Suggested Retail: BG 780 - $2,800.00/pr BG Subwoofer- $1,800.00
Bolzano Villetri BG780 and BG Subwoofer
Unique designs always intrigue us. We want to know if a technical breakthrough has been achieved, or a new standard attained. I think we also appreciate the mere difference, the new idea, the creativity involved. But a unique design isn’t always a better solution, so we also view innovative and inspired offerings with trepidation and wariness.
I felt all this as I opened the three well constructed boxes in which my Bolzano Villetri review samples arrived. There were three boxes because I received two BG780 speakers and a BG Subwoofer. This is the configuration Victor Rakovich, the US Distributor recommends for two-channel music systems. Bolzano Villetri combines Italian design with Russian technology and manufacturing. The key figures involved are Mikhail Batkov; Alexander Gaidarov, an audio physicist and committee member of the Russian section of the Audio-Engineering Society; Aleksey Vinogradov, the conductor of The Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble (MCME) and their Italian partner, Enzo Baccega.
The BG780 is the top model in the Bellagio line which is just below the Flagship Campanille line. According to the manufacturer the design goal of their Bellagio line of speakers is to continue the tradition of omni-directional sound, with speakers that create sound pressure between the drivers and distributes the sound in horizontal direction. The BG 78s utilize two absolutely identical midrange/low-range drivers, each of them having its own box, located opposite each other and working in the same line in counterpoint, i.e. they are synchronous to produce the same phase of signal wave. The center of the cabinet incorporates two contra-directional tweeters functioning as dispersers.
This configuration had it’s genesis in a patented concept called “RoundStream Technology” developed by Alexander Gaidarov, an Audio Physist and Aleksey Vinogradov, an Orchestra Conductor.
The BG 780 is a nearly 4' tall floor standing two-way, but the mental picture that may have generated is inaccurate. Each 780 is comprised of two 5” polypropylene cone bass / midrange drivers and two 1.125” silk dome tweeters. Not so exotic you think, but lets look at how these drivers are utilized. The mid/bass drivers are housed in separate cabinets on the small end of each rectangular box. One of these boxes sits on the floor, firing the driver straight up. The other cabinet is connected to this one by an attractive black sculpture which separates the two by a little less than 12 inches. The second box mounts with the driver facing downward, directly at its mate, sort of. I didn’t mention that the sculptured piece between the boxes also house the two tweeters. The high frequency drivers are mounted at each end of a 5 5/8” inch tube each firing directly at one of the mid/bass drivers! The individual drivers operate in phase with one another.
The cabinets are nicely finished with solid wood side panels and black leather front and rear panels. Each cabinet, upper and lower contain a port which I thought detracted from the speaker’s otherwise elegant appearance. I’m sure there are sonic justifications but I would have preferred the ports be hidden behind grill cloth. This is probably due to my perception that the ports take away some of the unique experience of listening to speakers with no drivers facing you.
The cabinets are tall and slender, with a small footprint which felt a little wobbly on my carpeted floors. Spikes did not come with my samples but I would highly recommend adding them, which is easily accomplished as the threaded receptacles are provided on the speaker bottom. The one set of terminals provided were a little small for the lugs on my Au 24 cables. The mountings are flat sided on the top and bottom causing me to slide the lugs on from the sides, rather than the more traditional and functional top or bottom.
The BG Sub is very attractive as sub-woofers go. That is really faint praise for a nicely finished product. The sub rests on a slab base with solid wood sides elevating the cabinet to about 8 inches off the floor. The cabinet houses the amplifier and associated electronics and controls, as well as the down-firing 10 inch woofer.
Overall I really liked the look of the BG780s in my room. My wife liked them too, which is rare concerning anything audio. Their are two finishes available; either this one called "dark wood" or a lighter one they call, amazingly, light wood!
I did all of my listening with the BG sub connected to my pre-amp and using the internal crossover. My initial sessions had the 780s being driven by Parasound JC-1s with VTL DeLuxe 120s taking turns later in the process. I also replaced my AR SP-9 with the Juicy Music BlueBerry Extreme about mid-way through the review, finding that it bested my old friend the SP-9 to a degree that rendered it invalid as a reference. I wasn’t surprised as the AR is way past its prime. I don’t have a CD player or any CDs, so it was all vinyl all the time.
