Acapella Campanile

A Review by Mikko Mattila

Translation by Robin Lybeck

Original article published April 24th 2001 in Finnish

Photo by Acapella Audio Arts

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 environment.


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.

Musical Experience

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 audible.

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 Dunlavy SC-VI.

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.

The soundstage 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 listener.

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 far.

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 enough.

Other opinions, Listener "A"

(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.

Technical Details

  • Overall measurements: 240 x 72 x 97 cm
  • Weight: 250 kg per System
  • Power handling: 200 W continuous
  • 1000 W peak/1mssealed 3,5-way loudspeaker system.
  • 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








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