Opera Mezza Loudspeakers Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Italian speaker maker Opera has been making headlines recently with their great-sounding demos at various audio shows, earning them positive print and online reviews. I reviewed their floor-standing Seconda model, which I found to be beautifully made, with sonics to match. Marc Phillips, of Colleen Cardas Imports, contacted me about reviewing the Mezza, a two-way monitor that had recently getting much attention in Europe. I accepted based on how much I enjoyed the Seconda in my system.

As I mentioned in my Seconda review, all Opera loudspeakers are made in their Treviso, Italy, factory. They are the sister company to Unison Research, fine purveyors of mostly tube based electronics. I reviewed both the Unico CDPrimo and CDE CD players. I found the workmanship, styling, and sound to be wonderful. As a matter of fact, the CDE was one of the most seductive sounding digital source components I have had in my listening room.

The Opera Mezza retails for $1495 and is available in four finishes, including gloss white, gloss black, mahogany, and cherry. My review samples arrived in a drop dead gorgeous cherry finish. The front baffle, top, and rear of the speaker are finished in a “leatherette”, which could fool many into thinking it was real leather. Opera says it performs a dual function, providing sonic benefits and also protection. The Mezza is equipped with a single set of high quality speaker binding posts, and some attractive, removable grilles. I removed the grilles for all my listening.

Opera MezzaInternally, the bass reflex loaded Mezza sports a five-inch Scanspeak woofer, and a one-inch SEAS tweeter, the same used in the Secondas, by the way. The Mezza is fairly substantial for a monitor, weighing more than any other mini monitor I have auditioned. And it is pretty deep, measuring 11 inches from front baffle to back panel, where there is small port near the top of the enclosure.  Opera also sells an optional matching stand that bolts to the speakers via threads on the bottom of the Mezza.

Set Up & Listening

The Mezzas were set up on twenty-six inch Sound Anchors stands, with roughly fifteen degrees of toe in. I used the Mezzas with three different integrated amplifiers, including the McIntosh MA6600, the Wyred4Sound MiNT, and the Electrocompaniet ECI3. Cabling was Darwin Silver for interconnects, and Transparent MusicWave speaker wire. The speakers had roughly three feet of clearance around all boundaries. I did not find the Mezzas to be fussy about setup in general.

I got a pretty clear picture of what the sonic personality of the Mezza early on, but this was after some break in. I felt the speakers were a little tight sounding but they opened up nicely after about week. This was not reviewer/listener break in mind you which I believe is another type of “break in”. No this was a physical change. The drivers relaxed and the Opera sound, so to speak, came through.

The Mezzas were unique in several ways. They offered the quickest, most nimble timing I have heard at anywhere near this price point. They were light on their feet, and extremely precise. Imaging and detail retrieval were very impressive. These were not classic BBC-styled, midrange-focused monitors. Driver design, materials, and cabinet construction have come a long way.

I delighted in the excellent dynamics and clear top end. Instruments like cymbals, percussion, and piano had nice articulation and definition. Coherence was also very good, with nuances in recordings nicely spotlighted, but no undue attention called upon them. I thought the midrange was clean and open, and that really allowed good vocal recordings to shine.  An example includes Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora, whose albums are a delightful Portuguese and African jazzy hybrid, with her delicate vocals front and center. Her Cafe’ Atlantico album is beautifully recorded, and plays to the Mezzas strengths, with excellent tonality, and her voice nicely framed.

Opera MezzaRay Lamongtagne’s vocal on “You Can Bring Me Flowers” -- from his superb second album, Til The Sun Turns Black -- sounded exquisite through the Mezzas. As did the excellent horn arrangement and creeping bass line. The Mezzas also wonderfully handled the delicate ballad “Lesson Learned” with equal aplomb. The Mezzas versatility was rare for a speaker in this price range. I felt they were tailor made for chamber pop, like that of Brooklyn-based collective, Hem. The Mezzas allowed their second album Eveningland to float by like a summer day.

On edgier music, such as the self-titled debut from Swedish folkmeister Jose Gonzalez’s group, Junip, the Mezzas had plenty of pizzazz, showcasing the group’s electro folk stylings and hypnotic rhythms. I found the Mezzas highly engaging with modern pop records, which showed me they were able to provide excitement and drive. I was really drawn in when I put on the self-titled debut album from Black Dub, Daniel Lanois’s latest project. The delicious mix of trance, blues, and atmospherics sounded just right through the Mezzas.

