Visit to the Cessaro Zeta System of Audioquattr

I visited audioquattr last week and, after I swore to him that I would not say a word about this amazing new system, I had to have Tinka put duct tape over my mouth because I have been bursting at the seams wanting to tell people what I heard from this system.

From the one-of-a-kind Cessaro Zeta system we all heard in Munich this year, to the Alieno amp (which I heard at Jeroen’s over a year ago), to the Grado Epoch on the absurdly complicated looking but amazing sounding Reed 5T on a brand new TechDAS AF3 Premium sitting on a Stacore platform, to the lengthened dedicated listening room, to the in-the-wall giant subwoofer drivers this is, to my ears, one of the two or three best systems I have ever heard in my life. (Jeroen also has the world’s first client copy of the brand new Alieno line stage preamplifier.)

Now that Jeroen has posted a photo of his stunning system on the AF3 thread I can finally spill the beans. This is such a unique system, with multiple presently one-of-a-kind components, I told Jeroen that, like MikeL’s system, among the systems I have heard personally, I think this is a system of real significance in the world of high-end audio.

After I visited Jeroen I did not write a coherent, comprehensive visit report like I normally do. So my observations on this thread are going to be more stream of consciousness rather than my usual coherence.

I did not even take any photos while I was there because I almost did not trust myself not to post them. I did take a cool video, but I do not know how to upload it here. Update a photo here:

aqCesZ1.jpg
 
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bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#2
Stream of consciousness is the exact phrase Mike had once used to call spiritofmusic while referring to his post.
 
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Ron Resnick

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#3
Ralph of Cessaro has received critical comments about the sound of his giant systems at Munich. Apparently as a result a couple of years ago of complaints of excessive and boomy bass, Ralph sets the volume on his bass system at Munich very low. The result is that everyone sees a giant bass system which spreads from one side of the room to the other but everyone hears relatively little bass. I think this visual/sonic incongruity is responsible for some of the critical comments (where’s the bass?”) Ralph has received.

Audioquattr’s system proves once again that we can achieve far better sound in our dedicated listening rooms once a system is lovingly and leisurely dialed-in than a dealer or manufacturer can achieve in a demo room at an audio show.

Audioquattr has hidden in each of the left side wall and the right side wall two 16” drivers and one 18” driver, all powered by Class D amplifiers. So hidden from view are four 16” drivers and two 18” drivers. That is a whole lot of woofing going on!
 
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Ron Resnick

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#4
The Alieno 250 LTD outputs 250wpc, so Audioquattr is using far more amplifier power to drive the highly sensitive Zetas than Ralph has ever recommended. For me this was yet another example proving MikeL’s thesis that seemingly grossly excess amplifier power is a very good thing to allow a system to sound relaxed and at ease as well as providing incredible dynamics, slam and “jump factor.” I don’t think I will ever hear “Great Gates of Kiev” on Pictures at an Exhibition sound more like there is a full-size orchestra in front of me than I heard at MikeL’s, but I think this is mostly a function of MikeL’s significantly wider room. A wider soundstage simply sounds more realistic than a less wide soundstage.
 
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Ron Resnick

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#5
The build quality of the Cessaro is astonishingly high. Each channel of the Zeta you see weighs about 2,000 pounds. The plastic-y feeling drivers and comparatively insubstantial frame structure of the Avantgarde Trio does not evidence this kind of build quality.

With the Cessaro you see where your money is going. I think some of the drivers cost Ralph thousands of dollars.

The Zeta’s tweeter and super tweeter drivers ride on precision vernier tracks to achieve time alignment of the various drivers, much like the top Wilson Audio loudspeaker midrange and tweeter driver modules.

Audioquattr mentioned that Ralph has been a joy to work with, and that Ralph is a total perfectionist — which is exactly what I want in a high-end audio component builder.
 
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Ron Resnick

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#6
Audioquattr spent quite a bit of time playing my test tracks over and over so we could compare the My Sonic Lab Platinum Signature on the Axiom on the Kronos to the Grado Epoch on the Reed 5T on the AF3P to the Shelter Harmony on the Ikeda IT-407 on the AF3P.

In general the My Sonic Lab Platinum Signature on the Axiom on the Kronos and the Shelter Harmony on the Ikeda IT-407 on the AF3P sounded conceptually similar. Both were great, with the Shelter Harmony on the Ikeda sounding a bit smoother and a bit less detailed than the MSL on the Axiom on the Kronos. But in no respect did the MSL on the Axiom on the Kronos sound the slightest bit analytical or fatiguing.

