I put the Xavians close to the wall, the closest corner of each box being 10cm away, with the toe-in angle leaving more space on the outer side, then I hooked up a Leema Tucana II integrated amplifier and let them bed in for a while. When I came to listen however the results were not very inspiring, it was probably a mismatch with the amplifier or maybe me being a bit tired but the sound was quite forward and failed to engage. So I left it until the next day when I pulled out my regular amplifiers, the Townshend Allegri Reference preamp and ATC P2 power amp. Then things started to get really interesting, so much so that I started to see why Martin Colloms considers all forms of vented speaker cabinet a compromise. The first thing that strikes you is the timing, the rapid roll off of bass from sealed boxes means that this end of the spectrum is as fast as the rest of the band, something that’s quite hard to achieve in a ported enclosure and very enjoyable to boot.
My suspicions about power requirements were confirmed by the relatively high level that the volume had to be turned to, they soak up power even when playing at the medium levels they were designed to produce. My room is medium to large in size so not ideal for the Xavian which was made with small rooms in mind, yet I got some fabulous results if I didn’t try to push them too hard. They have an correctness of presentation that is very engaging, everything seems to coalesce perfectly and complex arrangements are easy to understand and follow. Voices in particular are stunning, Joni Mitchell’s on ‘All I Want’ (Blue, A&M) being so beautiful that it brought a tear to the eye, and I was inclined to sing along. A fortunately very rare situation given my total inability in this department. But it was a ‘wow’ moment nonetheless and one that had me seeking out other voices in an effort to get a similar impact. This didn’t happen with The Who’s ‘Baby Don’t You Do It’ (Who’s Next (Deluxe Edition) HR,Geffen) where it was Townshend’s guitars that supplanted Daltrey’s voice for sheer intensity of expression, with one in each channel reinforcing the effect. Moon’s drumming pounding away in the background made a strong impression too despite the limited dynamics of this speaker.
Image depth is very strong with the Corallo Esclusivo but they don’t throw the sound up particularly high or wide compared with some alternatives, the soundstage is generally more intimate albeit some recordings did push energy out beyond the bounds of the boxes. But voices kept coming back as the highlight experiences, I have played ‘Dualism (1)’ by Conjure [Music For The Texts Of Ishmael Reed, American Clavé] many times but not until now have the words of what is a poem actually made sense, and this isn’t because they became more clear-cut but because of the depth of resolution across the midrange, it’s really quite beguiling. I was not therefore surprised that Gillian Welch’s latest album which is a collection of covers [All the Good Times, Acony] sounded superb, the duets with partner David Rawlins being particularly well rendered, with each presented in fully rounded, heartfelt form.
With the Nick Bartsch Ronin album Awase [ECM] where piano and other percussive instruments build powerful soundscapes largely by repetition the dynamic limitations of the Xavian were more obvious. However, the rhythmic aspect of the composition was still very strong and the drums impressively powerful. This may not be a headbanger’s speaker but that’s solely because it’s not designed to play at high levels, in all other respects it’s a killer. I also tried a bit of Zappa’s ‘Pygmy Twilight’ like you do [Roxy by Proxy, Warner] here it was made crystal clear that there are two drummers in the band and that this is a live performance by some musicians who qualify as Mothers. It wasn’t as open a sound as you get with a similarly priced reflex or transmissison line speaker but has a cogency that is hard to achieve with any design.