There are many forms and variations to being a music lover, and one of them certainly requires a good ear.
Then, there are those orchestra conductors and players that, by the virtue of their career accomplishments, are the fiery declarations for being the purveyors of music. Of course, there are always other professions in music, such as research, music publishing and retail, that will make those practitioners no less music lovers than others.
Therefore, Acapella Audio Arts, a high-end loudspeaker manufacturer, can also be classified as a music lover of the high-end audio industry. In fact, this company has a philosophy of such breadth and scope that connotes an affluent understanding of the art of music appreciation and reproduction. The company believes that the mark of a music lover is one of a musician whose drive for performance excellence is as great as his passion for experiencing the intrinsic beauty of music itself. This is a stringent requirement for qualification as a music lover.
For there are musicians in professional orchestras whose proficiency in the performance skills and techniques never take them beyond the level of being a craftsman of it, relying on passionate, visionary conductors to lead them to connect with the audience. By that same definition, also, I can proclaim myself only as a music admirer at the most, which means I have neither attained the skills pertinent to servicing music in a performance of it, nor was I fortunate enough to have been a pupil of the dogma of music.
On music listening, Acapella Audio Arts is of the opinion that the role of a high-end audio system is to reproduce the meticulously preserved sonic flavors indigenous to specific concerts halls and churches, with the higher mission of accompanying its listener in a lifelong discovery and understanding of certain music’s interpretive variations and structures. I reckon that my abilities of understanding the music stops at flavor sampling; but surely even that can take a lifetime to bring to fruition. In Roger Vaughn’s
biographical portrait of the late Herbert von Karajan, the conductor quoted Goethe in saying that, “if I have so many things to think, to do, and to meditate upon, and my body refuses to follow me, then nature must give me another. Not maybe.” Ditto.
Acapella Audio Arts also have music in mind when coining product names. It adopted the 16th century, unaccompanied choral musical form as the company name, and christened its entry-level, $6,800 minimonitors after the great Beethoven opera, Fidelio, and its upper-level, $13,700 minimonitor, La Musika (Italian for Music). Acapella also coined its $26,000, third upper model, the LaCompanella, meaning “the little bell” in Italian, and named its $35k sibling the Violon, French for violin.
From that point up are three large systems, namely the $48k, 94-inch high Campanile (“the bell tower”), the $145k, 88inch Triolon Excalibur and the top-of-the-line, $325k, 90-inch Spharon Excalibur. Weighing over 1,300 pounds per speaker and sporting 100dB sensitivity, the Spharon Excalibur is described as in the following from the Importer’s website:
“This loudspeaker system has no limits: with a 15 watt power already, music will be reproduced three-dimensional, thus giving you the
illusion to be a member of the orchestra or the band. From the softest, perceptible sounds, these loudspeaker sculptures can accelerate
the music like lightning, comparable only with the spurt of a racing car.”
The subject of this review is the $26k, 55 inches high, 93dB sensitive LaCampanella. Despite its modest position among its super-sized siblings, the LaCampanella remains the most expensive horn speaker I’ve listened to, as well as the fourth loudspeaker of its kind I’ve reviewed.
Featuring a 15-inch, hyper spherical wide band horn of a non-concentric, downward-opening mouth, the LaCampanella single horn traverses the enormous frequency range of 700 to the ultrasonic-30kHz, and is the one most encompassing horn in spectral fulfillment. The drive and logic behind this accomplishment is Acapella’s goal of creating an acoustic transducer to generate a comprehensive range of overtones within the human ear’s most sensitive auditory region of 1kHz to 4kHz. The benefit of which is described in the following line from Aaudio Import’s website:
“The achieved result is a dynamic and musical loudspeaker with a high level of clarity and speed, compatible with best of live music.”
Visually, the 15-inch sphere is grown seemingly from a long, rectangular column behind it, which stood on one of the four long edges and protruded 21 inches towards the back, atop a rectangular woofer tower at 40 inches high and 24 inches deep. The Acapella LaCampanella’ s lacquered burgundy horn and lacquered black tower conjure up an irresistibly modernistic appearance and an impossibly artful visual statement.
