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August / September 2010
Superior Audio Equipment Review

Acoustic Preference Gracioso 1.0 Loudspeakers
With Matching Factory Stands
A Feast for both ears and eyes straight from Slovenia in Eastern Europe.
Review By Anthony Nicosia
Click here to e-mail reviewer.


Acoustic Preference Gracioso 1.0 Speaker  Being a lover of people and great music, yes a true romantic at heart, it seemed destined there would be a natural attraction between me and the philosophies from the Acoustic Preference Gracioso 1.0 Loudspeakers. Looking to their website and speaker designs, one need only go to the tab labeled "about us" to discover the following warm sentiments and lofty goals to which one could wish to aspire after:

"Music is one of the most important pleasures in a human life. Countries represent themselves with hymns; we teach our children how to sing right after they have spoken their first words. We know and produce music on all continents. Throughout the centuries, music has been saved and preserved as a part of national heritage. For this reason, at tribal ceremonies we can hear very well-known yet somehow forgotten primeval music, which, along with the development of music and musical instruments, contribute to today's modern masterpieces. With the help of music, we can conjure up the majority of human feelings. At the same time, music represents a tool for relaxation and creativity, since it influences so many human senses.

Our goal is to create acoustic components that combine natural sounds and offer great delight when listening to music on every occasion. We want to present our clients with durability and a feeling of prestige and excellence. We have set out to achieve our goals with great responsibility and utmost concern for our future costumers."

The above sentiments are a lot to ask from a small family owned manufacturing company that was first established less than ten years ago dating back to 2001. In an effort to achieve such an admirable and difficult task the Gracioso 1.0 loudspeaker and matching stands has assembled a selection of high quality audio parts to help them on their journey. While doing this makes the end product a bit more expensive it still comes in far less costly than others priced in the upper stratosphere of our hobby. Even though the 1.0's are this companies entry level priced bookshelf style loudspeaker, they will still run you $12,500 ($1700 more with matching factory stands). Yet if you run in circles where people are buying floor standing loudspeakers costing well over $300,000 (yes there are multiply loudspeakers in this price range) then these mini-monitors may seem relatively bargain priced if not downright inexpensive. Of course that is only if they can live up to their manufactures claims of excellence, which is the question this review will attempt to answer. During our journey we will make our way through a variety of different music, from classical to pop, while using two different solid-state amplifiers for comparison, one a set of mono blocks from Monarchy Audio the other a vintage stereo power amplifier from Threshold.


The Basics
To start out with let us look at the quality of parts and design features that comprise the Gracioso 1.0's. As one can see by glancing at the specifications section located at the later part of this review, some very high quality Moral mid-bass drivers and tweeters were used in their construction. Morel started its business out of Israel back in 1975 and their products are today world renowned for their excellent audio capabilities. A further look and we also see the 1.0's using crossovers consisting of the German made Mundorf Air Foil Coils, that are made of 99.999% pure OFC-copper with Polypropylene insulation, as well as Mundorf high-end audio grade MKP capacitors. Quality products all around. The inner wiring is found to be of a custom braided HGA Solid Silver/Teflon insulated type made in the USA by HomeGrownAudio and on the back of each loudspeaker you will find high quality Bi-wire capable WBT terminals along with a reflex port to help with bass extension. For bi-amp’ing or bi-wiring all you need to do is remove the jumpers then connect both amplifiers or cables and you are ready to go or leave them on for use with one single stereo amplifier or any single wire connections. At first I bi-wired my pair using mono block amplifiers and then later switched to a stereo amplifier with a single wire setup. As for the look of the 1.0's and its matching stands, everyone who entered my review room was greatly impressed.

