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Loudspeakers | stand-mounted

hORNS by Auto-Tech

Manufacturer: AUTO-TECH
Price (in Poland):
24 000PLN/pair, incl. stands

Auto-Tech | ul. Turka 329A
20-258 Lublin | POLAND



Provided for test by: AUTO-TECH


hen you hear: horn loudspeakers, most likely you're thinking about some huge speakers because first that come to mind come from Avantgarde Acoustic, Acapella Audio Arts, Blumenhoffer Acoustics and others. The horn loudspeakers are clearly divided into two types: with classic cabinets with wooden horns that are "hidden" inside the cabinets, and other ones with horns outside, most often made of epoxy resins.

The problem with these speakers is what is also their main advantage: their size and look. They are simply too large for most rooms, or they simply do not fit in with their visual design. The same goes for loudspeakers with transmission line cabinets, in which a long labyrinth the woofers are loaded with, force large dimensions of the cabinets.

These obstacles exclude such loudspeakers from the field of interest of some music and audio lovers. That is why the companies in question try to use similar solutions in smaller cabinets. And so the Avantgarde Acoustic offers model called Zero, Blumenhoffer Acoustics proposes speakers with only tweeter loaded with a horn, and – since I've mentioned transmission line - PMC found a way to fit a labyrinth into stand-mounted speaker.

| hORNS by Auto-Tech

Everything I have written about so far also applies to the Polish manufacturer, hORNS by Auto-Tech (for short I will use the name hORNS in this test). It is a daughter company of Auto-Tech that was founded in 2000. The latter manufactures car parts and other components made of epoxy and polyester laminates. It is run by Mr. Łukasz Lewandowski, privately car, snowboard, music and audio equipment for its reproduction, lover, a graduate of the Mechanics Department of the Lublin University of Technology. The company offers both large and very large horn designs, such as Universum, but also smaller ones, in which the mid- and low-range drivers operate in classic enclosures.

A separate part of the lineup consists of stand-mount speakers and small floor-standing ones. They are divided into two series: FP (the FP20 model that;s been developed for production will be the first floor-standing speaker in this series) and Aria. The FP series in its assumptions resembles what JBL products, for example the 4367 Studio Monitor (take a look at the FP10 model: HF | No. 138), while Aria is a turn towards classic, small floor-standing speakers, with a distinctive element in a form of a horn-loaded tweeter.

HORNS tries even harder to adapt horn speakers to a home environment with the Atmosphere model. It's a small, two-way monitor, with some interesting solutions in it. It was created to transfer the sound from large speakers to small rooms.

| Why a horn?

Why bother so much? After all, almost all other loudspeakers use ordinary drivers and they are doing OK, right? True, but not quite. At the core of the horn technique is the need to improve the sensitivity of the speakers - the amplifiers at the time delivered only several watts of power. Today, this requirement does not matter, but other advantages of high-efficiency speakers are utilized. The most important among them are the perfect response, i.e. an almost direct energy transfer, flawless dynamics and better coupling of the speakers to the room, making the speakers of this type more forgiving for room acoustics.

Owner and designer

The drivers used in the Atmosphere are a bit different than those used in the other lines, right?
Partially yes. In Atmosphere and Aria I and Aria II we used a horn for the tweeter, which is our hallmark, but the low-midrange woofer is a classic one, widely used in hi-fi speakers.

For the Atmosphere, we used the iconic SEAS driver from the Nextel series, which make sit different from our other speakers, that feature PA drivers. This is a very interesting driver that has this special "something" to it. It offers a cool timbre and can reproduce the nature of the recording, although it does not have a high efficiency. In turn, the tweeter is a one-inch compression driver with an aluminum membrane. This driver is loaded with a tube. It delivers calm sound with no hint of harshness.

Horn profiles, such as those used in Atmosphere, are your proprietary solutions?
Yes, these profiles were calculated by us. We have been dealing with horns since 2008. We have several models - their curve has been simulated and calculated in-house.

