The Volti Audio Razz Loudspeaker blows its horn with quite an impact!
(At the bottom of this review, I have very special news from Volti Audio on a new speaker coming out this year!!!!)
There have been many speaker designs throughout the years. From large ported enclosures from companies like Cerwin-Vega to small sealed boxes like early AR speakers and Advents. Some open-baffle speakers only have a baffle and no enclosure whatsoever. Even panel speakers that are either electrostatic or planar magnetic have been around for years from companies like Magnepan and Quad. Many people still use old Quad’s as their reference because they have not found anything they like better. All of these designs have their strengths and their weaknesses.
But one limitation that seemed to be a theme back then is that many of these designs could not handle dynamics. There were a few speaker brands that had higher efficiency and dynamic range but the overall landscape at that time was a small form factor. From the start of speaker development, there was one design that has lasted longer than any I know of; this being horn speakers.
I remember the first time I saw a horn speaker for myself. My father was shopping for new speakers so we went to a hi-fi store in my hometown. He would always take me with him on these trips because even as a young kid I had an interest in all things audio. This store had plenty of brands I had heard of from this period like Yamaha, Boston Acoustics, and Klipsch. I had heard of Klipsch but had never seen their speakers beyond the smaller KG line that many people bought.
At the time, Klipsch offered 2 different models in their sound room that were just gigantic to me back then. The Le Scala’s and the Klipschorn. These speakers were huge especially in the early to mid-’80s when all the other speakers out there were diminutive in comparison. I was now totally intrigued. I knew I couldn’t afford them so I did not bother the staff to hear them. However, it just so happens that someone walked in wanting to hear a pair so I sneakily followed them into the room before they shut the door and fired up an amplifier in the room.
Looking back, the sales staff asking the gentleman what type of music he was into and I was glad he said rock music like Dire Straits and AC/DC because I knew that music well even as a child. They put on the record and fired up the amplifier and the first thing I noticed was just how effortless the sound was. That the speakers were some of the largest home speakers I had yet seen, their ability to play at seamlessly endless volume levels was what struck me the most.
The Kipschorn was the first model the customer auditioned for. He played several rock tracks and the sales staff had no problems cranking it up. The main thing that stuck with me was that even though these were the largest speakers in the room the sales staff said they were the easiest to drive. 3 watts could fill the room with these speakers. That blew my mind at the time.
SOME BACKGROUND ON HORN LOUDSPEAKERS
Horn speakers were initially devised due to the limitations of power amplifier power output available in the early to mid-1900s. There were no large solid-state amplifiers out there putting out hundreds of watts per channel like there are today. Tube amplifiers were the norm and 50 watts was considered a ton of power back then. Speakers had to be efficient while being large enough to be able to provide a full range of experiences. Horn speaker’s development fits right in with this narrative.
Companies like JBL, RCA, Western Electric, Altec Lansing, and of course Klipsch are all associated with horn invention and design in some way over the years. I suppose I could write a whole book on the invention and design of the horn speaker but that is not the overall topic of this review so pardon my digression.
The horn’s shape allows for a small amount of sound from a smaller driver to then be increased using the radiating area in the horn to sound much like the driver is the size of the horn opening itself.
Like the example above, A-is the compression driver. A compression driver is a magnet, voice coil, and diaphragm assembly that mechanically works like any other driver but there is an additional compression chamber added to compress the air being moved before going into, B-the horn itself. Thus, it takes the compressed moving air mass and allows it to expand to the size of the horn itself making it a more dynamic and louder presentation than the driver could have ever accomplished on its own.
Another benefit of a horn-loaded driver is that they are almost always very efficient. Some of these extra-large horn-loaded speakers have been known to reach concert volume levels with only 2 or 3 watts of power.
Volti Audio is owned by Greg Roberts. His deep passion for these types of speakers have been lifelong. Greg started out owning a pair of Klipchorns and while he always loved his “Khorn” speakers, as he grew in this hobby, he started noticing the limitations of this design.
