Review samples supplied by Ohm Audio
Retail price in the Netherlands, including 21% VAT: 13.800 euro
Since the year 2000, Analysis Audio has been making everything in-house while relying on the raw materials from suppliers all over the world: Magnets manufactured in South America, woofer membrane materials from the UK, midrange/treble membranes from France, Capacitors for the cross-overs from Germany and certain chemicals such as glues are from the USA. In stark contrast with Apogees and Magnepans, the Analysis Audio woofer foils are tensioned with rubber surrounds, more or less similar to how traditional dynamic woofers use a rubber surround to couple the cone to the metal basket. This makes it possible for the foil to be nice and tight yet also flexible and well-damped.
The stand is attached simply by inserting four Ikea-style locking-screws.
Also in-house, is a big automatic milling machine, controlled via AutoCAD files, to produce the woodwork with high precision. Additionally, all ancillary works, even those requiring particular expertise, such as computer-aided design, graphics, silk printing, etc., are performed in house.
All the Analysis models are two-way designs with a cross-over frequency of 600-800Hz with a 6dB slope. Apparently, Analysis Audio has even supplied replacement foils for Apogee loudspeakers although I have never seen or heard these. In any event, they don’t produce these anymore.
With the four screws attached to the speakers, all that remains is to slide the stand on top and tightening it in four places.
The validity of the phenomenon of Running In may be questioned with respect to some products but with loudspeakers, it is definitely real. Certainly, with the Analysis Audio Epsilons, the beneficial effect of running in is not to be underestimated.
When they were delivered to me, the Epsilons had already been used for a certain amount of time but, clearly, they needed more running in. While they were immediately impressively tight and accurate in the bass, extremely low in distortion, wide-imaging and refreshingly free from any coloration, with all but the smoothest tracks, I found the treble often to be overbearing and sometimes downright piercing. After a couple of days during which they had been used at least 6 hours per day, the speakers had become more relaxed and were already less bright, but still, there was a tendency for peaks to sound hard and there was a subtle but always-present overall tizzy pushiness that quickly got tiring on the ears. In comparison, the Magico S1 MkII’s and Martin Logan ESL15A’s were considerably smoother as well as a little darker, even though at this stage in the review, these speakers were placed roughly halfway into the room at 3,5 meters while the Analysis speakers were placed in the same positions as I used the Apogees at roughly 4,5 meters from the listening position.
At this point, I got into contact with Derk and Luuk to check if what I heard was representative for these speakers but I was assured that they just needed more running in. Apparently, it can even be read elsewhere on the web that a reviewer initially thought the speakers were defective, so, this is not to be taken lightly.
What followed was a very royal amount of running in. I literally had them running all day and even when I was away. The only moments that they would not play were for the much-needed rest at night.
Above: front side, below: rear side
Every now and then, I’d sit down and listen with any music that would happen to be playing while Roon was on “Radio” mode, not with a selected playlist. Naturally, I heard the speakers play all day long but due to their narrow vertical dispersion, it was not possible to properly assess how far they had improved in terms of their brightness being tamed without sitting down in the listening position. That’s one reason why I may have given them more time than they really needed and also, I just wanted to be certain to have given them all the opportunity to shine. Eventually, they had been playing for 3 weeks.
Above: if you look closely, you can see the aluminum foil is attached to a transparent foil that is itself suspended in a brown/orange rubber surround. Also visible are the large magnets, organized in a vertical manner, as opposed to the horizontal manner for all Apogees.
Right from the start, the Epsilons had great bass, not a lot of it, but deeper than one might expect from a full-range ribbon and of very high quality. It’s accurate, tight, fast and very tuneful. Don’t expect the gut-kicking oomph from a large dynamic floor standing speaker but neither the chestiness, one-note-ness, or any coloration that often comes along with such designs. The rest of the frequency range needed some time to get on song but once properly bedded-in, the midrange was pure, articulate, neither warm nor cool, and blended in perfectly with the bass. Even after prolonged running-in, the treble remains slightly bright, brighter, indeed, than that of the Magicos and not quite as refined but then, few tweeters are. Nevertheless, the Epsilon’s treble is airy and wide-open, highly resolving and while a little forward, not hard or edgy.
Tonally, the speakers are very neutral. They are not euphonic, not enriched but neither are they cool or devoid of color. They expose all the textures in recordings and timbrally they are very convincing. There is definitely no artifice here.
