ESP Speaker Concert Fidelity Amplifier , Steve Hoffman Report

ESP Speaker Concert Fidelity Amplifier , Steve Hoffman Report

یکشنبه 2 ژانویه 2011
/ / /

استو هافمن رو میشناسید یکی از مهندسان صدا و آئودیوفیل های درست حسابیه که نظراتش به من نزدیکه.

http://www.stevehoffman.tv/dhinterviews/

ایشون نظرشون رو در مورد بلندگوی ESP و آمپلی فایر Concert Fidelity نوشتند که جالبه. من حدس میزنم با این وضعیت ای که بازار داره احتمالا برند ESP هم مثل برندهای بسیار خوب دیگری چون Hovland و Lyra از دور خارج بشه و دیگه محصول تولید نکنه. امیدوارم ESP قبل از تعطیل شدن به ایران بیاد.

http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-83750.html

Steve Hoffman
06-16-2006, 07:40 PM
I’m lucky. Because of the work I do I get offered free stereo gear all the time from kindly manufacturers who want me to endorse their products. I’m always willing to try something out but usually it goes right back. I’m pretty picky. I rediscovered ESP speakers in a different way. Back in the ancient ’90’s a friend who was the insurance rep for DCC Compact Classics had me over to his house to check out his new stereo which consisted of a Sony CD player, a VAC Renaissance 30/30 power amp and a pair of medium sized speakers by the name of ESP. I remember thinking at the time that the amp/speaker duo made a very pleasing sound, quite unlike the “in your face” razzle dazzle of most upscale audio gear being produced around that time. I filed that factoid in my brain. A few years ago I was giving a lecture at the Rocky Mtn. Audio Show in Denver and I wanted to check my music disc to see if it would play correctly. Noticing that there was an ESP room at the show I remembered the nice sound at Mark’s house and just walked in the room and asked to use the system for a few minutes. Well, the ESP Bodhrans were in there and the Concert Fidelity electronics and I remember sitting there and thinking that this was a sound that I could listen to for hours at a time without getting my ears burned off. Now I have almost the exact system in my house courtesy of ESP and Concert Fidelity. Like I said, I’m lucky.

I want give you a few thoughts on ESP Speakers.

I wrote earlier about how the combination of my ESP Bodhran SE speakers and Concert Fidelity electronics have given me uncommon musical pleasure along with the subtle kind of harmonic, timbral and dynamic nuance I need to hear in my mastering work. (See article here….):

http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=83356

To get both of these at the same time is much rarer than most people think, so I’d to talk a little about it here, focusing on the ESP speakers. But first, I need to define “musicality,” a word which is so often misused but which definitely defines ESP.

Words are tossed around in audio circles all the time without rigorous definitions. To a lot of over-analytic audiophiles, “musicality” can be a bad word, implying smoothing-over details in order to make a component easy to listen to. To others, “musicality” is totally subjective–whatever they like is termed “musical,” no matter how “hi-fi” it sounds. When I say a component is musical, I mean it manages to sound organically whole and seamless and has the ability to move air and convey emotion WITHOUT sacrificing the nuances of detail, harmonics, timing, and microdynamics; all essential for “lifelike reproduction of sound” (to use a J. Gordon Holt phrase). Friends, getting all of this right AT ONE TIME is a rare feat—many “hi-fi” components err on the side of an overly analytic presentation which dissects the music and loses that needed wholeness. Still other components err on the side of lush and smooth, lacking the nuance necessary to be ultimately satisfying—but it’s a feat the ESP’s perform, and especially in combination with world-class electronics like the Concert Fidelity stuff.

I have heard Sean McCaughan’s (the designer of ESP) creations and met him on numerous occasions, both at the CES, Stereophile Show and at my house and he is a great guy who knows what he likes in the way of reproduced sound. I can definitely say that he is a different kind of speaker designer. I would almost describe him more as a design artist than as a technologist. Although he’s obviously knowledgeable and experienced in speaker design (dating back almost 30 years to when he designed on the Beveridge electrostatic team), he is a modest man who would much rather talk about MUSIC than about technology. He goes to a lot of concerts, and his focus is on building products that are timeless and intensely musical, rather than on writing white papers hyping the latest technology. I think his results really speak for themselves: A very palpable, spacious, dimensional, seamless, NATURAL sound, but with unlimited macrodynamics so the speakers can get up and rock if they have to (if you have the juice).