But OMG on the Grado Epoch on the Reed 5T on the AF3P!!! :eek: This combination had the best midrange reproduction and the best high frequency reproduction of the three combinations, but, much more importantly, this combination sounded “airy” and “alive” in ways the other two combinations could not match. The other two combinations probably had more solid and impactful low-frequency reproduction, but I didn’t care.

The Grado Epoch/Reed 5T combination *** WARNING *** HYPERBOLE ALERT *** “freed” the sound from its mechanical and electronic mechanisms of reproduction and sounded significantly more “alive” than did the other two combinations.

Jeroen and I heard the exact same thing here and we were both amazed, mesmerized and puzzled. We kept taking about the “magic” we were hearing from the Epoch/Reed.

Were we hearing the magic of linear tracking, which reputedly affords the sound a lightness and airiness which seemingly helps to “free” the sound from the mechanical/electronic reproduction chain? Or were we hearing a phenomenal performance by this crazy expensive Grado Epoch moving magnet cartridge? (By the way I am beginning to think that the higher output of high output cartridges yields more in dynamics and jump factor than they sacrifice in delicacy or nuance. The fact that the high output takes pressure off an all-tube phono stage is another benefit.)
 
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Tango

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#8
Maybe the Cessaro sounds a bit better now. ;)

Tang
 

Ron Resnick

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#9
So you have to potentially remodel your house to get those bad boys in!
I continue to feel strongly that the first step in selecting speakers is to figure out what is your primary musical preference. I have posted several times that if my primary musical preference were jazz then there is no doubt that I would want a big horn system like the Cessaro Zeta. If my primary musical preference were jazz and classical then I very likely would want a big horn system. I think there is something very consonant with the way brass instruments produce music and the way horn loudspeakers reproduce the music produced by brass instruments.

If my primary musical preference were classical symphony orchestra music then I probably would want a big dynamic driver (e.g., Evolution Acoustics MM7, Rockport Arrakis, Von Schweikert Audio Ultra 11) system.

Piano is tough. I think piano is the most difficult instrument for digital to reproduce realistically.

I am not sure if I think horns reproduce piano more authentically than dynamic drivers, or vice versa. I think I prefer piano on horns. I know I like piano on Apogees and Analysis Audio and Magnepans.
 
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Ron Resnick

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#10
Based on the horn systems I have heard I have believed consistently that horn systems do not reproduce vocals with quite the transparency and presence and realism I believe I hear from electrostatic panels or ribbon panels or even dynamic driver systems. The Zeta reproduces vocals more transparently and with greater presence and realism then any other horn system I have heard.
 
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Folsom

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#11
Interesting. Good to note.

Btw I meant more like most floors are not rated to have the weight of a mid SUV parked on them, not so much the physical size. Those speakers are some of the heaviest at 2,000 lbs per channel.
 

bonzo75

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#12
Hi Ron, great report, with one point for disagreement. Horns can do orchestral better than cones, for someone who likes horns on the smaller stuff (yes this is not for those who prefer cones over horns even on non orchestral stuff).

Orchestra is not a constant tutti. Mahler symphonies have a lot of quiet parts with a lot of brass and woodwinds. Don't think of orchestra from a Beethoven 9th viewpoint alone. Think of the Schubert's great that you like.

Where horns excel is also flow, continuity, and tone that comes from a set amp driving high sensitive drivers. This is not only evident in brass, but also in piano.

The Beethoven 5th Szell test press is the best LP I have heard (i am trying to scratch my head to recollect who bought it). I heard it on the pnoe.

Tonal changes and inflections are very important also for large orchestra. These are best done by quality small tubes and what they can drive. You are listening to Cessaro with 300w of power. This might end up as a great solution due to the OTL factor, but neither you nor Jeroen have carried out a compare with SETs yet (and Dartzeel vs VTL is not a proper analogy) to conclude.

Cones cause a lot of problems in orchestra playing violins from the top driver and bass from the bottom driver. They are all over the place. Flow and tone are subdued. There are a couple of exceptions. And Henk's grands do it better
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#13
Hi Ron, great report, with one point for disagreement. Horns can do orchestral better than cones, for someone who likes horns on the smaller stuff (yes this is not for those who prefer cones over horns even on non orchestral stuff).

