Epos ES 14 loudspeaker Page 3

I have already discussed the superior overall dimensionality produced by the Eposes. In one respect, however, they came in behind the Snells: that of overall sense of space and expansiveness. Perhaps this was because the Eposes had less extreme HF than the Qs, or a narrower radiation pattern. Whatever the reason, the Eposes presented a less open, airy soundspace, although they gave the best presentation of depth and were superb in image focus.

The Epos shares another characteristic with the other loudspeakers here: it is not comfortable at lease-breaking levels. But don't get the idea we're talking background music here; the levels it would reach without discomfort were sometimes surprising, though serenading the neighborhood is probably out (unless you live in a particularly cozy neighborhood). If that's your intention, and this is your price range, you'll probably have to settle for something more stentorian but, in all likelihood, less accurate.

I've already stated that the Eposes grew on me slowly, and that may be their biggest liability in a marketplace crowded with "Listen to me!" loudspeakers. But they will repay careful audition. If my Webster's serves me right, Epos means "epic poetry." That about sums it up.

Do the three speakers I review in this issue meet the requirement that, for the price asked, the "rest of the story" compensates for the relative low-end sacrifice? Yes, I'm happy to report, they do. But they all have to make other inevitable compromises along the way (we haven't yet found the perfect loudspeaker, even the perfect loudspeaker with limited low-end extension).

"OK," pipes up the neophyte audiophile and jaded pro, "which one would you buy?" I hate that, because it implies that my choice of preferred design compromises should be yours. But, since it's fun to put reviewers on the hot seat, I will say that it was the Epos to which I kept coming back as a cross check, and the Epos which most often enticed me to listen to whole sides of music when I intended to hear just a brief sample.

Like most imported loudspeakers, the Epos suffers price disadvantages in shipment, but it is definitely competitive in this price class; the price/performance scale is fuzzier with loudspeakers than with most other components.

Some of the other speakers which should be on your short-list in the $1000/pair-or-less category, and which have been reviewed in these pages and with which I have some familiarity, include the Spicas (both models—the Angelus at $1150 and the TC50 at $550), the Siefert Magnum III ($833) and Maxim IIID ($599), the Kindel Purist LT ($850), the LS3/5A in its various guises ($450), the Spendor SP1 ($950), the Spectrum 410 ($749), and the Celestion SL6S ($900). I have not auditioned the Thiel CS1 ($950) recently, nor the Synthesis LM-210 ($1050) at all, but as the other loudspeakers in these makers' lines have strong family resemblances, I would not hesitate to add them to the list.

The Vandersteen 2C ($1195) is a perennial value, though it has undergone updating since our last review (we hope to review the latest version soon). For other recommendations, see JA's latest installments of the great loudspeaker saga (Vol.11 No.1 and elsewhere in this issue).

I can only reiterate what I have stated above (and what JA has stated in more detail in the referenced issues): no loudspeaker in this price range can do it all. The relative accuracy of each model must be evaluated by each listener based upon his or her judgment of the relative importance of the inevitable compromises. And you must make such a judgment with the realization that your opinion on these compromises may (and likely will) vary over time. No loudspeaker choice is forever, but with a little searching and careful auditioning, you will find one to satisfy both your perceptions and your pocketbook.