Whenever I hear about the possibility of reviewing Xavian speakers, I'm already enthusiastic. These speakers are designed to stand out from the mass-produced crowd, but this is not the end of the story. As almost every review begins with the company's history, this time I'll skip the story about a charismatic audiophile who moved to Czech Republic from Italy for his wife, hired talented carpenters and so on... One can just visit Xavian's official website or take a closer look at its products to realize that we have some seriously specialized activity here. In Xavian's speakers there is no cheap plastic, gimcrack, drivers for half a dollar or wood-like veneer that comes out of the printer. Roberto Barletta doesn't design the speakers that will work with any cheap receiver, and the tuning of each new model takes several years on average. Perhaps that is why every new product and every major change in Xavian's catalogue is a big deal. The introduction of Perla and Orfeo monitor speakers was just such a step change. Now new boxes joined the family.
Ambra is something between the above-mentioned models. Changes compared to the previous models are more than cosmetic. The company is known for excellent woodwork, but apparently, even the very strong MDF enclosures covered with perfectly laid, natural veneers were not enough for the founder of this brand. With the launch of Epica and Natura series, Xavian introduced cabinets made entirely of natural walnut joined like a mosaic. Roberto Barletta is not the first designer who decided to introduce such enclosures. Italian Diapason and several other companies had offered speakers in boxes like this before. However, even if Xavian wasn't the pioneer, we have to admit that the company did a good job. Meticulously glued slices of wood do not only look great, but also positively affect the performance and resonance properties of the entire speaker. If you don't know what is the difference between solid wood and MDF, just try to cut a hole in both, and you will see that it's a completely different story. Obviously, manufacturing such cabinets is more complicated. It's not enough to buy ready-made plates, join them and cover with veneer. Here we also have to take care of drying, seasoning, matching and varnishing the wood. But apparently Xavian's carpenters are not so easy to scare.
The second new thing that appeared in Perla and Orfeo models are the new drivers designed by Xavian, signed AudioBarletta. Drivers are not produced in Xavian's factory, but are made by an external subcontractor according to Xavian's specs. In this respect Xavian works similarly to Audio Physic and other loudspeakers manufacturers, who decided that widely available drivers are not sufficient. And because Xavian has used the best Scandinavian drivers, we can assume that AudioBarletta components are at least as good, or even better. It's hard to assess because no one apart from Xavian can buy and apply such transducers. Everything will become clear during the listening.
Design and functionality
Like every specialized manufacture, Xavian has its loyal fans and I think that their reaction to new speakers will give us the best answer to whether all these changes are heading in the right direction. Looking at the first reviews and comments on the web, we can say - yes, definitely. Audiophiles really like new Xavian speakers. Those who had the opportunity to listen to them, praise them for the beautiful looks and natural, musical sound. The cheapest product from the Natura series - Perla - already made a very good impression on me. I'm still not convinced by the larger Orfeos, and I didn't have a chance to listen to Stella in the controlled environment. But I have a feeling that Ambra can be a real blockbuster here. We can say that this is the bigger, better version of Perla. Additionally, I was really excited because manufacturer describes Ambra as a successor to the XN 250 Evo - in my opinion, the best of the previous Xavian's speakers. If Ambra can be compared with it, it will be one of the best monitor speakers at this price level.
First impressions after opening the boxes can be described in one word - perfection. We received not only speakers, but also dedicated stands made of the same wood and matched so the speakers can be screwed to the tops, thus creating a monolith. Assembling stands and speakers didn't last long because all threads are made with great precision. If I can be brutally honest, this is not my favorite color of the wood. Quickly, however, I was outvoted and in the next few days I heard only two sentences from the people visiting our listening room - "Oh dear! They are so beautiful" and "Mhm... How much are these speakers?". When I asked our guests to take a guess, most of them mentioned something like €5,000. Meanwhile, Ambras cost little more than half of it. Special stands add a little to this price, but either way, it seems that once again Xavian created extraordinarily beautiful speakers and kept their prices at a decent level.
We can talk about the quality of woodwork for hours, but I respect your time, so I will write only one thing - if you like the looks of Ambra in the pictures, add 50% of the appearance and quality to your rating, because they look even better live. You have to get a closer look, touch them, feel the wood... Only then you can learn about their true quality. Just like Sonus Faber and Diapason, Xavian reached the master level here. Wooden cabinets and stands have wonderful, three-dimensional texture, not only because of the quality of solid wood, but also careful lacquering. This can be seen especially in the rounded edges, and if you look at splices, you won't notice even the smallest holes. Some say that these enclosures look too perfect, and they have a bit of a point.
