Extreme Audio Leonardo Speakers loudspeakers

04.05.2013..

At last. About time, too. Today the Leonardo Speakers will arrive! Giuseppe Castelli and I have written a lot about these outstanding planar dipoles using very positive comments, even calling them revolutionary. Hence, the expectation is high. Moreover, Aldo Zaninello and Daniele Coen themselves - Leonardo's creators and designers - will bring these splendid speakers in my listening room notwithstanding the exertion to move and place them. Some notes about my listening room. Six meters wide and eight in length, equipped with some tube traps all along the side and back walls to soundproof it. My system: Audionet ART G2 digital source, Soulution 720 and the splendid ForteVita AudioVisore II preamps, Soulution 710 power amp, all the cables are of the White Gold Stradivari Reference series.

 

The Leonardo Speakers are beautiful. The glossy black piano in solid poly-methacrylate of the finish is perfect. Two great pieces of furniture indeed and although my family never comes into my room, my wife would not dare to say anything about. They seem two elegant musical instruments like two harps or two strange upright pianos. They do not seem high-end loudspeakers, definitely.

 

Marcello’s experience with such kind of systems is not very deep. He has never owned electrostats or ribbon speakers but he has had the chance to listen to real myths in this field, like the Audiostat 1100, or the Apogee Scintilla and the Duetta, several models of Magneplanar and the mythic Quad ESL 63 speakers. To some extents also the Martin Logans could make part of this category, even though they are a hybrid model. For my part, I have always appreciated the sumptuous sound this kind of speakers can produce by recreating a big and deep musical stage. However, they require muscular amplifications with great control. Otherwise, you have to chase after the low frequencies all around the room. Then you have to place them in the best way. In this sense, the dipole forces you to fight with the environment and often with solutions against the family's needs. But, at the end, the question is: if I have chosen high efficiency horn-loaded speakers for my reference system there is a reason behind, isn't it?

The Leonardos are not idiosyncratic to the positioning and can tolerate macroscopic approximations. For sure, when you have found the best emission point, you can enjoy a liquid and musical sound whose balance and sweetness enchant you without renouncing to low power tube amplification.

 

Now the listening test.

Let us start with something apparently not very demanding, Paul Simon, Song from the capeman. I own a digital copy, made in Japan, whose great quality allows me to notice how low the Leonardo can go, in the absolute respect of the signal complexity. In fact, you can easily recognize the notes of the double bass, the lower notes of the piano, the notes of the acoustic guitar, the voices and the bass drumbeat.

It is impressive to recognize the detail of all these instruments put together. There are so many details never heard before in all the frequencies ranges, as it was the simplest and most natural thing in the world. Indeed natural is the acoustic guitar I am listening now. The metallic strings are reproduced with all the harmonic overtones, which make evident also the tone of the sounding board: an amazing contrast between metal and wood. While I listen to the female voice, I can even distinguish Simon's fingers running all along the guitar fretboard. But I was talking of Ednita Nazario's voice, rather of her person, since it seems to see the singer pressing the hands on her chest to give more pathos to her voice. Touching.

 

Jazz music with Enrico Rava, Live 2006. The recording was made at the Casa del Jazz in Rome during a concert which I attended to. The quality of the recording is excellent. Mostly because the sound technicians have been able to recreate the atmosphere of the concert. It is like being there in this splendid monument dedicated to music that once was a villa of the banda della Magliana (an Italian mob) and now is owned by the municipality of Rome. I like very much Francesco Ponticelli's double bass since it comes out clean, deep, articulated and timbrically correct. I like it because it seems that the emission never stops. There is always a harmonic frequency that rises where the previous one ends, with a persisting vibration, as happens during the live event. Very polished is Rava's trumpet, at the same time liquid and rough. You can feel the artist's soul in the instrument. You can feel the artist's interpretation and the Leonardos can outdraw the most hidden signals of the instrument to offer them with care and respect. Emanuele Maniscalco's drumset is powerful and very controlled. You can easily notice the different pressures on the elements of the instrument, the dynamic contrasts of the cymbals. Also here no effervescence, only control and dynamics.

