Audio products sometimes reflect the place of their creation, embodying in their look and sound the cultural and aesthetic values of a region. That’s particularly true of the new Elba 2 from Rosso Fiorentino; this loudspeaker could not have been made anywhere but Italy. But Rosso Fiorentino isn’t located just anywhere in Italy. The company is deeply rooted in Florence, the jewel of the country and the birthplace of the Renaissance. The Elba 2 exudes the elegance, reverence for beauty, and artisanal heritage that has animated Florentine life since the 15th century. Rosso Fiorentino’s Florence-born founder, Francesco Rubenni, creates loudspeakers that reflect and honor that culture, something I discovered by living with the company’s $5000-per-pair Elba 2 reviewed here.
The Italian inspiration is apparent from the handsome matte-black cabinet flanked by beautiful walnut side panels, along with a baffle covered in textured black leather—very Italian. The elegant matte-black finish, called “silky matte black,” is a custom creation by Rosso Fiorentino. The speaker sits on an integral plinth that raises the cabinet bottom about 3″ from the floor. The Elba 2 is the smallest and most affordable speaker in Rosso Fiorentino’s six-speaker line, which extends to the ambitious $100,000 Florentia.
The Elba 2 is two-and-a-half way floorstander employing dual 6.5″ midrange/woofers mated to a 1″ silk-dome tweeter. Sensitivity is a moderate 88dB, and the 6-ohm nominal impedance doesn’t drop below 4 ohms. These specs suggest that the Elba 2 is a fairly easy load for an amplifier. Each woofer is reflex loaded out the rear panel through separate ports. The enclosure is formed from multi-layer panels of different materials for maximum damping and resonance control. To reduce internal standing waves and add a bit of visual elegance, the enclosure tapers slightly toward the rear. The Elba 2 is a significantly upgraded version of the original Elba, with new woofer/midrange drivers featuring fiberglass-coated cones, as well as a new motor structure. The aluminum ports have been redesigned to accommodate the new woofers’ characteristics. An all-new crossover is built from custom-made capacitors (by ClarityCap) along with custom inductors wound in Rosso Fiorentino’s factory.
Instrumental to the Elba 2’s design and that of all Rosso Fiorentino speakers is La Sala del Rosso (“the red room”), located in a historic castle just outside Florence. La Sala serves as the reference playback space for evaluating new speaker designs, and is also a frequently used performance and recording space. The large room’s acoustic design and treatments are world-class. Jonathan Valin and I visited Rosso Fiorentino after the Munich show in 2016, a trip that included an afternoon at La Sala listening to Rosso Fiorentino’s flagship speaker (see Jonathan’s sidebar report).
Back in my listening room, I drove the Elba 2 with my reference electronics and sources, as well as with the NAD C658 streaming DAC ($1645) and C298 power amplifier ($1995) reviewed in the February issue. The speakers were positioned well out into the room, about 9′ from the rear wall. I plopped them down in the approximate locations where I thought they would sound the best, put on some music to get them warmed up before experimenting with placement, and immediately knew that the Elba was an exceptional loudspeaker. I heard a refinement and an unforced ease that foreshadowed what was to come.
After I fine-tuned placement and toe-in and installed the spikes, the Elba 2 revealed itself to be an utterly natural-sounding transducer that instantly engaged my head and heart. When I evaluate products under review, my first inclination is usually to analyze the product’s sonic character and begin to catalog its strengths and weaknesses. After all, it’s the reviewer’s job to describe in detail exactly how the product sounds. Leaving the critical-listening mode and shifting to pleasure listening comes later. But the Elba 2 led me in a very different direction, one of engaging with the musical expression, of experiencing music rather than hearing sound. I quickly abandoned my Roon playlist of evaluation tracks in favor of a session of pure musical exploration and enjoyment. Despite the Elba 2’s entry-level status in the Rosso Fiorentino line, the speaker had a refined sophistication, elegance, sense of presence, and ability to convey music-making that was more in line with the best speakers in the $15,000-per-pair price range.
By Robert Harley
My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.More articles from this editor