Acapella claims exceptional sonic feat of sorts from the horn, accorded by the use of a low-mass membrane less than 0.3 g in weight, while each of the four woofers is endowed with a 2.6 lb Tesla magnet.
The German manufacturer identifies itself as the inventor of spherical horns, and maintains a strict degree of confidentiality on the company’s design specifics. My attempts in getting the company to voice off on the lower crossover points, enclosure construction and other design aspects have never been addressed. The LaCampanella’s topmost woofer produces a frequency range distinctly above 100Hz, and I suspect that any given one of the other three, front-firing woofers is tasked with reproducing more than just bottom octaves.
System Setup & Audition
Digital front end was the usual 47 Lab, $26,800 PiTracer CD transport and the Audio Note, $31,725 DAC 5 Special, accompanied by Accustic Arts’ $5,700 DAC I-Mk3 for additional perspective on the LaCampanella’s characteristics.
Audio Note’s Sogon cabling provided digital and analog connections, while a $6,200, 2.5-meter pair of Acapella’s own single-wiring, ceramic insulated silver speaker cables, La Musika, was rotated with Audio Note’s $12,340, 1.5-meter, bi-wiring pair of the Sogon LX speaker cables.
Four of Combak’s $1,070/meter, Harmonix X-DC Studio Master Wattagate 330 + 350 power cables in lengths of 1.5 and 2 meters supplied power via four of IsoClean’s $180 each, 2-position gold-plated wall sockets. The 47 Lab PiTracer’s dual power supplies ran on two of Granite Audio’s $600/1.5 meter, 560 AC Mains.
Acapella’s U.S. Importer, Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports, fitted the LaCampanella’s with heavy brass points and set them up in my listening room personally, which placed them 19.5 inches from each side wall and 52 inches from front wall, with just about half of a 45˚ toe-in. In this setup, the horns were about 10 feet away from the listening position, and the height of the couch puts my ears on the same horizontal pane between the LaCampanella’s first two topmost woofers.
ASC bass tube traps were put into the corners behind the speakers. Subsequent placement trials of my own confirmed Brian’s expertly arrangement, which placed the speakers farthest away from the listening position and yet not too closed to the heavily-draped front wall to minimize front wall interaction that would muddle up LaCampanella’s delicate bottom-end while reinforcing it.
Horn speakers that I reviewed, like the Klipschorns, Royal Device Laura Studio Mk II with Miranda Horn, and Tannoy’s Churchill Wideband are all virtuosos in summoning colossal dynamics, and the Acapella LaCampanella was no exception. Interestingly, Brian believed that the German horn speaker’s 93dB efficiency mandated the use of an amplifier, the output and quality of which should at least be equivalent to one $9,590, 50 Wpc tube integrated amplifier named Absolute Tune and made by a company that Acapella uses as in-house reference called Einstein that he also imports, who, incidentally, uses Acapella speakers as their reference, also. In this sense, both companies are
clearly acknowledging the synergy formed with each other’s products, so Brian’s stance was beyond contestation.
But, an Absolute Tune was not available at the time of the review, so we first drove his Acapella LaCampanella with an $18,000, Italian solid-state class A amplification system that I was auditioning, the Audia Flight PRE and 100. The latter is an 160-ampere powerhouse able to vanquish Apogee’s inefficient, 86dB/4Ω Duetta Signature with plenty left to spare, but it also commands an ultra-fine sonic palette that will turn the heads of SET-philes. An Audia Flight review is in progress.
Driven by the Italian solid-state amplifier, the LaCampanella projected highly articulate currents of sound towards the listening position, and produced a most loosened dynamics even at moderate listening volumes. Most important is the fact that even at high volumes, the sonic make-up was always refined and effortless.
For instance, pianist Murray Perahia ‘s 1994 reading of the Chopin Etudes on Sony Classical has a most superb, surreal piano tone worthy of demonstration class. His Chopin may sound like a Beethoven occasionally, but when the Acapella horn speaker sent the hammering into the listening room with discretely defined transients and crystalline dimensional solidity, there were also the mesmerizing diminuendos of characteristics, strikingly resembling those of soft dome tweeters that will draw sighs from piano music lovers.
