Tekton Design Enzo XL loudspeaker

The CD era was well underway. Rudy Giuliani was about to sweep the crack hoes and squeegee humans off New York's garbage-filled streets. Disney was conquering Times Square. It seemed the perfect time for artists and audio weirdos like myself to go underground. Seeking economic sustainability, I hunkered down in my Seaport bunker and started a little business called Eddie Electric. I found a 23-year-old Japanese business partner named Ryochi who was dealing in big-E Levi's, bubble-back Rolexes, and antique Abarth cars. He was my Seaport, New York–Akihabara, Tokyo connection.

Ryochi had dropped out of school at 16 and had already saved a gillion dollars in vintage $100 bills. Together we imported Tango audio transformers and Black Gate capacitors. To avoid trade deficits, Eddie Electric exported vintage amps and loudspeakers made by Altec, Marantz, and Western Electric.

One day, I forced Ryochi to come with me to Sound by Singer. I wanted him to meet Dave Wilson, of Wilson Audio Specialties, and experience the newest version of Wilson's famous WAMM loudspeaker. Every New York audio scribe and hi-fi aficionado was there. The hors d'oeuvres were pretty good, and so was the WAMM sound. When the pony show was over and we were walking to the subway, I asked Ryo what he thought of the demonstration.

"Giant robots are no fun!"

Ryochi taught me a lot about how to listen to and judge components: not by how I think they should sound, but how they make me feel while listening to my favorite music. Unfortunately . . .

Thinking—and especially that ol' Checkered Demon, critical thinking—happens all the time while I'm writing a review. It happened more than usual while I was listening to the new Tekton Enzo XLs. But this time, thinking was good. Why? Because, while playing music through these 4'-high, five-driver, three-way black monoliths, I didn't just have judgmental thoughts—I had vivid dreams and sensuous memories too! All of which mixed and ran together in the most wondrous and delightful ways.

When I played my first record through the non-broken-in Enzo XLs, I experienced mostly thoughts: Can these Enzos really be as good as they already sound? Are they truly as neutral as I think I'm hearing? And they cost only $2100/pair? Doubt and skepticism rattled my brain. Not to mention that, while I was listening, I kept remembering those early days of the first superbig (and superexpensive) high-end speakers—the days when giants ruled the listening room: Wilson WAMMs, Apogee Scintillas, Magnepan Tympani IIIs, Infinity IRSes, Duntech Sovereigns.

The new Enzo XLs were not only designed by Eric Alexander, founder and president and chief of everything at Tekton Design, LLC—they were also built by him at the Tekton Design facility in Orem, Utah. When I listened to that first recording, I did have one very noticeable feeling: envy. I envied Eric Alexander. He must have had so much fun creating these speakers. I've always wanted to design a great loudspeaker and share it with the world. But alas, designing even an enjoyably good speaker is nearly impossible. After countless tries, I realized that I simply do not have the wide-ranging talents necessary to design even a merely decent loudspeaker. Alexander, on the other hand, appears to have been born to engineer speakers.

Alexander has been designing loudspeakers full time for more than 20 years. Like your humble prattler, he began as a wrench-twirling drag racer. Also like me, he believes he has a gift for "visualizing physics." Most important, Tekton's president shares my nagging desire to figure out what exactly is that stimulus that tells us, when we can't see the musicians, whether we're listening to live or recorded music. Every time I walk down a street and hear, through an open window, the sound of someone playing a piano, I am amazed at how instantly, without any thought, my brain declares it to be a real instrument and not a recording of one. The big question is, what clues does my brain use to tell me it's live? I always speculate. I swear I can picture those tense wavefronts pushing out through the open window. But what is it? Greater volumes of pressurized air? Microdynamics? I don't know, and I wish I did. Fortunately, it sounds as if Eric Alexander is working on our collective behalf to figure it all out.

Description
Each Enzo XL has three SB Acoustics 1" ring-radiator tweeters and two 10" Eminence paper-cone woofers loaded with two 4" front-firing ports. Collectively, these pressurize a lot more air than do most popular hi-fi loudspeakers. The Enzo XL's specified sensitivity of 96.5dB/W/m is almost 10dB higher than that same majority. Speakers this sensitive usually do microdynamics well.