On the front panel, in addition to two drivers, we can see beautifully contoured bass-reflex tunnel in the shape of a flat slit. This solution saves space, looked nicely and makes the setting in the listening room easier. In the XN series, the company applied beautiful, metal tubes, placed usually at the back. With a slotted bass-reflexes carved in wood, they are not necessary. On the rear panel, we have a single set of terminals, a badge with information about the model and AudioBarletta's as a "shield", reminiscent of a placard on the hood of Lamborghini sports cars. Xavian's logo is also placed on the stands and grilles mounted magnetically.
Grilles attached this way are quite popular and this is OK because dowel holes don't disfigure the front. However, this solution makes sense if two conditions are fulfilled - grilles should be as light as possible and have something soft on the inside - some fabric, additional felt or rubber pad would be the best. Xavian applied quite heavy and rigid frame with a row of metal staples on the inside. If you carefully move the grille to the cabinet, at some point magnets will "catch" it. Everything will be fine if we take them off later by pulling perpendicularly away from the front wall. Any attempt of moving the grille "on speakers" can end up with nasty scratches. Wooden surfaces are so delicate that with bad luck we can scratch them with everything - fingernail, telephone, or even a piece of paper (no kidding). Because the speakers are not angled nor have protruding "heads" or even super tweeter, preventing from putting pots on them, you have to be very careful. My guess is that Ambras will also be very sensitive to sunlight exposure, but for obvious reasons I couldn't check it during the test. At home, it often happens that one speaker is in a well-lit place and one in the shade. In such situation you should swap them from time to time, because after a few years, you may notice that one of them looks as if it had just returned from holidays in Egypt.
Before the listening session I wondered whether the performance will be similar to the sound of XN 250 Evo. After all, we have completely new drivers and an entirely different cabinet here, not to mention the other key elements such as crossovers. But... It turns out that drivers and capacitors are not as important as the man who composed all the parts into a whole. You can clearly hear the hand of the same creator, although it seems to me that Ambras are a little better than my favorite XN 250 Evo. Of course, I can elaborate on the depth of bass, sound temperature or clarity of the treble, but none of these things is essential in Xavians' performance. The crucial, fundamental issue is a sensational combination of all components and skillful tuning of the entire structure, so that we have the impression of listening to music from one source without any barriers. The result is a natural, harmonious, consistent and perfectly balanced sound. Of course, Ambras have more advantages, but their musical personality stands out more than anything. I guarantee that even before you begin to evaluate the speed of the bass or the shape of the soundstage, you will notice that you just really want to listen few of your favorite albums from beginning to the end because Xavian speakers sound so... beautiful.
Experienced audiophiles will immediately catch several features specific not only for the Italian but also the British school of sound. Although the general picture is correct, associations with Sonus Faber, Spendor, Kudos or even Harbeth products comes to mind immediately. I think that introduction of custom drivers allowed Xavian to achieve such results. Basing on the difference between Ambras and XN 250 Evo, I would say that the new units are faster, and at the same time have the same balanced, versatile and musical temper as previously used Scan-Speaks. With these speakers, Roberto Barletta apparently could extract even more realism, primarily built on a pleasant, tangible sound temperature and lightness of paper membranes. The direction is the same as before - Czech monitors want to establish a bond with the listener, and if you have a little bit of musical sensitivity, it's easy to notice. At the same time, the sound isn't excessively warmed or slowed. Certainly, there are speakers with faster, more high-performance and scatter sound, but if listening to them is able to give us more pleasure? Some will say "yes" and I can't deny it because it's a simple matter of taste. Some prefer spicy food, others like delicate and subtle dishes. Fans of the latter will probably choose Ambras. The sound of Czech speakers is nicely creamy and full of flavor. You can enjoy them piece by piece, and you will never be bored. Every time it will be an extremely pleasant musical journey.
I guess that the design of new high-end, medium-sized monitor speaker lasted at least several years and supposedly my calculations are close to the truth. Probably Roberto Barletta won't reveal it, but let's be honest - new drivers, new cabinets, new stands... It's impossible to create, without preparation. We can't do it with a 3D printer. A lot of patience are needed, and I feel that this resulted in the final performance of these speakers. Let's face it, they sound wonderful. Of course, not everyone has to agree with company's philosophy. You can as well take MDF enclosures, buy speakers on the web, create crossover according to two formulas, at the end put two handfuls of mineral wool into the enclosure and listen to your music, if that's what you like. But many of us, so-called audiophiles, attach greater importance to this. We patiently choose an amp for our speakers, a source for the amplifier, cables for a power supply to reach the maximum level of enjoyment. Ambras are one of those speakers that repay you for all your efforts in the configuration of the system and reward you for hi-res files or vinyl.
