What do you think of when you think of Switzerland? Chocolate, watches and skiing, maybe? But probably not speakers. Piega has been making high-end speakers from its base on the banks of Lake Zurich since 1986 in an effort to change that, in the hi-fi world at least.
And the company has a USP. Piega means ‘fold’ in Italian and refers to the folded, ribbon speakers for which it is famed. Now Piega is adding wireless into the mix for the first time, with the Piega Premium Wireless 301 representing the most affordable system in a new wireless range.
The Piega Premium Wireless 301 speakers take some getting out of the box, which is a good sign. Weighing 9kg each, they make a back-breakingly good first impression for anyone who has shelled out on the premium price tag. The Piega Connect wireless box (above) is less imposing, but this is the functional part of the system and is happy to be shoved in a corner somewhere.
The aluminium cabinets are responsible for a lot of that weight and, along with the ribbon tweeters, are a key part of Piega’s USP. It’s simply the company’s preferred cabinet material, and these latest versions promise to be 30 per cent more rigid than previous incarnations, helping to further eliminate distortion.
The 301 bookshelf speaker has a baffle about the size of a sheet of A4, with a single 14cm MDS low midrange driver. The company’s ribbon tweeter sits above it (the LDR 2642 MKII ribbon, no less). Inside is a 100W amplifier.
Standing 34cm tall, the Piega Premium Wireless 301 speakers are a good size without being too imposing for the average front room. That said, we would assume anyone spending £2000 on a wireless stereo system has a decent space for their purchase.
If you like the look of these, be aware there are also Premium Wireless 501 (£3999) and 701 (£4999) floorstanding options in the range, and all three of these speakers are available as passive, wired models, too.
The Piega Premium Wireless 301 is a fully active system, each speaker requires connecting to a power outlet, as does the Connect. Around the back of the 301 speakers you’ll spot a control panel. And it really is a control panel, with retro switches and everything.
First up is the Group switch, which has three options (red, white and blue) and allows you to link multiple pairs of Piega wireless speakers to build your own multi-room system. Only one of the three (‘red’) supports 24-bit/96kHz audio, whereas the white and blue deal with wireless data transmission at 24-bit/48kHz.
Elsewhere there are a couple of switches for positioning. Set each speaker as left or right, and indicate whether it’s in a neutral position, close to a wall or in a corner; the sonic balance will be set accordingly. An analogue input and a USB port for updates completes the connections.
Most of the action in terms of connectivity comes via the appropriately-named Connect box. There are stereo RCA analogue, digital optical and digital coaxial inputs, plus a stereo RCA analogue output for a speaker, subwoofer or amplifier. There’s a service connection here too, and a button should you need to set a fixed or variable volume level, which will depend on how you connect your music source.
The same Group setting is on the box (if you have multiple Piega wireless systems) plus a choice of three wireless frequency bands over which you can connect your speakers. We find this useful in terms of avoiding interference, but then our test rooms and wider office are full to bursting with wireless equipment and networks.
Last but not least, you can use the aptX Bluetooth connection to play music directly from a phone, tablet or laptop, negating the need to wire a source to your Connect box. Volume and Bluetooth pairing buttons sit atop the box.
That’s a fair amount of technology to go through before we get to the important bit: playing music. And in reality, making music come out of these Piega speakers is a fairly smooth process.
Playing Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Crime Pays from Tidal, the Piega Premium Wireless 301 system gets off to a solid start. Clearly these are musical, well-tuned, nicely-balanced speakers capable of a high-fidelity wireless sound. A clear step above even the most premium one-box systems, there’s good separation of sounds and a clear stereo image.
Design 2-way system shelf speaker
Frequency response 39Hz – 35kHz
Max power 100W
Bluetooth version aptX
Dimensions (hwd) 34 x 18 x 23cm
Massive Attack’s Angel is a good test of whether a bookshelf speaker can punch outside its cabinet. Happily, the menacing bassline creeps into the room as it should with the Piega system capable of delivering sufficient weight. Bass is controlled and detailed, and the system makes a decent stab at filling our room. That said, the presentation is perhaps a little too controlled, with the track struggling to fully engage our ears.
Hans Zimmer’s Time from the Inception soundtrack confirms the speakers are capable of admirable scale, but again leaves us wanting a little more intensity. The ultimate slow-burner, we find ourselves not entirely gripped by every moment of the tense build-up. A little more attack and excitement would be welcome: this is a safe pair of hands rather than a thrill-a-minute, for sure.
That said, there’s little by way of outright false moves. Play Echoes by The Rapture and this system will sound a little shrill and uncomfortable, but the ear-splitting treble frequencies would cause issues for plenty of speakers, such is the nature of the recording. Any ears, or rooms, susceptible to brightness should bear this in mind.
Running through some 4/4 dance tracks confirms the stoic dependability of the system, which hammers out rhythms with a precision and cohesion to which you could set a Swiss watch. The speakers are transparent and musical, and capable of clear vocals that are light on their feet rather than full-bodied.
Both wireless streaming and aptX Bluetooth perform admirably, though we do notice a clear drop in quality when it comes to making an analogue connection to the Connect box – the analogue to digital and back again conversion clearly takes its toll here. So stick to digital connections.
The Premium Wireless 301 is a successful departure for Piega. Far more affordable and far more wireless than any previous offering from the Swiss high-end speaker specialist, the combination of aluminium cabinets and ribbon tweeters proves successful in this system.
If you value a solid, room-filling sound, with clear vocals and clean bass, this Piega system could be for you – just think more sunbathing by Lake Zurich rather than tearing down the Alps.
- Sound 4
- Features 4
- Build 4
Read Piega: Putting premium Swiss ribbon speakers on the map