The Epsilons have room-filling soundstage capabilities and they do so in the lateral plane (sideways) almost irrespective of how they are placed. Longitudinal imaging (front to back), however, is more critical and the center image only snaps into focus when the speakers are positioned just so. In my case, the position was found very easily because I had previous knowledge from owning countless Apogee models. A modest amount of toe-in (approx 4 centimeters) was best when combined with a relatively wide placement, approximately 2 meters from the rear wall, and thus 5 meters from the wall behind the listening position. Set up this way, their imaging is in line with what I have come to expect from Apogees and Magnepans: spacious and well-focused at the same time with a good sense of recording space depth.
While dynamic speakers, especially those with bass reflex ports, need to be placed more or less in the middle of my room to avoid room modes and excess booming, dipoles like to be at around a quarter of the room. Due to their unique behavior, they pretty much do not excite any room modes, yet their placement near walls does aid their deep bass response. With Apogees, that can lead to spectacular, if excessive, bass but wth the Epsilons, some room-reinforcement is actually required. The upside is that you can place them relatively close to the rear and side walls without fear of getting a boomy sound. However, take this too far and the imaging depth will suffer. In most situations, one meter will be enough, less is possible and more is better. Thanks to their narrow vertical “throw”, these speakers don’t lose much energy even when placed far from the listening position. With this in mind, my advice is to first seek the position that allows for the best bass and then optimize the placement for best focus and soundstaging.
Dynamically, no dipole planar speaker will have Wilson-like dynamics but the Epsilons do very well and they are actually very expressive and well-differentiated. With the Apogee Divas, mid-bass could lack tension and propulsion and to a certain extent this was also the case with the Duettas, but here, the Epsilon passes with flying colors. It may even have the tightest and cleanest mid-bass that I’ve heard from a dipole speaker! If there’s any slam that could be said to be missing, it’s in the lowest register. But even when playing heavy R&B or electronic music and the lowest notes lack weight, the bass is so integer and coherent that the performance is still toe-tapping and enjoyable. In many ways, they behave like truly excellent small monitor speakers minus the cabinet- and port colorations.
The Epsilons are very linear and remarkably coherent and they are easily more transparent than any number of dynamic speakers even at a very high cost. There really are precious few “cabinet” speakers that come close to, or even improve on, the freedom of boxiness and remarkable lack of coloration the way that true dipoles such as the Epsilons can. And those that do, carry extreme price tags. A point in case are the Magico’s, which are a match in terms of transparency, coherence and neutrality while adding more powerful bass and smoother, more refined treble, at a 10K higher cost.
How about other magnetostatic dipoles? Apogee is long gone but this brand’s performance is etched into my permanent memory. And although the Analysis models look visually more like Apogees than Magnepans, I feel that the sound of the Epsilons is closer to Magnepan than Apogee. The Epsilons are easily more coherent and less restrained in the upper bass than I remember the MG3.6R’s to be and they seem to be more dynamic than the 1.7’s as well. But they are still a little restrained compared to very good dynamic speakers and they do not sound as generous and free-flowing as Apogees.
That generous and free-flowing aspect has its roots in the bass which with Apogees is admittedly on the voluptuous side and hard to really control well, even with the smallest full-range models. But when under control, the Apogee bass is deep and royal and organic and very involving and this carries through in a very lifelike midrange. With the Epsilons, the bass is more slender and less forceful but also tighter, more tensioned and more accurate. This sense of control and accuracy is heard throughout the speaker’s frequency range making it very coherent but also giving it a slightly “measured” quality. For me, this creates more a cerebral experience, instilling respect rather than infatuation. Of course, the Epsilon is only the second model up and I have no doubt that deeper bass and, possibly, also a more free-flowing delivery can be had by opting for a larger model.
While I respect the Epsilons and they outperform rows and rows of dynamic speakers on many facets, their “measured” delivery does not involve me as much emotionally as the old Apogees used to do. And if the choice is between Analysis and Magico I’d stick with the latter but that’s only fair given the huge price difference.