Orchestra is not a constant tutti. Mahler symphonies have a lot of quiet parts with a lot of brass and woodwinds. Don't think of orchestra from a Beethoven 9th viewpoint alone. Think of the Schubert's great that you like.

Where horns excel is also flow, continuity, and tone that comes from a set amp driving high sensitive drivers. This is not only evident in brass, but also in piano.

The Beethoven 5th Szell test press is the best LP I have heard (i am trying to scratch my head to recollect who bought it). I heard it on the pnoe.

Tonal changes and inflections are very important also for large orchestra. These are best done by quality small tubes and what they can drive. You are listening to Cessaro with 300w of power. This might end up as a great solution due to the OTL factor, but neither you nor Jeroen have carried out a compare with SETs yet (and Dartzeel vs VTL is not a proper analogy) to conclude.

Cones cause a lot of problems in orchestra playing violins from the top driver and bass from the bottom driver. They are all over the place. Flow and tone are subdued. There are a couple of exceptions. And Henk's grands do it better
I understand these points, thank you. I like brass instruments, and I think piano, better on horns than cones. So maybe I mainly like symphony orchestra tutti on cones?

Yes, I do think of orchestra from a Beethoven’s 9th Symphony point of view.

I would be very curious to compare the Alieno to SET, but I would be most curious to compare the Alieno to high power SET (NAT Magma New SE, Wavac 833, AM House 833), not low power SET (Lamm ML3, Viva Aurora). I don’t want to give up that greatly excess power factor unless the low power SET affords a delicacy which the high power SET forfeits and retains explosive dynamics as well.

While I am not terribly sensitive to driver discontinuity I don’t like the bass to sound like it’s coming from the bottom of the cabinet. That is why when I talk about dynamic driver systems I am almost always referring to M-T-M designs.
 

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#14
The other way a horn could be better on tuttis is you can put them in a larger room, much larger, than you can put cones in. They play loud effortlessly and scale so you get a massive stage if you keep them very wide apart and very deep in. Cessaro does do a demo in a concert hall to illustrate the point. But this is obviously not practical for most. But I have heard horns in a 60 feet long room that had width and ceilings more than other rooms I have been in, and the horns filled the spice effortlessly, like a concert hall.

Regarding tubes, Nat and KR type are better for the more sensitive cones. There is a lot to discover in smaller tubes.
 

tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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#15
The Beethoven 5th Szell test press is the best LP I have heard. (i am trying to scratch my head to recollect who bought it).
With the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips or ?
Be explicit with a statement like that.
 

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#16
With the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips or ?
Be explicit with a statement like that.
It is the test press of the HMV ED1 with the Cleveland. But the ED1 was nowhere as good so it was a rare test press
 
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morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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#17
I visited audioquattr last week and, after I swore to him that I would not say a word about this amazing new system, I had to have Tinka put duct tape over my mouth because I have been bursting at the seams wanting to tell people what I heard from this system.

From the one-of-a-kind Cessaro Zeta system we all heard in Munich this year, to the Alieno amp (which I heard at Jeroen’s over a year ago), to the Grado Epoch on the absurdly complicated looking but amazing sounding Reed 5T on a brand new TechDAS AF3 Premium sitting on a Stacore platform, to the lengthened dedicated listening room, to the in-the-wall giant subwoofer drivers this is, to my ears, one of the two or three best systems I have ever heard in my life. (Jeroen also has the world’s first client copy of the brand new Alieno line stage preamplifier.)

Now that Jeroen has posted a photo of his stunning system on the AF3 thread I can finally spill the beans. This is such a unique system, with multiple presently one-of-a-kind components, I told Jeroen that, like MikeL’s system, among the systems I have heard personally, I think this is a system of real significance in the world of high-end audio.

After I visited Jeroen I did not write a coherent, comprehensive visit report like I normally do. So my observations on this thread are going to be more stream of consciousness rather than my usual coherence.

I did not even take any photos while I was there because I almost did not trust myself not to post them. I did take a cool video, but I do not know how to upload it here.
Hi Ron
Sounds like an amazing experience . Can you dig into the meat of your specific sonic experiences, were there any weaknesses and what were the main strengths? Were image sizes realistic? What about soundstage depth?

Isn’t the Alieno amp a kind of hybrid? I, like bonzo, would be interested in hearing something like this with a SET. I wonder why Cessaro’s own SETs were not taken. What was the system sensitivity?
 
