Epos M16i loudspeaker Page 2

Every jazz recording I played through the Eposes was a rich experience. "Pannonica," from Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners (45rpm LP, Riverside/Analogue Productions RLP-226), highlighted Eric Henry's breathy, delicate, vibrant alto-sax work, which was never obscured even in the densest passages. The upper register of Monk's celeste was so extended, delicate, and lifelike through the Epos that these 45s took on the qualities of a master tape. In the opening passage of "Mansour's Gift," from Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2), I was able to focus on drummer Mark Flynn's delicate cymbal work, which I had not always been able to do before—through many speakers, Mark is buried in the mix. His superb drumwork breathed as easily as it had when I'd sat at my keyboard 10' away from him the night that concert was recorded.

The M16i was also a superb speaker for classical piano recordings. The Allegro molto of Rachmaninoff's Piano Sonata 2 (CD, Stereophile STPH019-2) was reproduced with all of pianist Robert Silverman's rich, resonant, silky piano tone intact, yet all of the transient snap of the dense rapid passages was reproduced without blunting or slowing, and with a full sense of dynamic slam that was free of harshness.

The Epos reproduced every instrument on every recording I listened to with clarity, speed, transient slam, and no trace of coloration, deep into the midbass. With rock recordings, of course, I've heard deeper, more gut-slamming, more in-your-face bass from other speakers. But through the Eposes, I didn't notice all that much missing from most discs. On all tracks of Dean Peer's Ucross (LP, Jazz Planet JP 5002-1), the M16is revealed Peer's solo electric bass as deep, forceful, dynamic, and yet delicate—but I've heard other speakers shake the room more when Peer plunges into his axe's bottom register. However, in Rutter's Requiem, all organ-pedal notes sounded clear, uncolored, and extended through the M16i, not a single note missing in action.

The most special attribute of the Epos M16is is difficult to describe, but I noticed it the first time I fired them up. I begin my critical listening to any new speaker with a quick runthrough of the first few tracks of Janis Ian's Breaking Silence (CD, Morgan Creek/Analogue Productions CAPP 027). Because I know this recording so intimately, I use it to get my first glimpse of a new speaker's character, and to immediately hear if something isn't working properly. Usually, I get bored within a track or two and quickly move on to something else— Breaking Silence is overplayed in our household. But this time I couldn't tear myself away from the album. I sat down and listened to two, three, four tracks, as the Eposes continued to suck me in. Only my wife yelling that we were going to be late for our dinner reservation pierced the music's noise floor.

In other words: The Epos M16i's special attribute was a sense of involvement and coherence that I've never heard from another affordable speaker. (Hmmm. I guess my new definition of affordability is "$2000/pair and under.") Linnies would call this quality one of "toe-tapping," or the ability to "play a tune." Art Dudley would say that the speaker "makes music." Audiogeeks would call it "spectral and temporal coherence." What matters to me is that, with every recording I played, every frequency of every instrument arrived at my ears uncolored and at precisely the right time, so that the music jelled as a single, lifelike waveform, as it does in a live performance.

The recent death of Mike Smith—writer, vocalist, and keyboardist of the Dave Clark Five—moved me to mine all my DC5 vinyl.1 My favorite DC5 song is the ballad "Because," from American Tour (LP, Epic LN 24117). The rich vocals and lower-midrange organ bath provided an enveloping backdrop for Lenny Davidson's chinky rhythm guitar, which created a textural counterpoint to drummer Clark's cymbal and snare work. The Eposes integrated these instruments into a single coherent soufflé.

The DC5's first album, Glad All Over (LP, Epic LN 24093), includes "Time," which I believe to be their only acoustic jazz recording. The catchy melody on the bridge is doubled by Denny Payton's tenor sax and Rick Huxley's Fender bass, and the Eposes reproduced them as a single, tight sound source. The M16i also made it very easy to follow Mike Smith's upper-register tinkling, revealing this pianist's classical training. Finally, I spun the ballad "Come Home," from Weekend in London (LP, Epic LN 24139), which opens with a vibrant bass line that Huxley plays very staccato, with a pick and the DC5's usual bath of reverb. The Epos speakers reproduced this dynamic envelope with such immediacy that I had to stop what I was doing to stare at them.

I compared the Epos M16i ($1998/pair) with my original review sample of the Epos M5 ($695/pair when offered), the Amphion Helium2 ($1000/pair), and the Monitor Audio Silver RS6 ($1000/pair).

The Epos M5 had a similar overall character to the M16i, while the newer, larger speaker resolved more inner detail, with more extended and delicate highs and superior articulation of transients. The M16i's bass was also more extended; the M5 seemed to compress high-level passages more. Although I clearly preferred Epos's M16i to their M5, I could not determine how much of the improvement was due to the larger, more expensive speaker, and how much was due to its "i" revamping.

The Amphion Helium2's extended high frequencies had a seductively light and airy quality, but this speaker revealed less midrange detail than the M16i, whose bass extension and high-level dynamic performance were also far superior.

The Monitor Audio Silver RS6 had superb inner detail, and extended and detailed high frequencies, but the Epos M16i was better still on both fronts. However, the Monitor bettered the Epos in bass extension and high-level dynamic slam.

Summing up
The Epos M16i is an extraordinarily detailed, delicate, and involving loudspeaker, and a great value to boot. Its attractive cabinetry and small footprint will ring all "Wife Acceptance Factor" bells. (When I removed the far more massive Alón Circes from my listening room and replaced them with the M16is, my wife smiled broadly.) Designer Mike Creek continues to push the envelope with his designs, constantly revamping and upgrading while always offering extraordinary value for money. The audiophile community is lucky to have him.

Footnote 1: Many forget that the Dave Clark Five were more than a flash-in-the-pan British Invasion band. Their sound was unique: upfront vocals and drums bathed in more reverb than a Sun Records single, with a barely audible guitar and a tenor sax that usually doubled the bass. At the time of their first US release, Glad All Over—the very first US platinum record, Epic Records claimed—they were bigger than the Rolling Stones, and they played The Ed Sullivan Show more often (18 appearances) than either the Beatles or the Stones. At the time of its release, I played Glad All Over, which included the DC5's first four singles, more than any other album I owned. Even today, it holds up better than either of the Beatles' first two US releases.
Epos Ltd.
US distributor: Music Hall
108 Station Road
Great Neck, NY 11023
(516) 487-3663