Despite its Italian name,
the Acapella Campanile is in fact a German quality product, from
the steel city of Duisburg. One thing I can tell about
the first encounter with these speakers; even though I had seen
pictures of them from the High-End Show in Frankfurt, I was
staggered due to their physical appearance. These 2,4 m high, beautifully proportioned towers, with
70 cm white horns on the
outer side really controlled the 40 sqm listening room visually.
Even if the Campaniles wouldn't serve their true purpose in a way
that I will soon try to relate to You, I could almost imagine an
architect using these creations as pieces of art in a modern
The Campanile is a 3,5-way speaker,
consisting of two sealed enclosures, each containing two bass
drivers. Located between these two enclosures is a box, vented to
the back, which contains the control electronics for the high
frequency driver and the crossover. The boxes are shipped
separately and the parts have to be assembled upon arrival. The
midrange horn is attached to the outer side of the central box.
Of all the original technical
solutions in the design the treble element -the ION TW 1S- is
probably the most esoteric. An A-class amplifier from
Hartmann & Braun amplifies the signal from the crossover, this
high-current signal forms a "light beam" that vibrates
according to the musical signal. This vibration is then heard as
treble information. The plasma radiator itself produces quite
modest sound pressures, which are amplified by a horn unit made of
bronze. The plasma radiator ignites with the first signal input
and turns of 20 minutes after the last one.
The plasma radiator first saw the
light of day as early as the 1920´s in Germany. Even if it's been
an excellent solution musically, the major flaw of the design has
been the release of ozone that results from the interaction
between the light beam and the surrounding air. Many
well-known manufacturers have tried to use this invention, Magnat
among them, but they've all given it up because of the smell of
ozone produced by it. Acapella, however, have continued with the
development of the technique and have managed to solve the issue by placing a ceramic catalyst tube between the tweeter horn and
the plasma radiator. This technique really works, I couldn't smell
any ozone during any of the listening sessions.
The midrange element crosses over
to the tweeter at 5000 Hz. The midrange element, manufactured by
Dynaudio, is aided by a 70 cm (diameter) horn that amplifies the
signal by 10 dB. The horn is made by hand of glassfibre, and the
manufacturing process of the horn is very demanding, due to strict tolerances.
The lower range, below 600 Hz, is
divided into two sections and the bass elements reproducing the
lower frequencies are housed in sealed enclosures. Four bass
drivers specially manufactured by Seas for Acapella keep the lower
register under tight control.
In my view the speakers are very
stylish, their design alone doesn't demand that they be placed in
a separate listening room, away from the sight of those less
involved and interested in these things. Their physical size does
limit their placement, however, as the optimal compromise between
the minimizing of standing waves and the common functionality of
the room might prove to be a serious problem even in a living room
that's large by our (Finnish) standards.
We achieved the best result by
placing the speakers in an equidistant triangle, in
which all sides were 4m long. A
placement closer to the rear wall resulted in a loss of depth, but
the combination of placing the speakers further from the back wall
and moving them closer to the listener resulted in a soundstage
with exceptional depth. The relation to the sidewalls didn't seem
to be as critical, as the walls in our listening room were built
mostly to diffuse the sound waves hitting them. The placement
always yielded a precise and stable soundstage horizontally.
The speaker proved to be just as
sensitive to associated equipment as it's been told to be
elsewhere before this. "Unfortunately" the Acapellas are
very unforgiving towards all but the best components in the chain.
Of our reference equipment, we obtained the best sound when using
the Audionet ART V2 cd-player, the Audio Research LS-25 tube
preamp and the Gamut D-250 monoblock power amps, as well as cables
from Siltech´s G3-series.
The Campanile really seems to
belong in the exciting world of large-scale orchestras and
multi-layered music. Orchestras, horns, percussions, timpani and all the other kinds of instruments and music that's hard to
reproduce seems to be the domain of the Campanile, even if they
are no strangers to more intimate solo presentations.
From a reviewer's point of view, the
Campaniles presented a difficult case, as the music itself often
took the upper hand, the analytical listening forgotten for the
moment. To please the sceptics, and to retain an analytical and vigilant mind, one should probably listen to something
less pleasant. Unfortunately it would surely take the hard-earned
pleasure out of reviewing...maybe I won't bother anyhow, the pure
pleasure is more important...
Following are some highlights
related to some CD:s I used throughout the review period.
The victory march from part VI of
Edward Elgar's opera Caractacus was reproduced in an incredibly
magnificent manner, regardless of the fact that the CD from
Chandos is no real audiophile-quality recording. The orchestra and
choir exhibit both size and power, the different sections nicely
placed where they're supposed to be, not to mention the
extraordinary amount of depth. You really need a pair of
world-class speakers to correctly reproduce the pitch of the
different sections in the works of Elgar, Wagner and the other
masters of massive large-scale orchestrations.
