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EXPIRED - FOR SALE: Analysis Audio Epsilon, BRAND NEW BOXED
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Designer Tasos Hartzis below has clearly solved the bear-to-drive curse that certain panel speakers labor under [his top-line Amphitryon to the right is said to be an even easier load than the Epsilon]. My 50wpc Patek SEs -- bi-amped by dedicating one amp to each speaker, the tweeter ribbon driven from one channel via my Zu Cable Ibis, the mid/bass panel from the other channel via the Analysis Plus Big Silver Oval still in-house from its review -- proved so utterly beyond any audible limitations that I didn't feel the need to run different amps at all.
The only thing to fret over was setup. Should the HF ribbons face outwards or inwards; how much inter-speaker and front-wall distance, toe-in and tilt back should I dial in for best center fill, focus and tonal balance? Customarily running Zu Cable Definition Mk1.5s with 4 x 10-inch self-amplified rear-firing woofers each for 16-40Hz coverage, I figured that a 36" front-wall distance should prove sufficient for these dipoles. And it was. The open question really revolved around toe-in and tweeter orientation. I ended up with the tweeters on the inside. Hard-right and hard-left panned performers otherwise seemed too attached to the actual panel surface rather than appear as free-floating images (or required too much toe-in to compensate and restrict the sweet spot in turn).
My long-wall setup naturally limits the nth degree of depth a middle-of-the-room longitudinal speaker position would conjure up. As a top-to-bottom dipole, I obtained good soundstage depth regardless. That nearly seemed par for this course and expected. Hence, my setup didn't equate to 'foreshortened' or 'dimensionally squashed' but probably to 'not ultimately unfurled' such as even more open space behind the Epsilons would have likely generated. No complaints then on depth from me.
In fact, no real complaints except for the tight washer and narrow slot behind it on the binding posts. The vaunted and oft-cited speed of panel transducers -- minimal mass -- reminded me very much of my Zus. Those achieve equivalent speed from high efficiencies, extremely focused magnetic fields and paralleled drivers for minimized excursions. Microdynamics with the Epsilons were excellent, macrodynamics very good for the breed but not fully competitive with the best dynamic speakers. Those can push air harder. With planars, that's where panel size becomes the limiting factor. While I expected and got fast response times and transparency, I was surprised by the Epsilons' ability to sound fulsome and meaty rather than ghostly (all speed and no substance). This had been my biggest -- and admittedly terminal -- complaint against the breed from past tradeshow and retail encounters. While clearly not universally applicable, it did become my personal counter mantra against planars and electrostats. We all have of our own blind spots.
I could never be a Quad man, for instance. But the Epsilon went far to erase my bias. One psychological hurdle I never quite overcame? During eyes-open sessions, the sheer breadth of the speakers occupying common space with virtual performers. It's of course intrinsic to the transducers and thus no reasonable nit to pick.
As a proud Gallo Ref3 owner, I've become hooked on treble that, like cheerleader legs, extends forever to eventually make a gorgeous ass out of itself. The Epsilons pulled a similarly sexy stunt but with perhaps an added sense of sweetness rather than the preternaturally holographic focus of the Gallos.
Unlike the Duevel omnis which always have struck me as a bit too diffuse -- or perhaps I've never spent enough time with them to overwrite my neuro programming conditioned by
direct radiators -- the Epsilons did not apply the omni blur command to subtly fuzz out the edges. To a lesser degree than my ghostly typecasting of planars, my mental cubby hole also suffered the equation of "dipole = somewhat washed-out articulation". While the Epsilons indeed did not focus as sharply as the Gallos -- few speakers do; that nearly omni tweeter is the secret weapon for that quality -- they were as good as my Zus in that regard.
Naturally, low-bass whomp factor had no chance of keeping up with my Definitions. But surprisingly and for all but the rare tracks or particular elements thereof, the Epsilons did not subtract enough in terms of displacement or extension to become unsatisfying. In my room, I was solid to about 40Hz and useful into the low 30s. While the ultimate visibility of the recording venue's rear wall with its various low-frequency low-amplitude reflections was thus slightly obscured, I'm again only referencing against the unusually potent example of the Definitions. I did get the occasional minor amplitude peaks on certain upper-bass notes though - when the rear-firing energy either rode a node or reinforced with the front wall reflection. I never get that with the Definitions. They fire into the same wall but directly only below 40Hz and thus for far longer wavelengths.
This dipole full-range reflective behavior didn't prove to be a big issue, however. It's mentioned here merely to drive home the point that such designs are more critical about setup than most. They should only be considered if you have a reasonable amount of placement flexibility to work with rather than being prematurely shoehorned into only one possible position that's aesthetically or practically acceptable.
