Black Moon Audio Fidelity One Loudspeaker
Doing The Windy City Proud
The 2013 AXPONA show in Chicago was an exciting weekend for me personally for a number of reasons. First, it was a great opportunity to see some old friends, folks who I use to see all the time at the old Summer CES up until 1994. Second, I was able to host some industry friends and show them the best of my home town, especially some of the great steak houses like Morton’s and Gibson’s. But the best part of the weekend had to be getting acquainted with some excellent local companies and gaining a new appreciation for Chicago’s contribution to music and high-end audio.
Black Moon Audio is a company that would fall into that third category. They are literally a brand spanking new company and AXPONA was their coming out party. In fact, this company is so new that they’ve quietly been able to change the company name from Sonic Hemisphere (as it was at AXPONA) to Black Moon Audio. At AXPONA they debuted two new loudspeakers: the Fidelity One, a three-way full range floor standing design and the Fidelity Monitor a two-way stand-mounted design. Both speakers looked to be exceptional bargains with a high degree of fit-n-finish, use of high-quality drivers and connectors and at surprisingly modest price points. The Fidelity One sells for $6,599/pair and the Fidelity Monitor goes for $2,399/pair.
A few weeks after AXPONA, I connected with Chief Designer, David Anthony Maletz and arranged for a pair of the Fidelity Ones to be delivered for review. Maletz and business partner Sid did one better and personally delivered the speakers to my house and even helped me set them up. They were in and out in a matter of minutes and I was free to start enjoying my true summertime passion… golf. The listening sessions would wait until later.
About Black Moon Audio
Black Moon Audio (BMA) is located not far from Chicago in the suburb of Palatine, Illinois. Maletz and his team launched the company in early 2013, just prior to the start of AXPONA. They started the company with the belief that in the high-end audio industry you can still offer affordable loudspeakers through great design and the use of top notch components. They felt that too many other companies were starting to lose the "passion” and “commitment" needed to build affordable audiophile caliber loudspeakers and relied too heavily on expensive marketing, and constantly rolling out new product lines.
While attending the University of Illinois, Maletz took a side job working at an audio dealership where he met designers who taught him the business while his technical skills were being honed in his aerospace studies, making it much easier to dig into designing audio as a hobby. Later when he graduated, he took a job in the aerospace industry where he began to get into the engineering, and design aspects that are common in many areas in audio.
Though he’s been building speakers and working in the audio industry for about a decade, it all came full circle for Maletz when Black Moon Audio introduced itself to the audiophile marketplace with the introduction of the Fidelity One loudspeaker at AXPONA.
I visited their room twice over that weekend and remembered not being able to work my way past the crowd to listen to music from the sweet spot, so I put their room on my list of “must re-visit rooms before the show ended on Sunday.” Of course Sunday came and went before I realized that I never made it back to their room as I had planned. Lucky for me Maletz contacted me a few weeks later and soon the Fidelity Ones were in my listening room.
The Fidelity One
The first thing I noticed about the Fidelity One loudspeakers was how nicely built they were. The cabinets had a two-tone (black and Rosewood) furniture grade finish and made for a really attractive addition to my family/listening room. They are sloped back at a bit of an angle for time alignment of the drivers and have chamfered corners at the top and bottom of the front side of the cabinet, reminiscent of the Avalon designs. The speakers stand about 43 inches tall, 12.5 inches wide and 14 inches deep. They weigh in at a hefty 95 lbs.
Built into the 2.75 inch thick front baffle is a 1” Aluminum/Magnesium dome tweeter, 7” poly-weave composite midrange, and 10.5” Nomex woofer. Below that is a 3” front firing port. The speakers are rated at 91dB efficiency so low powered tube designs should mate famously with them. The crossovers use pure film capacitors, copper ribbon inductors and other high-grade European parts. On the back is the crossover mounting plate where two sets of very nice 5-way binding posts are connected. A set of jumpers are supplied to connect the binding posts (for use in a non-bi-amping setup). Another neat little touch is the inclusion of a set of TerraStone™ footers by edenSound. BMA feels this material is excellent for stability and sound factors when compared to brass, steel, and carbon fiber type spike/puck systems. They can be used with or without the spike tip in order to prevent damage to your floors. They were perfect for my carpeted floors.
System and Setup
The reference system used for this review consisted of the George Warren Precision Sound turntable with Incognito-modified Moth tonearm and Transfiguration Phoenix cartridge going into the excellent Pass Labs XP-15 phono stage. The digital sources were the Oppo DV-980H disc player (as transport) and Apple TV music streamer feeding the Vitus Audio RD-100 DAC/Linestage. Amplification came from the Vitus Audio RS-100 stereo amp and Bel Canto Ref 1000M mono amps. Cabling was the Avanti Audio Allegro series and Entreq Audio Apollo series. My listening room is approximately 26’ wide, 20’ deep and with 8’ high ceilings. My floors are concrete covered with Berber carpeting.
I primarily used the Entreq cables as I was most familiar with their subtleties. The speakers were setup 4’ out from the widest wall and spaced 12’ apart, center to center leaving about 6’ to the side walls. My listening position was about 12’ from the front of the speakers.
The speakers themselves were fairly new so I spent the first couple of weeks I had with them playing a smooth jazz music channel through them while I was at work. This unfortunately did not sit well with my Boston Terrier Max who now falls into a catatonic state at the first notes of any songs by Boney James, Najee or Kenny G.