I have a pair Klipschorns resting in the corners for use with low powered tube amplifiers, some MagnapanIIIA's as well as a set of Legacy Focus 20/20's. As you can see these are all rather large loudspeakers that occupy a commanding space in my room. Their size alone immediately draws the attention of all who enter my listening area. The Legacy's are finished in the more expensive Rosewood veneer with solid hardwood corner moldings that are in my opinion quite beautiful, still the 1.0's with their elegant stands managed to steal the show when it came to appearance. If you do not want to use the factory stands but prefer something more to your own choosing that is fine, but for me the supplied stands gave it that integrated look and feel that took my breath away not to mention placing the Morel drivers at the right height for me when seated in my designated "sweet spot" during those serious very long late night listening sessions. In an effort to get the best sound possible from the Morel drivers the choice was made to go with a solid wood housing due to its anti-resonant properties as well as visual and tactile appeal. There is a lot to be said about the look and feel of real wood especially if it is going to be on display in your living area in full view for all your guests to see. My came with the attractive American Walnut option. The following is a description of cabinet construction taken from the website of Acoustic-Preference.

"The Gracioso loudspeaker has the appearance of a droplet; no parallel planes are inside the cabinet. The inside of the upper and lower surfaces of the cabinet are modeled with special relief treatment. All these factors used in the cabinet design ensure 100% non-resonant and acoustically ideal housing for the speakers."

One other nice touch used in the construction of the 1.0's is their self-centering magnetic system to keep the protective grill covers in place. Unlike some other designs these covers where very easy to remove and replace whenever called upon. The loudspeaker stands each came with a set of three height adjustable footers along with a flat smooth bottom surface to level your 1.0's. This of course is good news as there is then no need to spend more money buying spikes and then coaster to place underneath in order to prevent them from damaging my wife's beautiful hardwood floors. Not content here Acoustic-Preference took things just one step further by providing another set of three isolators for use between the upper portion of the stand and the bottom of the loudspeakers. Again, this was done in an effort to get an even better grip on controlling vibration and to keep the music sounding clear. Acoustic-Preference gives a 5-year limited warranty (see manufacturer for details), parts and labor included, with these loudspeakers that is fully transferable to a new owner should they be sold before the warranty expires. The new owner need only re-register with the company via email or regular mail with their address, model number and serial number. The demo pair of Gracioso 1.0's that was sent to me came in boxes yet I was told the newer ones will now be shipped in sturdy wooden crates to further protect them from the perils of shipping hazards. Looking at the impressive pictures of these crates with their professional appearance was indicative of a company wanting to extend great care in making sure the product was delivered safely to satisfied customers. A very good choice.


Loudspeaker Placement And Associated Equipment
Now came the hard part, moving my two 185 pound Legacy loudspeakers out of the way in order to make room for the Gracioso 1.0's. Once that was accomplished it certainly was a pleasure setting up the 1.0's as they weighted only slightly under twenty-eight pounds each with the stands coming in at about forty-one pounds apiece. Total weight for both stand and loudspeaker was close to sixty-nine pounds combined and since they can be separated their weight was relatively easy to manage especially when compared to my much larger and heavier set of Legacy's. After some experimentation they sounded best in my room angled in towards the listener spread eight feet apart, two and one half feet from the side and three feet from the rear wall. Of course that was for me in my room with my seating position you are encouraged to experiment with your own setup. As for cables, of which I have a large variety to choose, Cardas Audio cabling was used for loudspeaker connections and interconnects (CD to preamplifier and preamplifier to amplifiers), while Kimber Kable went from the phono stage to the preamplifier with a custom made set of IC's going from the phono stage back to the turntable. There was also one power cord from Monarchy Audio and Tek Line as well as some Cardas Cables for use with amplifiers and power conditioners. Speaking of which, a PS Audio UPC 200 Power Conditioner and Audience aR2p-T power conditioner was used to tie the whole system together. The passive preamplifier from Placette Audio was placed alongside amplifiers from both Monarchy Audio and Threshold. Vinyl and CD playback consisted of using an Oracle Delphi MK1 turntable and an OPPO Digital BDP-83 Special Edition Universal Player with a special guest appearance from the Vincent CD-S8 Hybrid HDCD CD Player later on during the review process.


