Talk about weird nomenclature: Opera Callas. Wasn't Callas the bird who shacked up with Ari Onassis while he was hitched to Jackie? Doesn't matter: I'm not going to allow my hatred for opera and its practitioners to influence my judgement. Opera is, after all, an Italian company and the Italians are as blindly and irrationally passionate about the bellowing and screeching of fat men and women as the English are about getting uncontrollably drunk. The difference is, the English have yet to call a loudspeaker company 'Stout' and one of its models 'The Piss Artist'. Suffice to say, naming this neat little speaker 'Callas' is supposed to suggest musicality. Ahem. Better, then, that I should avoid the firm's SuperPavarotti.
And just as the company and model names are there to evoke music, so does the styling embody Italian loudspeaker aesthetics circa the 1990s. While less blatant than other Italian brands in its homage to a certain better-known, ground-breaking manufacturer, the Callas is unmistakably a Latinate creation, its curved edges and cabinetry made from sections of solid walnut in a way not successfully emulated by builders in any other country. Yet.
To give you some idea of the enclosure walls' ample measure, note that the internal volume is only 9.3 litres even though the external dimensions are 220x340x320mm (WxHxD). And for the shell of such a compact speaker devoid of its innards to weigh in at 8kg, well, that's what you get with side walls which are 35mm thick. The front baffle, though veneered to match, is fashioned from 45mm's worth of MDF panel. At the back is a port measuring 5in long internally and multi-way binding posts which can be configured for single- or bi-wiring. This back panel is sloped to improve the internal wave-damping, while all of the cabinet edges are rounded not just for aesthetic purposes but to minimise diffraction.
Because the Callas is packed two to a crate, you have an immediate impression not just of hand-craftsmanship but of hernia induction. Free the speakers of the wooden shipping enclosure and you find each speaker in its own velvet pouch. Slide each from its sack and you know you're handling something dense, almost bomb-proof. As the owners' blurb advises, you're asked to place a hand on a Callas while music is playing; these speakers are as dead as their namesake.
Here's where we get an unusual situation: the Callas under review is called the 'New Callas', even though the earlier and dimensionally identical model is still in the catalogue while supplies last. What happened is this: the first Callas, a £750 per pair item, used Wharfedale drivers in a mahogany enclosure and is a quite different-sounding product -- sort of a Wharfedale Diamond for the overly-fastidious. For whatever reason, supply of the drivers dried up and Opera has turned to Focal for replacements. Additionally, the cabinet of the New Callas is made from walnut because it's both harder than mahogany and less likely to upset treehuggers. Although it means a price increase of £100, note that Focal is a current hot fave, this French firm having rocketed up the credibility ladder over the past few years; that extra C-note buys you designer innards. Hey, if their inverted dome tweeter is good enough for the mega-shekel Wilson WATT, then who's to complain about a less-expensive variant in a speaker selling for only £850 per pair?