Stuart and Linette take a listen to the unique Volya Bouquet loudspeakers costing €120 000. 

I first came across the Volya Bouquet speakers at last year’s High-End show in Munich last year and was impressed enough to drag Linette away from a meeting to come and have a look/listen.

Let’s not beat around the proverbial bush here, the Bouquet’s are aesthetically unlike any piece of Hifi that I’ve ever come across and their look is not going to be to everyone’s taste. The enclosures are based on the form of a traditional Ukranian spoon (yep, you read it right) and are hand painted in traditional Petrikovskiy designs by Lyudmila Gorbulya. Because they are hand painted each speaker’s paint-job is slightly different and unique – whilst completely unusual I actually really love the design.
Each of the enclosures is constructed from MDF with the walls of the speakers varying in thickness from 35mm to 50mm and with internal bracing throughout and with no parallel lines anywhere in an attempt to reduce standing waves. Inside the enclosure sheep wool is used as a dampener.

All internal wiring is “super-pure” copper and the crossover components are made by Mundorf and Goertz with the actual crossover itself being on three separate boards. German brand Accuton make the drivers used in the Bouquet with the pair of woofers being 280mm (11 inch) Kevlar/ceramic sandwich construction and are rear-ported. There is a mid-bass driver at the top of the enclosure of 220mm (8 inch), a mid range of 50mm (2 inch) and a diamond membrane tweeter of 25mm (1 inch). Impedence is 4 Ohms and the Bouquets are 86dB sensitive.

The two bass drivers are in the “bowl” of the spoon with the lower driver pointing slightly upwards and the upper driver pointing slightly downwards. Likewise the mid-bass driver points downwards towards the listening position. These are visually an imposing speaker, not only because of the striking paint-job, but also because of their physical size – they stand nearly 2 metres in height and weigh a not inconsiderable 105 kg each!

System used for the duration of the review period was as follows: Chord DAVE DAC, Musical Fidelity CD player, Novafidelity X50, Music First Baby Reference V2 Preamplifier, Merrill Thor and Nord amplifiers with mains cables being by Atlas, interconnects by Tellurium Q and speaker cables by Chord and Tellurium Q.

Sound

The first CD in the tray, because it was already in there from a previous listening session was Gong’s Floating Anarchy and it being an early morning start volumes were kept at an uncharacteristically low level. What first struck was the utter lack of any kind of bass bloat…regular readers will know this is pretty much the first thing I listen for. Bass guitar really did sound like a real bass with absolutely bags of detail. On the track Allez Ali Baba Blacksheep -Have You Any Bullshit the intricate bass runs are presented really beautifully and even at these low levels there’s just bags of micro detail apparent and a really live feel to the music. The next thing to grab my attention on this album was the swirling synth that just comes out of thin air and move around the soundstage in a stunningly three dimensional and utterly believable way – the speakers do disappear in this respect! Reading my notes through I’m making it sound as though the Bouquets are separating everything up into its component parts but the reality is that whilst each individual part of the performance is clearly distinguishable, it still comes together as a whole and with a real sense that you are listening to a live band. I put this down to the way the mid-bass and mid-range drivers are angled downwards towards the listener making it feel that you are really among the crowd at the concert.

Todd Terry’s Resolutions album is a breakbeat and bass fest and I’m pretty certain that this kind of music is certainly not what Volya had in mind when designing these speakers, but my thoughts on this are that a speaker, particularly one costing as much as the Bouquets, should be able to play anything that you care to throw at it…and anyway it’s a great album and a terrific work out. This is electronic music and I know there will be people reading this that don’t think this is right or proper material for using in a review…but I disagree strongly on this; I know this music inside out and what can I say…it sounds magnificent on the Volyas! The insight into the stereo mix is brilliant. It is accurate and the spatial elements within the mix and presented in a fashion that is almost reach out and touchable. This is a complex record with deep electronic bass that some speakers can get totally lost with but the Volyas just don’t put a step wrong and feel sure footed and composed throughout, whilst at the same time keeping that edge of your seat excitement. And then there’s the detail again in the top end frequencies; hats on Blackout are fast and furious and here you are getting every hit of the drum machine. There’s also that same feeling of being enveloped by the music and the mix which is a really addictive trait of these speakers. These are incredibly communicative and detailed loudspeakers, and despite the sound levels having crept up quite dramatically they never sound stressed or on the point of losing it; composed, calm and unflustered are words used in my notes. Track two on the album is a funky workout based around one drum sample that Terry messes about with and all the way through is a nagging cowbell which here just shines out and grabs your attention. When Terry filters the beat you hear everything that he’s doing in the studio. I’ve noted here that I’m aware that the speakers are disappearing sonically with the soundstage extending well beyond the speakers laterally and well behind and forward too… I like that! At the end of this track there is a fade out of just one sample and today on the Volyas there is real detail and you can hear that it’s actually a vocal sample that has been heavily processed…it sounds like “Ftz” and I’ve never heard it in quite so much detail before. Keeping with this album and track three has a brass sample that with the Bouquets just cuts through the rest of the mix with a force that makes you sit up and pay attention.

I’m making the Bouquets sound as though they are like a studio monitor and in many ways that is how they come across to me; they just allow so much detail and micro-detail to reach the listener and it comes through with pinpoint accuracy and very little colouration. I really could see these speakers being used as high-end studio’s main monitors. You are really drawn into what is happening in the mix and get every effect, sample or drum hit. I really am hearing stuff on this record that, whilst I was previously aware they were there, I’m now getting a more defined and complete feel to the overall sound these little sonic clues bring to the tunes. I’m sat just listening and getting into the grooves of the tunes, but I’m also aware that I’m hearing them as you would when you really sit and try to analyse the sound in a critical manner…but without having to try…if that makes sense.

