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September / October 2003
Superior Audio Audiophile Equipment Review

Aliante One Loudspeaker
Speaking to me with Ferrari styling, Ferrari color, and Ferrari performance!
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 

 

  I need another monitor loudspeaker in my humble abode like the world needs another Starbucks. Seems like everywhere you turn there is another small loudspeaker being introduced. Perhaps there is some far off farm where monitor loudspeakers and rabbits coexist. Their main goal is to increase their rule of the earth, eventually achieving the ever-popular World Domination! 

Aliante One Loudspeaker In Ferrari RedWhatever the case may be, if we count the quality of monitor loudspeakers on the market in 2003 we would probably find there to be 876 different models. i came up with the number 876 as it looked about right after typing other numbers... and 876 was easy to type. Odds are the quantity is much higher. So why on G-d's green Earth would someone decide we needed yet another manufacturer offering yet more of these proverbial "rabbits"? Ah, but then again the world may indeed need something new, and different, from the usual faux wood or ugly black rectangles (or awful Bose black plastic cubes ...if you actually bought these hideous things due to believing their hype and marketing propaganda). What the world may indeed need is something designed by a professional company who has, for decades, been at the top echelon of performance. Enter Aliante in conjunction with Pininfarina.

 

History 101
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know about the legendary Italian automotive racing team Scuderia Ferrari formed in 1929, also known (simply) as Ferrari. We also have Battista Farina from Italy, going by Carrozzeria Pininfarina (or just Pininfarina) as founded in 1930. Eventually both companies teamed up as Ferrari built the internal mechanics as Pininfarina handled the visual styling of these well-established and now legendary race cars. i specifically say race cars as these creations were not like today's "race inspired" or "autobahn tested" designs. These cars were indeed track ready from the get-go and many of them won competitions all around the world. So what does any of this have to do with the Aliante One loudspeaker?

In October of 1998, while attending the Top Audio & Video show, Pininfarina choose a very small handful of reviewers to their factory for the launching of the new Aliante loudspeakers. The fanfare centered on this famous design house, yet you could also sense they were very serious about offering a no-holds-barred line of loudspeakers. Only the best parts and drivers would be employed within their designs just as only the very best is "good enough" within a Ferrari. While there i was also privy to enjoying a factory tour as seen here. As a side note, my Ferrari factory tour can be seen by clicking here.

 

What Dreams Are Made Of?
ScanSpeak and Seas, long considered two of the best European specialists, produce the drivers for the Aliante line to their specifications. The ScanSpeak-produced 28mm silk soft dome tweeter is carefully hand made and manually coated in different steps to achieve proper damping to ensure fast response while also reducing possible distortion. When a manufacturer can ensure such high quality, they can also take advantage of using a more gentle, 6dB/octave (1st order) crossover. While the pros and cons of using such a crossover can be debated, it most certainly means that very few parts are needed, thereby less in the signal's path.

The 170mm woofer cone features an innovative polymer while a carefully designed phase plug -- decided upon after much research -- in mounted at the center of this driver. Seasoned audiophiles are well aware of the use of phase plugs. In the Aliante One monitor loudspeaker, this unit is carefully cut from a solid copper block to ensure precision in shape and stiffness.

As for the crossover, Solo CFAC inductors, Audiocap PPFF film and foil capacitors, plus special non-inductive resistor are employed. Internal cabling come from a high performance wire for fast data networks. Bi-wire and/or bi-amplification is supported due to providing four gold-plated binding posts. While not of the super hefty WBT variety, they are quite solid. These posts are a bit inset into the cabinet and therefore extremely large or stiff cables may take a bit of work to get attached.

The cabinet itself in produced with MDF panels from 35 to 60 mm thick that are shaped by a high-precision CNC machine. This care in design ensures very tight tolerances while also allowing for precision shaping. This type of crafting produces rounded outer edges to reduce unwanted, distortion creating (time smearing) diffractions. A tilted front baffle improves phase coherence while the area around the tweeter has been shaped to improve dispersion while further reducing distortion. Once the cabinet is assembled, it takes many steps to complete the final finishing. This complex task starts by using insulators to make the wood structure inert. The expensive outer color is applied with in a pressure cabin in several layers and then dried for 72 hours. When doing the "knuckle test" you get a dead, deep thump versus a high-pitched cabinet tone. The Aliante One is also available with real wood side panels, though i naturally prefer Racing (Ferrari) Red as reviewed here.

