The Stenheim Alumine 2 Speakers An Alternate Outlook

By Jeff Dorgay

The guy that used to work on my Alfa Romeos in Scottsdale had a sign up behind his desk that said, “We appreciate perfection, as long as it’s real good.” That statement might apply to many things, but it does not apply to the Stenheim Alumine 2 Speakers.

You might say these are “Built to perfection by perfectionists.”

Many people often confuse bigger for better, and they’d rather have a gallon of mediocre instead of a pint of awesome. If that’s your perspective, that’s ok, but you won’t want these speakers. The $11,800 price the Alumine 2s command will also buy many excellent floor standing full-range speakers. Unfortunately, none of them have the level of resolution that the Alumine 2s possess.

Think that’s crazy? Oddly enough, the original Wilson Audio WATT was $5,200 when they introduced them at the 1988 CES show. They had no bass to speak of, had an impedance that dipped below 1-ohm at about 2200hz, and looked like a woodshop project. Guess what $5,200 in 1988 dollars translates into in 2021 dollars? $11,832.75. $5,200 would buy you a nice, used Alfa Spider too, but I digress.

However, what the WATTs did (resolution and soundstaging), they did incredibly well if you had a massive solid-state amplifier that could drive them. And once you heard what they could do, it was tough to un-hear it. Which is just how the Stenheims are, with none of the limitations of those early WATTs. Just under 12 grand for a pair of highly resolving, dynamic monitors that are tube friendly and built like your favorite Swiss watch? Sign me up. Perspective is everything.

The relatively high sensitivity that these speakers have (93db/1-watt) allows a wide range of amplification choices that plays well to the detail these speakers offer. A few amplifiers on hand made for some exciting listening sessions.

This two-way design utilizes a 6.5-inch woofer and a 1-inch fabric dome tweeter in a bass-reflex cabinet. All the pictures that Stenheim shows on their website showcase top-quality components, yet they offer a Special Edition SE version with “ultimate” components. Considering how much detail these speakers can muster, it’s hard to imagine more.

First: Pass Labs/First Watt SIT 2

If you aren’t familiar with the First Watt amplifiers, these “kitchen table creations” of amplifier genius Nelson Pass are the essence of simplicity. Much like an SET, they can produce magic, but they are highly speaker sensitive. The Pass SIT either works brilliantly or not at all, but in this case, the matchup with the Alumine 2s is nearly psychedelic.

Anyone craving pinpoint imaging and a large, three-dimensional ball of sound in a modest-sized room (in this case, 11 x 13 feet) will be rewarded. Moving the comfy chair in a bit towards the speakers in a nearfield configuration truly feels like snuggling up inside a massive pair of headphones. Stenheim talks about the speed and clarity of their speakers on the website, and this amplifier personifies this approach. If you can live with less than thunderous volume levels, this combination offers a fine-grained look into your music’s most intimate details.

Next: Line Magnetic LM-805iA

Somehow, getting an SET into the mix with efficient speakers just begs to be done. Though not quite as delicate as a 300B amplifier, the Line Magnetic amplifier benefits from 48 watts per channel and serious dynamic ability – perhaps the most we’ve ever heard from an SET. Just as a well-executed two-way speaker system has a level of coherence that few speakers can match for all their foibles, SET amplifiers offer a lovely perspective thanks to no crossover notch distortion.

Those loving more intimate recordings will be drawn to this combination. Listening to the new, remastered (and bonus tracks) of the 25th Anniversary of Buena Vista Social Club is full of texture and nuance. Particularly the piano and bongos throughout the album take on a new level of delicacy. While the presentation is not quite as precise as when using the First Watt, the Line Magnetic amplifier adds a certain charm that you’ll either love or not. It’s not unlike the feeling you get when pairing a tube preamplifier with a big, solid-state power amplifier kind of thing. A lot of soul, and a lot of control.

Back to Nelson’s court: Pass Labs INT 25

The Pass Labs INT 25 has about 90% of the fine detail and inner resolution of the First Watt, but with more low-frequency control and more dynamics. There’s something about Class-A operation that feels a lot like an SET without worrying over tubes. In the context of the smaller room, this amplifier’s 25 watts per channel is more than necessary to light up the Alumine 2s.

