Extreme Audio Leonardo Speakers interview


During the visit at Extreme Audio and on the occasion of the second ReMusic listening article, dedicated to the Leonardo Speakers, we have asked few questions to Aldo Zaninello, overflowing deus ex machina of Extreme Audio, and to Daniele Coen, Leonardo Speakers’ chief designer, the two entrepreneurs that have led to this significant outcome.


Question: A new design, a new technology: why this choice so different from those utilized so far for the Extreme Audio loudspeakers?

Aldo Zaninello, Extreme Audio: Well, it is true. Everything seems very different from the traditional designs of Extreme Audio based on Heil’s or Görlich’s tweeters, or on ceramic ultra rapid tweeters and on coherent woofers as for rise time and temporal decays… in full compliance with tone and sense of realism. Basically, the tradition is respected, though. The Leonardo’s design has fascinated me because is what more coherent, musical, extended and easy to drive I have ever heard.

To go up, I think that all what we need are few preconceptions or superstructures of thought. Our aim was to present in 2012 a new, exclusive and elegant product, atop of our catalogue.

We were worried about taking up a technology and a design so different if compared to the Extreme Audio’s standard production. But the love for music, the incessant research of the listening pleasure with coherence, dynamics and extension, had led us into this project. When did it start? Two years ago, through friends in common, I met Eng. Daniele Coen at his home to listen to a non traditional and curious loudspeaker… “I like it” I said, “It seems a real sound…why don’t we try to…? The trip for modifications and elaborations began immediately. We started the collaboration and the development of the Leonardo! Eng. Coen had been working on such technology for twenty years. Both of us had something to say to each other to complete the job.

We have accepted and started a fascinating journey of collaboration and exchange of experiences pursuing the absolute result. With great aspirations and perspectives. To overcome the normal limits and problems that have signed such technologies until now. All of this with the aim of reaching the tenth anniversary of Extreme Audio with a new and maybe revolutionary product to be inserted in the catalogue of our most representative sounds.


Question: The Leonardo is a dipole loudspeaker. What does make the difference with the other ribbons?

Aldo Zaninello: Here I leave the word to Daniele, who can better explain all the differences…

Daniele Coen, Leonardo Speakers: Differences… Firstly the sonic outcome, the sensitivity we obtain and the frequency extension. Everything got through the “coherence” between the emission of the planar-ribbon woofer and the emission of the ribbon mid-tweeter, with a significant dynamic in the low range, up to the limits of the audible frequencies.

Let us try to clear up this point by starting from my first experiences on the ribbon loudspeakers. I have begun designing them more than twenty years ago and since 1994, I have realized, for the former RES Audio, the Sky1, and later, the Sky2. Those designs stood out for a vivid dynamics in the high and mid-high range, a sense of absolute realism, both tonal and spatial…. But it was not so easy matching them with the traditional drivers, even if very high tech… The coherence was missing, the reproduced instrument started with high notes in a way and ended with the low notes in another way… Maybe it was a problem of mixture between dipole in high frequency and monopole in low frequency, but the dipoles I realized with traditional woofers have demonstrated that there was something else.

The challenge I have taken up in realizing the Leonardo has been to get the same outcome also in the low and mid-low range. This has allowed me to reach that remarkable coherence of emission between the two ways. I reached the result after many experiments and by making attention to all the factors involved. First among everything, the use of the same materials for the membranes of the two-way, the pure ribbon and the planar-ribbon, with the most similar conformation technology, exception made for the physical element of shape. In order to get the maximum coherence, the magnetic field of the ribbon-planar woofer has the same high intensity of the pure ribbon mid-tweeter. This has been obtained through several devices. For some of them we have asked for a patent, others have been kept secret, as happens for the best recipes… Then, there has been the long work for the optimization and the fine-tuning that I have done with Aldo in the last year and a half. It has touched several manufacturing elements and, clearly, the filter that is one of the fundamental elements and allows the reaching of the tonal balance, without which it is impossible to speak of coherence.

As for the dynamics in low range, the fine-tuning of the mechanical parameters of the big membrane of the woofer and the wide excursion, made possible by the design of the magnetic structure, are of great importance.

Another aspect that contributes to the coherence, which I think is a prerogative of several ribbon dipoles, is the lack of problems of excessive directivity. That means that the frequency response of the acoustic pressure in the listening direction is nearly the same of the frequency response in every other direction. The Leonardo are therefore less directive in comparison with other models with the same typology of components, thanks to the sizing of the membranes and the cross-over at 900 Hz. Hence, the listening position is no more an “imaginary cage” within which the audiophile closes himself in solitary egoism, but it expands itself all around the room, making possible the enjoyment of the playback music in a wider, “socializing” context.


Question: For the Leonardo you have employed ceramic magnets. Why and which are the differences and the advantages?

Daniele Coen: We have made some simulations at finite elements and realized several prototypes with other magnetic materials. The result is that the neodymium magnets allow a higher sensitivity and a lower weight. The flexible magnet or plastoferrite enables more manufacturing convenience, but the sensitivity is lower. The ceramic magnet of the best quality, considering the existence of several types, makes possible a bigger excursion. Please note that this is worthy of a long-throw woofer, no fewer than 17 mm, but with a weight/dimension ratio of the membrane simple for the driving of the amps. As far as the surface is concern, the comparison with a woofer mounting a traditional cone is not eligible. In order to get a surface of 0,45 m2 you need a woofer with 76 cm of net diameter, about 80 cm of outside diameter, with a moving mass of many hundreds of grams…it is clear that the comparison with the few grams of the ribbon-planar membrane is underdog.


Question: Which kind of problems had you to overcome in order to assure those technical performances? I mean the extremely wide frequency response and the high efficiency?

Daniele Coen:To choose the material of the diaphragm I have borne in mind the experience gained during the years by manufacturing the pure ribbon loudspeakers. We have also made several tests on the thickness and the kind of polyester. Incidentally, Mylar is a DuPont registered trademark but the polyester film is made by many firms with the most various utilizations.

Obviously, the film we use is one of the most confidential manufacturing secrets of the Leonardo

Furthermore, the diaphragm of a ribbon-planar or a pure ribbon emits sounds because is largely covered by conductors. These ones are usually made in aluminium alloy to get a higher sensitivity, considering the good relation between specific conductivity and specific weight. Clearly, to choose the alloy type we have considered the characteristics of resistance and durability.

Besides this active conductor, in a ribbon loudspeaker there are many meters of passive conductors that come in useful for the internal wiring, and also these ones have an audible influence on the sound. Heartened by the White Gold experience, we have adopted for these conductors the pure copper in litz wire configuration and we have obtained a superior extension in high frequency and a better fine grain.


Question: How did you get that extension in the low range from a dipole, without a traditional acoustic load?

Daniele Coen: Here we have to thank years of patience and acoustic experiences in listening room. We can explain, in an elementary way, that the various dimensioning of the structure, the loopholes, the diaphragm surface and the contribute of the three variables always present in a listening room – floor, ceiling, and back wall – make part of the “tuning calculation”, so to speak.



Official Italian dealer: to Extreme Audio website

For further info: Aldo Zaninello, tel. +39.0426.320318


Daniele Coen and Aldo Zaninello, Leonardo’s genius.
Daniele Coen and Aldo Zaninello, Leonardo’s genius.
by Giuseppe
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