Review: Acapella High Violin Mk III Speaker

Category: Speakers

I just heard the $48K/pair High Violin MkIII at a private home (not mine, unfortunately) in Southern California. The other components were Einstein 60 wpc tube monoblocks ($25K/pair), Einstein tube preamp (I forget how much), and Accustic Arts CD transport and DAC ($11K). Each component sat on an approx. $1500 Acapella Fondato Silenzio isolation platform. Throw in cables, line conditioners, racks, room treatment, and miscellaneous, and we were at around $150K.

I was curious to hear the exotic, much talked-about plasma tweeter. Certainly as a conversation piece alone, the plasma tweeter on the Acapella is unsurpassed. The plasma flames glow a beautiful pink-purple inside their impressive polished gold (?) tweeter horns.

Plasma is the superheated, ionized, fourth state of matter that:

1) Cuts through steel like a hot knife through butter;
2) Will eventually enable nuclear fusion to be harnessed as an energy source; and
3) Produces the sweetest, smoothest, most ethereal and spacious treble I have ever heard.

I played some 80's and 90's recordings (classical and pop, from Bach to Basia) that I previously thought were well-recorded, and they sounded great on this system. What previously sounded like an excellent recording of a violin, now sounded like a live violin. I could hear Itzhak Perlman breathing between notes.

But then Brian, the owner of the system, played some more recent demo recordings, and the soundstage suddenly doubled in width and depth. Instruments now seemed to be playing from 45 degrees to each side of the speakers, almost from behind me.

Although the plasma tweeter gets all the attention, the rest of the speaker (horn midrange and 2 woofers) is superbly executed as well. Words like "sumptuous" and "elegant" came to mind as I focused on the midrange, and "authoritative, fast and tight -- amazing for 60 wpc" as I focused on the bass. The tweeter is fantastic but not too good for the rest of the speaker.

The only downside I heard was that for a few moments, the tweeter would make faint crackling noises, apparently the result of microscopic dust particles getting zapped in the plasma. Brian said that the speaker had just been unpacked after returning from CES. I only heard the crackling noises for a total of about 1 minute in 3 hours of listening. Those three hours went by far too quickly.

So now I am back home in my apartment, listening to my $3K system (homemade plywood racks, no fancy platforms), hoping the sound will start to improve toward the end of this bottle of wine. Life is good.

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