Many people throughout the years have tried horn speakers and have liked the sensitivity and “real live” sound these speakers produced but did not like the beaming effect that these speakers had; some would even say the horn themselves colored the midrange. Greg himself heard this with his Khorns and went about studying horn speaker design so that he could fix these issues himself.
Once he had done the work on his speakers, he knew he was on to something. Greg started his business in 2009 making upgrade parts and kits for Khorn speakers which he still offers today. While he knew he could take the Klipschorn speakers to the next level with his parts he knew that there was another issue that needed to be addressed.
From his years of owning a house-building business before Volti Audio, he knew woodworking was one of his specialties and was able to build a much better cabinet than what was on the market at the time. So, from there he built his prototype speaker and started the production of his first model the Vittora. Greg attended his first audio show in 2011 with his Vittora speaker which wowed the crowd and he knew he was all in on his speaker business.
As time went on, sales racked up on the Vittora and more models were introduced that would work in different size rooms and situations where needed. The first new model included the Rival which is his mid-sized offering and is on its second generation and now the Razz which is Greg’s smallest and most affordable offering to date. The Razz will be the focus of this review.
ABOUT THE RAZZ
I met Greg at Axpona this year when he was there showing with BorderPatrol Audio and Triode Wire Labs. I was so impressed with what I heard there at the show I knew I wanted to get my hands on the Razz for review. I reached out the Greg and he gladly agreed to loan me a pair for review. They are the exact pair that were shown at Axpona.
Most gratefully, he delivered the speakers himself on a Saturday which was a good touch I don’t normally get with review samples. He helped me unpack and move the speakers into my room and stayed and set them up for the best performance for the room. It was much appreciated that Greg has this much care for his company that he delivered the speakers to me himself.
The Razz being Volti’s most affordable speaker does not at all mean that any corners are cut for costs. The drivers are all top-quality pro audio units that Greg hand-picks for their performance and integration qualities with each other.
The drive units are a 12” paper cone woofer for the bass, this woofer has a neodymium magnet, cast aluminum frame, with a built-in demodulation ring which reduces harmonic and intermodulation distortion associated with voice coil displacement. This ring also reduces magnetic flux during the movement of the voice coil making variations of inductances more linear. The midrange driver is a 2” outlet midrange that has a dome-shaped composite diaphragm, an annular phase plug, and a neodymium magnet.
This driver is mounted in a large midrange horn with a shallow profile. While most horn speakers use a ¾ or 1” outlet midrange Greg uses a 2” for good reason. The larger outlet of this driver allows for none of the issues that have faced smaller outlet midrange drives in horn speakers. The midrange driver in the Razz does most of the work above the woofer’s crossover point. There is also a 1” neodymium horn tweeter to extend the frequency response out to 20Khz.
The crossovers on the Razz are something of a lesson on how to properly build crossovers as the design is a hand-built affair that spares no expense and covers all bases regarding signal integrity. The crossovers hidden inside the speakers are an extremely important part of this loudspeaker’s sound quality, as it is with most top-notch speaker designs.
The Razz utilizes 14-gauge air-core inductors for the woofer filters and Litz-wound inductors on the midrange and tweeters provided by Solen. Jantzen capacitors and Lynk resistors are also used in the crossover and are great quality components, especially at this price point. These are nice things to see in a world where many multi-thousand-dollar speakers still use super low-cost junk parts in their crossovers just to save a buck and make more profit!!
As you can see above the Razz does not use any circuit boards for the crossover. The woofer crossover is on a separate board from the mid/tweeter board to reduce any chance of interference. These crossovers are built by one person dedicated to building crossovers in a department within the Volti factory, It is all hand wired by crimping wire to wire with high-quality copper barrels backed up by solder. The above picture shows what some other crossovers look like compared to the Razz!!
