High End 2017: Cessaro horns throaty rumble of conviction

Cessaro five-way horn loudspeaker system.

There were so many horn loudspeaker manufacturers at High End in Munich this year that a lesser horn addict than myself might have succumbed to horn fatigue. But not I.

Air Two power amplifier.
High End in Munich coverage brought to you by VPI Industries.

I would feel strangely energized as the day wore on, and when I came across another exquisitely monstrous horn set-up in one of the Cessaro rooms surrounded by well-heeled men, and women furtively caressing the colourful spherical horns I knew I had to take some time to listen.

The mighty Transfiguration Proteus.

This system was fronted by an upgraded TW Acustic Raven Black Night, with a TW Raven 10.5 tonearm, and the always sublime Transfiguration Proteus low-output moving-coil cartridge feeding into the non-active (amplifier stage), pure-silver-wired Cessaro Air One preamplifier which sports an impressive list of parts, materials, and a unique transformer-based design. This in turn was passing on the signal to a pair of the limited-edition Cessaro Air Two power amplifiers which features separate power supplies for each tube section, two power stages, and two output tubes wired in parallel with a directly-coupled plate choke between the first, and second power stages. Cessaro says “there are no interstage transformers or capacitors in the signal path, and this concept results in a super-fast reaction of the pulse processing, combined with a natural sound pattern of highest resolution and emotionality.”

A holistic, curated system.

As impressive as the source, and amplification was, the Cessaro Gamma II F4 five-way horn system was the star of the room. With up to eight 16-inch TAD Alnico bass drivers loading the customizable massive black horn bins between the bright green horn stacks which are comprised of:

  • Low-Mid Spherical composite horns, bespoke papercone driver and Alnico magnets
  • Midrange Spherical composite horn with a two-inch TAD TD-4001 compression driver and beryllium diaphragm
  • Treble Spherical composite horn with a one-inch TAD TD-2001 or TD-2002 compression driver and beryllium diaphragm
  • Super Treble Cessaro milled brass horn and modified TAD ET-703 compression driver with cobalt magnet and beryllium diaphragm
  • The bass units are driven by two dedicated, solid-state power amplifiers with 1,200 watt transformers
Black bass bins with a tower of power.

The sound from this kit was impressive in it’s ability to directly-couple the musical event to the listener. The imaging, sound stage, and visceral presence to transients on strings, and piano, the impact of blaat from brass, and the extension to shimmer off cymbals, and high hat were tangible. Percussion notes in particular seem to snap out of thin air with the thwack of sticks on drum skins so palpable in texture, and dynamics that my head would involuntarily rock back at times. An organic-sounding, holistic system that obviously benefitted from being designed to work together, this room was truly an outstanding presence in Munich.


–Rafe Arnott

About Rafe Arnott 389 Articles
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream

1 Comment

  1. Hi Rafe

    I always enjoy your observations, updates and product descriptions. However, the essential question…. did this system move me closer to the sound of live music (and by how much) and how great is the remaining gap?


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