Extreme Audio Leonardo Speakers first listening impressions


I had the pleasure of listening to the new and revolutionary magneto-dynamic Leonardo Speakers system by Extreme Audio in a large room of the Holiday Inn Hotel, situated close to the German trade fair that was hosting, from 3 to 6 June, the Munich High End 2012.

Extreme Audio had chosen a prestigious room to introduce these genial speakers with magneto-dynamic technology and, thanks to their amazing performances, they will surely make a name for themselves.

This astounding system can brilliantly solve the main problem of the dipole speakers without any effort. It is very easy to insert the Leonardo Speakers in room. They can give a sound image always consistent and homogenous without the idiosyncrasies that characterize the typology of the dipole emission. As the Leonardo behave like the traditional loudspeakers, you can ever get the acoustic scene you like more within a balanced sound context. I have immediately realized how accurate has been the work of the Extreme Audio’s technicians.


Italian genius

Aldo Zaninello is one of the designers and manufacturers of Extreme Audio: an Italian company that not only imports the KR Audio amplifications, but also is well known for the quality of its realizations. Just remember the Sigma Acoustics system, which employs the famous and fine Zellaton drivers, and the White Gold Electronics cables.

For which reason Aldo Zaninello has decided to try out the tortuous way of the magneto-dynamic speakers? I know the answer for some time. Everything has started when Extreme Audio met the engineer Daniele Coen. After twenty-five years of research in the field of audio playback with dipolar speakers, the first outcome has been the realization of the true ribbon transducers for mid-high frequencies with high sensitivity and later, in the last four years, the realization of the ribbon-planar transducer with similar sensitivity and dedicated to the low frequencies. Thus, the goal of Aldo Zaninello and Daniele Coen has been the achievement of a product that has the typical performances of a dipole magneto-dynamic speaker without any of its defects. The last working year has been necessary to definitely tweaking the model that Extreme Audio is introducing at present, the Leonardo Speakers system.

Aesthetically the Leonardo Speakers are refined. The finish is a glossy black piano in solid poly-methacrylate with a narrow stainless steel plate on the edges. The modern and technological design features a see-through metal grid with behind the diaphragm realized with a special film and crossed by some conductors in lightweight aluminium foil. The dimensions are not obtrusive. In fact, they are thick only seven centimetres and this option makes slimmer the 165 cm of height and the 65 of width but has little to do for the weight that is 140 Kg for each piece!

The rated data are remarkable. The frequency response is wide and linear and goes from 20 Hz to 100 kHz. This result has been obtained firstly, with the 0.45 m² surface of the ribbon-planar woofer with high capacity of magnetic excursion and a dramatic constancy in push-pull configuration, secondly, thanks to the employ of the true ribbon for the mid-high frequencies. This is 15 mm wide and 1,42 m long and guarantees a very strict horizontal directivity at the high frequencies. The higher frequencies out of the audible range are given through a piezo-polymer supertweeter invisibly placed into the last portion of the mid-high ribbon.

The sensitivity is 93 dB in room, the nominal impedance is 4 Ohms and the cross-over is at 6+6 dB/oct at 900 Hz. Therefore, they can easily match up to the most part of the amplification devices. Extreme Audio told me that the performances have been excellent also with some monotriodes… Yet, the recommended power is between 5 and 250 W.


Well, just think of what you could get from a mid-high efficiency loudspeaker, with an 80 cm woofer, a 25 cm mid and a supertweeter that refines at 100 KHz in perfect temporal phase, with also an incredible dynamics and control. And everything wrapped inside a simple dipole panel!


For the listening test, I have opted for an Italian-English audio system that I reckon very interesting: the digital source – the at3500 ASTINtrew integrated amp – of medium category, has behaved good in this contest of very high rank where also the slightest faults appear quite evident. The Tourbillon turntable, made by Extreme Audio itself, is a great analogue prototype with Clearaudio Unify satiné tonearm and Koetsu cartridge. Peculiar is the amplification of the Italian Grandinote with the phono preamp Celio and two Divina integrated monoblocks that have resulted ideal partners to these magneto-dynamic speakers in order to go along with their tonal skills. The Stradivari White Gold interconnect cables do not need to be introduced as they are internationally well known.


Although I have used many tracks as a reference, I want to name only the one I have played in all the rooms of the Munich High End. I am talking of Libertango by Astor Piazzolla, performed by the accordionist Roberto Daris and the percussionist U.T. Gandhi, two important artists of the Italian folk and jazz music (Ed. Bella Musica – J. Rinschler). Incidentally, all exhibitors have appreciated this track for its artistic and recording quality. I say all the exhibitors who got very curious by this track realized by Stefano Amerio at the Italian Artesuono recording studio.

Actually, I have chosen this piece because in a couple of minutes it holds many of the parameters that we audiophiles use to keep into consideration to assess the quality of a system.

So I have been able of evaluating the scenic reconstruction and the spatiality reproduced by the Leonardo Speakers which, as perfect representatives of the dipole, rebuild with stable precision the musical instrument in the room where the performance has been recorded and give back all the reflections and echoes with spontaneous and credible resonances. Also the percussions are perfectly inserted in the musical window and show how they appreciate the control in all the range frequency the Leonardo Speakers can express. At this point Aldo Zaninello tells me that, in effect, the placement of the speakers in room is very easy thanks to their great dynamics and homogeneous linearity.

How noticeable and separate are the sudden dynamic flicks of the accordion with respect to the specific slowness in the cues and releases of the skins hit by the bare-handed percussionist U.T. Gandhi! I could not believe I was listening to magneto-planars that, notoriously, suffer a lot any dynamic performances of different intensity. The Leonardo Speakers express themselves without any detachment among the different frequency ranges and are incredibly linear and, guys, how deep they get down!


I have kept as last thing their best skill: the low frequencies. They are telluric and reproduced with a strong sound pressure. It is like a physical blast. I have had a definite feeling when, in the recorded event, the bass drum was hit and stayed still in the soundstage, deeply vibrant. I have never heard before such a performance. Unchanged remains the liquidity of the sound that is distinctive of electrostatics, magneto-planars and magneto-dynamics. The Leonardo Speakers added an unbelievable control and immediacy in giving back the transients: a quality not common in this kind of speakers. This feature, together with the absolutely natural tone, make me define these Leonardo Speakers as the magneto-dynamic transducers with a sound very close to the sound of the traditional speakers. They can however maintain the ability of recreating the scene and the dimension of the soundstage like the most performing dipoles. This is the best compliment I can make to this typology of products and, most of all, this is one of the best sounds I have ever heard, in absolute.


In a word, the Leonardo Speakers have struck me. Without any doubt, they are great musical objects and deserve for sure the consideration at an international high-end level thanks to their very interesting technical performances. I have also made a promise. I want to visit Extreme Audio for a deeper survey and, maybe, to coordinate a listening test in one of our ReMusic’s listening rooms.

In the end, I have enjoyed very much also some good parmesan cheese and fragrant salami with a sumptuous Prosecco, a small parenthesis among many German beers and delicatessen during the Munich High End 2012.

One more time the Italians have shown great passion in their realizations. The rest of the world is warned...


Official Italian dealer: to Extreme Audio website

For further info: Aldo Zaninello, tel. +39.0426.320318

by Roberto
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