Review: Cabasse Rialto Powered Wireless Bookshelf Speakers

Review: Cabasse Rialto Powered Wireless Bookshelf Speakers- RIALTO, the first Cabasse wireless Hi-fi system in a bookshelf format ... Inspired by the most famous and oldest bridge in Venice.

Over the years, Cabasse has perfected spherical speaker designs alongside traditional speaker housing shapes. With the Cabasse Rialto active streaming speakers, they’ve created a successful fusion of these designs, providing some of the qualities of spherical speakers despite its square housing. This article explores why spherical speakers are built, why more manufacturers don’t produce them, and how Cabasse has taken a unique approach with the Rialto.

The technical data

Cabasse Rialto
Technical concept:3-way coax active box
Driver:13cm BCI coaxial speaker
17cm HELD woofer
Power stage power (PWM) :300/300/450 watts (RMS)
Inputs:Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, Toslink, Analog RCA/Cinch, USB, HDMI (eARC)
Outputs:1 x Toslink (to the 2nd speaker)
Steering:Touch display, volume rotating ring, app
Particularities:automatic measurement
Dimensions (H x W x D):26 x 20.6 x 23.9cm
Weight:15.2 kilos
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The Advantages of Spherical Speakers

Spherical Shape: Stability and Low Resonance The spherical shape of speakers has long been coveted for its inherent advantages in sound reproduction. One of the primary benefits lies in its stability. The spherical design provides an exceptionally stable structure, minimizing vibrations and unwanted resonance that can distort sound quality. This stability translates into cleaner and more accurate audio output, allowing listeners to experience music, movies, and other audio content in its purest form. Moreover, the spherical shape eliminates the problem of standing waves within the speaker enclosure, which can lead to uneven sound distribution and coloration of the audio. This ensures that the sound produced by spherical speakers remains faithful to the source material, delivering an immersive and authentic listening experience.

Why Aren’t More Manufacturers Building Spherical Speakers? While spherical speakers offer numerous advantages, they are not as commonly found in the market as traditional speaker designs. The primary reason for this limited adoption is the technical complexity involved in creating spherical enclosures. Crafting and fine-tuning spherical speaker designs can be a challenging task, requiring specialized expertise and precision engineering. Additionally, spherical speakers often necessitate certain compromises or unique solutions, particularly in the bass department. Due to their spherical shape, these speakers offer less internal volume compared to cuboid cabinets, which can pose challenges in reproducing deep and impactful bass frequencies. Manufacturers must carefully address these issues to create spherical speakers that deliver a well-balanced and impressive audio performance. Despite these challenges, pioneers like Cabasse have persevered in developing spherical speakers, demonstrating their commitment to pushing the boundaries of audio technology.

Cabasse: Pioneers in Spherical Speakers

Extensive Range of Spherical HiFi and High-End Loudspeakers Cabasse has established itself as a trailblazer in the world of spherical loudspeakers. The company boasts an extensive lineup of spherical HiFi and high-end loudspeakers, making them a go-to choice for audiophiles seeking exceptional sound quality and innovative design. Cabasse’s commitment to spherical speaker technology spans across various product lines, catering to diverse preferences and requirements. From their more accessible models to the exquisitely uncompromising and costly La Sphère, Cabasse has consistently pushed the boundaries of what is possible in speaker design. Their extensive experience and expertise in coaxial drivers, dating back to 1952, have positioned them as leaders in the industry, making them a go-to choice for those who demand nothing but the best in audio quality. Cabasse’s dedication to spherical speakers has resulted in products that are renowned for their stability, low resonance, and the ability to serve as an ideal point sound source, offering audiophiles an unparalleled listening experience.

Incorporating Spherical Design in the Rialto Cabasse’s latest offering, the Rialto, represents a unique fusion of spherical speaker technology with the practicality of conventional housing designs. This innovative approach caters to a broader spectrum of consumers, addressing the preferences of those who may find purely spherical speakers too avant-garde. The Rialto takes inspiration from the spherical speaker, The Pearl Akoya, sharing many similarities in its outwardly curved coaxial driver and rear-facing bass chassis. However, it introduces distinctive elements, such as laterally curved, forward-tapering sides, giving it a more compact appearance from the front. This design approach not only enhances aesthetics but also maximizes space for electronics and resonance volume within the square housing. By combining the best of both worlds, Cabasse aims to offer an all-in-one music system that delivers remarkable bass performance without the need for a subwoofer, appealing to a broader range of audio enthusiasts.

Unique Features of the Cabasse Rialto

Comparison with KEF LS50 Wireless II While the Cabasse Rialto and KEF LS50 Wireless II share some similarities, they differentiate themselves significantly in several key aspects. The Rialto, priced similarly to the LS50 Wireless II, offers a distinct set of features and capabilities.