His speakers incorporate some design features which are very different from today’s trends in speakers and they may be hard for some audiophiles to understand at first, since so many people are attracted to speakers that jump out and grab you immediately with tipped-up highs or bone-crunching bass, even if that’s not what real music sounds like. Sean always like to say that ESP’s are not technically “audiophile” speakers—they’re not pyrotechnic enough for many listeners and it’s true that ESP’s may not stand out at shows because there are just too many bright “hi-fi” systems all around to condition showgoers’ ears in the wrong way. Oftentimes, the people you’ll see hanging around the ESP room at shows are musicians and other true music lovers who know what music is supposed to sound like, not audio nerds or gearheads who are looking to hear this or that sonic artifact in a short sound-byte. Not that his speakers are an acquired taste, let me just say that you have to listen for more than a few minutes to let your ears get reaccustomed to a natural sound palate. I always hang out in the ESP room at a stereo show when I want to decompress from the wacky and go back to the lifelike. 🙂 After 10 minutes with the ESP’s, I’m calm again.

Let me list several of the unusual things Sean does to achieve the sound he wants. Oh, by the way, these speakers really could be called labors of love by Sean, if they weren’t so time-consuming and backbreaking to build! A pair of Bodhran SE’s takes two weeks from start to finish, and a pair of Concert Grand SI’s takes longer! This is a true pain in the *** and only someone totally committed to getting an exact sound could do it.

First, Sean angles the front baffles in by forty-five degrees, causing the on-axis sound from the two speakers to cross several feet in front of the listener. This leads to a very wide listening position, the first criterion for a speaker designed for natural music reproduction. No head-in-a-vise stuff here, but amazingly, the imaging is still solid and very dimensional.

Another thing Sean does to achieve extra spaciousness is use aperiodically damped venting to release out-of-phase sound from the woofers and midrange out of the sides of the speakers. There is also a side-firing tweeter which is down in level and out of phase. This design feature makes the speakers almost like dipoles. They throw an unusually wide and deep soundstage, but without sacrificing the important solidity of the central image. In fact, their image solidity and dimensionality is rather unique and actually much better than what you get from most audiophile speakers. Sean says he is asked all time at shows if his speakers are electrostatics! Cracks him up.

A third thing he does is use SEALED-BOX DESIGNS. The aperiodically damped venting is not the same as ports, and you will not hear any “boom” from Sean’s speakers. If the speakers are properly set up (and preferably spiked into concrete like mine are) you will hear very extended bass, but it is not the kind of port-induced artificial boom or slam that so many speakers resort to in order to get bass out of small cabinets. Yes, ESP’s are somewhat large for their frequency response. Sean designs speakers the old-fashioned way, with no gimmicks, but with the creative design touches mentioned above.

The irony in all this is that ESP DO deliver all the craved-for audiophile goods like detail resolution and imaging and soundstaging—again, they’re absolute kings in terms of imaging and soundstaging—but in such a natural way that they don’t jump out and hit you over the bean. Anyone who thinks “musical” means sacrificing detail should hear what I’ve heard when I’ve switched electronics or cables or even vacuum tubes. In fact, I hear these changes even MORE on the ESP’s than on most speakers, and it’s really quite amazing to me how they can be so musically enjoyable and yet so resolving at the same time. That is true design art, and in my opinion, unique.

The other night, Sean, Mike Verretto (US distributor) and I had a truly magical experience listening to some Frankie Sinatra on my ESP/Concert Fidelity system (a rare system in that I can use it for both mastering and listening). There was an extremely realistic and palpable presence to the sound, especially in the midrange, which put Frank scarily close to being in the room, even on this 1953 monaural recording. I even heard a french horn part that I hadn’t heard before on other systems. With my current ESP/CF system, I’m getting a lot more of that magic these days, and I’m too jaded to say that lightly. What is so addictive about the midrange is that it is very rich and tonally natural but also highly resolving, as long as the electronics are up to the job. On too many speakers, that palpability in the midrange seems to get lost in the quest to make the lows and highs stand out so that the speakers are more “impressive” and easier to sell. But even with their magical midrange, the ESP’s don’t sound bloated or chesty, which would happen if a less talented or sensitive designer tried to emphasize the midrange.

One quirky thing about these speakers is that they do take some skill in setup. Because of their additional side-firing output, they are VERY sensitive to room placement but they do respond to minute care in placement as all great speakers should. Of course, friends and neighbors, I’m lucky to have had Sean himself visit my place to set them up properly, and when that setup is done right, the speakers completely disappear, which you would not expect from their large size. This allows them to sound equally as convincing on intimate jazz or chamber music as on Bad Company, Van Morrison or a giant orchestra playing something by Leroy Anderson (check out the great SACD on Mercury Living Presense).

