Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
Vimberg, founded in 2018, is a brand of Tidal Audio GmbH, a German company founded two decades ago. Vimberg was created to offer loudspeakers that share the Tidal DNA, but not the Tidal models’ very high prices. The Vimberg website explains their relationship with Tidal: their speakers are made by “the same people with the same engineering skills, the same ‘we care’ attitude and all is being designed and built under the same roof.”
While I’d heard of Tidal, and had admired their speakers from afar, Vimberg was unknown to me when I joined the SoundStage! team. But soon I was reading about the journey of our editor-in-chief, Jeff Fritz, in choosing the Vimberg Tonda as his new reference loudspeaker.
While I’d love to experience at home a pair of mighty, three-way, five-driver Tondas (base price $38,000/pair, all prices USD), my room just isn’t big enough. Perhaps the next model down, the floorstanding Mino ($31,000/pair base price), would have worked, but that’s not what I was sent. Still, I was excited to review Vimberg’s only two-way minimonitor, the Amea. At its base price of $14,000/pair, the Amea is available in Vimberg’s Velvetec painted matte finishes of Summit White, Jet Black, Slate Grey, Sonoma Orange, Amethyst, or, for an additional charge, “other colors on request”; add $4500/pair for piano lacquer in Summit White or Jet Black. (Apparently, matte and gloss wood veneers are available, but their website lists only the paint finishes.) My review samples were finished in Summit White piano lacquer.
All three Vimberg models come stock with an Accuton Cell tweeter with 1.2”-diameter inverted ceramic dome. Those who want the absolute best can, for an extra $10,000-$12,000/pair, depending on the model, select a version of this Accuton tweeter with a dome made of pure diamond. The speakers can be ordered with the diamond tweeter, or it can be retrofitted -- the latter is as simple as unbolting the old tweeter, removing it, inserting the new tweeter, and tightening down its bolts. Vimberg models boasting a diamond tweeter have a D appended to their name: Tonda D, Mino D, Amea D -- but my Ameas arrived D-less.
The Vimberg Amea is stunningly gorgeous in gloss Summit White, and the quality of that finish on my review samples was immaculate. And at $18,500/pair for a minimonitor, it damn well better be. I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on speakers unless they sounded great and looked fantastic. Vimberg has that second base covered.
The Amea’s overall dimensions are 19.8”H x 9.1”W x 15.4”D, but this is no rectilinear box. Viewed head-on, the Amea’s top panel slopes up and away from front to back; the front and rear panels are parallel to each other but tilted back. That front baffle is especially fetching, its corner edges having deep bevels that widen toward the top and bottom panels, all to prevent sound-degrading diffraction of the high frequencies.
The fit and finish are sublime -- the 44-pound cabinet of thick, high-density fiberboard (HDF) looks as if carved from a solid block of wood. Ostensibly waterproof, it’s also dense -- when I rapped it with a knuckle, I expected it to feel solid, but this thing felt sculpted from granite.
Both front drivers are mounted on a black, decoupled, aluminum plate at the vertical center of the baffle. Like its stock tweeter, the Amea’s 6.8” midrange-woofer is made by Accuton and has a ceramic diaphragm. Tweeter and midrange-woofer each have a permanently affixed metal grille, to keep them safe from children or pets.
The cabinet is pseudo-sealed -- there’s no port to assist with the bass response, but around back is an 8.7” passive radiator, also from Accuton, its aluminum-sandwich cone augmenting the midrange-woofer’s low-end output. Although Vimberg doesn’t publish the crossover frequency, or what frequency the radiator is tuned to, they do state that their speakers’ crossovers are optimized for “ultra linear frequency response” -- i.e., a neutral sound -- and an ideal impulse response, for proper reproduction of transients.
The Amea is internally connected with high-end wire from Mogami, and its crossover contains Mundorf and Duelund components. All of this terminates in a pair of pure-silver binding posts from Argento, mounted on a large square panel of aluminum at the bottom of the rear panel. The specified nominal impedance is 5 ohms, with a low point of 5.2 ohms at 100Hz, and the efficiency is 86dB/2.83V/m at 1kHz. Vimberg does not specify the Amea’s frequency response or -3dB down frequency.
