Atelier Rullit Aero 8 Alnico

Atelier Rullit are two words that immediately get the attention of those in the know. We’ve all seen Oleg Rullit’s strangely amazing full range drivers on the web; they are mysterious and exclusive, and they hint at some long lost secret that has finally been revealed, but only for the chosen few. I’ve owned a pair of Oleg’s wonderful field coils in the past, and yet still the allure is very strong with Rullit. Part of it is beauty, but I know that the sound lives up to the preconceived notion.

Here then are the most beautiful speaker drivers I have ever held in my hands. Aero 8 Alnico, these drivers are built on reclaimed 1930’s German cinema drivers, with hand made cones in an unusual heavy texture and pulp, and round alnico magnets. The frames on these drivers are so beautifully minimalist, I don't see how they could be shaved more, and the entire package just oozes bespoke, almost 19th century quality. These drivers certainly look the business and as it turns out, not surprisingly, they are quite a treat to listen to.

With a profile unlike anything I have owned to date, I knew right away that these were different. But it took some time to get to really enjoyable. Wide band drivers like this always take some time to loosen and settle. After 20 hours or more the Aero 8 opened up with a more solidly “there” feeling. In the first hours it was back and forth, then they began smoothing out, and eventually you look up and a “wow, that sounds good!” moment happens.

Where to begin with these? I’ve had them in play for 9 months now, and it has been an experience, with a lot of gear coming in at the same time, and some very tough competition on hand. But these are amazing sounding drivers by any measure. The Aero 8 have a warm and emotional response like my perennial favorite, the Coral holey baskets, but the Rullit have a more precise image and a more robustly in the room presence than the little driver does. They feel so realistic on a well known recording like Steve Hackett’s Many Sides of the Night, mentioned on this site before. It's a live recording I know very well, captured in a Roman Amphitheater on Sicily, where the echo and reverberations paint a warm and enveloping scene that is very “present”. The Rullit drivers reveal Mr. Hackett right up front, more forward than ever before. There is the perception of more space behind him, and a very crisp definition in his spoken voice that is just phenomenally present. You can almost see the crowd around him. Other drivers have made this recording sound amazingly good too, but I think so far, the Rullit sounds the most like I am actually standing there in the Amphitheater that evening. It's spooky good at this kind of space and detail if the recording has it.

One weird thing is that the Aero 8 drivers seem to need to warm up, somewhat like a tube amp. They sound subtly more defined but also more relaxed once they have been running for 30 or 40 minutes. This is something that I have never encountered in a speaker before, but I have confirmed with other listeners and we agree. The defined but relaxed description is one of the best ways I can describe what I am hearing in the Aero 8.

The Aero 8 shared its first few months with me alongside the venerable Altec 755a. These are pretty different drivers, but both are super good performers and sure to please. This is the top shelf. Running the Aero 8 as a single mono speaker revealed that it was not as fun to listen to as the 755a in mono. In terms of flavor, the Altec seems to have a lower frequency emphasis that the Rullit doesn't, making the Altec feel a little richer in the voice. But the irony is that the Rullit goes FAR lower than the Altec does. There are recordings with very low bass where the Rullit is nearly shaking the floor, but on the same recording the 755a seems to completely drop the lower register, and if you didn't know it was on the recording you’d never even guess it was there. Almost like was filtered out. The Rullit on the other hand is a bass monster if that's what the recording has, its one of the most bass-capable wide band drivers I’ve ever had. Both speakers are champions at pulling you in. The Altec has a truer tonality I think, that makes it more “right” sounding in the voice and as a mono reproducer.

The prodigious bass response is one of the only (very small) downsides I can find to the Rullit Aero 8 driver, and it is a similar situation to what I encountered with Oleg’s field coils years ago. Tracks with heavy, exaggerated bass throw off the sound a little. As the driver goes so low to meet the need, the treble experiences a small vibration or smearing. This is only a factor with extremely low bass, in a realm that very few wide band drivers show much of any response.

Oleg Rullit has really created a modern masterpiece with the Aero 8 Alnico driver. I love the idea of speaker drivers and audio products like the Rullit lineup. Hand crafted, visionary, outsider, uncompromised, unconcerned with convention. We need more of this! Also available as field coils, which perhaps could sound even better, these are speakers for the adventurous, who are willing to trust their ears and forget about charts, graphs and measurements. Who knows how these measure, but in my room in the big Telefunken open backed cabinets, the Aero 8 are supremely pleasing speakers and have been one of the most satisfying sounds I have had to date. They make my ears happy, conventions be damned. Highly recommended if another pair become available. Mine have found a home.

Update December 2023: This Fall, despite what I said above, I put these drivers up for sale in order to finance another piece of vintage McIntosh gear. But with not so much interest, after a while I unpacked and remounted them and then spent many evenings listening late into the night over the course of several weeks. Wow, these are such superb drivers. An email acquaintance who also has a lot of experience with the Rullit sound summed it up when he said that “they have the vintage sound but with the extension of a modern driver.” I think that’s basically it. One of the first things you notice when you fire up the Rullits, the extension is wonderful. I’m older now and probably don’t hear the high frequencies well enough these days to make a meaningful judgment, but the bass is so alive feeling, very realistic. And it goes way down into subwoofer territory. Not many full rangers have great bass, but these are amazing. The Rullit energize the room in a way not many speakers do, much less lone full range drivers in open baffle.

That bass is a standout feature of the Rullit, but the natural (and for want of a better word, “organic”) feeling from the Rullits is so special and it sets these drivers apart from pretty much anything I’ve heard in the past. These drivers define realistic in-the-room sound. Gianmaria Testa’s big deep voice comes rolling out of the speaker, its perfect! Holly Cole’s live version of Train Song pulses and pounds the concrete floor. Some drivers make this almost disappear, but these sound like I’ve stuffed a subwoofer in the Telefunken cabinets. Almost unbelievable! And all of that with one and a half watts from a 45 amplifier. These perform equally well with my diminutive Toshi Kurashima 71a amplifier. In fact, these drivers seem to reject power and actually appear to sound their best with extremely low wattage amplifiers. At any rate, I am fortunate that no one stepped forward to take these out of my hands. For now, they are my superstars and are currently my main application in the big Telefunken cabinets.

These drivers are works of audio art and are the most beautiful drivers I’ve ever handled. They are like jewels, just gorgeous. Built on reclaimed 1930’s German cinema drivers, the Aero 8 feature extremely minimalist frames and hand made cones that contain a mix of fibers. Hammertone painted and labeled, mine are serial number 01 and 02.

The cone material is a mix of fibers, deeply textured, and is very unusual. I don't think all of the Aero drivers have these cones, like everything Rullit these are nearly one of a kind.

The Aero 8 work perfectly in the Telefunken open backed cabinets. Bass can be HUGE. Dead Combo’s Rumbrero features very deep bowing that comes across low and controlled sounding, smooth but vibrating everything around it. Feel it in the floor bass, a rare feature in a wide band driver.