Opera Callas loudspeaker
In the well-known D'Appolito array, one tweeter is partnered with two midrange drivers, one each above and below it. Opera's two-way Callas has one vertically centered 5" mid/woofer with a copper phase plug, and identical 1" soft-dome tweeters above and below it. As if that weren't enough, on the narrow rear panel are three more tweeters, identical to those in front, in a vertical array. The enclosure has two small ports, side by side at the top of the rear panel.
The Callas measures 14.8" high by 9" wide by 13.4" deep, its cabinet symmetrically tapering toward the rear, and weighs about 57 lbs. The cabinet is made of elegant solid woods and veneers in a high-gloss finish of medium-shade cherry (except for the recessed, black-painted base plate), with black leather cladding on the faceted fascia. There's a small brass badge on the base plate. Front grilles are provided, but I didn't use them. A single pair of robust, naked (nonEuro-Nanny) speaker terminals is at the bottom rear. Opera claims for the Callas a frequency range of 32Hz25kHz, sensitivity of 86dB, and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. The mid/woofer and front tweeters are crossed over at "around 1500Hz," the rear tweeters at 2000Hz.
I placed the Callases on 24"-high stands about 5' apart, 2' from the front wall, and toed in to face my listening position, about 8' from each speaker, and toward the nearfield side of midfield listening.
After hooking up the Callases, I braced myself to be bombarded with five times as much treble as normal, even with a tube amp like the Unison S6 that was a bit on the rich side. My fears were totally unfounded. The Callas was very well-behaved, with a genuinely sweet disposition. That just goes to show that a name is not always an omen. (Diva Maria Callas was reportedly a bit of a handful on her bad days.) After quite a bit of listening to the Callas-S6 combination with Parasound's CD 1, via Cardas Clear interconnects and speaker cables, I came to some strongly held conclusions.
First, this is just a great system, ready for you to pack up and take homea true get-off-the-audio-merry-go-round system. Colleen Cardas was right: the S6 and Callas are hugely synergistic.
Second, I was pleasantly surprised by both the dynamic capability and the bass extension of the Callas-S6 combo. Unlike with many two-way speakers, I never got the sense during most normal listening (as distinct from playing very loud to impress myself or friends) that there was "almost" enough bassthere really was enough bass.
Third, as expected, the Callas-S6 combination was the timbral polar opposite of the Spiral Groove Canalis-AVM receiver system. The latter led with information from the treble, the Callas-S6 with tones from the midrange.
The Callas-S6 combo delivered a sound that was, first of all, widescreen. I think the rear tweeters produced a wider soundstage than conventional speakers (there was no way to turn the rear tweeters off), in a way reminiscent of most Shahinian speakers. There was never a sense of too much treble unless the recording itself was too hot; the treble and midrange were very well integrated. In addition to being widescreen, the sound was a bit soft-focus, but by no means grainy. Last, tonalities were a bit on the Technicolor side, but always addictively enjoyable.
In addition to the recordings mentioned above and in my last column, the most frequent flyer of which was Aaron Diehl's The Bespoke Man's Narrative (CD, Mack Avenue MCD 1066), I spent a lot of time with a new set of old works by Arthur Bliss (5 CDs, EMI Classics 29018); a wonderful set of symphonies and orchestral works by Franz Berwald, performed by Roy Goodman and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and engineered by Tony Faulkner (2 CDs, Hyperion Dyad 22043); Iona Brown and Josef Suk's underrated recording of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields (CD, Argo/Decca 411 613); Lucia Popp's radiant disc of Mozart opera arias (CD, EMI Classics 09679); David Oistrakh's recording of Brahms's Violin Concerto with Otto Klemperer and the French National Radio Orchestra (CD, EMI Classics 74724), which sounded better than ever through the CD-1S6Callas system; Mahler's Symphony 3 with Glen Cortese conducting the Manhattan School of Music Orchestra (2 CDs, Titanic), which did not make the system cry "Uncle"; and, to change things up, Procol Harum's In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (A&M/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab) and L. Subramaniam's Electric Modes (2 CDs, Water Lily Acoustics WLA-ES-4&5-CD).
It's funny that, 10 years ago, while reviewing Unison's S2K amplifier, one of the speakers I listened to was the late, lamented ASA Pro Monitor, a two-way stand-mount from France that I and a few others (including Sam Tellig) found offered a musical trueness very difficult to describe. The Pro Monitor's recipe was simple: an Esotec rather than an Esotar tweeter, a Dynaudio 6.5" mid/woofer with a magnesium basket, a double-walled cabinet clad in ¾"-thick exotic hardwoods, and a simple crossover with premium parts. Perhaps the real secret, though, was that all of ASA's design decisions, such as using the less swank of Dynaudio's available high-end tweeters, were claimed to have been arrived at by listening. By the time ASA threw in the towel, the US price of the Pro Monitor had risen to $5000/pair.
Opera claims on its website that "every single aspect of the [Callas] design was subjected to intense musical listening tests at Opera." I can believe itthe Callas sounds like that kind of a speaker. So if you regret having missed the ASA Pro Monitor, here's that rare thing in life: a second chance. And the price hasn't even gone up.
To sum up the Opera Callas: luscious midrange, sweet treble, large soundstage, surprising bass, eminently listenable; Class B (Restricted Extreme Low Frequencies).