The Italians have always had a certain flair when it comes to things cultural and artistic; from da Vinci to Michelangelo, Monteverdi to Vivaldi, Versace to Enzo Ferrari. And that extends to contemporary loudspeaker design as well, as we shall see.
At various hi-fi shows around the world, I have been wooed by the sounds of Italian designs which invariably come with stunning looks. New to me though is Care Orchestra which was founded in 2010, near Milan, and is the result of two engineering minds joining forces: Christian Cammarata who concentrates on the electroacoustic side of designs, and Alessandro Reggiori who oversees the all-important mechanical side. It’s been quite a decade for the company which has seen steady growth and increasing international sales. Within Italy, the models find favour not only with audiophiles but also interior designers and architects.
The company’s owners are proud Italians and every model is hand-made in-country. Aesthetics are clearly an important consideration for Care Orchestra and it’s perhaps not surprising that finish options are wide ranging and extend to not only exotic woods but also marble, fabrics and even leather inserts.
The two-way Deep Breath Evo loudspeakers arrived in an alluring piano gloss black, these are part of the Celestial Evo Line and one of five models currently on offer from the marque with a range of finish options available by special order. At 11 kilos apiece, these are no lightweights.
Striking is the lack of any visible joints or screws in the cabinets, making the otherwise fairly conventional-looking boxes particularly attractive. Also of note are the gold badges, gold-coloured relief screen-print on the outsides of the cabinets and the fact that the baffles have alternate square and rounded corners. To the back is a largish bass-reflex port and a pair of very chunky gold connectors accepting banana plugs or bare wires.
The Deep Breath Evo (great name) is centred around a pair of Scan-Speak drive units. These are housed in custom-made openings which allow for a laser-cut leather layer to cover the fixings for a 180mm fibreglass Discovery midbass driver, while the HF unit chosen is a 25mm silk dome from the same range, with wide dispersion characteristics, a quoted extension to 40kHz and a low resonance frequency of 475Hz.
A second-order network, with a crossover frequency of 1.9kHz, comprises high-precision Jantzen components which are not soldered to a conventional circuit board, instead components are mounted on bespoke supports and connected with Van den Hul wiring. After R&D work in the lab, new Care Orchestra designs are optimised by ear rather than measurement.
Sensitivity is quoted at a healthy 91dB and a comparison with my usual 89dB monitors suggests this is near the mark. The nominal impedance is a lowish 4 Ohms. The dimensions of the 15-litre ported cabinets meant that I was able to use my Tonträger LS5/9 stands turned through 90 degrees to good effect. These are sturdy and could take the weight without any difficulty. The sound benefitted from some Blu Tack between cabinet and stand. There is no grille as such, the speakers are used in their ‘naked’ state, although a transparent dust cover with magnetic fixings is available as an accessory.
The speakers were connected to my Hegel H190 steamer/DAC/integrated amplifier without difficulty and seemed an ideal match, both acoustically and price-wise. After a run-in period of a few days, I settled down for the first of several listening sessions over several weeks. I was immediately impressed by the quality and quantity of the LF performance from such modest cabinets and a 180mm driver, and realised that the model’s name Deep Breath had not been chosen at random. However, I felt that the midrange was suffering from congestion and that this was probably down to placement, the boxes being too close to the rear wall. Moving the speakers out to about 1.5m or slightly more from the back wall, the bass response was still good but now the all-important mid was much more natural with improved detail and even better imaging.
Given the speaker’s origins, it seemed appropriate to begin with Rossini and his Stabat mater with Cecilia Bartoli (DG from 1995). Here the Deep Breath clearly punched above its weight, this mid-priced speaker sounds rather better than a mid-priced speaker. Myung-Whung Chung’s serenely beautiful recording (with the VPO) managed to bring home a truly magical performance to serve the solemnity of the score with a level of natural realism rarely encountered at this price-point. The first-rate soloists were both moving and evocative in equal measure. Bartoli’s heartfelt rendition of the cavatina was especially moving, while the large-scale chorus brought a great intensity revealing the speaker’s ability to handle dynamics. That it can handle human voices with aplomb there can be no doubt, and the design’s ability to produce so much luscious bass detail kept on giving.
On to contemporary compositions, and maintaining the Italian theme, Ludovico Einaudi began as a classical composer before moving to other styles and genres including pop, folk and world music. His latest album, Underwater, possesses a purity and warmth and was brought home with special magic via the Deep Breath speakers. The full album of solo piano is just captivating with its muffled, intimate tone which somehow draws the listener in. Many speakers fail to make a piano sound like a piano, but the Care Orchestra model here managed it with such ease. The simplistic arrangements, played with effortless restraint, captivate an amity which is shared with the listener. There was such naturalness, such sweetness on the high notes and wonderful harmonic richness via the Deep Breaths which relish such intimate sounds. I felt as though I could reach out and touch that piano at Ludovico’s hands. Surely this is as much as any loudspeaker designer can aspire to?
Listening on another day to a live performance of Schumann’s Second (by the LSO under Rattle) courtesy of BBC Radio 3’s Afternoon Concert, the speakers showed their ability to deal with orchestral masses, creating in my listening room a beautifully realistic soundstage of incredible width and depth and commensurate height. Imaging was also revealed as being one of this loudspeaker’s strong suits. A genuine sense of proportion was brought to me and that deep bass being as clean as anything. The HF, too, was sublime: genuinely detailed and bright enough without being harsh thanks to that soft-domed tweeter. Integration also seems good as a holistic sound is presented, rather than the output of two drive units.
I rounded off one session with a succession of more raucous material just to demonstrate, as much to my noisy neighbour as to myself, that these speakers can rock. They play loud. They play clean. And they play low. Not sufficient LF for a true bass junkie who would wish to add a sub-woofer, and so they can. But more than sufficient bass for me and far more than I was expecting given the size of the driver and the volume of the cabinet. The quoted -3dB point of 48Hz is quite believable. I tried using them closer to the rear wall again but lost a degree of their brilliant holistic 3D soundstage and compromised the overall detail. So, back they came out into free space. The midbass is really in a class above as Tracy Chapman’s Crossroads album ably demonstrated. Here articulation was just spot-on with the sound being faster and stronger than I’ve heard on many a speaker at this level. And, wow, that percussion. Talk about lively; it’s downright aggressive while remaining beautifully defined.
All loudspeakers have one quality which stands out above everything else and here, I think, it has to be the imaging qualities of the Deep Breath. They really do excel in this regard while doing other things either well or very well and, in many cases, above that expected for this price-point. Tracks with effects are simply a joy and I kept playing the opening to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn because I’d not heard it reproduced so well before. The scale and believability were just off the scale as the sound emerged from halfway down the room. This feeling of being completely immersed in the soundstage is just stunning and the designers have done a magnificent job here on the spatial front.
For me, these are exceptionally well-conceived loudspeakers. The build quality is sublime and they represent fair value for money, more so given that they are built in Italy rather than mass-produced in the Far East. Drive unit integration is in the best class while audible coloration is, thankfully, not evident.
While imaging is their swansong the Deep Breath Evos have a lot more to offer, including surprisingly generous bass, a delightfully natural midrange and a fine treble response. Keep them away from the rear wall and they excel. These are not broadcast monitors; in that they don’t analyse the sound. Instead, they present a highly believable soundstage which brings the recording venue to the listening room in a most enjoying and involving way.
I would happily live with these as my everyday loudspeakers. That’s probably the only thing you need to know to justify a personal audition, and I really recommend that you have one. Many a loudspeaker can only aspire to be as good as these and, for that reason, they are clearly worthy of praise.