Tropicana Nights by Paquito
d´Rivera is an excellent authentic-sounding disc filled with
great Cuban big-band music. With an average "test
winner" system you probably won't be very excited about this
disc unless you're a great fan of music from the island nation.
With the Campanile and a balanced top-notch system the true
texture of the music is revealed. The recording actually proved to
be among the best Latin big-band discs to come along yet. The
detail of the percussion and especially the nuances and
"brilliance" of the horns is incredible and can only be
compared to a live event. On top of it all the orchestra really
sounds life-sized. The recording contained just the right amount
of spatial information and the music really got the feet tapping.
Jacques Loussier is one artist who
probably doesn't need any further introduction to our readers. One
of his best recordings is The Bach Book (Telarc) released in
honour of the Bach festival year 2000. The recording is close-miked in
an exact and dynamic fashion and contains some really great solos,
during which you can, in addition to performing some musical
meditation, really test the limits of the speakers. The work of
André Arpino on drums left me wondering how it's possible for a
musician to create a new type of sound with every stroke of the
brush. I was also struck by how long the drum skin kept vibrating
audibly after being struck.
On Diana Krall´s All of You Tommy
LiPuma has managed to create an outstanding, tube-like sound so
intimate that You often hear too much of the singer's mouth
muscles and sibilants, especially with digital,
mechanical-sounding players. With the ART V2 these
"extra" sounds are reproduced very naturally, without
being excessively pronounced. Krall´s piano sounded somewhat
romantically soft through the Campaniles. While this is
undoubtedly exactly what the producer intended, I have a slight
reservation about this particular feature. On this record, as on
many others, I missed a certain "hard tonal edge" of the
piano's hammer, a detail I've grown used to. Some listeners might
prefer a softer touch, but I've always liked a bit harder impact,
something I've known Krall´s records to have in suitable amounts.
Balance: The Campanile is
unconditionally neutral, with excellent top and bottom extension.
All different parts of the tonal register integrate seamlessly
with each other and no part of the register is stressed to the
detriment of other areas. This is excellent when taking into
account the different technical solutions used to reproduce the
different areas of the audio band.
Resolution: During the reviews of
other top-notch speakers, such as the Avalon Eidolon, the Dunlavy
SC-VI and IV/A, I feel I've used every word available to describe
the extent of resolution a speaker can possess, but with the
Campanile and the ART V2 the old, conventional superlatives just
won't do anymore, Campanile is in a region of it's own. Even on very familiar recordings, the amount of
new audible details is stunning. Echoes and vibrations, articulate
details of percussion, exclamations by the musicians in the
background and details of the recording venue are all clearly
Transparency: On the best
recordings the orchestra is painted like a clear picture between
the speakers, with more air than usual between the instruments,
with great presence and without any veiling. One word of warning;
the faults of the associated components will be mercilessly
revealed with these speakers, like a stain on a clear window.
Treble: During the first listening
session, with the S.A.T CDFix-player, I wasn't entirely pleased
with the sound, the treble sounded somewhat mechanical and harsh.
We changed to the Audionet ART V2 and the treble became unbelievably
subtle and detailed. In the end the treble of the Campanile proved
to be the best I've heard so far, I have to confess. It was
unbelievably detailed, but still subtle and unstressed. Especially
the small details of horn instruments underlined the difference to
"normal" high frequency reproduction. Even our long time
reference, the Dunlavy´s, was
not equal of the Campaniles in this respect, especially with higher
sound pressure. The accuracy of the treble is also very revealing
of other components in the chain; only the best is good enough for
these speakers. I can only imagine what the new high-resolution
formats DVD-Audio and SACD will sound like with the Campaniles.
Midrange: I am a "horn
enthusiast". And horns are just the instruments that are
second only to a live event when reproduced by the Campaniles.
Vocals and voices of individual singers are reproduced with ease
and sound very natural.
With plucked string instruments you really
don't have to settle for a compromise in this case. My only
complain is regarding a softish reproduction of the hammer of a piano
in some cases. I personally like a "hard hammer" when that
time comes. Only very few, phase linear, time aligned speakers,
have got close to my satisfaction in this respect. This is a very personal matter, however, and the important thing
remains the fact that the Acapellas don't otherwise colour the
piano's overall sound.
Lower register / Bass: The bass is
as controlled and extends as deep as can be expected of a speaker
this size. It was at the same time very well nuanced and still
very dynamic. I have heard speakers with a better lower register,
namely the Dunlavy SC-VI, which had better control as well as
better articulation and more breathtaking dynamics in this area.