In a market where we can spend 13.800 for a pair of new speakers, what are the competitors? Honestly, in the fields where the Epsilons excel, there are only a few. And those that do sound more voluptuous and/or more free-flowing tend to also sound colored or uneven while most that are as precise and transparent also tend to be a little cerebral. There is only a single dynamic speaker that springs to mind as having similar strengths is the Paradigm Persona B but I’d have to hear them side by side with the Epsilons to say more about how they compare precisely.
In the camp of magnetostatics that are still relatively affordable, there are pretty much only Magnepan and relative newcomer Diptique. The former offers really good value for money but I know first-hand that reliability is an issue. As for the latter, I have only heard it at shows, with mixed results.
An alternative in the dipole camp is Martin Logan but that means opting for a hybrid electrostatic system. A pair of ESL11A’s costs almost the same as the Epsilons and even though these can sound a little synthetic in the lower midrange and are tonally not as natural, and even though their dynamic woofer section is not as coherent as the best two-way dynamic speakers, they do deliver thunderous bass along with superb resolution and refinement. I was personally quite taken with the performance of the 11A’s but ultimately decided differently due to their unnatural timbre. The ESL15A’s do get this right but at a 100% price increase and a price point more than double the Epsilon’s cost.
The biggest selling points for the Epsilons, I think, are their linearity, precision and reliability. As any Apogee owner will know, it was virtually impossible to completely eliminate the characteristic buzz. While personal experience taught me that the buzz issue is not as bad as some will have you believe, none of the models that I heard were absolutely 100% buzz-free. The Epsilon, however, truly is. Trust me, I tried my very best to upset it. I played the most vicious drum and bass with parts where only the bass thumps and no other sounds are in the mix, perfect for laying bare any residual swinging of the foils but, no matter how hard I tried, it just did not happen.
I even played James Blake’s Limit to your love with its ridiculously low-frequency “wobble” very loudly but the speakers just remain clean, clear, tight, articulate and absolutely free from distortion. They may not be bass monsters in the traditional sense but these speakers really are unflappable! The rubber surrounds may well play an important part in this and now I only wonder what the bigger models up would achieve.
The Epsilons worked splendidly with the CH Precision A1.5 but I realize that this amp costs an arm and a leg. And then another set of limbs. Fortunately, the speakers also worked surprisingly well with the affordable NuPrime ST10 class-D amplifier. While not as refined, fluid or as highly resolving as my Swiss reference, the diminutive NuPrime drives the Epsilons with gusto. It controls them just as well, produces superb bass and sounds very involving.
I also tried the Ayon Spirit III KT-150 tube amplifier. While its 4-ohm taps made the speakers sound a little lazy, its 8-ohm taps produced an even-handed, upbeat and neutral sound. Tubes can have the power to incur a sense of magic, a lush yet richly-textured midrange and an alluring presence when the combination clicks. While there was indeed an extra lyrical quality to the sound and the Ayon clearly had no issues driving the Epsilons I still had the feeling that it wasn’t ideal. The bass was certainly well-controlled but just a little lackluster compared to the NuPrime or CH Precision which both ultimately provided a more incisive, more expressive and more convincing sound, not only in the bass but overall. Even if the Ayon is certainly not underpowered, it seems that the speakers do prefer more powerful amplifiers and I’d say that transistors are the best way to go unless one opts for big multi-tubed designs. The Zesto Eros 300 amps spring to mind…
As the Epsilons are a little spicy I would avoid overly bright sounding cables. For the majority of my listening, I used the CH Precision Balanced Link XLR cables because they are the absolute most neutral ones that I have. Very nice alternatives are the Final Touch Audio Ganymede XLR cables. They have all of the resolution of the CH cable but with a superbly fluid refinement. These cables helped bring out the airiest treble while maintaining the maximum in resolution. For an extra kick in the bass but less refined and airy treble, the Vermouth Reference XLR cable did very well.
The Driade Flow 405 speaker cable turned out to be the perfect match right from the start, combining free-flowing soundstaging with a high level of refinement and a neutral yet organic overall delivery.
The Analysis Audio Epsilons produce a sound so clean, clear, open, transparent and so utterly uncolored that many traditional cabinet speakers can only aspire to. In addition, the Epsilons have bass that rivals what very good headphones can do, even when set up in positions where normal speakers will inevitably sound muffled and will invoke heavy room-modes. More a wide-open window than romantic sweet-talkers, these are speakers for those who are tired of hearing colorations and want to hear precisely what the system is doing.