Sep 7, 2016
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#18
Thanks Ron.
I have this Cessaro system now for a few weeks and first wanted to have things settled and optimize all the settings and placement.
So i wanted the first weeks of honeymoon without bashing and getting all the "bad sounding Cessaro" comments before i would shared it on wbf ;-)..
From the first moment the system sounded amazing, but there is so much more adjustable than allmost al other speakers that it take a while for it sounds superb. That's also the reason i think such systems are allways a bit compromised on a show.
It is now very very good to me and there is another finetuning coming within a few weeks that Ralph is finishing from my experiences/feedback.
I am very very happy with this system.

Since 18 months i was looking for a different speakersystem and listened to a lot. Than at Munich the Cessaro system got me, not within 3 minutes listening but there was a lot i loved. But also some reservations. I came back at that room all four days and also talked a lot with Ralph (the designer). The months after the show i listened to several more systems and also to 3 different Cessaro systems. All where not in show conditions and all did positive answer the reservations i had, completely different sound and much more full body sound.

My room is 4.82 meter wide , 10.2 meter long and 3.85 meters high.
No basshorns yet, will do big bass horns later, first need to fill piggy bank again ;-). I am using bass system with 2 superlight 15" woofers from 32-65hz and one 18hz from 10-32hz per side at the moment, works good.


I will tell some more later, need to do some work now. For now some pics..

aq CesZ 1.jpg

aq CesZ 2.jpg

aq CesZ3.jpg

aq CesZ 4.jpg

aq CesZ5.jpg
 
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morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
2,841
229
63
Switzerland
#19
Thanks Ron.
I have this Cessaro system now for a few weeks and first wanted to have things settled and optimize all the settings and placement.
So i wanted the first weeks of honeymoon without bashing and getting all the "bad sounding Cessaro" comments before i would shared it on wbf ;-)..
From the first moment the system sounded amazing, but there is so much more adjustable than allmost al other speakers that it take a while for it sounds superb. That's also the reason i think such systems are allways a bit compromised on a show.
It is now very very good to me and there is another finetuning coming within a few weeks that Ralph is finishing from my experiences/feedback.
I am very very happy with this system.

Since 18 months i was looking for a different speakersystem and listened to a lot. Than at Munich the Cessaro system got me, not within 3 minutes listening but there was a lot i loved. But also some reservations. I came back at that room all four days and also talked a lot with Ralph (the designer). The months after the show i listened to several more systems and also to 3 different Cessaro systems. All where not in show conditions and all did positive answer the reservations i had, completely different sound and much more full body sound.

My room is 4.82 meter wide , 10.2 meter long and 3.85 meters high.
No basshorns yet, will do big bass horns later, first need to fill piggy bank again ;-). I am using bass system with 2 superlight 15" woofers from 32-65hz and one 18hz from 10-32hz per side at the moment, works good.


I will tell some more later, need to do some work now. For now some pics..

View attachment 46528

View attachment 46529

View attachment 46530

View attachment 46531

View attachment 46532
Were the woofers left over from a previous system?
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
2,841
229
63
Switzerland
#20
Thanks Ron.
I have this Cessaro system now for a few weeks and first wanted to have things settled and optimize all the settings and placement.
So i wanted the first weeks of honeymoon without bashing and getting all the "bad sounding Cessaro" comments before i would shared it on wbf ;-)..
From the first moment the system sounded amazing, but there is so much more adjustable than allmost al other speakers that it take a while for it sounds superb. That's also the reason i think such systems are allways a bit compromised on a show.
It is now very very good to me and there is another finetuning coming within a few weeks that Ralph is finishing from my experiences/feedback.
I am very very happy with this system.

Since 18 months i was looking for a different speakersystem and listened to a lot. Than at Munich the Cessaro system got me, not within 3 minutes listening but there was a lot i loved. But also some reservations. I came back at that room all four days and also talked a lot with Ralph (the designer). The months after the show i listened to several more systems and also to 3 different Cessaro systems. All where not in show conditions and all did positive answer the reservations i had, completely different sound and much more full body sound.

My room is 4.82 meter wide , 10.2 meter long and 3.85 meters high.
No basshorns yet, will do big bass horns later, first need to fill piggy bank again ;-). I am using bass system with 2 superlight 15" woofers from 32-65hz and one 18hz from 10-32hz per side at the moment, works good.


I will tell some more later, need to do some work now. For now some pics..

View attachment 46528

View attachment 46529

View attachment 46530

View attachment 46531

View attachment 46532
Are these the exact ones from Munich?
 

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