I can confidently state that I have more experience with Italian-made high-end audio loudspeakers than any other audio writer. That’s why I decided to review the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza Series 2 two-way monitors.
Yes, that’s sort of a ridiculous statement. In fact, it’s a very ridiculous statement. I won’t mention other high-end audio reviewers who are not above making such wild and fallacy-ridden claims in print and on social media, so I’ll offer a statement that’s a little more apt for my rather modest wheelhouse: I’m probably one of only fifteen or twenty thousand people who will raise their hand when asked “Does anyone here know something about Italian speakers?” I’ve imported and distributed Opera Loudspeakers for nearly a decade, and I won’t be shy to admit that I’ve reviewed four models of Sonus faber loudspeakers in the last three years and I’ve gained a lot of respect for their elegance and performance. I like Italian speakers a lot, pal, so what’s your question?
But first, I have a question of my own to ask. Who is Rosso Fiorentino and how come I’ve never heard of this brand until the last year or so? Our own Panagiotis Karavitas even told me that yes, Rosso Fiorentino is well known in Europe and other parts of the world, but not so much in the US. Derek Skipworth, known as Skip, is the founder of Audio Thesis in Dallas, and he started importing this brand a few years ago. He’s been talking to me about a review for the last year, maybe two. I’ve known Skip for a few years—we have a lot of audio friends in common from my days in Texas and we’ve talked once or twice on the phone and in person since then.
Skip sent me a pair of the brand spanking new Rosso Fiorentino Pienza Series 2 loudspeakers, the smallest model in their Prestige Series. At first glance, the Pienza is very much an Italian two-way bookshelf speaker. It has a beautiful finish and yes, there is leather. Plenty of leather. This time, the leather is red. It’s gorgeous, as Italian speakers often are.
The price of the new Pienza is reasonable, at $4,900/pair. While I’ve been spending the last few years searching for that perfect two-way monitor, which often run well into five figures these days, I’m also interested in bookshelf speakers at this price point because that’s what I’d be looking at if these glamorous high-end audio reviewer perks suddenly vanished and I had to scrape up a system that was still within my budget. Some of my favorite speakers EVER live in this neighborhood, so I pay attention.
Inside the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza
On paper, the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza looks like an ordinary premium two-way speaker—86 dB sensitive, 8-ohm impedance, frequency response of 50 Hz to 30kHz. The 5.5” woofer is made from a glass fiber composite cone and crosses over to the 1” silk dome neodymium tweeter at 2500Hz. As you dig into the design of the Pienzas, you start to realize the scope of this company and how deeply they consider every aspect of the design.
First of all, the cabinet may look like your average luscious and sexy cabinet sourced from Italian craftspeople, but the front and side panels are made from aluminum and include damping pads to control resonances. The internal wiring is made in Italy by Rosso Fiorentino using OFC copper, as well as the rhodium plating on the connectors.
Finally, there is that distinctive reddish leather on the Pienzas that make the biggest visual impression. There are plenty of custom finishes and colors available, but I was surprised at how much I love this unique hue, a darker red that avoided looking too novel. It’s rare when I look at red speakers and think oh, those will look perfect in my listening room. (Same goes for red cars and my garage.)
But the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza Series 2s, with their matching stands, looked refined as well as deeply and seductively red. I love the looks.
First, I should talk about the dedicated stands for the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza monitors. They are beautiful, well-made and reasonably priced. Owners should opt for the speaker stands because they are a perfect cosmetic fit, with those gorgeous red leather touches.
Yet I started off placing the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza loudspeakers on those wicked cool Acora Acoustics SRS-G stands, the ones that make all these two-way monitors I love sound even better. Yes, the SRS-G roughly doubles the price of your speaker budget and no one is seriously going to consider this. But it’s worth mentioning because I did get deeper bass, which suggests that careful room set-up will reap audible benefits with the Pienza. Aside from the effect of the Acora stands, the Rosso Fiorentinos were still another pair of small two-way bookshelf speakers that filled my room with an incredibly open and dynamic sound with a satisfying quality to the bass.
Minutes out of the box, the Pienzas asserted themselves and told me yes, this is what Italian speakers sound like. Good Italian loudspeakers. This is totally your sound. The Rosso Fiorentino Pienza, on its dedicated stand, reminded me that I once lived and breathed this type of tonal balance, with its ability to grab emotional content from the musical performance and deliver it, piping hot, to your ears with minimal fuss.
