Well, this is awkward. Remember how, in September, I was extolling the audio virtues of Ruark’s beautiful-looking one-box R5 hifi? Then, in October, how I said rival Naim’s Mu-so 2nd Generation, though not necessarily better, certainly produced a very different, harder sound and sported a more dramatic, industrial look?
Well, now I’ve found a third new British machine that is not only the equal of both sonically – arguably a subtle level up from both – but is one of the most beautiful tech products I’ve seen.
Built in bamboo and aluminium, with an LED display reminiscent of an airliner flight deck, the iFi Aurora looks sublime. If final proof were required that this is the prettiest hifi ever made, among the comments I’ve found online from serious hifi geeks are “looks bloody awful”, “looks crap” and “an eyesore”.
“To be insulted by you is to be garlanded with lilies,” Aristophanes wrote, and, seriously, any audio product whose aesthetics attract the derision of hifi wonks is likely to be something of real worth.
The Aurora’s beauty, the product of a Japanese-inspired French designer Julien Haziza, has function too. Bamboo, which is more than just decorative, fulfils the audio designer’s dream of a medium that is light, exceptionally stiff and non-resonant, which means no trace of distracting vibrations and buzzes. And the Aurora’s perky upwards tilt sends its gorgeous, spookily spatial sound towards the middle reaches of a room’s height, where it belongs.
The machine’s electronics – eight speakers, including two massive bass radiators; a preamp with a Russian 6N3P valve to lend warmth to the sound; and a swarm of proprietary technologies – are made by a left-field German, Thorsten Loesch, who says he uses some techniques he learnt while working back in old East Germany. A typically bold admission suited to such an iconoclastic hifi.