While the Aliante One is a monitor loudspeaker, it is on the more robust side measuring approximately 16 inches high and 14 inches deep. Included with these loudspeakers are "Acoustic Screens" -- small pieces that are meant to be placed just below and to the side of the tweeter (see diagram above).  This is to improve the imaging and focus ability of the sound they reproduce. A brief owners manual, in both Italian and English, is also included. it provides good basic information yet is no real substitute for years of experience. For that type of information we have great books like Robert Harley's The Complete Guide to High-End Audio - Second Edition as reviewed here.

Aliante One Vela Stand PF

Lastly, for those who desire a bit of visual flair, or WAF depending on your home life and decor, the matching Vela Stand PF ($1,395 per pair) is available. While this stand was not employed for this review, have seen the combination together and it is indeed gorgeous! The complimenting curves and lines are a relief to the usual awkward hard lines as found with other combinations. Seen here in wood color, the Aliante Vela Stand PF is also available in various matching colors to the main loudspeaker. The construction is very solid as the "sail" acts as a baffle said to aid in lower frequency reproduction.

 

Warm Up Lap
While it is no secret i have a soft spot in my heart for things that come in the color Ferrari red. This is especially true if they also come from the design house of Pininfarina. While these loudspeakers are eye candy, it makes no real difference once the lights are out and the music is playing. The United States distributor, O.S. Services, had already put in quite a few hours on the review pair here. Once they arrived it took about 20 hours to fully settle in while i also found the best location within my listening room. For the Aliante One i found that the same favorite spot for the Reference 3A MM De Capo-i (reviewed here). Basically it falls close to the same setup as advised by cable manufacturer George Cardas as seen by clicking here. While this technique places the loudspeakers well into the room, thus providing wonderful imaging and depth yet lowers the room boundary's bass augmentation. Some people may prefer these loudspeakers close to the walls to add more bass, yet may find the front soundstage depth is diminished. One man's panacea is another man's poison.

Sitting in my listening chair for various listening sessions allowed me to fully understand these loudspeakers. First off, they love power. i mean real power, with plenty of amperage. Smallish 8-watt tube amplifiers are ok, yet the fun truly begins when you have a 100-watt amplifier with plenty of current delivery. Yes, this means the likes of Krell, Linn, Naim, VTL, etc. While a small single-ended tube amplifier will work, within m system it simply ran out of steam when the lowermost octaves were demanding. This is usually the case with many small monitors; though suffice to say the Aliante One did better than most without being overly demanding. It is when you have those extra watts, like when using my 75-watt per channel beloved Linn Classik, that the dynamics have more freedom to express themselves. In fact the more i use the Linn Classic, the more i find it to be among the best audiophile all-in-one bargains (see review by clicking here).

 

Sitting In The "Driver's Seat"
If there were only two words to describe this loudspeaker, they would be smooth and detailed. Very even octave-to-octave coherency allows for a very natural harmonic structure. All the while small details and the ability to follow complex passages show the Aliante One to be quite a performer! This could be due to the very inert cabinet design combined with top quality drivers and crossover package ("less is more" theory). Another factor playing a big role is after precise setup via my laser alignment system, the tightly matched drivers ensure critical timing cues are not smeared, thereby reducing the music's clarity.

After some hours without the supplied acoustic screen, they were placed in the appropriate locations and yes Virginia, the imaging did indeed become more precise. it was not a huge difference akin to day and night, yet was perceivable. According to the owner's manual their effect can vary depending on the positioning within your listening room and the acoustics thereof. In my room they made subtle difference so i left them on during the remainder of the review.

