a pair of bigger YG, now using the Avalon Osiris speakers, the Stenheim speakers do offer a kind of next level on speed and realism.

Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to listen to a pair of Stenheim Ultime in Germany, so I have to wait for the Munich fair to enjoy them again.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
14,421
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Congrats! Great to see you have really spent time going through your options and committed the time (with some great service) to audition in your own system! Merry Christmas!!!!!
 

dcc

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Nov 4, 2012
660
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Congratulation to your decision, I really like Stenheim speakers and have some friends with Alumine 3 and 5, so I decided to get more familiar with their house sound using a pair of Alumine 2 in a second listening room.

coming from a pair of bigger YG, now using the Avalon Osiris speakers, the Stenheim speakers do offer a kind of next level on speed and realism.

Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to listen to a pair of Stenheim Ultime in Germany, so I have to wait for the Munich fair to enjoy them again.
The decision to short list the Reference Ultime Two was actually driven by a listening session of the Alumine 5 with my Tenor Audio power amp. It was so beautiful that I wanted to check the higher up model. I took the opportunity that Stenheim was driving from Switzerland to Belgium to show case the Ultime Two to get them demoed in my home system thanks to their French distributor who convinced Jean-Pascal, the CEO of Stenheim, to accept the challenge.
 

Rotatoubib

Well-Known Member
May 17, 2015
155
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258
France
Congratulations! As your room is a medium sized one, did you consider that the 5 could be more appropriate than the ref 2? Of course, the opportunity to try the ref in your room give the answer, but did you talk about this choice with Stenheim? ( in case the home demo would have not been possible)
 

dcc

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Nov 4, 2012
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It was discussed with Jean-Pascal, the CEO of Stenheim, and François from Ana Mighty Sound (AMS). We even planned a prior home demo of the Alumine 5 SE but the carrier took so much time for the delivery that they arrived too late at AMS. Though my room is medium size, it is rather high. Jean-Pascal was confident that the Ultime Two would be a perfect fit and they were indeed.
 
Last edited:

Rotatoubib

Well-Known Member
May 17, 2015
155
47
258
France
Hi heihei, we are Audio Art and yes we do have some very happy Stenheim customers in the UK :)
Hello! Do you have experience with Ref 2 in a medium sized room ( around 30 35 sq m ) ?
 

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