My review samples came in basic Satin Black. Eric Alexander offers three other stock finishes, plus a wide range of optional custom paints and veneers that can make these towers, 48" high by 11.625" wide by 15.125" deep, look as suave and deluxe as those $100,000/pair Class A models you see on the covers of audio magazines. Optional cloth front grilles are also available.

Listening and still thinking . . .
Without desire or plan, I grabbed a strange and (for me) very difficult LP from 1962: Money Jungle, featuring the unusual trio of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach (United Artists UAS 5632). Piano, bass, and drums are all close-miked and mixed in dense, up-close-to-everything early stereo. This record is freaky because I always feel as if I'm sitting not in the audience but right on the edge of the stage. But, to producer Alan Douglas and engineer Bill Schwartau's credit, instrumental tone is almost perfectly right on. I can never quite follow the off-kilter musical threads, but every time I play Money Jungle, I simply wallow in piano and bass tones. Through the Enzo XLs, Ellington's piano and Mingus's bass caused me to speculate about what tape recorder was used. Sometimes, but only with the most vivid recordings, I swear I can feel the magnetic tape as it contacts the recorder heads. The well-broken-in XLs felt like clean magnifying lenses. They took me off the stage and into the recording studio. I couldn't follow the music much, but my brain was measuring the distance from the mikes to the piano's hammers.

Still in my Listen-and-Learn-About-Bartók period, I put on my newly acquired copy of his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, with pianists Wilfrid Parry and Iris Loveridge (1957 mono LP, Westminster XWN 18425). This work of raw modernist invention begins quietly and innocently on pianos, but soon enough is knocking walls down and throwing bricks. The exact opposite of easy or distracted listening, it's a goose-bumping mind twister that's not for the lame or the faint of heart. Imagine walking into a dreamy death dance between two pianos, a snare drum, and timpani. Through the Tektons, the bass tones were tangibly and enjoyably deeper, more natural, more expansive than any I had before experienced at home. Metal snares and drumhead skins sounded sharp and vivid. The pianists' right-hand notes were vibrant and percussive in an easy, natural, musical way. Starting, stopping, and forward momentum were exemplary, but it was the well-balanced tonal precision of the Enzo XL that pulled me into this spectacular recording. For me, this work is about temporal space. I wasn't just hearing the music, I was feeling it—and time-traveling back to Europe ca 1937. Thank you, Béla; thank you, Westminster Records; and thank you, Eric Alexander.

Suddenly, I realized that, not since my Dynaco A50 college days had I had a loudspeaker in my chambre modeste that could go really low in the bass, as the Enzos were doing. It made me want to celebrate and binge on E. Power Biggs or Sly and Robbie. Instead, I put on "Thousand Island Park," from the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Birds of Fire (1973 LP, Columbia 31996). My first thought was How easily I have let myself become satisfied without that sensuous and gloriously tactile bottom octave. The Enzos didn't just play Rick Laird's bass notes—they let me feel them. The XLs didn't present to my brain the idea of bass, as all of my small speakers do—they massaged me with expanding wavefronts. There was something unique and extremely natural about the way the Tektons projected bass energy into the room. They got not only the tone, the attack, and the decay, but the plucked-string pulling-up emphasis of the bass player's art. The Enzos did an especially good job of connecting me to the humans making the music.

COMPANY INFO
Tekton Design LLC
1488 W. 400 S.
Orem, UT 84058-5139
(801) 836-0764
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
BradleyP's picture

It's good to see this company (this man?) get serious attention. Tekton owners--tubophiles, mainly--rave about their speakers and wouldn't be parted from them. Their $1k floorstanders seem to set a standard in the category, as the Enzo is now implied to do with its enviable Class B recommendation. I've never heard Tektons but am eager to do so.