In the weeks after, the Audia Flight PRE and 100 system shared spotlight with an SET.
Before Brian’s departure after the initial speaker setup, I substituted the Audia Flight with the $25k Combak SET, and to Brian’s surprise, the LaCampanella sounded just as mighty and dynamic for all musical intents and purposes, complete with a 300B-exclusive midrange glow and refinement. Although the LaCampanella’s efficiency was not among the highest, it was nevertheless at a benign, 93dB/8Ω sensitivity, driven consequently to climatic proportions by the 7Wpc SET, sounding open with a horn-worthy agility at all volume levels, and subjectively louder than most other speakers at same volume settings.
In terms of bottom-end weight, the LaCampanella’s four 6.5-inch woofers did not manifest as readily at once when driven by the Combak SET. However, shortly after, moments of floor-rattling synthesizer and rigorous bass-drum notes from the Jurassic Park soundtrack’s “Incident at Isla Nublar” threw my initial impressions along with preconceptions out of the window. Then, the bass tuba in “The Raptor Attack” manifested unprecedented scale, texture and tonal definition. In terms of refinement, the Acapella’s quadruplet of woofers produced some of the most musically conducive bottom octaves notes in memory.
The level of caliber of the LaCampanella as driven by the Combak SET was such that the woofers never acted overpowering against the horn’s output, and yet their power was astonishing when called for. Bass lines that varies among recording of different labels were differentiated most meticulously, in renditions truthful even to the extravagance of some Telarc productions’ bottom-octave emphasis.
Be it large-scale symphonic music or a chamber music trio, the LaCampanella produced consistently the most faithful utterances in dynamics and scaling. There seemed to be no limit to the LaCampanella’s prowess in reproducing a wide variety of instrumental bodies with authentic dynamics and scales that are some of the most enjoyable in my experience as the speaker’s dynamics never sounded bashful and eager to please, and contrasts between pianissimos and fortissimos were breathtaking and gratifying.
In rendering “Lacrimosa” from maestro Herbert von Karajan’s reading of Mozart’s Requiem, via the Redbook CD layer of Deutsche Grammophon’s DSD SACD release, the display of scaling prowess adaptability in which the full orchestra and the chorus attained highly differentiated dimensionalities, was the most engaging and inspiring. When reenacting pianissimos at low playback level before a crescendo, there was a lingering serenity and a level of scale and dimensionality as exhibited by the Acapella/Combak system, that I’ve heard only from the Kochel K300 and the Tannoy Churchill Wideband.
But perhaps the most impressive of all sonic feats that this atypical horn speaker conjured up was its soundstaging prowess. A perfect audio experience would begin with the invention of a perfectly-calibrated recording process that entails numerous microphones onstage for the purpose of an absolute capture of dimensionality and texture of each instrument. Although the playback of such music would undoubtedly benefit from one of the multi-channel, hi-rez medium of the day supported by an increased number of loudspeakers and amplifications, Acapella’s LaCampanella is the one pair of speakers I’ve experienced, able to recreate an imaging and soundstaging of the most dimensional of order from the music produced by modern day’s recording techniques.
Dimensionality of the Acapella was such as if each instrument had its dedicated speaker to portray its full-bodied presence, seemingly regardless of the physical constraint of the speakers, in which the violins received a collective dynamics and scale that was distinctive, and incredibly contrasted by the thumping tympani in the back, alongside the hauntingly life-sized woodwinds and brasses. Although frequencies below 700Hz are produced by the woofers, the LaCampanella’s recreation of cellos and double-basses, resplendent with the instrument’s enormity and texturing from the bowing, was a first-class treat.
To my ears, each of the four woofers covered not just low frequencies, as the topmost one exhibited an audibly higher spectral makeup when I put my ear to it. Yet, there was such seamless horn/woofer integration and the resultant, commanding soundstaging authority, that I wonder if it was induced by the eccentric, downward-firing horn’s convergence with the woofers.