On the back there is a diaphragm - is this a passive radiator?
You're right, usually a passive radiator can be found there. I used a classic driver with some added mass in form of bitumen pastes. In the open position it acts as a classical passive radiator, and in the shorted position, the acoustic wave that moves this driver causes a "short circuit" in its magnetic system, causing the diaphragm to stiffen up.

Does it mean that in this speaker you use a combination of bass-reflex and passive radiator?
Yes, it's a combination of bass-reflex and passive radiator – in open position the driver acts like a passive radiator.

Bas-reflex and radiator operate in the same chamber?

Where did you take this idea from?
This is my original idea, I've developed it experimentally.

What are the pros?
In small and medium-sized rooms, I recommend leaving the membrane in shorted position. It's really a trick and it's very simple. In large rooms, in which this speaker could "get lost", you can emphasize the bass. Maybe it will not be the most beautiful, taut bass, but if you like bass, you will have it. In a large room, in which a small speaker can not create the proper music pressure, if you disconnect the coil of the rear driver, the result will be more bass volume. But, I must say, I prefer the version with a shorted driver.

| Atmosphere

The Atmospheres are small, two-way stand-mount loudspeakers, sold together with stands. Probably the idea is to make sure they are placed at the right height, because the stands are higher than classic ones - the bottom edge of the speaker is positioned 76 cm above the floor. This means that the low-midrange driver is positioned at the level of listener's ears. It is loaded in two ways. The basic load is the bass-reflex with the port on the rear panel. But there is also a driver that is not connected to the signal, working as a passive radiator.

This is hORNS' proprietary solution, which is supposed to help in filling larger rooms with sound. In smaller ones, you can give up using it (at least to some extent). Between nice WBT terminals, an extendable plunger has been placed, which can be used to shorten the transducer's terminals or open them. After they are shortened, the motor system prevents the diaphragm from moving - not quite, but enough not to affect the bass reproduction.

The loudspeakers feature veneered side walls with the rest of them painted black. The top wall is tilted, and the front, horizontal edges are rounded. These elements have technical justification, but also positively affect the aesthetics of the product. Its most important part is of course the tweeter's horn. It has the same diameter ø as the outer frame to which the second driver's basket is mounted to and is made by hORNS themselves.

The Atmosphere is different from the other models offered by this manufacturer. This is not a high-efficiency design - the technical specifications read that its sensitivity is only 84 dB, which is not so much. The high nominal impedance - 8 Ω - and its linearization, allow usage if tube amplifiers. However, I would suggest using powerful amplifiers - tube, hybrid or solid-state. Mr Łukasz prefers tubes and hybrids, but he does not condemn transistors. This is the theory - the listening session proved that these are not difficult to drive.

hORNS in „High Fidelity”
  • TEST: hORNS by Auto-Tech FP10 | loudspeakers

  • 99% of the speakers reviewed by me in my room sound best when taking exactly the same place as my reference Harbeth M40.1 normally occupy. This time was different. When Mr. Łukasz brought the Atmosphere to me, we unpacked them and listened to them for a while. The sound was very pleasant, but it was clear that the sound was a bit “too light”. And, as their designer told me, in some rooms they were too bass-heavy.

    The room I work in is around 35 m2 big, 25 m2 of which is the main room, and the rest is an open corridor – so the whole has an irregular shape. More important, however, is that the walls on the side and behind the speakers host shelves full of books and CDs, so that the acoustics of the room is not very lively. On the other hand, it is not dull either, but in some cases, this amount of “acoustical treatment” can be a problem and speakers require some help.

    As they did in this case. We carried out the listening session with the designer with classic speakers setup, in which the rear edge of the speakers is placed about 80 cm from the back wall (there are still shelves with books and CDs in between). After we decided to implement a different setup the Atmosphere were placed only 45 cm from the wall behind them. I used the Soulution 710 power amplifier with the Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier to drive them.

    Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion):

    • Andrea Amati Carlo IX. Le Origini del Violino, wyk. Federico Guglielmo, MV Cremona MCV 018-45 (2017)
    • Breakout, Blues, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania PNCD 940, CD (1971/2005)
    • Chet Baker, Chet Baker sings and plays, Pacific Jazz/EMI Music Japan TOCJ-90028, HQCD (1955/2006)
    • Depeche Mode, It’s No Good, Mute Records 74321482772, maxi-SP (1997)
    • Diana Krall, All for You, Impulse!/JVC 532 360-9, XRCD24 (1996/2010)
    • Diorama, The Art of Creating Confusing Spirits, Accession Records 23450-2, 2 x CD (2002)
    • Julie London, Julie is her name. Vol. 1, Liberty Records/EMI Music Japan TOCJ-90014, HQCD (1955/2008)
    • Maroon 5, Red Pill Blues, 222 Records/Interscope 6705300, 2 x CD (2017)
    • Nat ‘King’ Cole, Penthouse Serenade, Capitol Jazz/EMI 94504, “Super Bit Mapping” CD (1952/1998)
    • The Beatles, Please Please Me, Apple/Toshiba-EMI TOCP-51112, CD (1963/2000)

    Japanese issues available at

    The quality that attracted my attention during the listening session with Mr Łukasz, that is the smoothness, is something normal for these loudspeakers. It's such a nice, intimate presentation! An intimacy is achieved by many designs by manipulating the tone, for example, by adding more mass to the mid and low tones and “easing” the treble. This is a good way, you can achieve really cool effects in this way and enjoy the speakers during long, peaceful evenings.

    The Atmosphere, however, are suitable not only for calming the presentation down, because they do not color anything and seem very transparent. And yet this intimacy, if it's there in the particular recording, is something natural for them. And Julie London from the Julie is her name ... Vol. 1, released on the HQCD in 2008 by EMI Music Japan sounded in such a natural way. A sexy voice, Barney Kessel's guitar, Ray Leatherwood's double bass – just these three elements and an amazing result.

    Because these are speakers that are transparent and resolving on the one hand, and smooth, delicate, attentive on the other. They do not charm with unnatural bass extension, setting the whole sound right away - so that we do not even wonder if there is anything missing or not, focusing on music instead. It is obvious that comparing them to larger speakers, I don't mean only my mighty Harbeths, the lack of a lowest notes in electronic music, in a large orchestra's sound, in a rock concert will be clear from the very beginning.

    As long as one understands what this presentation is about, it will not be a problem. Because the coherence of this sound is incredible. It's an immersive sound that does not discriminate recordings, does not dominate the music. Unlike other horn loudspeakers, moving your head while listening to the music does not adversely affect timbre or focus - so you can move and listen to the music without feeling that there is only one spot that allows you to get optimal sound. This is a huge advantage and in this respect, the Atmosphere are better than most loudspeakers - not only the horn ones, but also classic ones.

    This quality is particularly obvious when listening to mono recordings, which are usually excellent in their naturalness. I started this description from Julie London, but before that I listened to the excellent Penthouse Serenade by Nat 'King' Cole, which featured both this session and a later one, from 1952, already with the vocal in the lead role. Both versions, i.e. the piano trio and the beginning of Cole's commercial success as a vocalist, were presented by hORNS as a dense, ambiguous, dynamic whole.

    But it is about dynamics that is slightly hidden underneath, that never dominates over music. It allows you to perfectly capture the differences between individual recordings and even between tracks on the same disc. They shows the advantages of older recordings over new, compressed ones. However, they never treat the latter in a particularly cruel way. The Depeche Mode maxi-single It's No Good, a classic example of heavily compressed, electronic music with classical drums, sounded very good, although it was also clear that it was dynamically flattened.