It’s not long before I’m kicked out of the sweet-spot by Linette and whilst the stereo image is no longer quite as holographic and focused as it was there is still a feeling that you are amongst the music. These are speakers you can enjoy with friends, but you are still going to want to keep the best seat in the house for yourself. I flick back to the Blackout tune and there’s a sound I really thought I’d got the hang of; it’s a bass sound with lots of kick drum but with the Volyas there is real insight into how the overall sound has been modulated and filtered…again monitor like definition.

Induologue’s Blue Sky is an album female voice and contrabass that has been recorded in a Dutch chapel with great attention being paid to the recording space and it’s a really glorious album. At the end of the first track the bass just fades out into the natural reverb of the space and here it sounds wonderful…it’s little things like this that sets these speakers apart. This is perhaps the kind of album that manufacturers would use to show off how good their speakers are but with the Volyas the fine detail in the timbre of the bass is mightily impressive; you just hear everything and it sounds natural and unforced and you just can’t help but be drawn into and get lost in the sound. As to the vocal, I’m hearing every little inflection in her tone and when she hits the high notes there’s not a hint of harshness or feeling that the speakers are getting stressed.

There’s only so much description of listening to specific tunes that you can do in a review before you start to repeat yourself, sound like a prat and bore people to tears…suffice to say that the time I spent with the Volyas had a huge impact on me. They are a home loudspeaker that have a monitor-like accuracy and depth of detail. They are beautifully balanced with no one frequency range coming to the fore. At low levels they play wonderfully and allow you a full listening experience. However, turn up the volume and they just get louder; no stress, no hassles and just more of what you were getting at the lower volumes. Feed them with well recorded tunes and the Volyas shine, but conversely if you feed them with crap recordings you will realise just how bad it is!

Conclusion 

Let’s face it, no one is going to spunk €120K on the back of a review and I see my time with the Bouquets as a bit of a perk of the job; not many people are ever going to have the opportunity to hear them with their own gear and in their own space rather than at a Hifi show.
Sonically the Volyas are simply stunning with detail, finesse and poise across the volume range. They allow you to see into a recording, the space the recording is made in and add a spatial element to the listening experience that is virtually reach out and touch tactile.

So long as the recording is good these speakers don’t quibble what kind of music you throw at them and are equally happy playing Miles Davis as they are Dutch Gabba.

The looks are going to divide opinion but that’s sort of to miss the point of these speakers. Not everyone is going to get the design and the artwork but the way I saw the Bouquets was as a work of terrific folk art that also play music brilliantly.
As I was finishing up my notes we had some friends pop round and they were totally gobsmacked with every aspect of the Bouquets. As we’re sat enjoying a glass of wine we’re listening to Anouar Brahem and for all intents and purposes the musicians may as well be in the room.

Yep the Bouquets are that good!

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Stunning with artwork to match

Sound Quality: A level of detail that is highly impressive at all volume levels. Bass is as tight as can be. A real insight into the recording, the recording space and the mixing process

Value For Money: Beyond the reach of most but view these as a work of art…a Fabergé egg of the audio world perhaps 

Pros:

Detailed, monitor type sound that is never fatiguing and nor does it feel over analytical

Exquisite build and finish

Tight and extended bass response

An eerily three dimensional listening experience 

Cons:

The artwork is not going to be to everyone’s taste

I can’t afford them 

Price: €120 000

 

Stuart Smith

I first encountered these loudspeakers at High End Munich 2016.  I had been at a get together with my ‘Women In Hifi’ facebook group, so Stuart was on his own when he went into the Volya cabin, he was so impressed that he took me back to have a listen, I think his exact words were “come and listen to these, you’ll love them!”. He was, of course, correct. I only had a short time to listen but came away feeling very impressed both by the looks and the sound of the Bouquet.

Fast forward six months and we are in the damp gloom of winter rather than the Bavarian sunshine and are waiting for the Volya Bouquets to arrive at Hifi Pig Towers.  Luckily we have a big listening room as these are very big speakers, though, despite their size, their shape makes them very elegant…I love the way they seem to lean both forwards and back at the same time.  The four strong Ukrainian team were incredibly efficient and had them inside for us in no time.

The loudspeakers have an incredibly tactile quality to them.  The Lyudmila Gorbulya artwork in the traditional Petrikovskiy style is stunning.  Each speaker is slightly different as they are completely hand done.  There is a depth to the floral designs that is enhanced by the incredibly glossy finish. They bring an explosion of colour into the room. I know that the finish will divide people, but personally I love it and in the right interior they look breathtaking.

There was always the possibility that these could be a little gimmicky, but Volya have focused as much attention on the insides of the speakers as they have on the outside. The  Accuton ceramic/kevlar and their diamond drivers are very high quality as are the Mundorf and Goertz crossover components.  The sonic results are outstanding.  The sounds is very pure and natural and the speakers are equally happy with female vocal and acoustic instruments as they are with electronic music. Stuart has gone into plenty of detail previously in this review so I won’t duplicate that, suffice to say these speakers do what I like best, give you a whole load of enjoyment, are totally non-fatiguing, have tight, fast bass and engaging top and mids. Of particular note for me was the presentation of the soundstage which was projected into the room in a 3D ‘bubble’, completely immersive! Unusually, they also had somewhat of an omnidirectional quality to them, even sat in the small lounge area we have that was behind the speakers you could appreciate the music.

In summary I would say that one word sums up the Volya Bouquet and that would be ‘Joyful’ They are a complete pleasure to listen to whatever your musical taste, plus you have the benefit of two incredible works of art in your home.  They are expensive but if you can afford them and are looking for something just that bit different then I can heartily recommend them.

Linette Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

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