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Duke LeJeune of AudioKinesis reviews the Volterra room at Southwest Audio Fest 2024

My wife and I attended the SouthWest Audio Fest on Sunday. We didn't make it to all of the rooms.
A bit of background: My wife and I are both very sensitive to harshness/edginess/shoutiness/shrillness. More than once she gave me the quick tap on the leg to signal her ears couldn't take it any more. Sometimes we sat through one such song if it was borderline in hopes that it was just the recording, only to have it happen again on the next song. I put a high priority on getting a "you are there" spatial presentation. She is unforgiving of speakers that don't have really good, solid, natural-sounding bottom end (she's a drummer).
Something that will grab our attention is a room which conveys especially natural timbre through the open doorway. Through an open doorway most of the sound you hear is reflected sound, even if you have line-of-sight to one of the speakers, and since most of the sound you hear at normal listening distances is reflected sound, it's nice if the reflections are contributing to, rather than detracting from, the system's tonality. (Imagine listening through an open doorway to a live piano - if a speaker is approximating something like THAT, then we gotta go into the room and check it out.) One such room that snagged us was the Audio Thesis room exhibiting the Rossi Fiorentino Volterra speakers.
Making my way into the room I was already amazed by the rich, warm, inviting, natural timbre and the very solid bottom end. My eyes were bugging out and my jaw was slack (which is not my normal facial expression, for the record) - this was REALLY good sound!
The room was one of the small rooms, which are notorious for imposing their "small-room signature" atop whatever music is being played. Even when the timbre is natural-sounding in a small hotel room (which is itself pretty rare), when you close your eyes it's still apparent that you're listening in a fairly small room. Such was not the case in this room. I was hearing a "you are there" presentation. Imo this doesn't happen unless the reverberation tails on the recording are effectively presented, which in turn cannot happen unless the noise floor is VERY low. And by "noise floor", I am including those in-room reflections which are spectrally incorrect to the extent that, as they fade into inaudibility, they are no longer identifiable by the ear/brain system as "signal" and are therefore effectively "noise".
Imo the hallmark of a GREAT speaker goes beyond being able to do some things, even many things, well enough that you can close your eyes and suspend disbelief and get lost in the music. A GREAT speaker is one that ALSO does not do anything WRONG to collapse the illusion that it just created. Floyd Toole's research on the subject led him to put it this way: "The highest rated loudspeaker is the least flawed, not the most virtuous."
With that idea in mind (or at least in the back of my mind) we stayed and listened for four or five songs, maybe more. I had my critical ears on, my "looking for any little flaw in the competition" ears on... I'm a dealer and a speaker manufacturer, and one of the things I was hearing was "this is some scary-@$$ competition". Yet on one song after another the Volterras only reinforced my initial impression. They consistently sounded superb with zero distracting colorations, and the spatial quality was consistently "you are there", the spatial impression changing from one recording to the next as the spatial content on the recording changed.
Eventually my wife and I found a room we liked better: The Estelon room, which was many times the size of the Volterra room, with speakers about ten times the price. And that was the only room either of us liked better than the Audio Thesis/Volterra room.


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