Jacob Nielsen's picture

This speaker may be a fun listen, but it has fundamental issues: The cumulative spectral decay plot hints that the woofers output extend into breakup region. Sacrificing two of the tweeters for a dedicated midrange would have resulted in a conventional (boring?) 3-way performing better at the same parts cost.

tektondesign's picture

Good loudspeaker design at this price point ($1050 each) is an exercise in trade-offs and I personally don't see any of this as a deal breaker. One could always go with the smaller original Enzo (8" diameter) and sidestep the issue entirely.

Jacob Nielsen's picture

So a dedicated midrange was traded off for two extra tweeters? And an extra woofer? These are not cheap tweeters, and they are good tweeters, but they are not midrange drivers. Having 3 units to distribute the burden does help some, but then the resonant frequency should have been lower (units must have bigger rear chambers) Two woofers is a way to lower distortion while trying to deliver midrange. The drawback is twice the box volume - and twice the parts cost. A conventional 3-way could be made from similar parts (plus midrange unit) at around 2/3 material cost, smaller box, but still deeper bass, cleaner midrange, less vertical treble beaming. Why then was this conventional design not reviewed, why wasn't it built? Because it would look boring, right?

tektondesign's picture

Thanks. Not much in the world of loudspeaker design ever gets too "boring" for me. In my estimation the Enzo XL doesn't contain "drawback" attributes. There is more going on with this model/design than you are perceiving. I see it as forward thinking innovation that sounds great and delivers something truly special at a $1050 price point.

Jacob Nielsen's picture

...has been cleverly dealt with, it seems, by having only one of the units handling the top frequencies. My point is just this: a wwttt is a bit of a gimmick.

tektondesign's picture

I invite you to review the past successes of our company. I would be saddened to ever be perceived as a company that produces "gimmick" products.

Jacob Nielsen's picture

...has been cleverly dealt with, it seems, by having only one of the units handling the top frequencies. My point is just this: a wwttt is a bit of a gimmick.

tektondesign's picture

I invite you to review the past successes of our company. I would be saddened to ever be perceived as a company that produces "gimmick" products.

Allen Fant's picture

Excellent review, as always, HR. What happened to your friend Ryochi?
I will add these speakers to my must-demo list. Reading over your review, you mentioned about hearing deep Bass- this is accomplished by drivers at least 10" in diameter. It is wonderful to see/read about a manufacturer placing double 10" drivers per cabinate. This practice makes all of the difference.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Says a lot. That's an odd choice to mate a 10" driver right to a 1" one.

Putting three 1" drivers vertically like that is also odd, but it's less unusual to find a speaker which demands listening on a limited vertical axis.

They're affordable and offer high efficiency relative to other non mass market floorstanders, but I'm skeptical they'd really compete with the Vandie 1C or the similarly priced JBL or Polk floorstanders.

Audio Fyle's picture

Not sure about the Vandersteens. Been many a year since I heard any. But trust me, these will leave the comparable JBL's in the dust.

Audio Fyle's picture

Having heard the Enzo's big brother the Pendragon, I can honestly say that I have never heard a speaker more dynamic. Shame it was at a show, so I really couldn't give them the audition they deserved. But I was amazed at their musicality and power.

By the way, I find it interesting that you chose Mahavishnu for auditioning material. One of my go to discs for speaker testing is 'Visions Of An Inner Mounting Apocalypse'...an excellent Mahavishnu tribute CD featuring some of modern fusion's greatest guitar talent. Smokin' disc and the dynamics really give speakers a working over.

AllanMarcus's picture

"I have never heard a speaker more dynamic"

I just learning the lingo. I thought Dynamic meant the range of a speaker to reproduce very quiet and very loud passages of music. Might I ask, what do you mean by "dynamic". I will be attending RMAF in Oct, and Tekton will be there, so I am really looking forward to hearing their speakers.

scott.w's picture

Nice review.

tektondesign's picture

An ad hominem attack – how sad. Truly discerning if Herb’s right or wrong requires some real thought and effort.

scott.w's picture

Redacted

tektondesign's picture

The word is discerning. As in discern... to perceive or recognize.

dbs5150's picture

I have some insight on these speakers. I went to a high-end A/V company and auditioned two sets of speakers. First the Vaunted Golden Ear Triton 1. Sterile, mechanical sounding and when I asked the salesman to put on "Brain Damage" from "Dark Side of The Moon" it was a disaster. The ribbon tweeter could not handle the music, it was nothing but a horrible failure, it turned to spaghetti. The salesman rushed into the listening room to turn the the amp down. He the admitted "well his music IS very dynamic."$5000 for that? The low end Martin Logans were not much better.

