Lots of products have been designed to “tune” the room—from bass traps to diffusers to tuning “forks” to electronic room-correction devices that are inserted directly into the audio chain to attenuate troublesome peaks. The ultimate step is to redesign the room itself. I recently went through this process, and it is not for the faint of heart. (It also turned me into an expert on, among other things, an amazing product called “Green Glue” that acts as a viscoelastic polymer between two layers of sheetrock. It is far more effective than soundboard.)
What if there was a loudspeaker designed to take the room into account, or, to put it more precisely, to render it superfluous? The Italian company Bolzano Villetri has designed a line of omnidirectional loudspeakers that attempts to accomplish this feat. The $10,500 Campanile Torre 3005 uses something called “Roundstream” technology to produce a 360-degree radiation pattern. Bolzano calls it a symmetric deformation of air that is supposed to result in increased field uniformity—in plain English, a bigger sweet spot than that provided by most other loudspeakers, one that permits you to sit wherever you please without losing any musical information—at least in theory. To achieve this goal, two vertically opposed mid/bass drivers—one mounted at the base of a large enclosure at the top of the speaker, facing down, and the other mounted at the top of a large enclosure at the base of the speaker, facing up—fire into the open space between them. Two Morell tweeters are also suspended in this open space between the mid/bass drivers. Together the two opposed mid/ bass drivers and the two tweeters are said to produce a 360º wavelaunch. The crossover frequency between mid/bass and tweeter is a pretty high 4.5kHz, which should, again in theory, make it hard to hear the transition between midrange and treble. Deep bass frequencies are handled by the $4500, 500-watt, powered Vecchio subwoofer, which can be run with its own internal crossover or an external active crossover. (I took the latter approach with a Marchand crossover.)
But forget about the technology and even the music for a second. The blunt fact is that the first thing anyone notices about these loudspeakers is their looks, which are stunning. The workmanship is unsurpassed. There are no corners on these loudspeakers. To improve the sound, the beautiful burled wood enclosure is rounded on the sides. It’s also a nice fillip that the speakers don’t devour much floor space; the design’s all vertical and built to resemble an Italian bell tower, and, boy, does it ever.
Proper setup is critical. There are designated left and right speakers, the ports of which must face each other on the inside. Positioning them this way is absolutely essential to hearing the Torres at their best. And their best is very good, indeed. Within their limits, they offer a lovely, shimmering, expansive sound.
As a longtime fan of planar speakers, I figured I would have a handle on how the Torre speakers would sound when I fired them up. Wrong. While they did produce the large soundfield I’d anticipated, they offered a detailed and precise sound that I hadn’t. Most planars and electrostats tend to produce a somewhat diffuse image field, relying on the sheer scale and majesty of the presentation to overcome any lingering objections from fans of detail and more detail. Box speakers often sound shutdown or overly confined by comparison, though the Kharma and Aerial loudspeakers that I’ve heard recently go a long way toward overcoming this objection. The Torre loudspeakers split the difference. They don’t throw as vast or open a soundstage as the Magnepan 20.1s, which seem to energize the air in the room itself even when there’s a silent moment in the music, but the Torres have more shimmer and sheen on the notes, partly because of what I perceive as greater accuracy. Listening to Rudolf Serkin’s recording of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 [Deutsche Grammophon], I was bowled over by the gossamer-like sound of the violin section. Serkin, whom I saw perform once at Oberlin College, was about as old school as they come: He was relentlessly precise, but always in the service of musical beauty and truth. When he performed at Oberlin, I’ve never forgotten how, in the middle of the concert, he was so agitated by the orchestra slowing down the tempo that he literally stamped his feet to get it moving again, while he was playing. The Torre loudspeakers vividly conveyed his taut and graceful sound with the piano firmly anchored in the soundstage.