FALLING FOR the ROSSO FIORENTINO VOLTERRA LOUDSPEAKERS

If you google Rosso Fiorentino , there are an abundance of references to an Italian painter and just one reference to Rosso Fiorentino Electroacoustics.; not to mention the Rosso Fiorentino Volterra loudspeakers.!

However, if you explore a bit further, you’ll learn that Rosso Fiorentino is an Italian loudspeaker loudspeaker manufacturer that started business in 2006 and is headed by 45 year old chief designer Franscesco Rubenni  from the city of Florence Italy.

There is a unique aspect to Rosso that I believe no other speaker manufacturer can claim: they are located in a castle (Bisarno’s Castle ) outside of Florence and has its own listening studio (La Sala del Rosso ) where musicians come to perform in a live environment.  Can anyone else can claim that during their speaker development they can fall back on live music as their in-house inspiration??

THE COMPANY

Rosso Fiorentino designs ten loudspeaker models including 2 center speakers. The designs spans four levels that Rosso calls collections with prices ranging from $2250 to $100,000/per pair.  From the least expensive to the most their FOUR series are as follows:  The Classic series ( 3 models, the Elba top model ), The Prestige series (3 models;  Certaldo top model), The Reference series ( 2 models; Volterra top model ) and the Flagship series ( 2 models, the Florentia being their top of the line )

Up until several years back I had never heard of Rosso Fiorentino. However, when a friend who had gotten into the business side of home audio, Derek (Skip) Skipworth, ( www.audiothesis.com ) gave me a call and was quite excited about a new speaker he had got in, he invited me over for a few brews and music. As anyone that knows me will tell you, after hearing this it took me a second to jump over to his establishment!

What I saw was a typical floor stander on the outside, which was the $4k Rosso Elba, that from afar looked like a plethora of typical rectangular box speakers. But upon closer inspection, I noticed that the speaker had a brilliant leather finish that gave it a touch of class.  I sat down and waited for some music to be fired up and was consequently treated to some of the best sound that I had ever heard!  While I was totally absorbed by the sound of the Elba and the things that it brought to the table, it was not enough to pry my reference Usher Mini Dancer 2’s away.

After about a year, I get another phone call,  and again it’s beer and music, I know,  blame it on Skip.  This time the $8500 (with stands) Fiesole stand mount was being auditioned.  That night I heard layers upon layers of sound with a midrange balance and tonality that was to die for.  Not a trace of harshness was evident and its bass response was honest and realistic!  Now this practically came up to a whole new level of quality as compared to the Elbas I had heard previously, although quite a bit out of my price range. Regrettably, I placed the Fiesole on the shelf along with all my other high end dreams.

MOVING AHEAD

We now move forward in time to the annual Lone Star Audio Fest 2017 – held here in Dallas, Texas the first weekend of May.  If you have never been to the Dallas show  do yourself a favor and get there; you will have a great time, and the show is free.

I had been saving up for two years to purchase a pair of speakers at the show. After being drawn back to the Audio Thesis room time after time and being mesmerized by one particular song, I finally I pulled the trigger on the Fiesoles.

After proceeding to set them up next to my reference Ushers, the Fiesoles came so close to the Dancer Mini 2’s that within weeks I asked Skip how much it would cost to move up to the next speaker in line, the Volterra. I made the move and below we have the Volterra, which is the subject of this review. 

THE SOUND

The 2.5-way compact floorstanding Volterra uses one 6-1/2″ and and one 8″ Nomex bass/mid driver. They are held in place by means of a vibration-damping system. This feature allows an efficient control of structure-borne vibration, resulting in commandingly, sharp and controlled low frequencies.

For the upper mid/treble response, the Fiorentino employs a 28mm hand treated silk dome tweeter which is has a highly damped behavior within its bandwith, thereby providing a sweet, natural and accurate sonic signature. The high frequency unit easily combines with the woofers through the use of a complex and efficient crossover circuit made of meticulously selected components and placed in an isolated and well-damped box at the center of the system structure.

After letting the equipment warm up for about an hour, I put in Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly cd.  What I heard on “Green Flower Street” was cymbal work that was light and airy throughout with not a trace of harshness.  Fagan’s voice was placed a smidgen left of center and a foot above the speakers. Instrumental tonality was true to life; background singers were distinct and in the far back part of the sound stage behind the lead singer.

The interplay in the background of Larry Carlton’s guitar was easy to follow.  Percussive effects with the super tweeter gave an effortless rift across the upper mid-range and extended high end. Needless to say, the Volterra displays excellent stereo imaging!

I was now looking for some heftier male vocals to audition so I put on Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker”.  The cd’s title song starts out with a male chorus where you could pick out the individual voices on the sound stage; then you are hit with a throbbing bass guitar line before that baritone voice of Cohen comes in with crystal clear authority.

