Italian heritage, crafted in the Czech Republic, finds Trevor Butler sampling a compact two-way which really gets the feet tapping. Xavian is a company which has interested me for a while, and whose Classic Series visually resemble the BBC-style monitor loudspeakers I so adore, especially now that it has launched this compact infinite baffle, or sealed box design.
The €2,068.42 (approx. £1,850) Coralllo Esclusivo is positively diminutive, measuring just 230mm wide by 236mm deep and standing a mere 355mm high. It is great for small spaces and intended to work close to the rear wall, on bookshelves and other locations where bass-reflex (ported) cabinets cause issues. Beautifully crafted matching stands are offered for €564.51 extra. Small they may be, but they weigh in at almost 8kg, so no lightweights. Natty, magnetic grilles are provided but I felt they looked ‘nicer’ without. As the prices suggest Xavian loudspeakers are currently sold direct by the company, which should be good for value but makes auditioning near impossible.
The solid-oak cabinets are handmade and available in a range of six finishes, the material providing excellent natural rigidity. They also rely on internal damping from bitumen as well as layers of fabric and foam. Solid, Italian oak slats are used rather than veneer over ply or MDF – a delight to see and conveying a feeling of understated quality from the start.
To this reviewer’s delight the product is professionally packaged in customized high-density foam, a far cry from the higgledy-piggledy assortment of ill-fitting polystyrene pieces, loosely packed around speakers in the vain hope of providing protection found elsewhere.
Many will not have experienced any models from Xavian. It was founded by Roberto Barletta who grew-up in Turin in a musical family. He began to experiment with audio back in 1984 and built a Class A amplifier as part of a school project. He started working for an Italian loudspeaker company in 1989 and moved to Prague in 1994 where he formed Xavian two years later. The name derives from Greek mythology. He expanded the business and moved first to Kladno and then to Hostivice in 2013 when he took over a disused mill. He was joined in 2011 by audio engineer David Hyka.
The Corallo Esclusivo relies exclusively on AudioBarletta drivers which are designed by Barletta and manufactured in Italy to his specification. The all-important crossover is more sophisticated than I had initially envisaged, with the mid/bass and tweeter connected in serial and using ‘fase zero’ circuitry, based on some top-notch components from the likes of Jantzen and Mundorf, to create the desired on-axis frequency response which is quoted at 59Hz to 20kHz (+/-3dB).
Aesthetically intended to resemble the previous Ambra Esclusiva, the new Corallo Esclusivo had hidden depths and sounded much more than the small box speaker in front of me. A 175mm doped-paper cone is used for the mid/bass driver, while a 29mm soft-done tweeter provides the HF, crossing over at 2.5kHz. To the rear is a single pair of gold-plated terminals. All this is protected by a five-year warranty, indicating that Xavian have faith in their own craftsmanship – always a pleasing sign.
Setting up was easy with a near straight-on position to the listener, and only half a metre from the back wall creating a sound I was more than happy with from the off. Any toe-in, and for me the HF was a little too strong, but this is down to personal preference.
Here is a speaker design which appears completely nonplussed by the accompanying amplifier. It has a quoted sensitivity of 87dB and a 30-120W amplifier is suggested. My trusty Hegel H190 was pressed into service and immediately I sensed this speaker’s raison d’être: the sheer quality of pace and timing was unbelievable. It would have been from an enclosure ten times this size, but from this mini it was just sensational. The box simply oozes with musicality and overwhelms the listener with a sense of enjoyment and ‘being there’ at the recording in a way that few designs, even those costing ten-times the price, can manage with such aplomb.
Stereo imaging was near faultless: the image is laid out before the listener with surprising width and depth given the size of the speakers; not class-leading but far better than many designs at this level. The soundstage goes far beyond the cabinets themselves and it is easy to pick out individual instruments and singers.
Track after track just proved the Corallo Esclusivo’s ability in this area. For PRAT (pace, rhythm and timing) it scores in the very highest bracket. My feet were tapping involuntarily after just a few notes and I found myself listening to entire albums when all I had intended was to test out a few well-known tracks. So it was that hours passed while I immersed myself in albums including Alison Moyet’s Alf from 1987 with its haunting tracks, and the almost hypnotic Autobahn by Kraftwerk with its electronic pulse populated by shimmering electronic keyboards, rhythm loops and trance-like guitars. Only a very late hour made me stop the listening session, I was enjoying myself so much.
This musicality comes at a price, you won’t be surprised to hear. These are far from the most dynamic loudspeakers you will hear, but for a tiny box they make a decent stab at it. A degree of compression left this listener longing for more on Mahler’s gigantic Eighth (CSO/Solti on Decca) which lacked some of its dynamism and exhilarating frisson, but we must keep in mind both the price and size of these little gems before making judgements.
That’s not to say that the Corallo Esclusivo can’t handle the classical repertoire. Far from it. I wallowed in many fine recordings, among them Shostakovich’s Tenth (BPO/Karajan on DG) with that unforgettable sound created by the wind section handled well, and Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto (Trevor Pinnock on Archiv) from the golden age of the English Concert. The young Mark Bennett’s solo alongside Pinnock maintained much of its exuberance and elegance and I was able to delight in the keyed trumpet played at its best.
I lived with this model for several weeks, found them to be more than adequate on that acid test the human voice (the nemesis of so many other speaker designs) and could have happily continued to have them as my everyday loudspeakers. The treble was detailed and sweet, that soft dome ensuring no undue harshness or brittleness so often prevalent with poor implementations of tweeter units.
For the size of cabinet, the bass response was surprisingly good. I am not sure I quite achieved the quoted 59Hz in my listening room, but certainly circa-70Hz was achieved. The bass generated was clean and smooth, no nasty surprises here, and it remained taut as far down as it went and always tuneful. The overall sound has decent speed and agility, even with electronic music which can often suffer in this regard.
I also relied on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 transmissions received in high-quality via satellite. Human voices from drama recordings were highly realistic without traits of the common issues of sibilance, chestiness or nasality. Replay of classical concerts, both large and small-scale, successfully transported me to the venue, or rather brought the performers into my listening room for a most enjoyable experience. Detailing is exemplary and above the level I was expecting given the price-point, but not to the extent that I felt a sense of ‘detail overload’ as can sometimes happen.
Here we have competently designed, beautifully crafted, excellently engineered loudspeakers which offer decent value for money in a package elegant enough to grace any home. They are easy to drive, have a decent frequency response, handle most music types well and create a sonic sensation that is such a joy to listen to.
There is more than a hint of ‘professional’ studio monitor quality to the overall balance which is smooth, without undue preference to any part of the frequency spectrum. Performers were not forced into my lap in what is a so-annoying trait of some speakers, but the listener enjoys a well-balanced performance which appears natural and unforced. What is there not to like about them. Best of all, they come in a compact package at an affordable price. I would happily live with these speakers, and that is probably the highest endorsement a reviewer can give.