I now feel, after spending time with the Piega Coax 411 speakers, as if I dropped the ball when I wrote about the debut of the new EMT 928 II turntable back in the MoFi Distribution room at the 2023 Florida Audio Expo. I was so distracted by the return of one of my favorite classic turntable marques that I ignored the Piega loudspeakers in the room. One Part-Time Audiophile reader immediately confronted me with this omission, saying something like “You were in a room with Piega speakers, and you’re not going to talk about the Piega speakers?” I might have blown that one, and I apologize.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
When I covered High End 2023 in Munich last May, one of the rooms featured a pair of Piega Master Line Source 2 Gen 2 loudspeakers ($100,000/pr) along with T+A electronics, and this time I sat and I listened and stayed, penitent, for quite a while. I liked what I heard, and I quickly fixated on the Piega’s ability to sound so composed and refined. I wrote:
“The sound of the Piega system was fast and clean, with razor-sharp transient edges and loads of inner detail. At the same time, these transducers were inherently musical–especially through the midrange. I tend to think of a realistic natural midrange as more of a softened thing, but these Piega loudspeakers had two feet planted firmly in both worlds.”
By that time, I already knew that I had a pair of Piega loudspeakers on the way to me for review–the Piega Coax 411 monitors ($9,995/pr USD). MoFi Distribution distributes this Swiss loudspeaker manufacturer in the US now, and I’ve been working with them throughout the year to listen to the 411s, along with a couple of speakers from Falcon Acoustics and an EMT cartridge. And, when a review sample is available, I should get a chance to play with that EMT 928 II.
When readers criticize me for “liking everything,” I usually have to explain that everything I review has been scouted in advance–by me. (Ply me with a couple of double IPAs and I’ll gladly tell you what I don’t like.) In this case, MoFi Distribution asked me to review the Piegas somewhat out of the blue, sound unheard. But that reader who admonished me for not talking about the Piega speakers in the room might’ve put a bee in my bonnet. It’s a lot easier to review the great stuff, but I thought maybe I should take a risk and listen to a fellow audiophile, something I haven’t done for a while. I’m glad I did.
Inside the Piega Coax 411
Like the Aretai Contra 100s bookshelf monitors that arrived at roughly the same time, the Piega Coax 411 is not a two-way design. In fact, it is a three-way–that coax driver on top, which integrates the midrange and tweeter ribbon panels into one seemingly single driver, is indeed a coax in every sense. This coax ribbon driver, known as the C112+, is designed to act as a point source. There’s also an extra neodymium magnet above the tweeter, placed within a web structure, that increases the sensitivity of this driver. Piega elaborates:
“[It] linearizes the frequency response in the lower transmission range, facilitating a lower transition to the bass. The coax driver covers a wider frequency range, emitting sounds from 450 Hz. And even the sensitive range of vocals is reproduced flawlessly contributing to a well-balanced and harmonious sound pattern.”
The 160mm UHQD woofer is custom-made by SEAS, and was chosen for its “symbiosis” with the C112+ coax ribbon. Despite its relatively small size, it helps the Piega Coax 411 to reach down to 35 Hz–something that was obvious during the listening sessions. (At the same time, the C112+ reaches upward to 50kHz, making this a loudspeaker with a very wide frequency response.)
The seamless extruded aluminum enclosure of the Piega Coax 411 is the reason why this speaker weighs 25 kg, but there’s more to this design than sheer mass. Piega has created a new Tension Improve Module 2 (TIM2) which is designed to control the tension of the enclosure through internal bracing and damping foils:
“The renowned “Tension Improve Module” (TIM), specially developed by PIEGA, previously set the cabinet under controlled tension by applying pressure to the inner walls, thus effectively calming cabinet resonances. For even better results, the new TIM2 module is put under tensile stress and positively connected to the cabinet. This significantly increases the rigidness of the construction, reducing even the slightest vibrations extremely effectively.”