Well, now a few tips for those who want to try these speakers. First of all - you need a powerful amplifier. Yes, it's one more thing connecting Ambras with the XN 250 Evo. Though we have other drivers, there is a very high probability that their magnetic systems and coils are very similar. Anyway, the new Xavians guzzle electricity like old American muscle cars drink gasoline. Connecting them with a 40-Watt integrated amp or several-Watt tube amp is not the best of ideas. I would say you need honest 100 Watts or more. If you already have such an amplifier, that's great. If not, please try to borrow it before listening session and think how can you get one for yourself. During the first listening session I used the T+A Power Plant Balanced - an integrated amp which can rock almost every pair of speakers. It wasn't so bad, but I had to turn the knob firmly to the right. Czech monitors sounded beautifully, but between songs they grunted a little and looked in the direction of the more powerful PA 2500 R. With this amp the membranes moved into action without hesitation. Severe, strong, even slightly brutal amplifier - that's the way to do it. Naturally, some will like a combination with a nice valve or pleasant, musical solid state amp. It is important provide speakers with as much power as they need.
I wrote so much, and there was not a word about the bass, transparency or dynamics. Well, because it's not a point of this sound. Dividing it into categories and sub-ranges is pointless. The same can be said about comparing different aspects of their performance with competition. So if you wondered whether Ambras have a deeper bass than Kudos Cardea C1 or whether the treble is brighter than in Audiovector SR1 Signatures... It means that these speakers are not for you. For the peace of mind, I can say that there is a lot of bass as for the monitor speakers of these dimensions. High frequencies are perfectly matched to the mids and there is neither too much nor too little of it. The icing on the cake is the soundstage - three-dimensional and addictive. But really, during the listening, if you wonder whether other speakers have deeper bass or more saturated midrange, you may forget about the most important thing - the pleasure of listening.
Build quality and technical parameters
Xavian Ambra is a two-way ported monitor belonging to the Natura series. As in the smaller Perla, the housing is made entirely of solid walnut joined in mosaic technique. Inside the manufacturer has applied bituminous damping. Tunnel bass-reflex took form of a slot placed on the fromt panel, in order to facilitate the speakers' placement in the room. Ambra is another model using AudioBarletta own drivers. The woofer has a 18-cm polypropylene membrane, soft dust cover, cast metal basket and low distortion magnetic system. The tweeter is a 26-millimeter soft fabric dome with special copper shorting rings. The crossover uses Mundorf capacitors. Xavian says that all parts of the crossover are precisely matched and describes the filters as Fase Zero. On the back there is a single pair of gold-plated speaker terminals. The speakers have an efficiency of 88 dB and 8-ohm nominal impedance. Frequency range extends from 42 Hz to 20 kHz, and the crossover frequency is set at 2700 Hz. It might seem that such monitors won't be very difficult to drive, but do not be fooled - despite their small size and friendly looking impedance and sensivity figures, they prefer being driven with powerful amplifiers.
Marantz HD-DAC1, T+A E-Serie Music Player Balanced, T+A E-Serie Power Plant Balanced, T+A PA 2500 R, Atoll IN100 SE, YBA Heritage D100, Cardas Parsec, Enerr Tablette 6S, Enerr Symbol Hybrid, Solid Tech Radius Duo 3.
It's a tradition that both visual and sonic value of Xavian's products goes beyond what you would expect looking at the price. It happened with inexpensive NEOX1 and slightly more costly Perla model. So it's not a surprise that the story repeats itself with Ambras. Once they played for a few days in our listening room, we arranged a further test - we presented them to our guests and friends. After a short listening, we asked them for the price. The lowest guess was €3500, the highest - €6000. The average oscillated between €4500, but - in fact - Ambras cost little more than a half of it. Yes, I know, it's a lot, but you should see them, listen to them and compare them with other speakers to see what this story is about. If you are looking for natural, close contact with the artists and pure pleasure of listening, you have to try Xavian speakers.
Speakers type: Monitor, 2-way, ported
Sensitivity: 88 dB
Impedance: 8 Ω
Frequency response: 42 Hz - 20 kHz
Dimensions (H/W/D): 38/23/27.6 cm
Weight: 9.2 kg (one piece)