There is one more feature that Greg includes with his speakers that not many companies include. Greg has the resistor circuits mounted on the rear panel of the speakers for a very good reason. Included with Volti speakers are a set of Lynk resistors of different values that will allow the end user to attenuate the tweeter and midrange levels to better suit your equipment, room, or tastes.
These resistors give you the ability to choose flat,-1,+1, or +2db on the tweeters and flat,-1,+1db on the midrange. These resistors are very easy to change with a screwdriver and Greg Includes a chart to show what value to use for the desired change. In my opinion, this is much better than other speakers brands with attenuation capabilities. Being that high-quality resistors are used instead of potentiometers this keeps the integrity of the signal and also allows for the customer to upgrade to an even higher-end resistor in the future if they see fit (even though the Lynk resistors are of very high quality.
There are many different ways to build speaker cabinets. Most companies use MDF or HDF since it is the cheapest material to build them with. Not Volti. The philosophy with his cabinet design is that not only does he want his speakers to sound the best they can but he wants them to last a lifetime.
Greg uses only top-quality Baltic birch plywood for his cabinets. This wood is high-level furniture grade and all panels are 1” thick and the cabinets are heavily braced inside for maximum rigidity. Then the speakers go through a very detailed finishing process in a variety of top-quality veneers and finishes. To put it lightly I have not seen many speakers with this level of finished work and attention to detail.
The veneer work is something special about this speaker. It is book matched and is mirror imaged with their woodgrain. These kinds of touches are hardly ever seen in audio products much less products at this cost. These speakers would not be out of place at a high-end furniture store.
After seeing this level of craftsmanship and work put into the design and finish of these speakers, I decided that I would take a trip to Volti Audio’s factory to see for myself how these speakers are made. When I arrived Greg met me at the door. The first stop was in his demo room.
He had the New Rival speakers set up with an all-Border Patrol system with S20 amplifiers and a Border Patrol prototype preamp. An Innuos Zenith streamer provided the source material and we listened for a long while; enjoying every minute of it. Greg proved to me that his Rival speakers can get crazy loud and dynamic with only about 3 watts of power. At the same time, the system had crazy dynamics and left an impression on me.
The overall sound of his demo system is probably one of the best systems with horn speakers I have heard. If you can make it to Baxter Tennessee to the Volti factory, I highly suggest it. Greg then showed me around the factory and to say the least his manufacturing methods are very meticulous and calculated. He takes every step seriously and takes everything into account with his manufacturing. It’s nice to still see companies out there with this level of craftsmanship and quality. It gives me hope for humanity yet!!!
Over the next few weeks, I lived with the Razz in my setup and I made a few speaker placement decisions after Greg left my home. Don’t get me wrong– where he placed the speakers sounded good but I think Greg was trying to work within the traffic flow of my room which works great for my Spatial Audio open baffles but not as well for horn speakers. Ultimately, I placed the speakers where they worked best for my tastes. Like a lot of horn speakers out there, you have to place them correctly for them to soundstage properly.
This has a lot to do with the dispersion angles of the horn drivers. I placed the speakers wider in my room at around 9’ apart. I had them out about 5’ from the back walls and towing the speakers in aggressively so that the tweeters crossed about a foot in front of my face when listening. Positioning the speakers this way gave me the best results and allowed me to see what the Razz could do.
THE SOUND OF VOLTI’S RAZZ
I started my review with an album from Chesky Records that I have always liked for its soundstage and imaging, Sara K. What Matters. This whole album sounds great and tests a system’s ability to show that it can present a listening a realistic copy of the real thing. The first song on the album He Got You is a great jazzy tune. All the instruments were in place on the stage with great stereo imaging and soundstage width and depth.
