A good way to view the Columbus 22
is as 4-inch 2-way monitor running wide open whose short integral stand houses an active sub that exploits close floor proximity for gain. Whilst the bass driver is unusually small—woofers with the 'sub' prefix tend to start out at 10 inches and proceed from there up to 18" or beyond—it has two advantages. One is being two to operate in stereo, not summed mono. The other is a guaranteed match. The designer has preset the low-pass frequency and filter slope. You determine amplitude. Not exactly common for partly active speaker designs is the choice of class A/B amplification. But at €4'500/pr, the compact Columbus 22 with its very non-exotic tweeter is quite dear so playing that class (warfare?) card helps to calm perception.

Using a largish paper-cone tweeter has modern-day precedents in the original WLM speakers of Austria whose designer was allergic to the ubiquitous small hard dome tweeters. He wanted something mellower and with bigger tone. The Boenicke W5 too avoids the typical 1-inch tweeter. It opts for a small widebander instead which is augmented on one side by a high-excursion woofer. In these days of hawking exotic tweeters where beryllium, magnesium, diamond and AMT act as the arbiters of advanced and most desirable, a return to perfectly ordinary paper cones goes 180° against the grain. If nothing else had yet, this choice should affirm that Roberto and Maura don't mind stepping out of conventions with all their usual preconceptions. But do we really need more of the same? The Columbus 22 would seem a natural prospect for folks who want solid bass reach and power from a maximally compact tower speaker that's easy to drive; and not have their ears singed by frisky treble.

Because Italy is near synonymous with fashion and style which in speakerlandia show off with Diapason, Sonus faber and my favourite compact ceramic, the Albedo Audio Aptica, I was curious how the conventionally boxy 22 would show in the flesh and on fit'n'finish. After optics where big firms hire industrial designers, either in-house or outsourced for serious coin, fit'n'finish of smaller boutique firms too can run second place if industrial processes with their broad array of specialized machinery are replaced by more manual work and simpler tools. That's a common upshot when buying from artisanal small outfits. So are higher intrinsic manufacturing costs based on low-volume parts buying and short labour-intensive runs. Buyers who shop outside the mainstream happily accept paying a bit more to support smaller makers whilst perhaps not getting quite the same level of glossy slick perfection. It's the mum'n'pop vs. corporate difference.

On that topic, delivery in a stout wooden crate which contained two cardboard boxes thickly lined in protective foam spoke to proper care and customer respect.

The rear shows the expected power IEC with on/standby power rocker; two pairs of jumpered 5-way terminals labeled passive input on top and active bass comp input on the bottom; plus the rotary boundary compensation knob with smooth not stepped or three-position action. From the absence of a line-level input, we understand that Roberto wants to transfer a customer's main amp signature to his bass amp. His exclusive high-level connection accounts for that. The removable jumpers mean that both single- and biwire cables can be used. The comp control's smooth action suggests a basic pot tied to a frequency hinge to shelf low-end compensation up or down for more or less augmentation depending on boundary gain. The internal woofer faces 1" thick open-cell foam glued to the inner plinth before it radiates through the frontal slot. This chamfered plinth sports round corners in the back and angles in the front to follow the baffle's vertical bevels. The top cap follows suit. The rear baffle with the electronics panel is inset a bit for a hard edge. Like top and bottom panels, the front baffle is gloss black and sports bevels around the driver holes for a graduated transition that's probably not yet properly called a waveguide*. The cheeks of my loaners were finished in a very dark slightly reddish veneer. On total height, this Columbus hit my 186cm 6'1" frame slightly below the crotch for quite the Napoleon complex. Where's the hifi shrink when you need her?

* "These are real waveguides. Even though small, they modify the frequency response but above all help create perfectly linear phase response between 300Hz and 16kHz. Also, try the speaker with a cloth between it and the floor; or graphite blocks. You will hear differences."

Though unapologetically a box not boat-hull cabinet, its various facets, bevels and curved corners undercut basic sharp-edged rectangulosity for a visually more sophisticated package. Unlike the vast majority of speakers which cater to audiophile obsession with spikes and other pointy footers, the Columbus 22 goes with floor-friendly smooth baby bottoms. Set it down on flawless parquet without risk. Renters rejoice. To close out the cosmetic question, I'd call this Casta model understatedly elegant and finely finished to slip peacefully into any number of décors.

Having arrived on the same 40-foot lorry with articulated cab as the RDacoustic Evolution from Czechia which I barely eclipse, I thought it instructive to show those next to a Columbus 22 for a final size reference. Just so, the stumpy Italians with their compensation trickery promise more bandwidth. So size isn't everything.