    And whatever album I played, each time I had to say that these speakers played it with class, in a smooth, coherent way. Which shows how good a horn can be if used properly and how well it was done in this case. The treble is resolving, detailed, and at the same time they sound more pleasant than with most dome tweeters. This is a direct presentation, without a “veil” on the tweeter. And at the same time it is also silky.

    | With or without radiator?

    The spindle that allows user to shorten the woofer on the rear is a useful solution. During my listening sessions I preferred to use the driver as a passive radiator, but if you are perfectionists and the room is not too big, it will be better to shorten it. Why? The operation of the radiator not only deepens the bass, but it slightly colors it too. The point is that everything is more "serious" and has more mass, and it does not have to be that way. The changes introduced by the operation of the radiator are so interesting though, that they will surely convince some users.

    The Atmosphere speakers project a large, very natural sound stage. They go deeper than other horn speakers - and many of those have a problem with that - while building a broad perspective. The foreground sits on the line connecting the speakers and it is full and focused. The elements on the listening axis, that is most often the vocals, are large and clear. These elements are never emphasized though, or over-interpreted.

    This happens even if, as in the case of the aforementioned Julie London, as in the recordings of Diana Krall, Chet Baker, Adelle, etc., the vocal is the most important element. Their weight is determined by these loudspeakers using purity, clarity, insight, and not by bringing them closer to listener. That's why classical music recordings, where the right perspective is key, also sounded so good.


    The Atmosphere are clean, dynamic, transparent sounding loudspeakers and they do not focus on any of these qualities in particular. Their small cabinet does not let them go very deep in the bass, but choosing stand-mounted boxes one should not expect it. They will offer everything that this kind of speakers is liked for, above all, a big sound stage,, they simply disappear from the room, they deliver precision, but no coloration. There is also this wonderful smoothness, fantastic treble and dynamics, which is there to support the presentation as a whole and not to impress listener with it. These are amazing loudspeakers that in a right room with the right amplifier will be the shining star of any system.

    The Atmosphere are two-way stand-mount loudspeakers in vented cabinets and a passive radiators that might be switched on and off. They are heavy, due to the robust cabinets and drivers. They use a 25 mm (1") compression tweeter with aluminum membrane loaded with a horn. Its profile was calculated by the hORNS engineers. The horn has the same diameter of 198 mm, as a low-midrange woofer with a flange that extends it in front of the front wall.

    The 180 mm (7") low-midrange driver with is the SEAS W18NX-001 model from the Nextel series with a paper membrane and a solid, cast basket. In the center of the diaphragm there is a silver phase plug, which also works as a radiator cooling the coil. Nextel is a process of covering the membrane with a material that reduces distortion and smoothes the frequency response.

    On the back you can see another driver of the same diameter. This one comes from Polish company STX and it features a rigid carbon fiber braid diaphragm. It has been loaded with bituminous mats, and the driver itself is not connected to the signal. Its terminals can be shorted, which limits the diaphragm movement. One uses a pin to shorten the terminals. These are high quality WBT terminals. Above there is a bass-reflex port.

    The cabinet is made of MDF. The sides are finished with natural veneer and the remaining panels are varnished. Different colors are available, just like the colors of the horns - the latter can be selected from the RAL palette. The horizontal edges are rounded and the top wall is tilted forward, which minimizes standing waves inside the cabinet. In the crossover one finds high quality elements, including Mundorf capacitors. The frequency range is divided between drivers using first order filter for tweeter and second order for low midrange. The crossover feature also impedance linearization.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    Design: 2-way
    - woofer, 1×7” paper with Nextel
    - tweeter, 1×1” annular diaphragm Alu
    Crossover: 6 + 12 dB/oct.
    Cabinet: 19 l, M-BR
    Sensitivity: 84 dB
    Frequency range: 45-23 000 Hz
    Nominal impedance: 8 Ω
    Terminals: single wire WBT
    Dimensions (incl. horn): 238 x 462 x 365 mm
    Stand dimensions: 270 x 575 x 385 mm
    Weight: 20 kg/pc.
    Stand weight: 10 kg/pc.



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One