Xavian Premio Esclusivo Stand-Mounted Loudspeakers
My first confession: I had only heard of Xavian Loudspeakers in this magazine before being offered a pair of their Premier Esclusivo (PE) small monitors for review. Brett Rudolph reviewed their Perla Esclusiva monitors in June 2019. Yes, I had not read reviews of the same monitors in other publications. And I will also confess that my first reason for wanting to review a pair was very simple – they looked really good.
A quick trip to the website indicated that the company has been building speakers in Prague since 1997, which in these times seems an eternity ago. The origin story is summarized on their website so I will not repeat it here. But interestingly, it was an Italian from Turin, Roberto Barletta, who moved to Prague after several years working in Italy for a speaker/amplifier manufacturer and started the company a short while later. Barletta (still a young man!) is still chief designer and oversees the fabrication and quality of the speakers. Moreover, their previous speakers have received very favorable reviews for years in Europe.
Like me, you might wonder why they are not that well known here. One answer might be that Xavian has been and remains a direct marketer in the US and many other countries. They do have distributors in certain countries – see the website for that list. (North American readers note: there is a dealer in Ontario, Canada). The speakers are made to order and then shipped around the world. I can vouch for the effectiveness of the process; while the USA is not yet the major market for Xavian, they managed to get the speakers to me quickly and smoothly. I had to fill out just one form via email for FedEx to complete the customs approval process.
Construction And Technical Details
The entire impression is one of solidity. You tap the cabinets and they are close to dead silent. The binding posts are hefty and very tightly secured. What you do not see supports the same notion: there are high-quality parts and materials used inside, including bitumen and wool for damping and Mundorf capacitors and resistors in the crossover. Xavian's Premio Esclusivo speakers sport grill covers if you like them; they look very good and attach very smoothly via magnets. I did most of my listening with the covers removed, but for me the covers have little or no perceptible effect on the sound.
Xavian calls the design Twin Reflex, which speaks to not only the two slotted openings in the cabinet but to the wooden structure inside the cabinet that allows the air to flow smoothly. I cannot measure that flow, but Daniel, the marketing manager for Xavian, says that the air moves with "more focus and less turbulence" that with a standard slot reflex design. He adds, quite logically, that that smoothness of airflow should manifest itself particularly at higher volumes where the backpressure is higher and (to cut ahead for a moment) my listening impressions support that contention. Note that the openings are in the front of the cabinet, which should make optimal placement easier in some rooms.
The Xavian Premio Esclusivo is a two-way speaker. Both drivers are custom-made in Italy according to Xavian's specifications. The mid-bass unit is a 175mm cone made of paper impregnated per Xavian's process. The basket for that driver's large magnet is die-cast to enable smooth airflow around the magnet and avoid compression as much as possible. Its phase plug is machined from a single piece of aluminum (not hollow) to help cool the magnet and enable a more consistent response. Finally, Daniel says the copper rings are "massive" and I have no reason to doubt him. The tweeter is similarly an impregnated soft silk driver, a dome, with a flat aluminum wire voice coil and again, a large magnet for its size. It has the same copper rings as the mid-bass unit. There is as well a complex and damped "labyrinth" behind it for energy absorption.
I have dwelled a little on these details because everything seems to point in the direction of smooth and predictable response, power handling, and the elimination of adverse behaviors in the drivers. By those criteria, Xavian has succeeded, as we shall see.
My second confession: I have always doubted for the most part the 'huge' effects of a break-in process for components. Maybe I have been unable to hear it before, or maybe I just brought too much skepticism to the idea. But Xavian had counseled that the more hours of break-in one allowed, the better the speakers would sound. I said to myself, "OK, I'll put the digital recordings on for a couple of days and that should do it". I was wrong.
From the outset, I had some difficulty getting the Xavian Premio Esclusivos in the right spot in my room. The listening room is pretty large (25' x 22' x 9'); indeed, larger than most rooms where these speakers are likely to be used. I set them fairly wide apart, maybe 9' from the listening position, with the drivers pointed forward or slightly toed in. The results were short of my expectations. Some of my initial notes were that "the speakers are very calm, maybe even just a little reserved. Very good, deep soundscape. The sound seems a little bit mellow and very warm and musical." I thought I heard a slight nasal coloration and wondered if they were too mellow. Those impressions were consistent across my first real full day of listening.
Well, again, I was wrong. Indeed, I was wrong on two counts.
