by Joshua Emmons
This being my first audio show, the stated intention of the Part-Time Audiophile folks is to throw me into the deep end. I’d say the Volti Audio room certainly qualifies.
My experience with horn speakers mostly comes from messing with Leslie cabinets, where the whole idea is to try to make a little B3 sound like a gigantic pipe organ. So I’m expecting big, loud, lung-shaking sound. Walking into range of Volti’s Vittora system at AXPONA, this is exactly what I get.
These speakers, backed by BorderPatrol’s truly ridiculous S20 (with its twin 90lb power supplies), fear not god nor man. I honestly believe they could be weaponized. They are loud, that’s what I’m saying — but so free of even a hint of a rumor of distortion that they leave me with the impression of there being no upper-bound; no limit beyond which they’d be unwilling to chew up decibels and effortlessly spit them back out.
This while listening to some brassy jazz. To which I say, “Fair enough. Horns on horns. Makes sense.” What truly caught me off guard was the next track queued up on the Amadeus GTA mkII. It was the first off side one of the Thorens 125th Anniversary LP, Rickie Lee Jones singing “Show Biz Kids”. If you’re not familiar with the tune, it opens with nothing but a triangle, a subdued bass, and Rickie Lee crooning in a half whisper, rendered with such incredible detail and fragility that I’m not really sure I’ve heard it at all. But this is, without a doubt, the loudest whisper I have ever heard.
Even at low levels, there’s this sense of inherent “loudness” (power?) still present in the signal. It’s not a tone thing or an imaging thing. Maybe it’s just latent ringing in my ears, but there’s this intent surrounding the Vittoras, like that of a Shelby GT as it idles through a school zone. It’s like they’re just waiting to be cranked. That said, they are also nimble, capable of performing delicate dances with dynamics that a lot of headphones can’t pull off. This is a surprise.
Another surprise? These august behemoths with their “fire cedar” veneer and tweedy grill cloth play some mean electronica. On one of the rare occasions when the room was empty, I convinced a friendly rep to play some hyper-produced, never-touched-by-analog J-pop. The ensuing onslaught of buzzy saws and over-enthusiastic squares across every spectrum is no match for the quick-resolving Vittora. Each synthy patch is reproduced as faithfully and accurately as any of the more standard audiophile fare heard throughout the weekend.
It’s safe to say these guys have won me over as a fan.
- Vittora system: $25,000 (as shown, $31,350, including two ELF cabinets, two subwoofer amplifiers, upgraded veneer).
- S20 EXD + EXS Amp: $27,750
- EXT1 Preamp: $12,250
- DAC2: $9,750
- “Seven Plus” power cable: $499
- “Digital American” power cable: $499
- “Ten Plus” power cable: $349
- “American” Speaker Cables: $599
- “Spirit” interconnects: $349
Always a place in my heart, Oh and in my living room for horn speakers