Dynamics: The timpani, horns and
dynamic peaks explode from empty space loud enough to rattle the
house. The Campanile´s dynamic control really gives the final
touch to its "natural" sound. With the exception of the
lower register, the dynamics were on the same level with the
Soundstage: According to some
recent research cases, an accurate, wide-band treble with ample nuance has
an impact on the reproduction on spatial information. This also
seems to be the case with the Campanile. The accurate and detailed
sound enables the correct reproduction of echoes, giving them the
proper and natural decay time, creating an acoustic space at the
listening position - without a multichannel arrangement. The
Campanile cast a wide, stable, deep and uniform soundstage, in
which vocalists and different sections of orchestras and choirs
are clearly focused and naturally located. Also, the soundstage
wasn't comprised of pin-pointed instruments as with
many less accomplished systems, but of different, realistically
sized sources, well-focused but somewhat larger than usual.
depth proved to be somewhat complicated. When the speakers were
located closer to the rear wall with a listening distance of over
4 meters, the overall impression was close to that of any
top-notch speaker. On the other hand, when the speakers were
located 1,5 meters from the back wall and about 3,5 meters from
the listening seat the recreation of soundstage depth was
breathtaking, vocalists were brought up front, close to the
Visceral Impact: Would like
to say, the orchestras were reproduced
on a natural scale. The result was very far from the miniature
model variant, produced by smaller "conventional"
speakers. The Campanile really brought the orchestra into the
listening room, only slightly exaggerating the size of solo
instruments on close-miked recordings.
This speaker is very sensitive to
associated components and cables: natural and honest reproduction
of music can't be achieved by just connecting any generic
"best in test"-component to the speaker. The quality of
recordings is another chapter; nothing remains hidden with these
speakers, be it positive or negative….
When the system as a whole has been
correctly assembled using the best available components the music
really bloomed: the sound of the Campanile was at the same time
highly accurate, with a wide and deep soundstage and with musical
nuances like those of a clear spring vista in bathed in sunlight.
In many aspects this was the closest to live music I've heard so
Compared to other speakers the most
impressive aspect of the Campanile was surely the high frequency
reproduction, which was definitely unique in its transparency and
reproduction of musical nuance.
The Campanile is definitely among
the best speakers I've heard; with regards to the reproduction of
upper frequencies, presence and airiness it is in a class of it's
own. It's really difficult to find any reason for complaints, perhaps the
only thing that still makes difference to the perfection is the slight
softness in the impact of the hammer in a piano.
The Campanile has become my personal
reference when reviewing "super high end" speakers. My
hat really comes off to the guys in Duisburg!
Is this all worth the money, then?
Even if the price feels high to the non-millionaire, I still feel
the Campanile offers good value for the money. In any case they'll
become cheaper than hiring an orchestra in the long run. They are
definitely worth the invested money if only the best is good
Other opinions, Listener
(Same listening room, associated
components AR LS-16, SAT CDFix, Siltech G3)
I had heard a lot of talk about the
high frequency driver of the Campanile in advance. The almost
weightless technique with which it's realized should theoretically
provide a "perfect" result. The high frequency
reproduction was truly the closest to the "real thing"
I've ever heard from a speaker, but the level seemed to be a tad
high as some instruments (Crash-cymbals and triangles) had a
slightly aggressive edge. The overall listening level was a bit
higher than it would be in "real life". The midrange was
natural and "real". The different instruments were
reproduced with certain "openness" and without losing
natural timbre. The lower registers were firm and articulated. I
believe there was a slight roundness and excess energy around
70-80Hz, which gave the bass drum a bit too much weight, but I
must emphasize the word "slight". I think it might be
fixed by moving the speakers forward 5-20cm.
The soundstage was large, but the
best transparency and "airiness" was still lacking.
Maybe the room was too small; the speaker didn't get to "open
up" as well as it might have. Individual instruments and
vocalists were reproduced as a being a bit too big, it seemed like
the bass guitar was size XXL, for example. In effect, this was the
only annoying thing in the overall sound. As I said, the
soundstage was large, but not too well focused, the singer and the
individual instruments were hard to located exactly. Well, they
were there but not quite "visible", you might call it
slightly "foggy". It's hard to explain clearly, but I
think there's a connection between the two points of critique I've
mentioned before. Maybe it's a result of the drivers being located
so far from each other or the fact that the high frequency and
midrange drivers aren't located on the same vertical line.
Regardless of this these were the most natural-sounding speakers
I've heard to date.
- Overall measurements: 240 x 72 x
- Weight: 250 kg per System
- Power handling: 200 W continuous
- 1000 W peak/1mssealed 3,5-way
- Four 25 cm woofers are working
in separate chambers and cannot influence each other.
- Fine adjustments to the ion
tweeter and the midrange horn unit can be made in order to
adapt the loudspeaker to every acoustical environment