Victor indicated to me that there were three major design goals for the BV BG780s – a wide and deep soundstage, a large "sweet spot" and clarity of the sound image. The soundstage produced by the BG780/BG Sub in my listening room was deeper and wider at the rear than any other speaker has produced in my system. Due to their omni-directional design, I was able to enjoy listening while seated or standing and at any point between the speakers. I didn’t properly appreciate the wide “sweet spot” until I had a few friends over and was relegated to the far end of the couch. Much to my surprise, no problem! When sitting off center the effect was much like having a seat to the right or left of center stage at a live event. The images were still in their places, you just hear them from a different perspective. This will be greatly appreciated by anyone who has lived with speakers that “speak” to only one seat. BV recommends placing the speakers “2 – 3 feet from the back wall, or even farther”.
My experience indicates that while they are fine sounding speakers when placed 3 feet from the wall, you do not realize the depth these guys can produce until you get them out into the room. In my room about 70” from the rear wall and 60” from the sides, leaving about 6 feet between the speakers was optimal. Positioned correctly the speakers attract absolutely no attention to themselves.
Regarding clarity of the sound image, the 780s performed very well. At the extremes of the soundstage they are the best I have heard in my room. As an example, on Britten – Noye's Flude there are triangle strikes on side one that are placed to the rear left of the stage, the 780s produced these with a pristine and airy presence.
Listening to one of my long time favorites King Crimson, Larks Tongues in Aspic was near revelatory. On Easy Money instruments located at the extremes of the soundfield possessed the same air and impact as closely mic’ed or prominently mixed instruments.On the 2nd track, Book of Saturday the bongo is low and distant, but was still strongly percussive and distinct. On the following track, Exiles, guitar, bass and drums follow the same musical line on occasion. On other speakers in my system the distinct tonality of each instrument is clearer.
I found a 45 Single tucked away in my shelves by someone called Step 3 doing a song titled “I’ve Got Five Dollars”. I’m sure this is obscure, but I like it and found that it allowed me to hear how composed the BG 780 system remained during heavy percussion and what sounds like an actual explosion at the close of the track. The piano in the first few seconds of “I’ve Got Five Dollars” is rendered with more realistic decay of tone and the drums come in with more impact and air than I was hearing with my reference.
On the Reference Recordings Direct to Disc release Friendly Neighborhood Big Band the kick drum sounded good and solid, but lacked some of the slam delivered by the VR-6s.
Listening to “Listen to Art Farmer and the Orchestra” track one, Street of Dreams, Art’s trumpet sounds a bit strident and resonant possibly indicating an upper midrange peak, but I didn’t notice it as obviously on any other cut. During my listening I didn’t hear any obvious frequency related anomalies that were consistent on several recordings.
Having said that, there were times - King Crimson – Larks Tongues in Aspic, Easy Money that I could hear the sub’s lack of perfect coherence with the main speakers and on some passages I was aware of a prominence in the lower mid-range with is probably attributable to the tuned port.
On recordings that offered the experience, instruments and singers held their places and were rendered with body and dimension, slightly more so with the VTLs driving.
Normally in my system vocals appear to be originating from a position consistent with the front panel of the speakers in place. With the 780s vocals were consistently placed further back and seemed to carry less weight and sense of resonance than portrayed by the VR-6s. In listening to Cash, Johnny’s voice on the VR-6s is heavy with resonance and forward on the stage, to the point of making me think that somewhere between the two differing presentations was most correct. This effect could easily be a result of system interactions and my preferences.
I always liked the raw sound of the old D to D recording Rough Trade – Live (Umbrella), but it could easily go from raw to ragged with the wrong set up. On Birds of a Feather the kick drum is convincing in impact and decay while Carole Pope’s vocal can sound a bit hard with other speakers in my system but was tamed and pushed back a bit on the 780s.