Integrated Woofer for Enhanced Bass Performance One of the standout features of the Cabasse Rialto is its integrated 17 cm HELD (High Excursion Low Distortion) long-throw woofer with a carbon fiber membrane located on the back of the speaker. This design eliminates the need for an external subwoofer, providing a compact yet robust solution for bass reproduction. In contrast, the KEF LS50 Wireless II relies on an optional subwoofer to achieve substantial bass performance. This difference allows the Rialto to deliver impressive bass quality and depth without the added complexity of additional components. It simplifies the setup process and enhances the overall aesthetics of the system.

User-Friendly Controls The Rialto sets itself apart from its competitors with its user-friendly controls. It features a graphic-capable color touch display and a large rotary volume control on the main speaker. These controls provide a convenient and intuitive way to adjust settings and playback preferences. In contrast, the KEF LS50 Wireless II comes with a more straightforward set of control buttons on the master speaker and relies on an IR remote control for additional functionality. The Rialto’s combination of a touch display and rotary control offers a tactile and visually engaging interface, enhancing the overall user experience.

Connection Options and Flexibility The Cabasse Rialto offers a diverse range of connection options, making it a versatile streaming speaker system. It can connect to the network via WLAN or LAN cable, with both speakers joining the network to ensure synchronization. This approach allows for flexibility in network configuration and stability. Additionally, the Rialto introduces the option of connecting the speakers to each other using a Toslink cable, automatically recognized by the system. While the KEF LS50 Wireless II offers similar connectivity options, including WLAN and LAN, the Rialto’s flexibility in network configuration and connection methods distinguishes it from the competition. Overall, Cabasse’s approach to connectivity and user controls contributes to the Rialto’s uniqueness in the market.

Sound Quality and Practical Experience

Automatic Calibration for Optimal Sound The Cabasse Rialto includes an automatic calibration function, featuring built-in microphones within the speakers. This calibration process records the acoustic characteristics of the speaker’s installation location, resulting in a more linear sound image. This feature is especially beneficial when speakers are placed asymmetrically or in non-ideal positions. Even when positioned within the textbook stereo triangle and at some distance from the rear wall, the automatic calibration significantly improves bass balance and overall sound quality. Cabasse’s patented method ensures that the Rialto performs optimally in a variety of setups, making it adaptable to different room environments.

Powerful Performance and Versatile Streaming Options In terms of performance, the Rialto impresses with its remarkable power output. Each speaker boasts an RMS total power of 1,050 watts, divided into 300 watts for the tweeter, 300 watts for the mid-range speaker, and 450 watts for the woofer. While these power figures may appear as overkill, they serve to enhance the speaker’s dynamic range and overall audio quality. The Rialto can handle a wide range of streaming sources, including popular music services like Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, Napster, and Spotify Connect. It also supports web radio, making it a versatile audio solution for various preferences. The system’s ability to process HiRes audio up to 768 kHz/32-bit, or 192 kHz bit-perfectly over LAN and 96 kHz over Wi-Fi, further enhances its audio capabilities. This adaptability ensures that the Rialto delivers high-quality audio regardless of the source.

Sound Test – A New Top Dog?

The sound test of the Cabasse Rialto reveals its audio performance and how it compares to the competition, with a particular focus on the KEF LS50 Wireless II, a well-known reference in the industry.

Initial Impressions and Speaker Break-In Upon initial setup, the Rialto required some playtime to reach its optimal performance. Initially, it may have sounded somewhat edgy and reserved. However, like many high-quality speakers, the Rialto’s characteristics evolved with time. After several days of continuous playback, sometimes at a moderate volume and at other times with more demanding material, the Rialto transformed from a “morning grouch” into a vibrant and dynamic performer. This speaker break-in process is not unusual and is often necessary to unlock its full potential.

Impressive Bass Performance One of the most striking aspects of the Rialto’s sound signature is its impressive bass performance. The speaker manages to deliver a full and impactful bass response that is nothing short of astonishing, especially considering its compact size. Unlike some speakers that artificially boost bass, the Rialto’s bass feels balanced, well-controlled, and detailed throughout the frequency range. What sets it apart is that it accomplishes this without the need for an external subwoofer, a testament to the integration of its 17 cm HELD long-throw woofer with a carbon fiber membrane on the rear. In this regard, it outperforms the KEF LS50 Wireless II, which generally requires the addition of a subwoofer to achieve comparable bass depth.

Imaging Precision and Soundstage During the sound test, one notable observation was that the Rialto initially exhibited a slightly different soundstage and imaging precision compared to the KEF LS50 Wireless II. The KEF, known for its exceptional transparency and precision in instrument placement, set a high standard for the Rialto to match. However, in the beginning, the Rialto’s imaging precision seemed slightly less precise, with instruments and voices not as precisely located between the speakers and a less well-defined center. This discrepancy, though, was mostly noticeable during the initial phase of the sound test.

Network Synchronization and Soundstage Clarity Remarkably, the Rialto’s imaging precision improved significantly after a few minutes of playback. It was revealed that the speaker’s synchronization process, which involved network pings through a server at Cabasse, played a role in this transformation. Once the synchronization was established, the soundstage clarity and precision became on par with the KEF LS50 Wireless II. This highlights the importance of a stable network connection and synchronization in achieving the best audio performance from the Rialto.

