Steve Guttenberg the Audiophiliac Loves These Speakers!

Hark, Steve Loves Murano!

Steve Guttenberg

The Audiophiliac reviews the Cabasse three-way passive standmount

"A champ at unraveling mysteries and presenting them back to you."

The best hi-fi components transcend mere performance and become conduits into other people's minds. Great loudspeakers don't just play music, they reveal the musician.

This is what Steve Guttenberg, The Audiophiliac, was so moved by in his video review 'CABASSE Murano, a MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR DE FORCE!'

"I'm blown away by this speaker," says Steve, as he revisits the Cabasse brand for the first time since the 1990s when he sold them at Sound by Singer in NYC. Starting with the looks. Steve admires the enclosures, observing that they are beautifully curved and "really solidly built", with binding posts he says he can best describe as "jewelry grade."

On first listen, Steve finds that the Murano has two key strengths: imaging and tone. Though he resists using the cliche, Steve finally can't help describing the Murano's imaging as "holographic", reaching far left and right, with great height and depth. "It had a palpable presence."

Through the review, Steve often visits this idea of wholeness, weight, and fullness that contributes to the believability of the sound. Cabasse is known for its dynamic accuracy, and Steve especially notes how the Muranos reminded him that a piano is a percussion instrument, accurately conveying that transient energy of felt-tipped hammers hitting strings.

Back to the ability of these speakers to convey greater emotions, Steve says, "It portrays beauty so well. It gets the electronic edge and grain and grit, and yet when it needs to be sweet and seductive it can be that as well."

We are also great fans of the Murano here at Upscale. You have to see one in person to really appreciate how beautiful the shape and finish is. Call, email, or chat with one of our sales specialists to find out how best the Cabasse Murano standmount, or the Murano Alto floorstander will fit into your system.

Image of Cabasse Murano (each)
Cabasse Murano (each)
Image of Cabasse Murano Alto (each)
Cabasse Murano Alto (each)



The Focused Guide to Focal Headphones

Focal Celestee Headphones

Talk about entry level that does not look or sound remotely entry level!
Focal Celestee delivers style and punch way beyond its price

Ever had the itch to try headphones, but wondered where to start? Focal is well-known in the speaker arena for fantastic products, but is also a respected manufacturer of some very fine headphones. Let’s take a look at the line.

We start at the entry level with the Celestee, a closed-back option with a shorter single-ended cable and a great introduction to the Focal house sound. Much like their speakers, the sound is fast and extremely punchy, with an open and brilliant midrange and treble. If you haven’t listened to a pair of state-of-the-art headphones recently, these will wow you with their resolution and speed.

Moving up, we have the first serious open-back of the Focal lineup, the Clear MG. These come with a longer cable terminated in an XLR jack. That’s just one indication of the main difference between the Celestee and Clears. While the Celestee is a great headphone to take on the go, the Clear MG asks for a more stationary experience with a desktop headphone amplifier. Something like the Naim Uniti Atom HE makes a perfect pairing. This headphone has an extremely balanced signature and will portray a wide variety of music in an exciting way.

However, don’t let this fool you into thinking the Clear MG is necessarily a difficult-to-drive headphone, see box below.

Image of Focal Celestee
Focal Celestee
Image of Focal Clear Mg
Focal Clear Mg


 Easy to Drive, Hard to Resist

All of the Focal headphones boast moderate impedances and very high sensitivities, which means that from the Celestee to the flagship Utopia, they can all be driven by even a modest receiver or laptop output. However, they will demonstrate clear gains provided by better amplification and digital-to-analog converters. In fact, they can be particularly revealing of all the addictive qualities found in great source gear, such as the Pathos Aurium or Chord Hugo.

Moving up the line we have the flagship closed-back, the Stellia. With a modest impedance and a short single-ended cable supplied, one might be tempted to think the Stellia is an expensive proposition for travel. Take another glance, however, and you’ll see that the long XLR cable also provided says otherwise. The tuning on the Stellia is known for being an almost perfect match for the Olive-Welti Harman over-ear tuning curve (see box below). This curve is a bit like the headphone equivalent to the famous B&K speaker curve, and in my experience the Stellia provides a very balanced sound as result, with very satisfying bass, smooth treble that’s never harsh, and a present, clear midrange. Used with a high-end amplifier like a Ferrum or SPL, this is a joy to listen to.

Finally we come to the open-back flagship of the line, the Utopia. Both the Utopia and Stellia are completely handmade in France, and produced in small batches, with usually not more than a dozen leaving the factory each day. As you might expect, the Utopia comes with both single-ended and XLR terminated cables and yields a step up in detail and transparency even when compared to the Stellia.

In fact, while the tonality is quite balanced, the Utopia is so transparent that unlike some of the other Focal headphones, it demands great amplification. A Pathos Inpol Ear is my choice of top-end amplification, and this combination is smooth, punchy, and just dripping in musicality. If you prefer something all-tube the Feliks Envy is surprisingly linear with just a touch of romance and an enormous soundstage… whereas on the solid-state end a Ferrum OOR+Hypsos would be a fantastic, neutral reference.

The combinations are endless, and if your curiosity is piqued, give us a call or send us a chat or email to find out if a Focal headphone is about to take you on your next steps in your audio journey.

Image of Focal Stellia
Focal Stellia
Image of Focal Utopia 2020
Focal Utopia 2020
 The Olive-What Curve?

The Harman Headphone Target Curve is an industry gold standard for the frequency response of headphones. It was developed by Dr. Sean E. Olive, acoustic research fellow, and Todd Welti, distinguished engineer, Harman International, hence the other term, Olive-Welti curve.

The curve is based on a study that had subjects pick the most preferred in-room response curve of test loudspeakers. The curve applies slightly elevated bass and treble response, and is considered the most preferred sonic quality of headphones, as it mimics the sound of perfectly set up loudspeakers in a treated room. However, what most listeners prefer, may not be what you prefer, so consider headphones that follow the Harman Curve a good baseline for your headphone auditions. Here, the Focal Stellia!

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