As these speakers don’t have a lot of extension to begin with, the extra grip provided with this amplifier gives bass-heavy tracks better authority and control. At least the bass fundamentals come through clearly. If you can achieve a perfect setup balance in your room, taking advantage of some of the room gain without overshadowing the mid-bass response, you will be greatly rewarded.

More glowing bottles: McIntosh MC1502 and PrimaLuna EVO400

Still, a different effect is realized with the McIntosh MC1502 and PrimaLuna EVO400 amplifiers. On some levels, it might be the best combination of all worlds. With both of these amplifiers having more power (150wpc for the Mac and about 90wpc for the PL) the Stenheims can rock out a bit more, despite the high sensitivity.

Home court advantage: Nagra Classic Pre and Classic Amp

Honestly, this proved the best combination of everything we tried. Swiss precision from top to bottom. If I were looking for a super high-performance, yet compact system, this would be the hands down choice. (of course, I’d add a Nagra DAC and Classic Phono to the mix) the sheer power, resolution and immersive quality of this system in a small room is the bomb. Considering how much correspondence we receive from quality minded music listeners in cities like London, Tokyo, and NYC – craving the highest of high-end sound but lacking a big room, this is the combo to beat. The Nagra amp and pre give it all – dynamics, tonality, and delicacy.

Notes on setup

As with anything built to precision, attention to details during setup is critical. Just as you wouldn’t take your Porsche GT3RS to any old tire store for a four-wheel alignment, the Alumine 2s can not be placed in your listening room arbitrarily. These need care and probably a solid day of moving them a fraction of an inch to and fro,once you find your sweet spot.

Thanks to room nodes and reflections, I’m guessing your room only has one or two optimum spots. Still, because we are dealing with a speaker offering precise imaging and not an abundance of bass, extra care spent setting up will reward you with a speaker that goes from ok but possibly overpriced to amazing. I’ve heard these speakers give a slightly overpowering presentation that can be mistaken for “too bright,” yet much like my Focals, if they are bright, you’ve set em up wrong.

More than most monitors, get some massive stands (Stenheim offers a set for $1,750/pair, probably a good bet), stick them down, and adjust toe-in with care. Also, depending on your room size, finding the precise spot where no aspect of the frequency spectrum overwhelms the other is critical. It’s like setting VTA on a cartridge with a touchy stylus profile – when it locks into perfection, the heavens part. Once the 2s were fully optimized, I was able to enjoy bass-heavy tracks a lot more.

Stenheim does offer their own subwoofer, should you want more extension or are playing these speakers in a large room. While one was not available at review time, using the Alumine 2s in concert with a six-pack of REL S/510 subs proved interesting. Whether you want a pair of 2s with sub or full range larger pair will be your ultimate choice, but the idea of buying the 2s first and adding a sub later certainly is a nice way to grow with Stenheim, and keep the family sound/look going.

As enticing to look at as to hear

The all-aluminum enclosure is beautiful to behold, and the level of execution is terrific. If you are a qualityphile and an audiophile, you will completely geek out on the absence of fasteners and the perfectly seamless assembly of the enclosure. The textures and finsh on both the front baffle and the rest of the case is equally flawless. Stenheim’s Jean-Pascal Panchard tells me that even though it looks like anodizing, they use a fine-structure powder coating process. This is an incredibly durable way to coat aluminum, assuring that these speakers will look like new 30 years from now.

Stenheim is a worthy competitor to the other “aluminum cabinet premium speakers” in sound and finish. No disrespect to Magico and YG, but Stenheim is playing at their level without question.

If the concept, and all the benefits that come with a high-performance two-way monitor appeal to you, Stenheim’s Alumine 2 speakers are fantastic. They offer excellent sound, meticulous execution, and a density of thought approached by very few similarly priced speakers. Highly recommended.


Digital Source dCS Vivaldi ONE

Analog Source AVID Volvere SP/SME 309/HyperEminent EX cart

Preamp Pass Labs XS Preamp/XS Phono Preamp

Power Amp Pass XA200.8 monos (and others in review)

Cable Cardas Clear, Tellurium Q Black Diamond