Monoblock Solid-State Amplifiers Bi-Wired To The Gracioso 1.0
Since a pair of Monarchy Audio stereo power amplifiers, bridged to run in mono block configuration, normally occupies the space in my listening room that seemed to be a good place to start off the review. These Monarchy Audio SM70-PRO Solid-State Amplifiers when run in mono are rated at an output of 80 watts RMS of Class A power into an 8ohm load and are a rather recent purchase so therefore the latest edition of that model from the manufacturer.

A newly acquired, now favorite. CD of mine is the SACD version of OLE BULL Violin Concertos [2L-067-SACD] from the 2L recording company out of Oslo, Norway. The nice thing here is your purchase gets you both a hybrid SACD and a Blu-ray disc of the same recording. Luckily for me the OPPO Digital BDP-83 Special Edition can play either format. The very first thing that was noticeable with the Gracioso 1.0's was their quickness. This was quite evident when listening to the sound of the bow as it struck the violin swiftly moving across the bridge followed by a sense of ease as the 1.0's recreated the effect of a live concert. The enticing sounds of this violin hung in the air with excellent decay time as they appeared to be coming from not just the loudspeakers themselves or the space in between,  but rather emanating from the area to the left of and above each 1.0 as well. Playing the "Concerto in A major", a nice long twenty-two minutes and twenty-five seconds of ecstasy exposed the Gracioso's ability to give an organic feel to the sound of instruments as truth of timbre was spot on for a home reproduction system (of course there is nothing quite like the sound of a real concert in a real concert hall but no one should expect that). The crossover network working with the mid-bass driver and tweeter did its work properly as it did not call attention to itself but rather made a seamless transition from one to the other with each working to produce a clarity that rivaled many truly great loudspeakers. The sound of the violin was silky and smooth as the tweeter reproduced each stroke of the bow with accuracy giving it an excellent sense of presence. No question here the 1.0's are definitely suited for this type of music.

Normally my CD version of the Beatles Let It Be [EMI CDP 7 46447 2] is shelved in favor of its vinyl version but the 1.0's changed my opinion of it for the better. I still prefer the vinyl pressing but found that the CD was now quite enjoyable as the 1.0's nicely tamed the rather harsh sound they had previously displayed. Playing the title song "Let It Be" one can hear Paul McCartney's voice coming forth clearly and directly above the piano keys while the 1.0's gave the sound of this piano a nice sense of proper depth. Moving forward to "Get Back" one can hearing the sweet sound of John Lennon's lead guitar solo and get a true sense of this man's enormous talent. When Paul sings the words "Ohhhhhh" it just floats through the air as if first coming from the loudspeakers then moving upwards and beyond like a bird gliding high above the clouds located far down below. Here again the effect of a good sense of decay was clearly evident. The1.0's did a nice job of recreating this Beatles classic with a good sense of pace rhythm and timing (PRAT) for the enjoyment of us all. I have heard this CD sounding a bit too slow when played back through loudspeakers with big bass woofers whereas these much smaller drivers gave it the sense of speed needed to sound much more realistic.

Released on Jack Johnson's CD To The Sea [Brushfire Records B0014266-02] is a song entitled "My Little Girl". Here Mr Johnson plays while tapping lightly on the guitar strings adding to the sound of both wood and strings to create a nice holographic effect with a lively sense of depth to the performance. Crank up the volume and the 1.0's send music into the room with great detail and warmth similar to what one would expect from a good tube setup with an ability to playback music with an organic natural sounding texture.


