Aerial Acoustics LR5, CC5, LR3, SW12 surround speaker system Prepare To Meet Thy Cabinetmaker!
The Danish company Hornslet Cabinets, located just north of the picturesque city of Aarhus, builds speaker cabinets to spec for some of the world's leading manufacturers, including Audio Physic, Naim, Linn, DALI, and Aerial Acoustics. I met the company's owner, Jørgen Thomsen, in the Audio Physic room at the annual High End Show in Frankfurt several years ago, and he suggested I visit his factory. It was a few years before logistics and schedules could be synchronized, but finally, last fall, I made the trip.
It was an ecumenical tour of Hornslet—accompanying Jørgen Thomsen and me were Aerial Acoustics' Michael Kelly, Audio Physic designer Manfred Diesterich, AP business manager Dieter Kratochwil, and Allen Perkins of Immedia, Audio Physic's US importer.
The Hornslet factory is far larger inside than it looks from without. I'd never visited a speaker cabinetmaker before, but I was immediately struck by two things: the cleanliness of the operation and the complete lack of wood scraps. They don't leave much on the floor when they're finished. I was told by others in the entourage, who have visited other cabinetmakers, that the Hornslet factory is exceptionally efficient.
I was shown stacks of thin wood veneers and a machine, guided by a skilled operator, that literally sews and glues the veneer into wide sheets that look seamless. The process of building a finished cabinet of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) includes bonding the veneer to sheets of MDF, sanding, then clear-coating them with lacquer (all done by machine). Finally, complex, computer-controlled cutting and shaping form them into flat panels that literally fold up to make completed cabinets. Getting the veneer patterns and the often-complicated shapes to line up properly is a complex conundrum solved by a combination of computer technology and old-fashioned human ingenuity. Even something as seemingly mundane as a grillecloth frame is cut to shape by an enormous, computer-controlled router.
Hornslet's patented Hornflex technology can create perfectly curved surfaces from flat, veneered sheets of MDF. It is not used on the Aerial speakers reviewed here, but I was given a thorough demonstration of the process. It was amazing to watch a single flat sheet of MDF, which had already been precisely cut, shaped, and sliced, being folded in half to create both sides and the curved rear panel of an Audio Physic Avanti III. Of the speakers comprising the Aerial system reviewed here, only the cabinets of SW12 subwoofers were being made the day of our visit. I was given a complete runthrough of the construction of that heavily braced box.
Now that I've seen the Hornslet factory and watched how flat sheets of MDF and paper-thin leaves of veneer become high-tech speaker boxes, I have a far greater appreciation of what it takes to produce furniture that sounds as good as it looks. —MF