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Before long the Italians did indeed arrive - three of them in fact, two Volterras and eventually one designer Franscesco Rubenni who qualified from Saldord University here in the UK with a 1st Class degree in Audio Technlogy with transducer design and closed-room acoustics being of particular interest during his studies. For good measure we also had an American thrown into the mix, US distributor Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics. Fortunately both Franscesco and Darren were able to synchronise their diaries to be at my place a few days after the speakers arrived. This meant I could flounce around with my camera taking photos whilst they undertook the heavy work of unpacking each 37kg Volterra.

As can be seen from the photos, the speakers were very well packed. First a cotton shroud protects the cabinet finish from scratches. Over this is a plastic cover to prevent the ingress of moisture. The Volterras are then surrounded by foam cutouts inside their cardboard box within a box. Short of a wooden crate I'd suggest this level of protection would be up to withstanding any eventuality bar the cargo plane crashing or cargo ship sinking. Of course one benefit of cardboard over wood (besides the reduced cost) is that cardboard boxes can usually have a few staples removed and be unfolded, making them flat and far easier to store. Very useful if like me you save all hifi packaging to make moving/selling/returning easier especially where space is at a premium.

I mention this as in my living room at this very moment was a wooden shipping crate measuring six foot tall, almost three foot wide and ten inches deep - too big to be moved to the kitchen, too inflexible to negotiate the 90° bend on my stairwell. A lick of black paint and it would resemble the monolith from 2001 a Space Odyssey. Back to the Volterra packaging, once the speakers themselves are removed from their boxes it is necessary to reach in again for the plinths, their securing bolts, washers and spikes. Standing each Volterra upside down in turn, the plinths are attached using the supplied Allen key and the spikes get screwed into the plinths. This seemed a lot easier with two guys undertaking the task though when it was time to dissassemble and repack I managed the reverse procedure on my own without too much grunting and groaning although those of a certain age would need assistance.

These were indubitably Italian yet a quite reserved understated Italians at least in the finish provided to me. Yes we get leather but this was more of an homage to Italian speaker design and confined to a band around the mid section. A removable front panel held in place by magnetic catches affords instant access to the crossover. The veneered side panels were described as 'Capalbio' with a satin sheen I found both practical (it doesn't collect finger prints) and again understated unlike the brown or black crocodile-embossed leather options. Each to their own I say. And there is a natural unembossed leather option too. I photographed samples of various finish options but the 'Giannutri' finish changes color like a chameleon on acid depending on which way you look at it. I doubt my SLR captured anything like a realistic image of this metallic blue/green lacquer finish. If you like your speakers colored, this could be just what you've been waiting for.

It was soon time to connect the Kimber Select KS-3035 speaker cables to the E.A.R amps. It was then that I noticed the single pair of custom-made terminals (Rosso Fiorentino BP-01R, pure copper Rhodium plated, 100% nickel free) in the rear. Slightly surprising to me this was as although I've read arguments which vehemently claim that biwiring brings no theoretical benefits to a properly designed crossover/loudspeaker, my experience suggests otherwise and of course the option to biwire also means the option to biamp. When considering the 87dB (2.83V/1m) sensitivity and 6Ω (min. 3Ω) impedance, I do feel that the ability to biamp would be valuable as increased drive, control and headroom should more than compensate for any theoretical or actual losses from the inclusion of biwire terminals. Fingers crossed, the E.A.R.s would drive the Volterras to acceptable levels. Unpacking/assembly duties completed, Darren was also highly adept at setting up systems. He'd already improved depth and width of my system with Acoustic System resonators and sugar cubes. Again I was able to sit in the listening chair as he and Francesco manoeuvred each 37kg (81.6 pound) Volterra around before me. This wasn't an easy task as the quality machined spikes were quick to snag the carpet to become a two man lift/move rather than slide or pivot on one spike.

Once an acceptable combination of distance apart (6' 6”), distance from the front wall (18”) and toe-in (around 15°) had evolved during playback of the XLO Reference Recordings test and burn-in CD, one of the supplied circular cups/discs was inserted underneath each spike. This seemed counterintuitive as the primary purpose of spikes is surely to pierce carpets and contact solid ground below. But Darren had invaluable experience demonstrating Volterras at various shows whilst Franscesco actually designed them. I was happy to let experience and foreknowledge overrule theory.

After a bite to eat and some liquid refreshments we were ready to settle down and put the Volterras and E.A.Rs through their paces, initially with some potentially clip-inducing tracks from the 2010 Tron: Legacy disc on the Walt Disney Records label. Daft Punk's score is a fusion of electro with an 85-piece orchestra and a riot of audio system torture. Track 13 titled “Derezzled" launches its attack on your ear canals from the very first beat and the apparent slapping from the Volterra drivers in time with the bass beat immediately had me thinking they were at max excursion and hitting their stops so to speak.