What Hi-Fi (UK)
Piega Ace 30
Swiss brand Piega serves up its most affordable aluminium speakers to date – and they are truly tiny
Roger Federer isn’t the only Swiss maestro serving up aces; Lake Zurichbased Piega is also launching the Ace speaker series, its most affordable aluminium range to date. The Piega Ace 30 bookshelf is joined by their Ace 50 floorstanding and Ace Center speaker siblings, comprising the Swiss brand’s most compact speaker line yet.
The Aces replace the miniature Tmicro models that we concluded were “classy compact speakers that make sense if you don’t have lots of space”, when we reviewed the bookshelf Tmicro 40 AMT. Do the Ace 30 serve the same purpose?
Not just compact, but tiny
‘Compact’ is a term we often use to describe the crop of smaller than average standmounters aimed at those short on space or with a desire for discreet designs; but the Ace 30 are tiny. Now the smallest speaker in the Piega portfolio, their curved cabinets are just 14cm wide and 16cm deep, with the baffles measuring the size of a postcard.
Piega is most notable for specialising in ribbon tweeters, including its folded ribbon designs (Piega means ‘fold’ in Italian), but it also champions aluminium cabinets over wooden ones. For the Ace range, Piega has specially developed braced aluminium cabinets, optimising them for the 12cm MDS mid/ bass drivers and, of course, Piega’s famed ribbon tweeter. In the Ace 30, it is an AMT-1 Air Motion Transformer design, as found in the Tmicro range and driven by a neodymium motor assembly.
For the Ace’s aesthetic, Piega has again called on Swiss designer Stephan Hürlemann. Sleek and minimalist in their natural aluminium, anodised black or high-gloss white finishes, the Ace 30 are visually unassuming, with no visible seams, angles or fixings.
Compared with similarly priced speakers, such as the KEF LS50 Meta and Triangle Borea BR08, the Ace 30 may look a little functional, but they are ideal for those who don’t want their speakers to stand out in their living room.
The Ace 30 aren’t entirely unfussy, in that, while they do sound weighty enough to sit out into a room without sounding unsatisfactorily thin, their performance clearly benefits from being backed against a rear wall.
Here, a few metres apart from one another, they produce an impressive breadth of sound that belies their size. And that sound is clear, solid and refined, fed initially by our reference Burmester 088/911 Mk3 pre/power combination, and then later on by the more modest and more price-appropriate Naim Nait XS 3 integrated amplifier.
It isn’t long into Future Islands’ The Moon Is Blue that the Piegas get to show off their even balance and decent organisation as they cleanly present the jangly instrumentation beneath the vocal. Trebly synths slice through the mix, there’s a solid handling of the drumbeat, and there’s plenty of detail in between, with the Piegas seemingly not being biased to one particular part of the frequency range.
You shouldn’t expect speakers of this size to produce floor-shaking bass or stamp absolute authority on a track, but the Piegas are far from bass light, and the low frequencies they dig up are pleasantly snappy and agile. The backbeat in Macklemore’s Marmalade is precise and cutting, riding below piano keys that are duly dulcet and an insightful, crisp vocal that captures the rapper’s deliberate style.
This is a sprightly, playful track, but the Ace 30 don’t play along, sadly, lacking the bite and dynamic punch to really throw themselves into the performance. Similarly, St Vincent’s Fast Slow Disco is an uptempo, invigorating pop number but, through the Piegas, it lacks pizzazz. It’s as if the speakers are holding back, and we can’t help but feel disappointed by their lack of energy.
Lack of expression
The Ace 30 also fall short for dynamic expression. It would be unfair to say they are completely bereft of dynamic scrutiny, but their ability here is some way below what the class leaders are capable of at this price point. The much larger but similarly priced KEF LS50 Meta have the scale and depth to better open up a track, the dynamic variation to keep things interesting and, crucially, the liveliness to throw itself into a rhythm.
With Antony and the Johnsons’ You Are My Sister, the Piegas don’t have the transparency to follow her lilts and pitch changes as expertly as the KEFS do – the LS50 Meta deliver the instrumentation with a suitable skip in their step.
Piega’s latest bookshelf speakers are aces by name, but not by nature. To their credit, the Ace 30 are neat and will fit conveniently and discreetly in a room, filling it with a sound that’s clear, lush and finessed. But while they offer a scale and solidity beyond what you’d expect, they lack the musicality to really engage.