A day with Cessaro Affascinate
Back in 2010, I went to Purite Audio to pick up Lansche Audio number 5 speakers and that was the first time I encountered the Cessaro Alpha1; the big horn speakers with a 16” TAD bass driver. Only a few songs were played on that day, through the Robert Kŏda amp and Stahl~Tek DAC, and while I haven’t got a clue what the equipment was doing in the system, the sound as a whole gave me a lasting impression.
Almost 2 years on, many pair of speakers have come and go in my listening room, many hifi shows visited, yet Karen Carpenters’s voice on Cessaro’s system never seemed to go away. At this point I just wondered how good the Cessaro really are? How much of that sound belonged to the Stahl~Tek digital source and Kŏda amp ?
Few days and few phone calls later I found myself at Purite Audio’s listening room again only this time I was armed up with my trusty highly modified Yamaha media player which I have been using in the last 5 years and Mastersound 845 compact, the giant killer amp that I know the sound as well as my wife knows my credit card’s pin number. This time, however, we were going to listen to Cessaro Affascinate or the one I like to call, the little mushroom. The reason for demoing the smaller and cheaper Affascinate is because I don’t buy lotto anymore, so I am never going to be able to afford the Alpha 1; nor do I have big enough room to accommodate them. The Affascinate is more room friendly even if they are nearly 6 foot tall and as heavy as Mike Tyson in his prime, they are still considerably smaller.
The speaker is beautifully built if styling is a little bit er, matter of taste! This is a 3 way design with plywood spherical wood horn driver for the midrange, TAD compression drive unit for tweeters and 11 inches Alnico magnet diver responsible the low frequency duty. The little mushroom, as expected from horn speakers, has an easy load of 100dB 1W/m and 8 ohms and will output at 117 dB which is loud enough to please most people!
We started off the listening session with Adele’s 19. Something I thought would be suited to horn speakers and the first thing that impressed me was the rock-solid positioning of the singer. Adele stood right in the middle between 2 speakers with her band playing a few metres behind the front wall, the pitch of her voice so natural, no trace of edginess even when she belts out the high notes in “Chasing Pavement” the dynamic of her voice is all there.
Moving on to a well recorded, vocal artist, album like Diana Krall proved to me, 100%, that this set of horns are not honky! The voices are spooky real, just like the sound of real human, in the room... with you. At one point I thought to myself that you can’t hear chest and throat like some of the high end studio monitor like ADAM tensor and then came the roll of the tongue on Katie Malua’s Closest Thing To Crazy, well I can’t put it better myself, Closest Thing To Crazy I have been....listening to hifi.
It’s the time that any hifi dealers dread when I do the dem, it’s time to throw in a few rough recording of 80’s – 90’s heavy metal albums. You see, most dealers like to have a collection of Audiophile recordings that are easy to impress the potential buyers. It’s very important to stay with your music genre that you enjoy the most which in this case, W.A.S.P “live in the raw” is my preferred choice. Holy Smoke...the Affascinate has the fastest midrange I’ve heard! My toe was tapping like Fred Astaire dancing on hot coles. Guitar solo has that sharp leading edge that make me laugh out loud, the sound was like a concert hall with me ...right in the middle. I had a similar result with Whitesnake, Motley Crue, Poison and Bon Jovi, Metallica, speakers refuse to sound flat and boxy. They captured the spirit of rock and let loose with impeccable timing which want you to, regardless of your age, play air guitar along with the songs you love.
I spent many more hours with various types of music playing at reasonably loud level, for example, Robbie Williams live at Knebworth, the Cessaro creating the believable imaging that you are listening to the performance, not just hifi. There was the sound of screaming fans all around me, as close as a metre either side of my listening position. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, this is one of the best moment in this hobby I have experienced thanks to the soundstage's stunning holistic quality.
Are there any weak point then? Yes, but a very minor one. They can only go down to 37Hz if that would bother you! Bass on Affascinate got controlled and has a good sense of weight and power to it however it cannot do subterranean bass. For example, Infected Mushroom’s Vicious Delicious album is full with room shaking bass, on this occasion while I could hear bass note, nice and tight but it wasn't quite a bone crushing bass that some speakers at this price point can do, incidentally, Cessaro can supply P4 Bass Bins but it wouldn’t be cheap or small!
If you are in a market for high-end speakers with a big price tag and have a big enough room to accommodate a large pair of speakers then I encourage you to have a listen to Cessaro Affascinate, even if you have none of above (just like me) still, try to go and have a listen anyway. The Little Mushroom didn’t disappoint me. They can do everything I am looking for in a pair of speakers, tonality, detail, sound staging, etc. but best of all, they are insanely musical.
Thank you for reading