The Piega Coax 411 has an efficiency of 90 dB, with a 4-ohm impedance. That made it fairly easy to drive–I had excellent results with both the Audio-gd Master 10 Mk. 2 integrated amplifier (500 wpc into 4 ohms) and the new Naim NAIT 50 integrated, which boasts just 25 wpc but offers plenty of current. The Piega Coax 411 is available with silver or black brushed aluminum finishes, or a white lacquer finish with a white grille cloth.
Set up was more time-consuming than usual, but it’s not the fault of these Swiss loudspeakers. While the Piega Coax 411 speakers were very accommodating when it came to various placements, the combined 160 lb. weight of the speakers and the Acora stands, with the added obstacle of new and thick carpeting, made the process of dialing them in a bit on the arduous side. Got a great workout, though.
You’ll probably want to use Blu-Tac between these speakers and the stand you use. In my case, with the SRS-Gs, it didn’t take much for the speaker to slide out of position. I’d hate to think of the damage if they were knocked over–the speakers, of course, as well as the floor. Maybe someone’s toes.
One tiny criticism–the removable grilles of the Piega Coax 411 loudspeakers, I’ll admit, are a little bit of a pain to remove, just like many Harbeths and LS3/5as. I almost gave up and just tested and photographed the 411s with the grilles on, but I also know that Piega wouldn’t dare obscure that amazing and attractive coax ribbon on purpose. So, what’s the trick with the 411 grilles? The fit is quite tight already, which is compounded by the magnets that hold it in place. You have to wedge into the miniscule space between the enclosure and the grille and pull hard, but steady. One of these days I’m going to invent a tool that removes stubborn grilles without causing nicks or scratches or bloody hangnails.
The Piega Coax 411s were played in steady rotation with other interesting monitors I have at the new digs–the Aretai Contra 100S, the Gershman Acoustics Studio XdB and the Falcon Acoustics M10. The rest of the system remained constant–the powerful Audio-gd Master 10 Mk. 2 integrated amplifier, and plenty of digital from Antipodes, Merason and Innuos. My analog rig was the Pear Audio Blue Kid Howard turntable with Cornet2 tonearm, the Luxman LMC-5 phono cartridge and the Allnic Audio H-6500 phono stage.
Piega Coax 411 Sound
From the first listening sessions, the Piega Coax 411 speakers were an unexpected delight. Their ability to energize my listening room while offering scary-good imaging and expansive soundstaging was their first hint that something special was unfolding, as these transducers always felt relaxed, composed and totally in control. Sometimes I interpret this type of sound as confident, and quite possibly adrift into the realm of a “professional” demeanor. A simpler way to express this confidence is to repeat another audiophile trope–these speakers sound as if they’re far more expensive than they are, but in a really obvious way that I encounter quite rarely.
They are expensive, at $10K/pr, but they look it and feel it and sound it. With the Acora Acoustics SRS-G granite stands underneath them, the cost of the 411s reach $15K. I used both the ArgentPur AGPur12 speaker cables ($8,000/pr) and the Ansuz D2 speaker cables ($9,200/pr), so a lot of ringers were brought into room to help push the Piega Coax 411 speakers as far as they could possibly go. When it came down to the sound of these Swiss speakers, however, they presented their true nature through every component switch along the way.
That’s a lot of words for “they sounded big and expensive for a bookshelf speaker,” but in my gut it felt different. It felt deeper. These aren’t little two-way monitors, remember–they’re three-ways, they have gorgeous aluminum enclosures, and they weigh 60 pounds each. Of all the bookshelf monitors I’ve listened to so far in 2023, the Piega Coax 411 speakers were obviously operating at the next level of performance. We’re talking about Vimberg Amea, Stenheim Alumine 2s, Joseph Audio Pulsar Graphenes and the Qln Signatures–you simply cannot think of these speakers as just stand-mounted bookshelf monitors once you’ve spent time listening to them.