Those of you who demand ultra-focused imaging will find much to like about these loudspeaker. Width, depth, imaging outside the loudspeaker plane, and expansion into your listening room. All this was being produced within my listening room. The depth was rendered with extreme precision as different recordings proved that insuring natural mic'ing and phase coherency would outperform multi-tracks synthesized technics for natural depth perception. While depth can be faked with the use of modern effect and mixing techniques, the clarity of the Aliante One showed them as just that, fake. Good for party tricks, bad for those seeking a more organic rendition.

Organic is a great word as it also describes the natural reproduction of acoustic music as portrayed by these monitors. In some ways they truly have that "from Italy" sound as found in other prominent manufacturers from that country. Is it something within their heritage, the culture, or vast knowledge of music that has to be accounted for? Whatever the cause, the affect clearly allows for a highly enjoyable musical experience.

The 28mm silk soft dome tweeter was extremely smooth. In fact my ears tend to generally prefer fabric to their metal counterpart. Maybe metal domes have an unnatural or higher distortion and subsequent harmonic distortions versus the more natural silk? As for midrange, the 170mm polypropylene pentapolymer driver was fast and clean. While this same driver also had bass duty, the tuned rear port gave more than just a glimpse. Bass was quite full down to about 50Hz or so, yet did not appear to get congested, thereby reducing midrange reproduction or "muddy bass" during some of the more complex passages as found in big orchestral works (Tchaikovsky's 1812 for example). So what are the drawbacks?

Lovers of big pipe organ music will need a subwoofer. Do not expect 30Hz Fugue in D minor to shake your home's foundation. Nor can you expect room-gripping techo/house droning bass notes to fully energize your room. This is why we have subwoofers my friend. Also, if you enjoy your music on the hotter (louder) side, a 3 to 8 watt single-ended tube amplifier may not be your road to nirvana. At 25 watts, like the Final Laboratory or 47 Laboratory will just begin the trip the light fantastic in my average sized (14' wide by 18' deep by 8' high) listening room. Also, the loudspeaker five-way binding posts are a bit recessed within the cabinet. While there is quite a bit of room for the cable and connectors, if you have succumbed to the ultra-huge cable club, you may want to ensure usability. Virtually all normal cables should easily fit without any problems while the binding posts do allow for the use of banana plugs.

 

The Winner's Circle
The Aliante One is an amazing loudspeaker that excels in natural music reproduction and ultra-precise imaging. For such a small package, the extremely solid and heavy cabinet virtually eliminates enclosure resonances. Add to this the gorgeous visual style available in both natural wood and color combinations so we have a mix of the classic Armani with doses of the avant-garde designs of Dolce & Gabbana. This is especially true of you opt for the matching stands. In reality this Italian design comes from the legendary house of Pininfarina, vita bella!

After hour upon hour of auditioning these loudspeakers my ears never became fatigued, as can be experienced with less than smooth frequency reproducers. i can foresee these loudspeakers finding their way into the best of homes and also Italian car enthusiast's personal home museums. They deserve no less. A test drive is enthusiastically recommended! Of course in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

Specifications
Type: Two way, bass-reflex (rear port)

Tweeter: 28mm silk soft dome

Woofer: 170mm polypropylene pentapolymer

Frequency Response: 38Hz to 25KHz (+/- 3dB)

Efficiency: 88dB/W/m

Impedance:: 6 ohm (min. 4)

Power Handling: 125 Watts

Dimensions: 255 x 350 x 400 (WxHxD in mm)

Net weight: 13.5 Kg.

Finish: solid wood or Blue, Red, Silver Grey, Charcoal Grey, and Racing (Ferrari) Red 

Price: With solid wood side panels $3,795/pair
           In color as reviewed here $4,995/pair

 

Matching Vela Stand PF: $1,395 per pair

 

Company Information
Finaudio
Via Italia Sessantuno n. 20
12036 Revello CN
Italy

Voice: +39-0175-759529
Fax: +39-0175-259614

 

United States Distributor:
Specialty Audio Source
Troy Logan
619 W. 2nd street
Antioch Ca, 94509

Voice: (925) 565-0588
Website: www.specialtyaudiosource.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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