The Ameas came well packed in a single large box with a tilt sensor affixed to one side -- you’ll know if the package was mishandled in shipping. There was ample foam inside, and each speaker was generously entombed in shrink-wrap. Included was a single microfiber cleaning cloth.
My dedicated listening room is a relatively small (15’L x 12’W x 8’H) space treated with broadband absorption at the first reflection points on the sidewalls and on the long wall behind the speakers, with a single homemade bass trap in each front corner. Vimberg is still designing a stand for the Amea; in lieu of those, I placed the speakers atop the 24”-high stands that came with my Focal Sopra No1 minimonitors. The speakers and my listening chair described a 9’ equilateral triangle; the Ameas’ rear panels were about 16” from the front wall, and each outer side panel was about 30” from the room’s nearer sidewall. I played around with toe-in, and found that my usual 18-20° yielded a very focused center image.
I connected the Ameas to the 8-ohm taps of my 300Wpc McIntosh Laboratory MC302 power amp with my usual 12-gauge speaker wires. The MC302 was in turn fed by my McIntosh C47 preamplifier via Monoprice balanced interconnects (XLR). The source component was a Bluesound Node streamer whose optical digital output was connected to a miniDSP DDRC-22D room-correction digital processor, its built-in Dirac Live room-optimizing software disabled. This was plugged into the DAC of the McIntosh C47. All digital links were AmazonBasics optical (TosLink). The Bluesound Node also served as an endpoint for the Roon app installed on my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 laptop computer. I played music from Qobuz and Tidal, and FLAC files I’d ripped from CDs and stored on a NAS.
Before I did any serious listening, I let the Ameas burn in by playing them at a healthy volume overnight.
Next morning I sat down for my first listening session, and it wasn’t long before I thought, Damn, these sound good! At $18,500/pair, that’s just the kind of reaction you’d want and expect. But what do I mean by good?
I was first most struck by the Amea’s transparency, coupled with its ability to project aural images with laser-like precision. In the opening notes picked on acoustic guitar to left of center in “Give Me One Reason,” from Tracy Chapman’s New Beginnings (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Elektra/Qobuz), each string vibrated with exquisite clarity -- there were bite, sparkle, subtle decays. Then, at 0:32, when Chapman’s voice enters, I could hear only her deep, throaty voice, standing out starkly and appearing dead center and high above the tops of the speakers, just behind the plane described by their frontmost bevels. There was no hint of cabinet coloration in the sound -- just Chapman’s voice floating there, holographic and almost tangible. This was loudspeaker transparency above reproach.
And when drummer Rock Deadrick enters at 1:02, I appreciated the Ameas’ prowess at both ends of the audioband. His kick drum was very punchy, taut, and quick, and his snare had detail and texture -- I heard not some generic whack, but the sounds of the skins reverberating. His subtle work on hi-hat, sounding delicate and airy to left of center between the first guitar and Chapman’s voice, emerged as a tightly focused image only a few inches wide and several feet behind Chapman. Each image thrown up by the Ameas was tightly focused, including those of the backing singers, one behind and to the left of Chapman, the other behind her and to the right. I played this track at low and very high volumes, and the only thing that changed was the scale -- I never heard any sign of compression.
“Insensitive,” from Jann Arden’s Living Under June (16/44.1 FLAC, A&M/Qobuz), presented more of the same. The opening kick-drum strokes were fast and punchy, with slam I felt in my chest and bass extension I felt in my legs. The cymbal crash at 0:12 was shimmery and delicate, with a decay that seemed to go on forever. And when she sang, Arden sounded as if she were there in the room with me. With some speakers, I’ve complained about hearing excessive sibilance in Arden’s voice in this track -- but not with the Vimbergs, which got the top end just right. There was enough energy to make her voice sound airy, as if floating on a cloud -- but not so much as to annoy with irritating s sounds.
Details in “Insensitive” were exposed as well as or better than through any other speakers I’ve heard. In the chorus, as Arden belts out her lyrics, I could easily hear subtle backing singers off to the right and behind her -- and, way off in the distance to left of center, the low-level grinding of an electric guitar. However, in the Amea I heard a bit of leanness, most audible in voices, especially during forceful inflections. At times, Arden’s voice also sounded a bit harder and glassier than I’ve heard it through other speakers or headphones.