My first impression of the Piega Coax 411, of course, was that splendid combination of imaging and soundstaging. Some of the other speakers I’ve had in this new room need precise toe-in to increase their soundstage width, and I often find myself using placements that are unusual for me. The Piegas brushed that all aside and instantly informed me that they were going to produce a giant, stunning soundstage with pinpoint imaging no matter where I plopped them down. From that point on, I knew the Piegas were going to be wonderful company for the next few weeks.
Jazz pianist Eummi Lee, on her new album Introspection, plays four-square with the various genres of contemporary jazz, eventually settling on a well-orchestrated, Van Dyke Parks sort of vibe that isn’t really jazz anymore but still convinces you that it’s easier if you call it jazz. (It defies easy categorizations.) The Piega Coax 411 loudspeakers showed off their superb sense of adaptability by accurately portraying the difference ensembles for each track without sacrificing the soft yet steady perimeters of the recording space. I heard that same sense of fullness that I heard with The Trondheim Concertos, that feeling that the sound was meandering through the room and exploring all of the corners.
On the title track of Radiohead’s Kid A, I had the distinct feeling that I was hearing sounds and voices for the first time. Most of you know this track is a bit inscrutable on the first few listens, but there are lyrics and there is a story that’s being told. The Piega Coax 411, through the sheer will of its excellent resolution and lack of colorations, made more of that story clearer than ever before. We’ve got heads on sticks and you’ve got ventriloquists. Rats and children follow me out of town, come on, kids. Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed. It’s all there.
I brought out my original CD version of Peter Gabriel’s So for the simple reason that Michael Vamos of Audio Skies, during his demo of the all-JMF system in Munich, played “Mercy Street” and I was reminded of what a wonderful demo track it is. I’ve drifted away from So in recent years because of its sporadic ’80s digital glaze and its puzzling lack of low frequency info in some tracks (“Big Time,” I’m looking at you). “Mercy Street,” however, has plenty of goodness at both ends of the frequency spectrum–the frantic and sparkling percussion and the deep synthesizer tones that make up the song’s foundations, and layer after layer of interesting sonic touches that show off the 411’s ability to sort through inner detail.
This is where the Piega Coax 411 let its superb interpretations of bass shine through the music. 35 Hz isn’t close to the bottom, I know, but my favorite monitors can always distract me from the omissions and pull my focus toward coherence and balance. The 411s revealed plenty of low frequency drive and impact, but with a tightness and a focus that was quite satisfying to my ears. I was never left wanting for more bass during my time with the Piegas, even in my relatively large room. Piega’s promotional material on the Coax 411 stresses the intended use for these monitors in “small to medium” rooms, but perhaps that’s to give a purpose to Piega’s larger models. I could live with the 411’s bass performance indefinitely.
Piega Coax 411 Conclusions
The Piega Coax 411 loudspeakers will always be special to me. First of all, they were the first new review products I received and set up in my new house. It was with the Piega in the system that I realized my new room sounded even better than I had hoped. Finally, I’ve been turned onto another great brand that’s been around for a long time, which reminds me that it’s not so much about missing out but that there’s only so much time to listen to everything you can.
I look back at some of my reviews and I realize I use the word “surprised” at least once in each one–something I’m trying to correct. But I was constantly surprised with the performance of the Piega Coax 411 and how it always seemed to have everything under control. There was no sloppiness to the sound, only the signal presented in a pristine and orderly manner. If this sounds a bit too rigid for you, know that I never once felt as if they were too cool or analytical–only revealing. Honest is a good word to insert here.
In my review of the Gershman Acoustics Studio XdB, I refer to the fact that these two premium monitors–the XdBs are $2K more per pair but include integrated stands–are very different from each other. The Gershmans are warm and embracing while the Piega Coax 411 is precise and filled with inner detail. I also suggested that having both speakers on hand for all types of music, or perhaps when there’s a choice between tube and solid state amplification, but this implies that I need something to “soften” the Piegas. I don’t.
No, these Swiss speakers never once sacrificed the meaning and emotion of the music in service of ultimate resolution, and instead drew me deep into recording after recording and was generous when it came to sharing all that buried treasure hiding between the notes. Highly recommended.