Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE MkII, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Bakoon AMP-12R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE Up NC500MB monos; LinnenberG Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, Titan Audio Eros cords between wall and conditioners and on the amps
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €18'000/pr [incl. 20% VAT]


Ensis Too?
Remember the Blue Moon award for their maiden loudspeaker. And Best Product 2016 from Wojciech Pacula at HighFidelity.pl. And 5 stars from Marek Dyba of HifiChoice. And Outstanding Product from HifiPig; plus a major thumbs up from our Polish contributor Dawid Grzyb of HifiKnights. Not since Anthony Gallo's original Reference 3 had a speaker cleaned up the polls like Æquo Audio's Ensis did since she bowed in the summer of 2016. She could do no wrong no matter the writer, room or ancillary gear. To anyone thinking, it was quite a testament to her designers' engineering choices in the exact pursuit of such universal performance. At Munich HighEnd 2017, I'd interviewed the Dutch principals Ivo & Paul about their then-announced Stilla in the wings. I learnt that this wouldn't be a downsized Ensis Two as much as a speaker of very similar claimed performance, albeit for a smaller investment in a less radical form factor. The range-topping four-way 6-driver Diluvium aka tidal flood wave already in the concept stage would go all out again on industrial design and features. Shy of R&D changes, It is expected to include a remote-controlled motorized head array to optimize the radiation angle for the sitting position and so could demand a cool €80'000/pr by the time it bows.


May 2017: "Stilla will be 90dB sensitive and a 107cm tall three-way with twin hidden 7" woofers behind a 14cm baffle that transitions into an elliptical back whose continuously diminishing radius prevents shell resonances and reflections. Like with Ensis, our 'boat hull' shell is artificial stone again, produced in-house with high-pressure thermo forming. The woofers are oriented diagonally inside the cab, with one 90° crosswise atop the other to exploit force-cancelling benefits. Activated by 2 x 250-watt nCore, these bass drivers communicate with the outside world via a vertical pipe that's as long as the enclosure is deep. That is tuned to 20Hz, thus well below where normal-sized rooms would respond. This pipe flares like a short horn at the bottom to increase gain. Its rectangular mouth is about the size of a vintage jewel case and aims forward. Damping material applied to it makes for complete mechanical silence, i.e. zero traditional port chuff. Implemented ARPEC™ and EHDL™ technology as well as the avoidance of rear ports allow problem-free placement in virtually any room.

Æquo Audio at Munich Highend 2017 with Sound Galleries SMG server, Nagra DAC, Audiopax amps and Tellurium Q cabling.

"Our pure analog-domain ARPEC™ system simulates the bottom octave of a closed-box speaker. Like with Ensis, it can be adjusted for room size and placement near walls and corners to deliver taut bass without any boom.


"The EHDL™ high-frequency waveguide system redistributes some vertical into horizontal energy so that soundstaging won't suffer from floor and ceiling reflections. Optimized directivity delivers great results even in acoustically non-perfect environments. The midrange driver and front baffle colour options are the same as for Ensis. So really is the bass performance."


Hence my spelling of Ensis Too not Two. Stilla claims to reach into the same performance pot but—relatively speaking—does it more cost effectively. As in the Munich photo of an Ensis system, your amp will only drive the 5" 2-way head to see an easy load. The heavy bass lifting is handled by onboard class D amps. (If you opt for the fully active version, another nCore module drives the two-way head to eliminate all external amplification.)


And that was the exciting buzz around Stilla at last year's Munich show. After which a great quiet descended over the project like a blanket of thick snow.


Then in February 2018, it thawed. "We are finally on the verge of the official launch. We actually sold out the complete first production batch and already have orders for the second. That is gratifying since nobody has heard one yet or seen an actual not rendered picture. A demo pair will be ready soon so I think it’s time to plan a trip to Ireland!"


For very extensive background coverage on relevant R&D goals, decisions and measured performance written by chief designer Ivo Sparidaens, click here. I've only reproduced one page at right to cover key architectural elements.


The Stilla story is an important reminder that true R&D takes time and often multiple rounds of funding. It will include the development of in-house manufacturing processes, the acquisition of industrial equipment, the creation of tooling and more. That is, unless one were content to launch yet another veneered rectangular MDF box with off-the-shelf drivers.


With Æquo Audio, development thus also includes an ongoing collaboration with ace driver designer Per Skaaning to achieve a perfect custom fit of efficiency, dispersion pattern and harmonic distortion between the drivers used in the compact 20kg Stilla structure with its 1st-order filters. Even the mechanical support beneath the enclosure is novel. Just like with Ensis, Stilla is as far from a me-too speaker as it gets.
... to be continued in late March...

Æquo Audio website