As wonderful as the Mezzas are, like any speaker, they are not perfect. Where do the Mezzas fall short? First, bass, though articulate, could be weightier. They lack a bit of heft below the mid-bass.  This can sometimes be noticeable on orchestral work or on rock recordings with prominent bass guitar. This will obviously vary with your listening room. Secondly, the Mezzas do require a bit of power to get them to sing. A low-powered tube amp may run out of steam. I would venture to say at least 50 watts per channel would get the job done.

I had a few speakers on hand for comparisons to the Mezza, including the Polk LSi M703 ($1500) the Definitive Technology SM65 ($995), and the SVS Ultra Bookshelf ($1000), review forthcoming. The Polks were cut from similar sonic cloth as the Mezzas, but with punchier bass, the speaker being about double the size of the Operas. The Definitives were warmer overall; a bit less extended in the highs, but also had more subjective bass weight. The SVS were darker in tone than the Mezzas, and while not quite as nimble, they were a bit more fleshed out in the midrange. On styling, the Mezzas win hands down.



Conclusion

Opera has a winner with this stylish, $1495 high fidelity two-way monitor. Pair it with a good quality, decently powered amp and you will be rewarded with long, enjoyable listening sessions. The Opera faces stiff competition at their price point, but if you seek a highly resolving, easy on the eyes stand-mounted two-way, the Opera Mezza absolutely should be on your “to audition” list.

I had no quibbles with the Mezza’s presentation, other a slight lack of lower frequency heft. Aside from that, the Mezza’s strengths of treble purity, quickness, midrange openness, and dynamics are tough to beat. Another job well done from the Opera design team!

Opera Mezza

Interview with Marc Phillips of Colleen Cardas Imports

avrev.com: The Mezzas are "entry level" two-way monitors in the Opera line, but they are made to a very high standard. Is it a Challenge for Opera to maintain such high quality at this price?

Marc Phillips: It's definitely a challenge to bring these to the US for just $1495. They were originally going to retail for $1695-$1895 depending on finish, but then we heard a certain well-reviewed $1495 bookshelf speaker that's creating a lot of buzz, and Colleen and I thought, "We like THAT speaker a lot, but we like the Mezza even more. It goes deeper in the bass, throws up a bigger soundstage and it looks much sexier!" So we wanted to take that speaker head on.
 
It would have been easy for Opera to manufacture these in China to control costs, but it's not their style. So you can still buy a beautiful Italian speaker, made in Italy, that sounds and looks beautiful for under $1500.


avrev.com: Does Opera use sister company produced Unison Research electronics to voice and design the loudspeakers?

Marc Phillips: Opera and Unison are definitely voiced together. When we show Unison Research and Opera together at trade shows, it becomes really obvious that they were meant to go together. When we plug everything in, the equipment sounds magnificent right out of their boxes with very little tweaking and fiddling. We love showing these two brands together for that very reason--they just sing.
 
That said, I have a lot of equipment at home from different manufacturers and the Mezzas always provide a highly musical experience. I haven't had a mismatch yet. You don't have to match Opera with Unison to get extremely satisfying results.


avrev.com: Can you tell us if Opera has anything new and exciting on the horizon, and a bit about your current dealer network?

Marc Phillips: There's talk of a new flagship speaker in the Callas line that will be slotted above the Grand Callas. But the entire Classica line--Mezza, Grand Mezza, Seconda, Quinta and the Centrale center channel--were all just redesigned in the last year so those will stay the same for some time to come.


Specifications



Opera Mezza: $1495
www.colleencardasimports.com

Sensitivity (db/w/m): 88
Available finishes: Cherry, Black Gloss, White Gloss
Dimensions (hwd, cm): 32x20x33
Impedance (ohms): 4


Review System 1


CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
Server: Squeezebox Touch w/ CIA VDC-SB power supply
via Ethernet to MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate
external drives.
DAC: Bryston BDA-1, MyTek Stereo 192 DAC
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Bob Carver Black Magic
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids,  Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Onkyo C7000R
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, Rein Audio X3-DAC
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Wyred4Sound mINT, Electrocompaniet ECI3
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 65
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS




 






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