Especially with symphonic music, listening to the Acapella also gave the haunting illusion of being seated in an orchestra hall on the ground floor, listening to performances onstage.
As fate has it, my wife finds the horn directivity constantly “intimidating’, so I resorted occasionally to applying the same alternative placement of the Tannoy to the Acapella, in moving the horns 12 inches more towards each other and toeing out a little more. This lowered the dispersion concentration at the listening spot, but also rubbed off a little imaging specificity while added a little pleasurable spaciousness. That, in my humble opinion, though a detriment to reaping what the horn designs have to offer fully, is nevertheless a sound practice where spousal consent is concerned.
I would like to believe that I have the last say in equipment placement, purchase and retention, but I was told that the wives always know better. All you horn guys out there, try this on your wives, they may come around to appreciating your preferences better.
The Acapella LaCampanella is the best horn speaker I’ve experienced in memory. Never mind the LaCampanella being a horn speaker, because they are one of the most differentiating in tonality among speakers I’ve used. Listening to music via the Acapella could drive a reviewer to retire, and I found myself listening harder to other speakers in constant search of a flamboyancy when the Acapella was taken out of the system.
Seemingly made to fit comfortably around home decor in a medium-sized listening room, the LaCampanella’s most immediate suite of fortes, such as the downward-flaring horn’s alluring prowess in 3-dimensional reiteration of instruments and musicians, its sheer transient responsiveness in conjunction with an utterly un-horn-like tonal openness, and finally the availability of custom automotive finishes on the horn, secured its status of being the one most perfect horn for modern day living.
The single horn’s effective frequency range of 700Hz to 30kHz strikes such stark contrast against all other horn designs, I can’t help but admire its beauty and prowess every time I lay my eyes on it; not to mention the crucial, superb, wholesome collaboration between the horn and the dynamic drivers. Though not of the 100dB+ category, the German speaker was driven to exemplary dynamics and tonalities by a 7Wpc Combak Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777.
Consistently, the LaCampanella was replete with one of the most consummating spectral reproduction, and induced a compression-free sonic presentation from top to bottom. Its top-end was much more aural, with a bottom-end more extended and integrated, than most speakers I’ve used. While plenty of speakers seek to enhance the sound with bottom-end boast of varying sorts, I have yet to find a similarly-priced competition that could approach the Acapella in agility and tunefulness in the rendition of recordings.
The Acapella’s bottom-end was capable of such finesse, that the heavy-magnet woofers absolutely refused to over-impose themselves upon the music, and was seemingly inattentive during light passages. In fact, the LaCampanella’s bass performance was clear and supremely defined, and was downright forceful when called for, as in reproducing the bass drums and percussions alike. It offered one of the most intelligent, calculated excursions at most appreciable and musically-conducive outputs, never intruded upon the overall presentation by indulgent displays, and was there when called for.
For readers accustomed to speakers of destructive bottom-ends, a Genesis G928 Servo Subwoofer for a meager $2,250 should supplement beautifully.
Advantage that the $26,000, Acapella LaCampanella exerts over affordable horn speakers often lies in the extra 10% or so of finesse that can be had from nowhere else. But I feel that the German horn speaker’s powerful beauty and refinement will create such listening experiences, that it will be difficult for audiophiles who have actually listened to it to not feel amiss for getting up after an in-store audition and not also writing a check for it.
An alternative to the formidable, 58-year reign of Tannoy’s 15-inch Dual-Concentric™ invention, the Acapella horn is modern day’s most novel and remarkable creation of a single wide-spectrum driver. Although Acapella Audio Arts’ protective zeal precluded us from appreciating the inner world of the LaCampanella, the experience of it is enough to leave one breathless.
In terms of value, Italy’s Royal Device represents a magnificent choice of the horn specimen, and the discontinuation of Tannoy’s Churchill Wideband has effectuated a further narrowing of alternatives. However, for any Dagogo readers with the means, the Acapella LaCampanella is the most secured choice in horn speakers even at $26k.
By the way, the eyes and ears of a placement expert like Brian Ackerman at the time of set up will guarantee a LaCampanella ownership satisfaction!
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