Tallying up first impressions one would have collected by the time the Epsilons had concluded their break-in and were set up as optimally as room and expertise allowed, the overriding attribute would be balance. This is the first and tallest hurdle any speaker has to overcome before one should focus on any special attributes. Without balance, special endowments become freaky. They might be interesting and amazing even but ultimately degrade into something peculiar and divorced from the holistic approach that wishes for the transducers to disappear rather than dazzle us with HiFi spectaculars.
With balance slash coherence covered, we can now focus on what the Epsilons do spectacularly well - vocal immediacy and openness. This is their special endowment fund from which they draw heavily. Here the smallest of inflections -- breathy whispers, hesitant detractions, emphatic outbursts, wistful counter gestures -- come across nearly magnified as though stripped of inertia. The same is true for varying finger pressures on piano that reveal subtle textures even into the far right-handed keys that never get tinkly and brittle. I'm quite allergic to that which is why I use Nojima's Ravel on Reference Recordings a lot to test that particular quality with the "Ondine" track. Believe it, the Epsilon does body.
Because this is a very accomplished speaker, I wish to end on an upbeat note and hence need to get one item out of the way early - price and, relatedly, value. If you're a stat/planar listener, the new MartinLogan Summit with dual 10-inch woofers per side driven from integral ICEpower amps will be more dynamic and extended in the bass and present a narrower cosmetic obstacle finished to a more hi-tech upscale degree. Of course
detractors of hybrids might belabor that only full-range planars are the real deal. Dynamic woofers are cheats to them. I'll stay out of that discussion. But you can get more impact, air motion, low-bass reach and equivalent panel/ribbon speed/transparency elsewhere and for less money. Think hybrids. Will they be as texturally of one cloth, as seamlessly coherent? That's your call to make. In audio, nothing tends to be free.
With a copasetic pre/power combo -- such as the ModWright/AudioSector trio has miraculously turned out to become in Taos; and for sane rather than frivolous coin) -- the Epsilon not only does body but tonal color as well. There's nothing bleached or zippy that I managed to coax from this design. Granted, since my first choice of electronics proved to work so well, I didn't really try hard to deliberately screw things up with perhaps a bright and edgy amp. Because it surprised me especially due to Bill Cowen's 330wpc comment, I need to reiterate it: The Epsilon is not a power
monger or reactive brute. 50 watts of bi-amped premium juice turned out to be sufficient for all my needs. Even the moderate sweep on the associated volume control confirmed visually that this power didn't evaporate into a black hole but converted efficiently into the desired sound pressures. [Above right, three Analysis Audio models for size perspective.]
Where does that leave us? To summarize, the Analysis Audio Epsilon is a speaker most similar to a Magneplanar. I've never had one of the latter in my digs to make sonic comparisons. Still, it seems general consensus that Maggies require power to truly sing. That's where the Epsilon clearly differs - a good thing in my book since I tend to believe that it's easier to find good-sounding low-to-mid power amplifiers than high-power ones. I also remember an old acquaintance who was a popular television soap star and had the means to assemble what was considered a top-shelf system at the time - Apogee Centaur Majors. His amps were massive Class A Nakamichis whose Stasis topology had been licensed from Nelson Pass. By comparison, my Patek SEs seem like a joke (but size- and price wise, the joke is on the other guys if you go Greek on your panels.)
The Epsilon does not elevate speed and precision over body and minor warmth (even slight sweetness in the treble). Bass quality except for bottom-octave displacement and transient impact is very good, bass quantity an inherent function of the design. However executed exactly, this speaker exhibits excellent top-to-bottom control. I never flashed on transparent sheets flapping helplessly in the wind so to speak. Transient exactitude was never overdone or hyped but a clear contributor to the overall sense of articulation and speed. We have to assume that the designer knows a fair deal about magnets and how to optimally execute an array to drive a large surface.
Beyond discussion also is the seamless coherence whereby the frequency spectrum does not separate into bands of different textures or flavor. As Bill already suggested, Quad lovers might feel drawn to the Epsilon and additionally appreciate expanded frequency response and improved dynamics. Finally there is the not inconsequential fact that this Greek company has been at it for 15 years. No overnight experiment here. This is a mature speaker for mature listeners who will appreciate balance and cohesiveness over short-lived flash and consider microdynamic finesse more
essential than ultimate dynamic wallop. Personally, the Epsilon provided an unexpected education to eliminate certain misapprehensions I labored under where this genre of speaker is concerned. Instead of acting as a somewhat anemic speed freak, the Epsilon proved robust and full. Chamber music in particular -- living as it does on fine-tipped dynamic gradations by combining multiple virtuoso soloists who each want to shine simultaneously -- really benefitted from the Epsilon's ability to track very small signal changes with aplomb. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Epsilons and have to believe that folks in the market for MartinLogans, Magnepans, InnerSounds and Soundlabs would do themselves a disservice to not also consider Analysis Audio. While relatively new to the US, this is not a new brand by a long stretch.
Mar 05, 18 13:01
4 pieces in original boxes. BLACK, NEW