The acoustic guitar work by Bruce Dunlap was the star of the show on this song and is on stage left right next to Sara. You have to have a speaker with great midrange to be able to get the most out of this track and the Razz was doing a terrific job. Greg talks at length about how important the midrange is in his designs and it shows here. The Razz uses a 2” opening horn instead of a lot of horn speakers out there on the market using .75”-1” throat horns. This allows the Razz and the other Volti models to have a very live-sounding midrange and the dynamics associated with horn designs without the squawky sound that comes from a small throat horn. Each track of Sara’s album sounded vibrant in the midrange and sounded like live music in my room. This was a great start for the Volti Razz
To test the bass prowess of the Razz I went to a newer album that can ring out if a speaker can handle deep bass or not. Silk Sonics 2021 album An Evening With Silk Sonic. The song Fly As Me has a great drum bass beat as well as several lower bass hits coming from the chorus. The Razz handled the heightened bass drum perfectly and showed me that the Razz means business. The whole time I had the Razz I hardly saw the woofers move at all. Only in the lowest bass hits in the chorus of the song did I miss my trusty REL T9/x subwoofer. Don’t get me wrong I could hear those deep bass thwacks but just not with subwoofer-like authority (not many speakers can do this).
While listening to this song it reminded me of a conversation that Greg and I had a while back while setting up for this review. He talked about Axpona 2022 and how we thought the systems sounded. We both had our favorites for sure but one thing we both agreed on. Some systems were working up a sweat at the show.
The volumes at some of the systems were being played were at maybe 90% of the speaker’s capability and you could hear the strain. The Razz speakers both at Axpona and at my home never once gave me any notice that they were even mildly working hard. To me, this is an important trait in a speaker because the less the drivers are moving (especially close to their max) the less distortion they will produce.
When I review a speaker I am always evaluating treble performance because there is lots of music out there with treble that is either hotter in the mix than it should be or not recorded or mixed well. (I can vouch for that! Ed,) Also with the brick walling of some popular recordings treble brightness can bring on a whole new meaning.
The Razz uses a horn tweeter to extend the speaker to 20kHz but the midrange driver does do a lot of the treble-heavy lifting. In all my listening during the review, I never heard the treble go harsh on any music I played. The treble was detailed and seemed to stay in its lane with the song. Even some overly processed recordings would not make the treble break character on the Razz. I played Alterbridge’s 2019 release Walk The Sky.
This album is the poster child for great musicianship and songwriting but ruined by terrible studio work. Every song is over processed and so dynamically squashed that there is nothing realistic sounding about it. But I use this album sometimes to test if a speaker can annoy by not-so-favorable music. The Razz did show the weaknesses of this album which just shows how detailed the Razz is. But it passed the test in the treble department for sure. On great recordings, the treble was realistic, detailed, and set perfectly in the mix not calling too much attention to itself.
For imaging and soundstaging, I listened to albums from both Robert Moore and Clark Terry.
The Chicago Sessions and Outta My Soul are Reference Recordings releases and have a very realistic soundstage and image presence. I should not pick any certain song because I listened to the whole album several times as they both deserve full listens. But one of my favorite songs on Outta My Soul is Epilogue(Nothing ‘Bout Me). This song is one of the greats in my opinion and I have liked it since Sting did it in the 80s.
The Razz presented this song with great soundstage and imaging. The image depth was not quite as deep as my Reference Spatial Audio open baffle speakers but this is most likely caused by the way the Spatial Audio speakers fit better in my listening room. If I could put them in a room with a more suitable placement, I think they would have been equal. The imaging was as good as I have heard in my room and most satisfying.
I have heard many horn-type speakers in the past that seem to favor dynamics and loudness and seem to leave image and soundstage to take a back seat. This was not the case with the Razz. They kept the dynamic range and the live sound that horn speakers are so known for but they presented great imaging and soundstage.
One of the main connections I see with larger horn speakers is that a lot of people that own them seem to prefer tube amplifiers. Greg himself prefers tube amplifiers and brought a Cary Audio SLI 80HS (review coming) with him to loan me for the review. I started the review of the Razz speakers on the Cary tube amplifier. I listened to all the tracks above with both the Cary Tube Integrated and my reference Pass Labs X150.5 amplifier and Hegel P20 preamp.