Overall the BG780/BG Sub combo recreated more harmonic richness as exemplified by bell and triangle strikes having strong initial percussive impact followed by a trail of overtones. Musical sounds are more easily identified as individual instruments. If these speakers intrigue you at all you should find a way to audition them yourself, as they are a unique experience.
The 708s design unusually places the drivers well below ear height in a normal listening position. Despite this the stage height typically presented was within the range I would consider normal, but placing vocals about 12” below what I am accustomed to. This was ameliorated by the use of Acoustic Resonators, which also raise the perceived image height on other speakers in my room. With the Resonators in their normal positions in my room, vocals are placed about 12 – 18 inches above the top of the cabinets, while without the Resonators most vocals emit from near the top of the cabinets, or about 5 feet off the floor.
Replacing the JC-1s with VTL DeLuxe 120s yielded interesting results. Victor had told me that the 780s “liked” tube amplification so I was looking forward to hearing the difference. My first reaction was that I was aware of the physical speakers in my room for the first time in my listening sessions. This was evidenced by the middle of the stage becoming less focused and instruments to the left and right sides of the stage emanating from the speaker, rather than the air on that side of my listening room. In the past, with other speakers this same effect occurred when I got the speakers too far apart and/or had the toe in off. So I moved each speaker about six inches closer to center and my beautiful, deep stage returned and the instruments once again were evoked from space.
Once I got done fine tuning the position and toe in of the speakers I noticed something else. Individual instruments had more body and a rounder, more three dimensional sound than I had experienced with the JC-1s. I may have a slight preference for the VTL / B-V combination, but I could easily live with the JC-1s driving the BG780s. I should admit that my preference has always been for full range speakers as opposed to satellites and subs. This system has softened that preference considerably by creating a coherent musical experience in my listening room with a wide variety of artist and genres.
The BG Sub
The Sub is integrated with its own 300 watt Amplifier and adjustable crossover, though the crossover can be switched out if you have an outboard unit or are delivering a filtered signal. Controls include level, crossover point and a 180 degree / 0 degree phase switch. Response is listed as 24 – 140 hz. The driver is polypropylene 10 incher. After fooling with the crossover frequency and level I ended doing almost all of my listening with the crossover set at about 50hz and the level at about 12 o’clock and the phase at 0 degrees. This gave me the most seamless transition and good low frequency response without the sub drawing attention to itself. There were very few occasions in all of my listening when I was aware of the subs contribution, which is as it should be.
My initial listening was done with Parasound JC-1 amps pushing through Audience Au24 cables into the 780s. I typically bi-wire into my Von Schweikert VR-6s, but the BG780s don’t offer that option so I used one per side. The pre-amp was my Audio Research SP-9 with Zero Labs interconnects tethering it to the JC-1’s. The source was a Goldmund Studietto with a modified suspension and a Syrinx PU-3 arm, the cart is a high output Van Den Hul Frog. I later inserted a Juicy Blueberry pre-amp (review in the works) and my VTL DeLuxe 120 Mono Blocks. For comparison I used a pair of Vienna Acoustic Mozarts, Vandersteen 3s and the VR-6s.
The Bolzano Velletri BG780 and BG Sub combination provided me with many hours of enjoyable listening and caused me to rethink my wrong-headed bias against the two monitor and sub category. I already miss the huge soundstage portrayed by the BG780/BG sub combo and the way distant instruments are produced in their correct space while maintaining their character and impact. Reviewing the design goals, I have to say the manufacturer has done an excellent job of attaining those goals while not unduly compromising other areas of performance and staying within their targeted price point of only $2,800 for the pair. The quality of construction/craftmanship and the very luxurious appearance via the large expanses of real wood and leather are especially appealing for a speaker under $3,000. The large sweet spot is ideal for people who like to listen with a partner or group of friends and also for those who are unable to place speakers in the optimal triangle configuration. The omni will give you a reasonable soundstage even if the speakers are not placed perfectly, but they do best when not against a wall. They also have a high "WAF" or wife acceptance factor.
All speakers are idiosyncratic by nature and due to the unique design of the BV 780s, these may be more so than many. I am recommending that if the qualities I have described in this review of the BG 780s and BG Sub appeal to you, please find an opportunity to audition them in person, they may be just what you are looking for.