Add The Sound Of Vinyl
Now seemed like a proper time to break from CD playback and to spend some time with recordings from Buddy Guy on his 180 gram vinyl album I Was Walking Through The Woods [MCA-11165]. It was tough to pick one song from this album to discuss so multiply listening sessions were performed before deciding on "I Got A Strange Feeling". When listening at high volume the loudspeakers seemed to disappear as a true sense of depth width and height to the music emerged. Buddy Guy's blues rifts came alive with great speed and clarity as the 1.0's revealed the intricate details of his guitar playing abilities. His voice reached out with a feeling that touched one deep down inside where the very essence of blues must have originated from. Buddy Guy's voice rang out beyond the outsides of each loudspeaker held back only by the boundaries of the walls within my room. Here the Gracioso's brought out a good sense of emotional impact as harmonica and guitar danced together in harmony making beautiful music for my personal enjoyment. All in all a wonderful job. While having never seen the movie "Out of Africa", although still intending too even though many years have gone by since its original release, nevertheless it pleased me listening to its soundtrack recorded on 180 gram vinyl [MCA 11327]. Upon hearing "Flying Over Africa" it was easy to imagine being in a low flying airplane soaring over the large vast open spaces which is Africa as the 1.0's again had no trouble sounding much larger than their actual physical size. Once more truth of timbre was evident in the "Concerto For Clarinet And Orchestra In A (K. 622) written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and performed by Jack Brymer on Clarinet. The sound of the Clarinet has always enticed me and its reproduction here did not disappoint me. Finally, moving onto "Karen's Journey/Siyawe, this African Traditional piece offers a mesmerizing performance of the choir towards the very end of the song. Here as always it seemed that the1.0's were able to exhibit a much larger sound than should be expected with its ability to display layered rows of singers on a soundstage both wide and deep in front of me. But now it was time to get back to some CD playback as something new has just arrived at my doorstep.


An Upgrade In Associated Equipment Reveals Hidden Treasures
During this review process a knock on my front door surprised me with a package from FedEx. Inside the box was a Vincent CD-S8 Hybrid HDCD CD Player with an all tube vacuum output stage retailing for $3295. Normally review gear is shipped and tracking information sent in advance but after having been informed there was a delay in getting me this product it suddenly showed up to my great delight unannounced and a bit early. The full review on this piece will follow shortly. As a child would do with a new toy there was no way the CD-S8 would sit in its box waiting  without getting at the very least a short listen, beside it must be tested to ensure it was a working unit which had survived the shipping process. So out came the OPPPO Digital BDP-83 Special Edition Universal player, an excellent sounding unit although far less costly, and in stepped the much larger, more expensive tubed output Vincent CD-S8.

Oh my! An authoritative presence somehow magically snapped into focus allowing the 1.0's to blossom with a more robust fuller sound, one that now emitted music with greater authority. Just when I was about to discuss some of the shortcomings of the 1.0's such as its inability to perform well for those who love rock music or want to hear the kettle drum solo in an orchestra the Vincent rescued me from making such a foolish mistake. True it will still only go so low into the lower registers of the musical scale with its 160mm mid-bass loudspeaker but now one could hear a lot more then had previously been experienced. While still not a dedicated rock music loudspeaker it showed it could appeal to a much wider range of listeners as it performed with greater strength in the upper base and midrange areas. Why stop here though after all there was a very powerful 200-watt Class A amplifier resting peacefully in my audio cabinet, the powerhouse Threshold 800A that was made back in 1977 when Nelson Pass was still heavily involved with the company. It is my understanding that there were only about 101 of these produced and mine has been with me since someone gave it up after only one year of ownership (they moved away and so sold it rather than pack it up). These is no way this one is leaving my hands as it still gives me immense pleasure as you are about to hear.