Like all good things in life, these speakers are not inexpensive ($16K for the Bodhran SE’s, which I have now, and $40K for their bigger brothers, the Concert Grand SI’s), but they are hand-built artisan products in which the designer himself is actively involved at every stage of design and production. They are speakers to last your lifetime (my insurance buddy still has his and he LOVES to change gear every few years) and worth the money. Heck, if you bought a Honda Civic you would spend 20 grand and have nothing in 6 years. Your ESP’s on the other hand will still be going strong in 20.

OK, blathering over, time to summarize:

Speaker choice is highly personal, since speakers always have more “character” than electronics. But if you are looking for the same things I am: an organic, seamless, spacious, dynamic presentation, with lots of natural detail rather than the hyped-up “audiophile” kind; and especially, if you’re really interested in music rather than just sounds, go hear these beautiful babies!

http://esploudspeakersna.com/welcome/index.html

Here is a shot of ESP designer Sean McCaughan’ and I at CES with the larger ESP speakers. Note the pretty burled maple wood. I have the maple Bodhrans in my living room; very good WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).

تو بخش دیگری اینطور نوشتند :

Friends, for the last couple of months, and especially since the Stereophile show, I’ve had much more chance to listen to the ESP/Concert Fidelity system that is in my main listening room and I’ve decided to write down some more thoughts. I’m convinced that this system is perfect for the serious audiophile and music lover. The ESP Bodhran SE monitors and the Concert Fidelity 6BFG monoblock amplifiers and matching CF-040 tubed line stage are getting quite a workout at my place and constantly furnishing me with great sound. My thoughts on the ESP loudspeakers I will post in a separate thread. I want to elaborate on the Japanese Concert Fidelity electronics here. Allow me to gush for a few minutes.

The system I’m using now is the first I’ve had that both allows me to master accurately AND makes me want to sit down and listen to music even after a long day of mastering. Even when I listen for relaxation, I expect to be able to hear all the details and nuances I’m so used to hearing on the master tape, but in a natural, organic, totally non-fatiguing sort of way. Most systems err either on the side of being overly analytic without naturalness and organic “wholeness”, or on the side of rich and lush while missing the nuances I try to bring out in my mastering. My current system, even in a less-than-optimal setup (with a big old grand piano between and behind the speakers), is a true miracle of great sound. It’s so lifelike and yet so un-“hi-fi” that I’ve heard things on the mixes that I’ve never noticed before, and yet without ever sacrificing crucial musicality. With this system, I’ve come as close to the sound of the master tapes as I ever have before. Sinatra and Elvis were scarily close to being in the room with us the other night, and I don’t say that lightly.

Concert Fidelity Electronics
http://www.audiocriticalmass.com/

Some people like tube sound, some like solid state. But I feel the perfect electronics should combine the best of both worlds—the transient speed and transparency (and bass) of solid state without the grain; the timbral magic and dimensionality of tubes without mushy bass and rolled off highs and lack of focus. For example, pairing the Concert Fidelity original prototype electronics with the Venture CR-8 speakers in my mastering room, I’m now getting the best bass I’ve ever heard in that room in eight years of living here. Because of their incredible midrange magic, the Concert Fidelity electronics remind me of just why I’ve always loved tubes, but they also point out clearly how not all tube electronics are even close to being equal. The Concert Fidelity stuff has a clarity (presumably because of their highly simplified but wacky perfectionist circuitry) which allows me to hear much more of the microdynamic and harmonic nuances and transient speed that other tube electronics simply miss or gloss over or just choose to ignore, and this becomes addictive and necessary for testing my mastering work, as well as for listening. It’s the kind of magic that most people might not even know existed until they’ve once heard it, but once they have, they realize how much of the nuances are getting lost through other electronics. No going back after this for me. I’m too spoiled; it’s friggin’ addictive, mates.

But first, one minor caveat: Those of you (anyone out there?) who heard the Concert Fidelity stuff at the Stereophile show on either Thursday or the first half of Friday missed the magic, because the line-stage was not hooked up properly (i.e., the 12AU7’s were not switched into the circuit). This kind of silly thing can happen when people are exhausted from doing all-nighters getting ready for a show and then setting up the show room… We all knew something was not right, but we were too blitzed to figure out what it was! After Friday around 1PM, the electronics were back to sounding the way they are supposed to. All it took was turning the second switch to “on”, heh.

This line-stage is, quite simply, the most transparent I’ve used, and I’ve had some great line-stages through here, some true Kings. Every time I do a comparison (and I wouldn’t waste my time comparing it with less-than-excellent line-stages—so far, I’ve put it up against a number of the very best, but please, don’t ask me for names!), the Concert Fidelity wins easily in terms of lifelike sound, dynamics, sound-staging, side-to-side imaging, tonality, and all-around pleasing vibe. It also has one other huge advantage. Because of its neat transparency, it is almost like a tube tester in the way it shows off the differences between 12AU7’s. This allows me to flavor the final sound by tube rolling, that final touch that means so much. I’ve spent silly time rating all of my 12AU7’s. Couldn’t do it without the C.F. line stage!