So on to Tekton. Yes I rolled the dice on not hearing the speakers, and I am glad I did. The first cd I put on was "Dark Side of The Moon". The same friend that was with me(no clue about hi-end audio) at the hi/end demo busted out laughing at how great the speakers sounded. She could not believe it, even SHE knew these were much, much, better than what we heard AND it was with a cheap Yamaha receiver. Not the $50 thousand dollar amp set-up at the a/v store.

This is a "Real world" experience from a audiophile and a lay person.

Listen to them BEFORE you give your "theory" opinion.

iListen's picture

which ML's are you talking about please?
I am looking high an low for a speaker that I find satisfying for around $2k
I found a local place where I can go listen to the ML motion 40's.

I also want speakers I can drive without needing a $5000 amp. Considering something like NAD 375, or Nova 125SE, etc etc, $1500-ish range

dbs5150's picture

And "Brain Damage" was handled by these speakers absolutely perfect. These speakers handle everything, wait until you hear classical music on them. WOW.

sharethemusic's picture

let me just say this.every single person,without fail,who has entered my music room states the following:"best speaker,andy..i have ever heard in my life".....no over analytical approach,no measurements,no words..the PROOF IS IN THE LISTENING. i owned altec lansings as a kid playing thru mcintosh..than i owned dalquists dq20's thru college and beyond...i have listened to many home audio systems with 25k and up speakers. the enzo xl is BETTER than any i have heard. i might add i have erics lore reference in my living room. there sooooooo amazing as well. forget best value.best speaker maker in US period. andy rothman sharethemusic@aol.com

reubenr's picture

Regrettably, this is my first post, so it will be longer than it need have been. Much of the speaker commentary is not very helpful, since they seem to reflects biases that are ungrounded for the most part or are so esoteric, they beg for irrelevance. These speakers seem to get some very positive reviews with only minor negative commentary, the latter having mostly very little to do with how they sound, but more like a nit picking engineering feud that might mean something, but to those who are trying to make a purchase, it means little or nothing, mostly nothing. The last post by "1st Person" seems like a very relevant post, since he has heard and lived with the speakers. There are other very relevant posts, as well. I guess the only real question that I would have is the conflict between the stated SPL and the tested, which seems to present quite a variance. Either the speakers are easy to drive with a tube amp like the Cronus Magnum II or they are borderline or worse. It makes a difference to get the facts straight. Why there is such a big difference seems very confusing, but, like I said, this is my first post, so what do I know. I've been listening to great music for a very long time and have never really wondered about the speaker's ability to deliver the goods, but now that I have a few bucks to throw around, why not try to get the best. These sound like they would sound very good in a small to medium sized room for a wide variety of music with the emphasis on musicality rather than loudness. No?

Rust's picture

Herb,

Thank you for the review. Prior to your review I had never heard of Tekton Designs. I had been looking for a new set of speakers for a couple of years as my ancient and much loved primary speakers could no longer be repaired as I had already bought the last mid-driver in existence. I had listened to a LOT of potential replacements in the $10k and under range and was in general disappointed. So I called Tekton, spoke to Eric, and based on that conversation ordered the larger Pendragons.

Once received, I tossed the packing material the next day, they were NOT going back. Like my old Fender Tweed and Washburn T-Bird Deluxe, they are keepers. Yeah, the driver layout is different, they don't weigh a ton, they aren't made of exotic unobtanium. They just work on everything from Hillary Hahn to Led Zeppelin. You'd have to spend a lot more money to find a speaker that had better overall performance. After a year my opinion is unchanged.

Once again, thank you Herb

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