After a four day break-in with the new CD player (factory recommended time) the following observations were made. Fans of Andrea Bocelli will love these loudspeakers as this new setup with Threshold amplifier and Vincent CD player now let the mid-bass and midrange frequencies blossom with a fullness that immediately sent a large smile to my face. The 1.0's were producing a natural sounding bass more reminiscent of my MagnapanIIIA's rather than the Legacy Focus 20/20's with their massive 12 inch "transition" woofer and two 12 inch sub woofers. The piano and drums playing in the background of "Mi Manchi" from the Andrea Bocelli CD Amore [Decca B0006069-02] now had an even more accurate truth of timbre as well as the addition of a much firmer bass line. Here it was easy to notice the now enhanced soundstage depth behind Mr. Bocelli as the percussions appeared to float in the air moving across my room with a more balanced powerful sound. There was no question that the 1.0's thrived on being driven by lots of good clean power and a quality source component in order for them to sound at their very best. In fact it would be a shame not to give them the necessary electronic components to do so in order to fully appreciate all they have to offer in the way of sonic excellence. As the1.0's revealed the beautiful Italian Tenor voice of Andrea Bocelli my listening session extended late into the night coming to a halt only because of my inability to stay awake any longer. The next day the listening session continued with the Rolling Stones CD Big HITS (High Tide And Green Grass) [abkco 90012] hybrid SACD CD version. Much has been written about the new releases from abkco in SACD format and after having heard one of the CD's I felt compelled to purchase an additional five more. The sharpness of guitars and wide expansive soundstage with performers clearly defined was a pleasure to hear as the 1.0's moved one toward experiencing the presence of a live concert.

One nice thing about listening to the CD, Diana Princess Of Wales Tribute [C2K 69012] is that one is treated to a wide variety of musical talent without ever having to get up to change so many CD's. On each of the two discs you get to hear performers such as Queen, Pavarotti, Eric Clapton, R.E.M, Aretha Franklin, Puff Daddy, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Paul McCartney and much more. Listening to "Streets of Philadelphia" the Gracioso 1.0's allowed the sound of the drum beat to be heard with distinction and power behind the voice of Bruce Springsteen. Here with magic of his voice had a depth and fullness to it that was missing when paired with a less powerful amplifier whereas now its presence was fully felt. Switching now to Barbara Streisand's "Love Theme From :A Star is Born" (Evergreen) was found a performance which captured my interest so much that the repeat button on the CD player was pressed four times. Her smooth powerful voice reached out to the far corners of my listening area as if coming from my other much larger loudspeakers now sitting against the side walls resting and perhaps a tad jealous of all the well deserved attention being lavished by me on the 1.0's. The addition of 200-watts of Class A power seemed to free any constraints these loudspeakers had as Aretha Franklin sang "I'll Fly Away" accompanied by a large choir with rows of singers layered nicely behind to give the feeling of an expansive soundstage in the area directly in front of me.


My time with the Acoustic Preference Gracioso 1.0 loudspeakers along with their matching factory stands seemed way too short. These loudspeakers sat amidst a group of towering giants (physically speaking) from Legacy, Klipsch and Magnapan where the only way they could differentiate themselves would be through sonic performance, and perform with excellence they did. While the 1.0's can be driven with lesser audio gear they are best suited to be mated with electronics of equal quality with which to bring out their very best. Placing them with top of the line source components, proper power and preamplifier's as well as cabling (yes power conditioners too) will reward you with exquisite music to be enjoyed for years to come. Doing so you might find yourself amazed at this loudspeakers ability to convey the essence of a performance.

While small in size (relatively speaking) they did not seem so when playing back large scale musical passage and astonished me with their ability to fill my room with beautiful sound. While not having experienced any of their other models it would seem to me if one is seeking out loudspeakers for use in a very large room, or those that will extend down lower for more bass impact, the next logical step would be to move up the line checking out their larger floor standing models. Normally I research a company quite thoroughly before taking on an assignment in an effort to assure myself of getting something which will fit my system so as to sound at its very best. With this review Steven Rochlin, the editor of Enjoy the Music, set me up with Marjan Tancer of Acoustic-Preference before I had time to think it through which was a lucky break for me so as not to foolishly overlook the 1.0's out of pure ignorance. This is why he is the editor and I just listen and review. My thanks to Steven Rocklin and Acoustic-Preference for allowing me to experience loudspeakers that made me rethink my obsession with size and to enjoy a listening experience with loudspeakers from the truly high-end side of our hobby. Bravo Acoustic- Preference!