I wanted to listen to some loud, hard-hitting rock. So, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of AC/DC’s groundbreaking Back in Black (24/96 FLAC, Columbia/Qobuz), released October 31, 1980, I cued up “Hells Bells.” In May 2019, SoundStage! Network founder-publisher Doug Schneider wrote, for SoundStage Hi-Fi, an article about the many editions of this album: “Seven Shades of Back in Black -- finding the Best Version to Test Your System With.” All the editions Doug surveyed were ripped from CDs; I’ve since found a high-resolution version on Qobuz that equals or betters the best of those.
The haunting, tolling bells at the beginning seemed to ring and then slowly decay from everywhere at the front of the soundstage except the speakers themselves -- the Ameas sonically “disappeared” from the room. They also let me peer deeply into the details of this well-recorded track, as if I’d been transported back to April and May of 1980, to Compass Point Studio in Nassau, the Bahamas, where it was recorded. I heard every string of the Young brothers’ layered rhythm and lead guitars -- the bite and sizzle of Angus’s lead at hard right near the beginning, the guttural grunge of Malcolm’s rhythm off to the left. Phil Rudd’s kick drum had visceral punch and speed, and his cymbal crashes among all the hard-rock chaos had nimble delicacy, shimmer, and air. Brian Johnson’s voice was projected at dead center and high above the speakers, his distinctive screech palpably real. I played “Hells Bells” loud -- about 95-100dB SPL, C-weighted, at my listening seat. The Ameas didn’t care and didn’t break a sweat -- they even re-created every detail of the musically and aurally complex chorus with perfect balance and weight, each voice and instrument cleanly and effortlessly delineated from the rest -- a huge wave of sound that washed over me and left with me wearing a big smile.
Comparison: Vimberg Amea vs. Focal Sopra No1
Because most of my writing is for SoundStage! Access, which focuses on affordable hi-fi gear, I seldom get to compare a speaker I’m reviewing with my reference minimonitor, Focal’s Sopra No1, which costs $9990/pair. But with the pricey Vimberg Ameas in the hot seats, I reached for the most expensive speakers I had on hand -- though even the Sopra costs $4010/pair less than the Amea’s base price.
I matched the speakers’ levels using pink noise and using an SPL meter to measure their outputs at my listening position, and found the Sopras No1s 3dB more efficient than the Ameas. So every time I switched from one pair of speakers to the other, I adjusted the volume accordingly. I was able to keep my swap-out/in time to under 45 seconds. Mostly.
I’ll start with the similarities. With respect to soundstage width, depth, and height, as well as the focus and precision of imaging on those stages, the two pairs of speakers were on equal footing. Each pair was able to throw a wide, deep soundstage on which it carved out in three dimensions ultra-clear, super-focused aural images. With Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” both pairs of speakers placed each musical element on the soundstage in the same position with equally laser-like definition and precision.
The two sets of speakers were also equally and superbly transparent -- each could “disappear” into its seamless soundstage. Every aural image in “Give Me One Reason” and other songs had a palpable, floating quality entirely divorced from the cabinets and drivers actually producing the sounds. Both pairs of speakers “disappeared” entirely from the room even as they created 3D images -- I never heard a whisper or even a hint of cabinet coloration from either.
There were differences. Through the midrange, and especially when I focused on voices, the Ameas, while delivering superb clarity and all the detail I could ask for, sounded slightly leaner than the Sopra No1s, which reproduced voices with more body and thus a smoother sound. The Sopras also reproduced voices with a hair more air and presence. For example, through the Sopras, Jann Arden’s voice in “Insensitive” was just a bit more forward and palpable, seeming to float on a slightly larger cushion of air. But this difference was extremely subtle.
Less subtle was the difference in tonality in Arden’s voice, which sounded meatier, more robust through the Sopra No1s. This was easiest to hear when Arden leans in to her vocal mike -- e.g., when she sings “eyes” at 0:49 in “Insensitive.” Through the Ameas, her voice was a bit hard, even brittle on this word; through the Sopras, the entire phrase remained smooth. I wish I could say which of these speakers’ reproduction of this track was more accurate, but I can’t. I do know that I preferred the Focals’ midrange.
I heard bigger differences in vocal tonality with “Home,” from Michael Bublé’s It’s Time (16/44.1 FLAC, Reprise/Qobuz). The two pairs of speakers re-created Bublé’s voice with equal presence and realism, but the Ameas’ reproduction was thinner, while the Sopras’ had more body and richness. During incisive vocal inflections, such as at 0:47 when Bublé sings “keeping all the letters,” the Ameas sounded a bit edgy, the Sopras more silky.