Cohen’s voice has a lower chesty, upper tonality that sounds like it’s coming out of a bellows. This is music, no feeling of listening to stereo equipment; just real music.  Listening to the male chorus and solos you can tell the Rosso’s have a flat, classically balanced style in their blood, and after all, is this not what is truly required for an well balanced loudspeaker design?

I listen to a lot of female vocals and one of my favorites is Jane Monheit.  On her cd, “Come Dream with Me”, I just had to play “Over the Rainbow”. From the start you are hit with Jane’s big beautiful voice, which is front and center with a rich dark back ground.  Just when you think it’s going to be all acapella, in comes the piano, then the bass and drums.  Each instrument comes in with plenty of air around them with pinpoint stereo placement within the sound stage.

On the last cut, “A Case of  You”, you can hear the fingers plucking the strings along with the volume inside the instruments.  This shows how easy the Volterras convey spacial cues.  It’s really eye (ear)opener when you hear a singer standing in front of you in your room with a background of total silence and being able to pick apart every movement of their lips. This is stereo imaging at its utmost!

ALL THAT JAZZ  

Last but not least, I had to get my jazz fix on with “We Get Requests” by The Oscar Peterson Trio.  This is a recording from 1965, and it is ironically funny how the sound quality of some older recordings will blow away a lot of the newly recorded material. (not really! …editor)

What can I say about “Days of Wine and Roses”? Every instrument that’s playing stands out as a unique performance unto itself. The piano is front and center stage behind the speakers with Ray Brown’s bass coming in on the right with the sticks hitting the snare drums and cymbals on the left side of the stage. I was transported to a perfect night club venue, eager to raise my hand for a waiter to order a drink.

Can you imagine sitting at your table with drinks in hand tapping “dem” toes?  On the track “You Look Good to Me” the triangle floats in midair and makes the hairs on your neck stand.! Again, the bass work of Ray Brown is to die for.  The bass/mid modules of the Volterras is seamlessly integrated with the silk dome tweeter as bass notes emanate completely free of the rigid cabinet structure.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

As I conclude this review, I am listening to two cds that were reference recordings back in the day;  Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones and Tracy Chapman – Crossroads.  Quite sure you young whippersnappers never heard of them, but just go to Amazon and take a listen.

I so love these speakers that I moved out the speakers I thought would be with me for life, having thrown away the boxes the same day I brought them home.  Having said that,  The Usher Mini Dancer 2’s at $5k/pr. are some of the best bang for buck bargains in the industry, and compare most favorably to speakers higher up in that ethereal $10k price range !

When comparing the Volterras to the Usher Mini Dancer 2, the leading edge in bass impact has to go to the Ushers while the Volterras would be considered more “organic” in sound.  If you need that pound your chest bass response than you may as well look elsewhere as the Volterras will not do it. What they unmistakably do provide, is an even, natural bass response; which is as it should be.

The Ushers may be more detailed in the extreme high end with that diamond tweeter, whereas the Rosso’s  have more air and musicality. They taper off gently and with supreme naturalness.  The mid-range of the Volterras is true to life in instrumental timbres and reproduces some of the best piano I have ever heard.  I also have the MasterSound compact 845 integrated vacuum tube amp on hand and plugging it into my system brought a whole new level of sonic richness and harmonic overtones that brought tears to my eyes. (We hopefully plan on reviewing this model, quite soon.- Ed.)

If you are looking for speakers in this price range do yourself a favor and hunt them down as you will not be disappointed. Plan a trip to the Lone Star Audio State and prepare yourself for a real surprise!

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EQUIPMENT USED FOR THIS REVIEW

SOURCE Transport:  Cayin Venus CD-100i with Cullen Crossover power cable
Amp:  Ayre v-6xe power amp with Cullen Avius SE power cable
Preamp:  deHavilland Ultraverve 3 with Zu Mission mk1 power cable
Dac:  Musical Paradise MP-MD2 mk1 with Cullen Crossover power cable
Cables:  Interconnects:  Dac > pre  Analysis Plus Copper- In Micro          Pre > amp Analysis Plus Chocolate oval-in
Speakers:  Usher Mini Dancer 2 dmd
Speaker cables:  Analysis Plus Black Mesh Oval 9
Digital coax:  Aural Symphonics Digital Standard coax
Room:  12’x15’x8′
Speaker Placement:  25” from side walls, 4’9” from front wall, Toed in to my shoulders.
ROSSO FIORENTINO AUDIO
VIA DELLE ACACIE 3, 50012 BAGNO A RIPOLI
FIRENZE – ITALIA Tel. +39 055 696963
$13,000/pair
*** The speakers were purchased by the reviewer

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