 

Prior to rock music, I want to listen to a live recording of the mythic Pablo label: Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass. The first track cheers Ella up and she smiles while singing. The smile seems true like the warm guitar of Joe that follows the vocal performances of the American black singer who can amuse herself just looking at the guitarist's solos. Also here the Leonardos succeed in recreating the atmosphere of the concert, giving back all the vibrations and the resonances of the room and of the audience.

 

Now it is time for a relaxed rock. Bob Dylan, Oh Mercy, 1989. The fifth track is Man in the long black coat. Dylan's husky voice is perfectly intelligible with the Leonardos. All the whispered and mumbled words are now a sharp sword that describes the man in the long black coat, the final fate of every human being. The mouth organ is high-pitched and bright, together with a deep and warm electric bass easy to follow also in the tiniest nuances.

 

In fine, for the most demanding rock music, I have chosen Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, in the XRCD version developed by JVC. Well, if you want to get physically involved by what you are listening to, then you have no way out. The Leonardo Speakers can give great dynamics without any effort, and that can be made also by other speakers, but what the others cannot do is to maintain timbric correctness and naturalness also when the sound pressure is very high. Try to do it with any other electrostatic or magneto dynamic speaker. You cannot avoid noticing vibrations and sudden losses of dynamics and control.

I like to notice how Knopfler's Fender Schecter Stratocaster Custom electric guitar plays as it has to, I mean with an harmonic solidity that only the woods of this Strato can give back. It is nice to recognize Sting's voice at the end of the first track.

 

Allow me to be a bit banal about classical music. I choose a classic from Proprius: Cantate Domino. With the track number eight, you can check the linearity of the emission and the ability of a correct restitution in temporal phase. The female voice covers a frequency range that is unusually wide. With some speakers without a very correct temporal alignment, it is easy to notice that the voice starts from the right to move up towards the centre while the voice gradually sharpens and then comes back on the right more or less at the height of the woofer. The Leonardo Speakers give back an absolutely homogenous image in all the dimensions, that stays very stable and very correct with all the instruments and all the voices absolutely still in the real musical stage.

 

What to say? I am astonished and happy at the same time. Listen to the Leonardo Speakers is a true privilege. The music is performed with such dynamics and realism that occur only in very few other occasions. But there are more virtues. There is sound pressure, tone colour, detail, micro and macro contrast which, together with the emission naturalness, make of these loudspeakers an absolute reference. They are beautiful and easy to place. Thanks to their 92 dB efficiency and an easy impedance pace they can be driven by several kind of amplifications, not necessarily solid-state devices. Probably rigorous and powerful amplifications could put the great excellences of the Leonardos to good use. The Leonardo Speakers are revolutionary indeed. Like all the good things of high quality, also the Leonardos are very expensive, but we can understand this high price: the substance and the technical research are so evident that it is acceptable to pay so much for them. On the other end, can you buy a cheap Ferrari? The comparison is exactly right, since the Leonardo Speakers are the Ferrari of the high-end. They are Italian and performing!

 

Awarding them with a Spark in the Dark is reductive, so I propose them for the future ReMusic prize: the Out of Phase Award.

 

 

 

Official technical specifications:

Frequency range from 20Hz to 100KHz

Low frequencies ribbon-planar woofer: 0.45 m² (surface),1.42 m (height)

High frequencies ribbon mid-tweeter:15 mm (width),1.42 m (height)

Ultrasonic frequencies piezo-polymer super-tweeter

Cross-over: 6+6dB/oct @ 900Hz Mundorf components

Internal cables: White Gold Reference Cables

Weight: 140 Kg each

Size: 1.68m (height),0.65m (width),0.07m (depth of baffle),0.44m (base depth)

Sensitivity: 93dB effective in room

Recommended power: 5-250W

Nominal impedance: 4ohms

Official Italian dealer: to Extreme Audio website

Official current price in Italy: 59,880.00 EUR

For further info: Aldo Zaninello, tel. +39.0426.320318

Associated equipment: to Roberto “The Rock” Rocchi's system

by Roberto Rocchi
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