The Listening Environment
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet and sloops up-wards to thirteen feet at its peak in the middle spanning across the short length of the room for the full thirteen feet width. The hardwood floor has a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the system placed dead center in between, yet not under, the listener and the review equipment The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right loudspeaker giving access to the hallway while the other is behind the listening position which opens into a formal dining area. The room is treated with three floor standing acoustical panels whose placement varies depending on which loudspeakers are used and their position within the room. All the audio equipment is located in a Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack placed about a foot away from and in the middle of the short wall opposite the listening position.


Review Equipment
Placette Passive Preamplifier (the three input version)
OPPO Digital BDP-83 Special Edition Universal player
Vincent CD-S8 Hybrid HDCD CD Player
Oracle Delphi MK 1 Turntable, Grace 707 Tonearm with custom made interconnects, Audio-Technica Prestige AT33PTG Moving Coil Cartridge
Monarchy Audio SM70-PRO Solid-State Class A Amplifiers (run single-ended in bi-wire configuration)
Threshold 800A power amplifier 
Audience aR2p-T power conditioner
PS Audio UPC 200 Power Conditioner 
PS Audio Power Port Receptacle
Two Blue Circle Audio Mk III Power Line Conditioners
Loudspeaker Cables: Cardas Golden Presence (2 pairs running bi-wired)
Interconnects: Cardas Musician's Reference (2 pairs)
Kimber Kable Hero (1)
Power Cords: Cardas Cross (1) 
Cardas Golden (2) 
Tek Line PC-8 Signature (1)
Monarchy Audio AC-1 (1)
Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack


Type: Two-way/bass reflex system
Frequency Response: 50 Hz to 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m


Morel 28 mm High Performance Elite series tweeter
ACUFLEX hand-treated soft dome and aluminum faceplate
HEXATECH voice coil for high power handling and superior dynamics
Triple Ferrite magnet system
Under hung configuration for higher performance and lower distortion
Linear motion for high sensitivity, fast transient response and high definition

160 mm Morel High Performance bass-midrange
One-piece DPC cone/dust cap for smooth, extended response and firm bass
Large diameter aluminum former for efficient heat transfer
75 mm diameter HEXATECH voice coil for high power handling and superior dynamics
Massive die-cast open aluminum basket for flat and smooth response
Natural felt disc for absorption of unwanted reflections

12 dB/octave/LKR/2200 Hz crossover
Mundorf Air Foil Coils, 99.999% pure OFC-copper with Polypropylene insulation.
Mundorf High-End Audio Grade MKP capacitors, matched to 0.5% tolerance.
Exclusive custom braid - HGA Solid Silver/Teflon insulated inner wiring
High quality Bi-wire WBT terminals.

Impedance: 8 Ohm
Dimensions For Loudspeaker: 260 x 365 x 360 (WxDxH in mm)
Weight: Loudspeaker = 28 lbs
Warranty:5-year limited warranty (see manufacturer for details)
Price: Gracioso 1.0 Loudspeakers $12,500 per pair
Price: Gracioso 1.0 Factory Matching Stands $1700 per pair


Company Information
Acoustic Preference Enterprise
Adami eva 41
2000 Maribor
Slovenija EU

Voice: 386 242 971 46
Fax : 386 242 971 47
E-Mail: info@acoustic-preference.com
Website: www.acoustic-preference.com


United States West Coast Distributor
GTI Audio and Video, Inc.
Corona, CA 92881

Voice: (951) 737-4118
Fax: (951) 738-1818
Email: sales@gtiaudio.com
Website: www.gtiaudio.com















































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