And I hear it will soon get even better than this, although it’s almost hard to believe it could! Masataka Tsuda, the designer of the electronics, will soon be coming out with his ultimate statement line-stage, which incorporates four or five minor circuit changes in addition to remote control and digital volume readout, two things which the current minimalist line-stage is, unfortunately, lacking. I have been told by the importer that in order to sell off the remaining few current units, which ARE FULLY UPGRADEABLE to the ultimate line-stage, a price break is being offered. (Since the cost of the upgrade is expensive and there is no margin in it for dealers, the current inventory cannot be sent back for upgrades first and then resold to dealers at wholesale—it has to be sold to customers first.) If you are looking for a line stage that will please you for a life time. Consider this one, folks.

So there ya have it. Steve’s gushing. The Concert Fidelity electronics are expensive as hell, but there are more expensive products out there, especially from Japan, where most things are perfectionist and expensive. And every time I turn those Concert Fidelity amps on I wonder if we have come as far as we can in vacuum tube reproduction of recorded sound. They are that good. They remove the barrier between me and the music. As I said before, I doubt there would be a listener anywhere on the planet who would not love the sound of those gorgeous, monoblock amplifiers and that nifty magical line-stage. I can recommend them with total confidence to anyone who strives for the best sound possible. This is the kind of product that will make people stop agonizing about upgrades once and for all. If they have deep enough pockets to buy this stuff, they’ll be able to forget about “moving up” and will be able to listen to music under the best conditions possible for a very long time to come. Even though I’m assured of a long-term loan of this gear for my mastering projects, just the thought of losing it gets me all shivery. Not looking forward to that day; I’m spoiled, dudes!

The Concert Fidelity stuff has only been available since last fall in its current cosmetic shape (with wonderful lacquered wood), and although the company may be obscure now, don’t expect it to be for much longer. Also, for those of you who just don’t want tubes, Masataka Tsuda’s new solid state creations, under the “Silicon Arts Design” brand, are now in prototype. Several very critical listeners who heard them during special after-hours auditions at the Stereophile show have already proclaimed them the best amps they’ve ever heard. And they are solid state! Might have to give those a serious listen. Given Tsuda-san’s profound design expertise and fanatically perfectionist tendencies, that doesn’t surprise me at all. (You’ve got be slightly wacky to design stuff anyway, and Tsuda-san is just as wacky as the American designers I’ve met; this is a good thing!)

Although I’ve posted pictures before, it’s worth taking another look at several of the features of these electronics. In the line-stage, notice how SIMPLE the circuitry is, how well laid-out and clean looking it is, and how close much of it is to the input and output connectors, for shortest circuit paths. The new ultimate line-stage will extend this concept to its logical extreme, while having the 12AU7’s swappable on the back panel so the unit doesn’t have to be opened up.

In the power amps, notice how the single 6SN7 for the driver and gain stages is BEHIND the transformers in order to shorten circuit paths and eliminate stray capacitance that leads to the dreaded dulled transients. Notice some other nice touches, such as an input level control for channel matching as tubes drift over time, and a digital output tube timer/counter so you’ll know how long you have been running the output tubes and when you should replace them. And those transformers are custom-spec’ed and very expensive, practically unobtanium, but contribute greatly, along with the circuitry and layout, to the sound which has the best aspects of tubes without the downsides. Oh, and Tsuda-san chose the CURRENT PRODUCTION Russian 6B4G, a very tuneful tube (sort of like the sound of an old 2A3) so there is no fear of running out of output tubes in the future. I must say that in both sets of my Concert Fidelity amps I’ve never had A SINGLE TUBE PROBLEM! Not a one.

At any rate, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If you can afford them, the Concert Fidelity electronics will satisfy you for many years. There will be no need to ever worry about “the search” for the best sounding gear again!

راستش چند وقته پیش تو خواب دیدم یک سیب بزرگ محکم خورد تو سرم و من تو خواب بخشی از عقلم رو از دست دادم و رفتم یک سیستم صوتی جدید مبتنی بر ESP ، Vitus و سورس Playback Design خریدم.

بیدار که شدم دیدم خوشبختانه عقلم سرجاشه و خوشحال شدم از اینکه دیدم بیرون دهکده هستم.

Post a Comment

نشانی ایمیل شما منتشر نخواهد شد. بخش‌های موردنیاز علامت‌گذاری شده‌اند *

*