Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016 • Hot Product

Ono Audio is a new name, and their first product is definitely different -- refreshingly so. This is one of those instances where nothing is quite what it seems and assumptions prove dangerous. The heart of the Paka ($2995/pair) is the familiar Fostex Sigma driver, the small, pseudo full-range unit mounted on an open baffle and running wide open, with claimed output from 65Hz to 24kHz. Of course, output droops significantly at either end of that range and that’s where things start to get clever. The Fostex driver is mounted on a space-frame arrangement that also supports an open tube. Far from loading the rear output of the Fostex, that tube is actually there to disperse the output of the upward-firing 6” aluminum-coned woofer and the 1” soft-domed tweeter that are tucked in behind it, both mounted on the upper face of the lower, teardrop-shaped enclosure. Those additional drivers are used to subtly augment and support the output of the Fostex, building on the tactile immediacy and rhythmic coherence of the single-full-range-river format without introducing the sonic issues associated with conventional crossovers.

So far so good -- and distinctly different. But start looking at the Paka in detail and that’s when things get really interesting. For example, the tweeter crossover is a third-order Butterworth (not the expected light-touch first-order) because the 6dB slope ensures that there’s no unwanted overlap. The brackets supporting the head unit are laser-cut steel and powder coated, while the bass enclosure is carved with a high-pressure water jet from stacked birch plywood. The semi-solid baffle is magnetically attached and available in a range of designs, allowing owners to customize the appearance (or run the Paka naked, although the baffles were demonstrably beneficial). The speaker itself can be run passive or active (with a suitable set of external electronics) and is available in a range of standard finishes with color-coded stands or custom options.

A lot of thought and considerable care have gone into both the design and the finishing of this little speaker, and the result is a product that looks as cute and perky as it sounds. There’s a distinctly '60s vibe going on here, an aesthetic impression reinforced by the Ercol-esque prototype subwoofers also on show.

As with any single-driver design, there will be those who love the sound and those who don’t, but first impressions are that this is the most cultured and entertaining Fostex-based design we’ve heard -- and having met the people behind it, that’s no accident.

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