Epos Elan 10 loudspeaker Page 2
Although over the last five years or so I've been trumpeting how tonally neutral most modern bookshelf speakers are, even the most affordable ones, the dead-flat neutrality of the Epos Elan 10 was very impressive. From the mid-bass region through the highest highs, I never heard the slightest trace of coloration in the sound of any instrument. And the integration of bass, midrange, and highs was so remarkable that I sometimes I felt as if I were listening to a single-driver speaker. The Elan's rich lower midrange let me enjoy the solo-guitar tracks on Marc Ribot's Silent Movies (CD, Pi Pi34), where Ribot used an electric archtop guitar. The rich, bloomy lower midrange of the instrument's middle register made the Epos sound like a much larger speaker. I felt a similar woody bloom from the middle register of János Starker's cello in Bach's Solo Cello Suites.
The Epos reproduced all high frequencies with extension, clarity, and no trace of harshness or loss of sparkle. On every track of trumpeter Liam Sillery's Phenomenology (CD, OA2 Records 22061), the trumpet was bitey and brassy, with perfectly integrated upper harmonics. I also focused on the upper register of Yehudi Menuhin's violin in his recording of Bartók's Violin Concerto 2, with Doráti conducting the Minneapolis Symphony (CD, Mercury 434 350-2). The instrument was searing yet silky, with every subtle detail intact, even in the work's more difficultly phrased passages.
In all classical, jazz, and rock recordings, the midbass through the upper bass was completely clean, crisp, and natural, with no trace of overhang. And with highly dynamic recordings that include deep, punchy bass, the Elan 10 never disappointed, reminding me of a larger floorstanding speaker. This was particularly noticeable with the interplay of bass guitar and drum in "Walking on Sacred Ground," from Janis Ian's Breaking Silence (CD, Morgan Creek/Analogue Productions CAPP-027). I listened to many tracks from this CD through the Elans, and it showed off all of the speaker's strengths: the ability to render detail, transients, and subtle dynamic articulations within a neutral, airy sound.
Breaking Silence gets played a lot in my house. I've listened to tracks from it with every component I've reviewed for Stereophile since the album's original release, in 1993. I recently bought a new copy of this revealing and natural recording from Acoustic Sounds, as I'd worn out my original LP. Through the Elan 10s, I heard details and subtle phrasings in Ian's performance that I'd never noticed beforefrom a recording that I've played more than 100 times. That's quite an achievement.
The Epos M5i resolved less inner detail than the Epos Elan 10, and its highs were less refined and its transients less articulate. Although the M5i's midbass was just as clean as the Elan 10's, the older model's lower midrange wasn't as rich, and its high-level dynamic capabilities weren't as wide. Moreover, the M5i seemed less relaxed with high-level passages, and the Elan 10 resolved more air and ambience.
The Dynaudio Excite X12's rich midbass wasn't as clean as the Elan 10's, which also had far better high-level dynamic performance. The Dynaudio also resolved less inner detail and was less involving, but the two speakers shared excellent low-level dynamic articulation.
The Epos M16i's rich, excellent midbass and high-level dynamics were equal to the Elan 10's, but the M16i's bass seemed to go a bit deeper. The M16i's highs sounded less refined than the Elan 10's, and its overall sound was less involving. Finally, in high-level passages, the M16i's highs seemed a bit more tense.
In the Elan 10, the Epos design team has designed a stunning and virtually flawless loudspeaker. On a number of levels it exceeded the performance of its predecessor, the M5i, and overall, it has impressed me more than any other Epos model I've heard in my house. I've now reviewed several dozen bookshelf speakers, and can think of none that offers more sound quality per dollar than the Elan 10.