The speakers’ reproductions of high frequencies were extremely close. The Ameas provided just the right quantity of treble for my taste; the Sopras deliver about 1dB more energy than I prefer between 3 and 12kHz. However, I noticed this only with tracks that themselves contain excess vocal sibilance. While overall I preferred the Sopras’ reproduction of Arden’s voice in “Insensitive,” she still sounded a hair too sibilant -- a sin the Ameas never committed.
In terms of treble quality, the Sopra No1s took a slight lead, though this was revealed only with careful scrutiny. When I listened to the Ameas in isolation, I had no complaints about their HF reproduction, and would have claimed they were as good as or better than the finest speakers I’ve had in my room. But in quickly switching between speaker pairs while focusing on the cymbal crash 0:48 into “Black Velvet,” from Alannah Myles (16/44.1 FLAC, Atlantic/Qobuz), I noted that through the Sopras the sound of the cymbal seemed lighter and more delicate, seeming to float in the air just a little longer.
In the category of bass reproduction it was tough to declare a winner, though overall I felt the Ameas prevailed. I began by listening for bass extension with “She Will,” from Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV (16/44.1 FLAC, Cash Money/Qobuz), and though I measured the same -3dB point of 33Hz with both speakers using my miniDSP UMIK-1 microphone, through the Sopras I felt a hair more rumble from this track’s sustained ultra-low synth bass -- likely due to the Sopra’s ported design, vs. the Amea’s “pseudo-sealed” cabinet. But in comparisons of bass speed, punch, and articulation, the Ameas handily took the lead. With “Run-Around,” from Blues Traveler’s Four (16/44.1 FLAC, A&M/Qobuz), I felt more authoritative kick-drum punch from the Vimbergs, and heard quicker speed and better rhythm. Both speakers did very well in these regards, but the Vimbergs got my toes tapping a bit sooner -- and a bit faster -- with this fast-paced track.
Whether you pay $14,000 for a pair of Vimberg Ameas in standard finish or $18,500 for the piano lacquer, you’re paying a lot for a pair of minimonitors. But for either tidy sum you get cutting-edge drive-unit, crossover, and cabinet technology, all optimized for textbook-accurate frequency and impulse response. The result is a loudspeaker that projects laser-focused aural images on a big soundstage with a crystalline transparency beyond reproach -- aurally, my review pair of Ameas completely “disappeared” from my room, leaving behind on the sound nary a fingerprint of cabinet coloration. Nonetheless, those “disappearing” cabinets were still very much visible -- and that was a good thing indeed. Finished to the highest standard imaginable, the Amea is jaw-droppingly beautiful -- a beauty fully commensurate with its price.
Although I found its midrange a bit lean, and slightly hard with some recordings, the Vimberg Amea nonetheless provides the complete sonic package in a stand-mounted design. It provides uncanny clarity through the midrange -- details are never hidden -- as well as very fast, punchy, detailed bass, and a delicate, shimmery top that never irritates, and is in perfect balance with everything below it.
If you’re in the market for the very best stand-mounted speaker out there, the Vimberg Amea should be on your must-audition list.
. . . Diego Estan
- Speakers -- Focal Sopra No1
- Subwoofers -- SVS SB-4000s (2)
- Preamplifier-DAC -- McIntosh Laboratory C47
- Power amplifier -- McIntosh Laboratory MC302
- Crossover -- Marchand Electronics XM446XLR-A
- Room-correction EQ -- miniDSP DDRC-22D with Dirac Live 2.0 (between digital sources and DAC)
- Digital Sources -- Rotel RCD-991 CD player, Bluesound Node streamer, Microsoft Surface Pro 6 computer running Windows 10, Roon
- Analog source -- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit turntable, Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
- Speaker cables -- 12AWG oxygen-free copper terminated with locking banana plugs
- Analog interconnects -- AmazonBasics (RCA), Monoprice Premier balanced (XLR)
- Digital link -- AmazonBasics optical (TosLink)
Vimberg Amea Loudspeakers
Price: $14,000-$18,500 USD per pair, depending on finish.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
Immendorfer Str. 1
Phone: +49 2233-966-9226