I asked Daniel at Xavian for his comments on positioning and found that my spots were not far off, but that I should point them almost right at the listening position. So I played with it a little more, kept them 8' or so apart, and just a little closer to me, the listener. And everything clicked in and started to sound right – top, middle, bottom, everything.
There was also that break-in process. Remember, the Xavian Premio Esclusivos are built to order. This pair was brand-new, made right before they were sent to me. The improvement in focus and overall response continued day after day. I guess the PEs were breaking in and sounding as they were designed to sound. The observations I made after the PEs started to settle in touched on almost every aspect of the sonic presentation, with a few of the most salient noted below.
Soundscape. Initially, there was a great deal of depth, but not much image width. Here the toeing-in must have helped some because suddenly, the image was very wide. Listening to the Reference Recodings' LP In Formation by the Kronos Quartet [RR-9], I wrote "the Xavian Premio Esclusivo speakers were made for this! Excellent microdynamics, slight changes in level make sense, are coherent and have the feel of the real space." But it was not just about space – the top end was neither dry nor sweet, not the mellow treble I had heard before. That was clearly the result of breaking them in. With this great-sounding LP, they disappeared the way that small monitors are supposed to.
Dynamics. Again, my listening room is quite large, and yet these small-ish monitors managed to fill it quite well with both small and larger-scale recordings. For example, the MFSL version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon has enough weight to create the enveloping ambiance in the recording. In this respect, the PEs are not the equal of much larger speakers that present a bigger face to the world,(not to mention having a larger footprint and more weight), but they do play big when they need to. The PEs will satisfy anyone with their dynamic and unsparingly honest rendering of a "big" LP. On DSOM, a quick listen to Time or Money will tell you that PEs will satisfy anyone with their dynamic and unsparingly honest rendering of a "big" LP.
Tonality. Midrange tones, especially voices, were more forward and clear. Before I got the setup right, voices seemed to get a little buried in the mix. Afterward, they were front and center and more cleanly delineated, which balanced nicely the great depth of which I spoke above.
A similar quiet rigor was evident on the Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall vinyl LP [RCA LSO-6006]. The overall sound is delicate, restrained, with a nice pace and follows Belafonte's voice and pitch seamlessly. If nothing else, the warm but detailed tones would tell you it was Carnegie Hall. The lovely voice of Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, on The Trinity Session LP [BMG 8068-1-R] rings weighty and sad. I had forgotten to what extent the famously spare recording is very lively in the highs and upper midrange, but there was no doubt of that on the PEs. Perhaps we can blame the digital recording in 1987 for the excess energy... but the emotion comes through regardless.
An area where the Xavian Premio Esclusivo stand-mounted speakers truly shine is with small combo jazz. Color Of Soil by Tiger Okoshi [JVCXR-0207] is a superb recording of cerebral but eminently listenable, even passionate, jazz. Here the PEs disappear better than any speaker I've had in my system. Okoshi's trumpet and the piano might be just on the cool side of neutral; but that is how I have always heard the recording. The percussion is fairly dynamic, with good "snap" and outstanding metallic tones to the drums (timbales?). On Live At The Village Vanguard by Bruce Barth [MaxJazz MXJ 205] the perspective is close up and intimate. Again, the PEs are invisible – you stare straight at them and don't "see" the music coming from them. They capture the round tones of the piano, underlining Barth's Bill Evans-like way with a tune. I've heard Barth there, and the PEs almost put you in that room. The soundscape was superb – twice I thought I heard patrons behind me in my listening room.
I played a wide range of music, from opera to Celtic to jazz to punk rock to symphonic, on the PEs during my time with them, and after the initial break-in, their character was very consistent. Near the end, I put on The Hunter by Jennifer Warnes [Private Music 261974] as a final overall check. I noted that it "never sounded better".
For me, the Xavian Premio Esclusivo speakers invite you into the music and let you settle in with it, be a part of it. They don't draw attention to themselves but if you pay attention they are damned good. This speaker of modest volume plays above its size and weight. The music just hangs in the air, not unlike that heard through electrostatic or planar speakers. I don't believe the small monitors I have reviewed have ever pulled off that disappearing act anywhere near so well – and not with the range and coherence of the Premio Esclusivo.
In the end, I had to disabuse myself of a preset notion. No longer will I eschew the value of a break-in period. Xavian's Premio Esclusivo stand-mounted speakers rewarded me more and more as the days passed. I will be sorry to see them go; were I still in an apartment, they would be near the top of my list. Highly recommended!