Listening Sessions (with a heavy heart)
Towards the end of my listening sessions I heard about the untimely passing of the great keyboardist and songwriter George Duke. Feeling a bit nostalgic I put on my first and favorite George Duke album, 1977’s Reach For It [Epic]. This was a landmark recording to me because it was the first time that a jazz musician stepped headlong into the George Clinton/Parliament-Funkadelic/Bootsy Collins dominated funk arena. And they had the audacity to have a vocalist imitate Bootsy on the classic title track. This song explodes through your woofers with a bass line that never lets up. It presents a daunting task for any loudspeaker but particularly for one that is the first effort of a new company. But the Fidelity Ones carried the BMA flag proudly and handled this bass saturated track without a problem. The musicality was there as well. I’ve heard the bass overwhelm the (limited) vocals on this cut before but the upper midrange and treble of the Fidelity Ones proved to be very light on their feet. Fast and detailed without being too hard. A better example from this album would be track 5 “Just For You.” The vocals on this track are rendered distinctly from the not so dominant bass and Duke’s keyboard playing is left in a much easier to enjoy place within the soundstage.
Sticking with George Duke but moving on to another recording, his 1995 CD Illusions [Warner Bros] is easily one of the most fun discs I own. The first two tracks, “Genesis” and “500 Miles To Go,” combine to give 10 instrumental minutes of Duke simply exercising his considerable keyboard and synthesizer dexterity. The songs are dynamic and huge sounding and the Fidelity Ones get the scale right. But track three, “411,” allows Duke to just have a good ol’ time tickling the keys while a group of ladies can be heard having an even better time “sizing up” men at a club. The cool thing about the way the Fidelity Ones portray this song is in their separation and voices and instruments. The ladies’ conversation and Dukes playing are well defined and seemed to occupy proper space within the soundstage.
Over the years I’ve referenced many of the recordings engineered for Naim Audio by Ken Christianson, who is also co-owner of the oldest and best audio shop in Chicago, Pro Musica. Christianson is a brilliant engineer with a great ear for live music. His “True Stereo” recording technique produces some of the best live tracks I’ve heard. One of his best efforts is pianist Fred Simon’s Remember the River [naim cd081]. Part of the liner notes includes a photo of the very soundstage where the performance takes place. In the photo, Simon is center stage with bassist Steve Rodby on the left and on horns Paul McCandless on the right. Having this visual of the performers adds to the enjoyment of the listening experience and gives you added appreciation for the performance reproduction capabilities of the speakers. The Fidelity Ones do a very nice job of this. Not quite to the same extent of my Maggie MG20s (not many do) but enough to make a lot of speakers in the $10k range nervous. If I could say that there was any area of these speakers’ performance that needed improvement (and what speaker doesn’t regardless of price) it would be at the frequency extremes. While these speakers go pretty darn deep, they also tend to get a bit wooly too. And at the top end, they don’t get overly bright or edgy – just the opposite – they tended to soften a bit a bit in places where I know there is more transient bite and life.
But these are minor quibbles and considering that a year ago, this company let alone the speakers didn’t even exist, these speakers are a marvelous accomplishment.
I’ll admit to feeling a certain amount of pride in this company because they’re from the Chicago area. Believe me, spending a summer watching the Cubs and White Sox will make you appreciate anything good coming from Chicago (when does hockey season start again?). But the Black Moon Audio Fidelity One loudspeakers really have to be seen and heard to be appreciated. They fit nicely into a class of new high-quality/nicely priced components that have really impressed me of late. Other products I’d put in this class would include the OPPO Digital BP-105, Avanti Audio Allegro cables, and Vitus Audio RD-100 DAC/Linestage. Come to think of it, you could combine these components with the BMA speakers and you’d have a world class system for less than a pair of Wilson Sashas.
I’m thrilled that AXPONA will be back in Chicago next April. It’ll be nice to see old friends again, but it’ll also be interesting to just how far Sonic Hemis… er, uh I mean Black Moon Audio has come. Actually the company is already growing. They recently announced the launch of a new power conditioner called the Synapse. It too will be something special if it’s anywhere near the bargain that the Fidelity Ones are. Welcome to high-end audio Mr. Maletz. Your table is ready.
Bandwidth: 29 hz ~ 27,000 hz (+/- 2db)
Power Handling: Continuous: 220 Watts RMS, Peak: 500 Watts RMS
Impedance: Nominal: 6 ohms, Low: 4.1 ohms @ 63 Hz, High: 8 ohms @ 1 kHz
non-reactive load, fully compatible with tube amplifiers
Driver complement: Tweeter (x1): 1" Aluminum/Magnesium dome, Mid-range (x1): 7" Poly-weave composite, high heat phase plug, wide band response, Woofer (x1): 10.5" Nomex w/3" Voice coil
Enclosure: Time-corrected vented enclosure
Efficiency: 91 dB (with 2.83 volt broadband signal measured @ 1 meter)
Dimensions: 43" tall (w/TerraStone™) × 12.5" × 14" (HWD)
Weight: Net (each): 95 pounds, Shipping: 115 pounds
Black Moon Audio
Suite : 2G
473 W. Northwest Hwy.
Palatine, IL 60067
Phone: (630) 205-7001 or (224) 577-6569