A quick office straw poll of famous Finns elicited unsurprising responses.Sportsmen, inevitably – motor racing drivers and footballers mostly, all predictably blond.
No one mentioned Finnish loudspeakers firms, though, and when the question turned to the word ‘Amphion', no one recalled the son of Zeus who built the walls of Thebes by charming the stones into place with his lyre. So the arrival of the Ion loudspeaker from Finnish manufacturer Amphion in our offices was met with a degree of uncultured bafflement.
Mind you, some of our consternation is very easily explained. In a test like this one, where the asking price of each product is very similar, the Amphion Ions are decisively the least tactile, the least attractive and the least desirable.
Ion is sturdy and compact but feels cheapThey're usefully compact, certainly, and there's no obvious shortcoming in the way they're put together, but every other speaker in this test looks and feels more expensive than the Ion.
There's more than a hint of industrial robustness about the cabinet, and the speaker binding posts at the rear are sturdy, but examined alongside the Tannoys (for example) the Amphions look to be from a cheaper price-point altogether.
More after the break
Those functional looks are, to a degree, reflected in the Ions' sound. Playing Nico's It Was a Pleasure Then, the Amphions initially sound quite upfront and enthusiastic – there's plenty of attack to their sound, and considerable dynamic agility.
Anything more than an introductory listen, though, reveals fundamental limitations to their performance.
There's a lack of balance to the Ions' presentation, one that becomes more pronounced the further into open space the speakers are sited. Obviously, a small cabinet like this pretty much invites you to put it in a corner, or up against a wall, and the Amphions are at their most cohesive when that's the case – but that titanium tweeter is never less than crisp and needs little encouragement to clatter and spit unattractively.
The midrange, so crucial for vocal communication, often sounds uncomfortably like singers are cupping their hands around their mouths. Low frequencies are meaningfully substantial but lack firm definition and, as the speakers come further away from a rear wall, the rear port has less effect and the bottom end drops away – leaving the treble to become even more pronounced.
But it's a shortage of unity that really does for the Ions.The crossover between tweeter and mid-range driver is ragged, and the Amphions lurch around the dancefloor when they really should skip. On top of the humdrum build and looks, the audible estrangement of the drivers and the lack of rhythmic confidence consign the Ions to the back of the field.
Amphion's lyre must have been a fair bit more charming than this.