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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Audio Aero Prima SE; Accustic Arts Drive-1; Bel Canto PLayer PL-1A
Preamp/Integrated: AUDIOPAX Model 5; ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Bel Canto PR2
Amp: AUDIOPAX Model 88; Bel Canto eVo 4 Gen.2
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustics Duo; Gallo Acoustics Reference 3; Zu Cable Druid Mk4
Cables: Crystal Cable Reference complete wire set of analog and digital interconnects, speaker cables and power cords; Z-Cable Reference Cyclone power cords on both powerline conditioner; 2 x Stealth Audio Cables Indra analogue & Sextet S/PDIF cable; Acapella speaker cable; Zu Cable Ibis speaker cable
Stands: 2 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for tube amps; GPA Apex footers underneath stand and speakers; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell and IsoClean wall sockets; Musse Audio resonance dampers on DUO subs
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan and significant 'active' cubic air volume of essentially the entire (small) house
Review component retail: $26,000/pr

Whatever else, anyone perusing Acapella's current lineup above cannot fail to think ambitious and perhaps even extravagant. That becomes especially relevant when you closely inspect all the required parts that make their famous ion tweeter work [below]. It's plainly a triumphant marvel of engineering savvy. Anyone who's ever heard one will agree that it's a transducer like none other, with literally no mass or material-induced sonic signature.

Though the senior firm of the two, Acapella is actually not nearly as internationally famous as their colleagues at Avantgarde Acoustic. Both German companies are in the hornspeaker business but Acapella as the older one claims credit for being the spherical horn inventors (they began in 1978). The Avantgardists under the lead of Matthias Ruff meanwhile produce strikingly similar horns. They seem hellbent on raising their already ultra-high efficiencies through the roof while also exploring various unconventional means to achieve 20Hz hornloading in downsized cabinets. [Acapella's principals at right.]

It's only natural then that consumers would regard these two outfits as fierce competitors and express curiosity over how their products might compare. Since I own Avantgarde Duos, you're in luck. But even prior to any listening, certain conceptual variances should be noted. Acapella pursues horns but not high efficiencies. Their only model with 100dB sensitivity is the $145K Sphaeron Excalibur. All others are between 91-94dB. Whereas the $26,000/pr LaCampanellas are thus 93dB, the $19,470/pr Duos are 103dB. Whereas the former are essentially 13-inch passive two-ways whose 4 paralleled line-source 6.5" mid/woofers with 2.5 lbs magnets keep individual diameters small, the latter are 3-ways with active subwoofers. The LaCampanellas are horn-loaded to 700Hz, the Duos to 170Hz. Acapella uses a ported bass alignment, down-firing and vented via the circumferential slot between plinth and main chassis, the Duo subs are sealed.

It takes no genius to predict certain performance qualifiers based on these differences. First off, the Acapellas will require more power to maximize their low-bass performance and likely even then somewhat trail the 2 x 10" 250-watt subwoofers of the Avantgardes. Because the LaCampanellas are 10dB less efficient, they won't exhibit the same dynamic reflexes nor remain as preternaturally alive at low volumes. Because the Duos add two critical lower octaves of hornloading, one should expect a more pronounced character of directness and horn-type coupling. Since the LaCampanellas are passive, they don't sport any adjustments to tailor their bass performance or relative tonal balance to the room. This could be an asset (no user facilities to invite mistakes) or a liability (no means to optimize in-room performance other than through placement and voicing of ancillary components.)

Purely on paper then and given how the LaCampanellas are actually more expensive, one might presume that they'd find themselves at a real disadvantage in this particular juxtaposition. Applying basic math of perception, the Duos would seem to offer more. However, not everything is about quantity. Would the LaCampanellas justify their existence with advances in refinement and coherence? After all, integrating the Duos' midrange horns with their woofers is arguably the most challenging aspect of their design. It's the main reason why less-than-perfect voicings especially in dealer showrooms often elicit responses not in line with my personal -- extremely satisfied -- findings. Selecting four small mid/woofers minimizes excursion requirements and thus accelerates subjective speed. These would seem to be clearly deliberate choices to enhance the seamlessness between lower and upper sections of the Acapella two-ways.

Sporting a very attractive Porsche Cayenne lacquer on their hyperspherical horns -- available in any other automotive finish you care to specify -- the single-wire 187lbs/ea. LaCampanellas are otherwise finished in high-gloss black Acrylic skins and cut a quite striking, domestically friendly profile 10'' wide x 56" tall from the floor to the uppermost horn lip. There's 21" of cabinet depth and an additional 3" for the protruding horn which would be a 12" spherical affair were it not for the asymmetrical "collagen enhancement" of the upper portion. That retains an overall circular shape but places the horn mouth below the circle's true center.

How the grills are attached and surround the protruding baffle panel completes a harmonious appearance. It suggests that these speakers were meant to remain dressed so that's how I'd use 'em. Two T-nuts in the front and three in the back allow for tri- or quad-spiking but I opted for my Grand Prix Audio Apex decouplers instead. Experience has long since shown that the more bass-extended a speaker, the more its performance improves when bass transients can't migrate through the floor into the equipment rack to shake things up.

A fringe benefit of getting apex'd is that especially on a short carpet, it allows you to readily slide the speakers around. This is a great boon to precisely duplicate path lengths and toe-in. Simply attach some string to your listening seat with a safety pin, then measure to the speakers' corners to get their distances from your seat to within 1/8" or better. Exactitude in this department is not anal but highly rewarding, especially with minimum-phase loudspeaker designs like these which are crossed over at 750Hz with a 6dB/octave network.

From the clever crates to the fit'n'finsih and stout construction, these Acapella speakers telegraph thoughtfulness and each pair is individually measured and referenced to allow precisely calibrated parts replacements should they ever become necessary.

The LaCampanellas are presently playing over my 30-watt Audiopax monos with apparently no drive issues at all. The US distributor will dispatch Einstein's The Tube preamplifier and The Light In The Dark hybrid stereo amp to showcase a particular match up both Acapella and Einstein are so fond of as to exclusively show together at tradeshows. Each also owns and displays the other's products in their own factory showrooms. First impressions on the next page.