The Pienzas were hooked up to three sets of amplification. First was the Balanced Audio Technology VK-3550 hybrid integrated amplifier, a sophisticated design with plenty of power on tap. Next, I brought in the Audio by Van Alstine FET Valve CFR preamplifier, a tubed flagship preamplifier from AVA which starts at a nice-and-easy price of $2,099 as standard with an included headphone amp, or $2,428 with an optional phono stage added. I matched the AVA with my Pureaudio Duo2 power amplifier, which is solid-state pure Class A. Finally, I hooked up the Circle Labs A200 hybrid integrated amplifier from Poland, which also has plenty of power like the BAT.
The Rossi Fiorentino Pienzas enjoyed being sent out on a blind date with each amplifier (and preamplifier) combination. In fact, I found the Pienzas continued to assert their strengths and personality despite the power fed through them.
Sound and Listening
We had an interesting discussion in the PTA War Room a few days ago about first impressions, and how a word or phrase that pops into your head in the first few minutes of listening often makes it all the way to the finish line—the completed review. I usually have a single word reaction, and in the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza case that word was “tonality.”
I don’t talk about tonality all that much because I think it should be a given in high-end audio. Your gear had better sound like real music performed by real humans or you’re a non-starter. But as I mentioned in the set-up section, the tone of the Pienzas were so unmistakably Italian—or at least what I consider to be the Italian speaker sound: emotional, smooth, warm but at the same time engaging and honest.
I’m talking about a very specific feeling I get whenever I listen to speakers designed and built in Italy. Like I said, I’ve spent a lot of seat time with them. That feeling seems to start with me standing up in the room, pacing between the speakers, making small adjustments to the positioning and confirming that there is nothing amiss. That warmth I’ve mentioned hits me in the chest, of all places, and it instantly feels like a familiar face, someone I know so I can sit down and relax.
When I do sit down, that warmth comes into focus and inhabits every sound coming from the transducers, the sonic equivalent of a warm fire, broken-in slippers and a huge Tuscan cigar. I heard all that with the Rosso Fiorentino Pienza, that feeling when a stranger sits down next to you, starts a conversation and then declares, “You and I are going to be good friends. I can tell.”
I thought of the perfect recording that encapsulates my feelings about the sound of the Pienzas—Hilary Hahn’s Paris. When I mention this fabulous LP, one of my absolute favorites of 2021, I’m probably talking about Hahn’s faithful and true version of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto #1, one of my absolute favorite pieces of music of any year. Paris sounds so perfect in its way, executed flawlessly but with a fierce energy and patience that strengthens the performance.
There’s a lot to unpack when you listen to the Prokofiev, but it comes down to this—Paris is a spectacular recording, and a dead silent LP pressing, and it’s so completely vivid in the way it shifts tones between the lush and the angular. The Rosso Fiorentino Pienza easily captured all those enchanting elements and was able to give Hahn’s exquisite violin tone equal billing to an athletic and committed orchestra. All the weight and heft of the orchestra was there, big and open and living and breathing.
While the Pienzas succeeded at delivering Paris unscathed, I did notice that the deepest bass lost a little footing and faded when compared to some of those pricier two-way monitors I’ve heard, but that’s what your money usually buys you in the bookshelf monitor game. I was satisfied with the amount of energy I heard below 50 or 60 Hz, but an information gap materialized when the set-up was less than exact. That simply means you’ll have to work a little hard to get the low frequencies to blossom in your listening room.
Rosso Fiorentino Pienza Conclusions
Now you have another line of Italian speakers to consider—if you’re looking for Italian speakers, that is. The Rosso Fiorentino Pienza Series 2 monitors are every bit Italian. That’s a very good thing, by the way.
I’ve mentioned that I’m trying not to draw correlations between products and their country of origin because it feels so cloddish in this day and age, but I almost have to make an exception for Italy because that’s how I represented my Italian brands. Hey, it’s Italian! Of course it’s beautiful—it’s Italian. Best of all, it’s from Italy! You can’t get this sort of craftsmanship in the US!
Italian sound, however, is a thing—at least for me. The Italian sound is warm and open and welcoming and engaging and emotional. The listener can bond easily to the music. Most of all, it’s fun and vivacious. The Rosso Fiorentino Pienza can give you all that, and it’s pretty sexy to boot.