Impact of Calibration The Rialto includes an automatic calibration function that utilizes built-in microphones within the speakers. This calibration method records the acoustic characteristics of the installation location of the speakers, allowing for adjustments to optimize sound quality. Even when the speakers were placed within the textbook stereo triangle (and at some distance from the rear wall), the automatic calibration proved to be quite effective, further enhancing bass balance and overall sound quality. It provided a well-balanced audio experience, reducing the need for extensive manual adjustments.

Additional Sound Control Features While the Rialto delivered impressive sound quality when set up on stands in a stereo triangle, it also offered additional sound control features through its digital signal processing (DSP) functions. These features were less essential when the speakers were correctly positioned and calibrated, but they could be useful to fine-tune the sound to personal preferences. Among these features, the “Dynamic Fidelity Enhancer,” a loudness correction option, was less favored by the reviewer, but this largely comes down to individual taste in sound.

Overall Sound Quality and Character In summary, the Cabasse Rialto emerged as a strong contender in the sound test, holding its ground against the KEF LS50 Wireless II, a respected benchmark in the audio industry. While the Rialto may not completely match the LS50’s transparency and openness, it compensates with exceptional dynamics, warmth, and physicality, largely thanks to its outstanding bass performance. The Rialto defies expectations by delivering powerful and detailed bass, proving that small speakers can pack a punch. It excels in handling demanding low-frequency passages and reproduces powerful bass drums and intricate low-frequency details with finesse. The Rialto’s overall sound quality, characterized by its impressive bass, makes it a top performer in its class.

The conclusion is that the Cabasse Rialto offers a unique sound signature and character, which, while slightly different from the KEF LS50 Wireless II, competes admirably and provides a captivating listening experience. Its exceptional bass performance and dynamics make it an excellent choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts seeking an all-in-one streaming speaker system that can deliver audiophile-quality sound without the need for a separate subwoofer.

Conclusion: The Cabasse Rialto

Charming Powerhouses in a Compact Design The Cabasse Rialto stands out as a compelling option in the competitive market of streaming speakers. Its compact design, extensive streaming capabilities, user-friendly interface, and integrated woofer for impressive bass performance make it an attractive choice for audio enthusiasts. While the absence of a physical remote control may be a minor inconvenience, Cabasse’s innovative approach with the Rialto enriches the market by offering a unique blend of features and exceptional sound quality. Whether you seek a compact all-in-one streaming speaker or appreciate the convenience of integrated bass without a subwoofer, the Rialto demonstrates that it is indeed a charming powerhouse in a stylish, non-spherical housing, catering to a wide range of audio preferences and room configurations.

Positive Aspects of the Cabasse Rialto:

  1. Impressive Bass Performance: The Cabasse Rialto stands out for its exceptional bass performance, thanks to its integrated 17 cm HELD long-throw woofer. It delivers deep and powerful bass that surpasses the performance of many speakers its size, eliminating the need for an external subwoofer.
  2. User-Friendly Controls: The Rialto features a user-friendly interface, including a graphic-capable color touch display and a large rotary volume control on the main speaker. These controls provide convenient and intuitive operation, enhancing the overall user experience.
  3. Flexible Connectivity: The Rialto offers diverse connectivity options, including WLAN, LAN, USB, analog RCA, Bluetooth, Toslink, and HDMI eARC. This versatility ensures compatibility with various audio sources and network configurations, making it a versatile all-in-one music system.
  4. Automatic Calibration: The built-in automatic calibration function, utilizing microphones within the speakers, optimizes sound quality based on the room’s acoustic characteristics. It contributes to a more balanced and precise audio experience, even in non-ideal placement scenarios.
  5. Powerful Performance: With a total RMS power of 1,050 watts per speaker, the Rialto delivers dynamic and impactful sound. Its impressive power reserves enhance the overall audio quality, allowing it to handle a wide range of music genres and soundtracks.

Negative Aspects of the Cabasse Rialto:

  1. Initial Break-In Period: Some users may find that the Rialto requires an initial break-in period to achieve its optimal sound performance. During this period, the speakers may sound edgy or reserved, requiring patience until they reach their full potential.
  2. Lack of Physical Remote Control: Unlike some competitors, the Rialto does not come with a physical remote control. Users must rely on the app or access the controls on the main speaker, which may be less convenient for quick adjustments from a distance.
  3. Brightness of Status LEDs: The LEDs on the back of the speakers, indicating different operating states, can be quite bright. Depending on their placement, they may cause unwanted reflections or distractions in the viewing area, potentially requiring masking or adjustment.
  4. Initial Synchronization Process: Users may experience initial synchronization issues related to network connectivity, which can impact soundstage clarity and imaging precision. While these issues can be resolved, they may pose a temporary inconvenience.
  5. Complexity of HDMI eARC: HDMI eARC, while a valuable feature, may require additional setup and configuration, which can vary depending on the user’s TV and devices. Compatibility issues with specific TV brands may also arise, affecting ease of use.