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How the XA handled it reminded me to some degree of studio monitors – true recording monitor devices, not merely two-way speakers called monitors. I’m specifically thinking of Amphion’s Krypton³, larger Tannoys and Harbeths. Those deliver very dense extended bass at great resolution and clarity which nonetheless never overpowers. Strong transients are conveyed at full power yet when it’s time for the midrange or treble to shine, the bass turns invisible to make the speaker behave a bit like a stand-mount. Of course the bass never actually disconnects. It simply forms a perfect foundation for the vocal range to enhance its separation and holographic imaging.

And that's exactly what the XA did for Pat Metheny's guitar. Although a solo recording which admittedly sounds a bit dark, it remains an acoustic guitar with no real bass. Even so I could feel the woofers creating some pressure to build an aura and spatial foundation for the midrange and tweeter, helping those units deliver what they were asked to without any fatigue. When required these speakers deliver real slam – say on the Maria Peszek recording, on David Sylvian or Depeche Mode. Then their bass is huge and potent but very well controlled and articulated. It never gets boomy or pretentious. Pace and rhythm are another forté. When reproducing giant studio-crafted acoustics of a particularly evocative mood like the Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack, an entire universe gets built in front of us yet you never ever hear the bass reflex at work.

If I were to compare the character of these speakers to my Harbeths, I would say that if the Brits are choleric, the Estonians are sanguine. Per se that’s a far-fetched analogy of course but it does point in a direction. Should you audition the XA after highly expressive speakers like the Harbeth M30.1 or M40.1; or a highly selective one like Amphion’s Krypton³; or something totally different like an Avantgarde Acoustic hornspeaker… you’ll find the Estelon ordinary or perhaps even boring, thinking nothing particular about its sound.

It won’t be until something clicks inside your head that things fall into place. That’s because audio is an art of choices. Designers make choices, companies makes choices, finally the client must choose. If you get a chance to audition the Estelon XA, take your time to relax and adapt. I’m convinced that even if they won’t be your ultimate choice, you will discover certain aspects of their performance which others lack by comparison. You’ll find yourself missing their amazing immaculate smoothness and clarity which conjures up an illusion of minor warmth. They do seem to restrain some expressivity in the lower midrange/upper bass were they might be slightly shelved down. I'm pretty sure it’s what caused a somewhat smaller soundstage on This Mortal Coil and some gentle ‘grip’ on female voices in general which interestingly didn’t affect male voices.

This aural modification doesn't really influence the overall assessment but simply gives a particular character which might or might not be what we expect. I'm pretty certain that it’s a component of this limitation of expression. I heard something similar with other speakers sporting ceramic drivers. It might be a part of the price one pays to achieve perfect sonic alignment of such ceramic transducers. Listening to the Estelons I can't really pinpoint the exact frequency at which this ‘restraint’ happens. Maybe there’s also a little bump around 2kHz but this could have been an effect of my room acoustics. These are the first loudspeakers I met which whilst having such a measured flat response betrayed no weakness during listening. Usually when measurements are perfect, something doesn't sound quite right one way or the other. I found nothing wrong here, just some very reasonable design choices producing excellent sonic effects.

The XA for example generated a huge soundstage. They freely ‘breathe’ and differentiate this aspect of recordings very well. The depth of the soundstage was extraordinary as was its overall size but in particular their ability to fully illuminate each item within a particular place was outstanding. This soundstage also had appropriate height which isn’t the case for many smaller speakers.

The sound was beautifully decorrelated from the physical enclosures safe perhaps for the treble as a normal function of tweeter directivity. The midrange and woofer never were identifiable as sound sources but only projected in the middle, around and even behind them. Images were fantastically solid – not mere spots in space but material blocks, perhaps not perfectly holographic like small monitors but distinctive enough with their own textural character regardless of actual position. The feeling of presence was the same whether close or far away. The XA never lost focus even in the farthest reaches.