There is no doubt as to why some people prefer tubes with horn speakers. The high sensitivity of horn speakers allows them to play loudly off of a few watts. The Razz’s sensitivity of 97db allows them to play loudly with as little as 8 watts on them. So, all of you tube lovers with their 10-watt set amps can join the party with the Razz.
Tube amplifiers seem to project their sound into the room as though the players are floating in front of the speakers. The Cary and Razz combo did this beautifully. The main attraction of the Cary tube amplifier is what it did to the midrange of the Razz. The tube/Razz combo put forth midrange tone and realism to the main stage. It is a great combination and one I could see someone living with as an end-game setup. But I want to be fair to my solid-state lovers and say that the Razz sounds equally well with solid-state amplifiers. My Hegel/Pass Labs combo sounded equally well with the Razz, their strengths were just a bit different.
With my solid-state reference, the soundstage and imaging seemed more locked in and there was a tad more detail. The soundstage was from the speakers back and my solid-state amplifier seemed to deepen the image depth a bit. There was more bass slam and treble extension. The Cary tube amp was no slouch in the bass though. It is one of the better-sounding tube amps I have heard in the bass region. Unlike a lot of horn speakers, the Volti Razz can go towards either direction and provide great results. It depends on what part of the sound spectrum is most important to you.
I spent quite a lot of time listening to the Razz and I have to say that this speaker has opened my mind to what is possible in horn speakers. They do away with all of the stereotypes of old about how horn speakers were too bright, or sounded shouty and harsh. Especially the one that proclaims “horn speakers put image and soundstage localization second”.
Having lived with the Razz in my home and visiting Volti Audio’s factory and hearing his larger offerings I can say with the utmost confidence that I would advise anyone looking for an audiophile speaker system today to look into Volti Audio. They not only give you effortless realistic sound in your home, but they also do so with top-quality fit and finish and build quality that will last for generations. Highly recommended!!!
When I went to the Volti Audio factory to take the tour I was given a sneak preview of a model that Greg is coming out with; namely The Volti Audio Razz-LE speakers.
The same great crossover and drivers are used as the Razz just with a fresh new look. A formal press release for the Razz-LE will be coming later this year and he will have the new speakers and both the Capital Audiofest and Florida Audio Show. Greg has allowed me to post a sneak photo of the speakers for our viewers. Speakers are shown in deep blue poplar.
PRICE: with black stretch grille cloth $6,500 /pair with premium cloth upgrade: $6,900/pair
Volti Razz Secifications:
12” high-power and high-sensitivity woofer–bass reflex configuration, ported
Large midrange horn with a 2” throat and a shallow wide-dispersion design
High-quality 2” outlet midrange compression driver with a composite diaphragm
High quality neodymium horn tweeter
Custom-made crossovers featuring high-quality components, all hand-wired
Bi-wire at the input terminals
Recommended amplifier power: 8wpc (min.), 80wpc continuous (max.)
Bandwidth: 35Hz – 20kHz
Nominal Impedance: 6ohm (connect to 8ohm taps)
Dimensions: 40” tall, 15” wide, and 12” deep
Weight: 90 lbs. each
Review System: Speakers: Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S open baffle./ REL T9x subwoofer/ Digital: Denafrips Venus II, / Modified PC-based Music server/streamer. Analog: Vintage Hitachi Turntable, IFI ZEN phono preamp, Audio Technica VM95SH cartridge Amplification: Hegel P20 preamp. Pass Labs X150.5 power amp. Conditioner: PS Audio Quintet. Cables:Iconoclast SPTPC speaker cables, Mogami XLR interconnects, Iconoclast BAV REL subwoofer cable
Volti Audio Voltiaudio@gmail.com
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.