|Wiring up Essence to Gran Finale's WBT sandwich-compression spades with a slotted screw driver proved easy enough. Yet - I sorely wished for a far larger set screw that would have significantly increased contact surfaces, as well as for opposing metal contacts embedded in the acrylic plate, again to increase contact surfaces on the other sides of the spades beyond where they were caught by Sead's copper screws.
|As the photo shows, the standard width WBT spades' prongs weren't captured at all. The only transfer of electrons occurred in the small crook between the prongs - and then only on one side. This snide commentary duly exhausted my supply of contrarious reviewer nits (this could be readily addressed with a fatter screw for those end users not using 47Lab's own wiring which, of course, fits Sead's stock scheme perfectly - see previous page). After happy assurances that sound was indeed forthcoming, onward Ho now to what occurred facing the full frontal nudity of the -- cloth-less -- puny two JX92s Jordan modules rather than my usual eight turbo-charged DUO drivers armed-to-the-teeth.
To wit, a shockingly meaty presentation with solid extension to around 40Hz or thereabouts, accompanied by an expected lack of ultimate bass weight. This was made up for by agility, surprising bass line intelligibility and straight-for-the-hills (not peaks) treble reach; a slightly diffuse image focus the opposite of razor-edged "chiselitis"; natural image height ca. two feet higher than the physically broad cabinets; and buckets-full of the hoped-for immediacy which, if anything, was slightly on the tipped-up side of neutral. If you come up close, the Jordan driver actually gets bright. At normal listening distances, the longer bass waves kick in to add up to a still somewhat north-of-central sound vaguely reminiscent of the French Triangle voicing.
I say vaguely because the lively Triangle sound is augmented by more mass in the bass. Hence its contoured treble energy is comparably more pronounced while similarly balanced - the old culinary trick of increasing contrast by adding salt and sugar in equal measure. Clearly, Essence resides on the relaxed, not spicy end of this recipe.
Rather than delivering peanut-sized sound bytes ["Contando Cacahuetes", Ziroq, Triloka 7930185216-2, 2002] flavored with triode-type midrange obsession at the expense of light, Essence burnt through this formation's gritty nouveau flamenco cuts with all the oil-stained blue-collar intensity I've come to expect. Lead singer Marcus Nand's exhausted vision of life beyond double-time; the raspy rebellious anguish in his whiskey-burnt pipes complaining of singing peanuts (contando cacahuetes) delivering the world's important news on radio briefs; it had all the unvarnished, blistered fingers rawness that make this album such an outstanding respite from city slickerhood.
You do need to slightly goose Essence for the curtains to fully part. At lower levels, something equivalent to the famous Fletcher-Munson curves transpires. Treble and bass take a few backwards steps, here more so in the bass than the top-end. Mostly, this is simply a function of normal human hearing. However, I thought that it occurred to a somewhat more pronounced extent than with other speakers. The power band sweet spot wasn't excessively loud -- just right in fact -- but listening at rather more moderate background levels subdued more edge-of-band data than simply getting quieter. It makes Essence the less-than-perfect low-level transducer.
|In the opposite direction, compression, confusion and associated distortion set in when I pushed for higher levels than two 4-inch cones were happy to deliver. However, in my 14' x 20' x 10' room, this occurred well beyond customary output swings. I seriously doubt that any but shortsighted headbangers or owners of vast mansions would prematurely hit their satisfaction stops - and placing Essence in too large a room while complaining about SPL limitations is, of course, asking for a serious dose of spanking by the referee of common sense physics.
An unusual impression? Turned with my back toward the speakers, I perceived nearly all of the sound as radiating out in steep angles from a single circular area between the cabinets, about four feet off the floor. When I perform this silly test with other speakers, I always get a column of sound of varying heights, not a point - here clearly the result of using a single and small, er - point source.
Because of the JX92s' sudden-death drop in the tailored off-axis treble response that attempts to inversely complement the on-axis rise above 2kHz for a level power response, toe-in is mandatory if you want oxygen. However, a wise speaker designer once told me that a bass-limited speaker will sound better with a matching roll-off in the treble - it maintains the acoustic center where it belongs. Adjust to taste then. My favored flavor, at common speaker-to-speaker distances, was at ca. 15 degrees - vanilla central!
Essence remains surprisingly potent in the midbass band even when in excess of 6 feet removed from the wall behind them. Perhaps that's because the wide baffle already acts as a quasi wall? Reducing this distance to gain LF boundary augmentation allows more fine-tuning of tonal balance while, naturally, diminishing the depth perspective. My personal happy hour? About 4 o'clock. Er, 4 feet. Closer and -- in my 14'x20' reference room -- some lower-mid/upper-bass congestion or overload accumulated. In my far larger living room's diagonal speaker setup centered around the curtain-covered Kiva fireplace? The outer front corners of Essence were as close as 1 foot from the wall and things sounded perfectly balanced. Hence, no hard'n'fast rules. Experiment to suit your personal tastes and environment, not to conform to a review.
Another unusual aspect? Essence happily allows gargantuan soundstage expanse by creating center fill at wider-than-normal distances. Adjusting toe-in to offset the otherwise increased HF dulling due to rising off-axis angles, I went as far as 12' center-to-center. I scratched my graying scalp in disbelief and wondered why things didn't collapse. I don't have a smart explanatory repartee except to pronounce "You dig width? Knock thyself out!"
|Once this first go-'round had successfully established that Essence was a real speaker, not a toy -- this introductory segue was really more for your benefit than mine; CES 2003 had allayed any such suspicions immediately -- the far harder task was at hand: To elucidate upon its special qualities that not only conceptually but in hard aural currency would distinguish it from conventional multi-driver arrays; and to distill what type of listener would gravitate toward it
-- or possibly be exclusively destined for a passionate engagement -- and what listener would shrug his or her shoulders in a "I don't get the whole concept" dismissal.
For make no mistake - unlike with more standard speaker fare, the Konus Audio Essence will strike some as merely an interesting exercise. "Okay, it can be done. If I practice long enough, I too can do a one-armed hand stand. But why bother?" Which makes identification of the it in "it can be done" important. What exactly is the benefit of dispensing with multiple drivers, outside of being an engineering challenge for those so challenged, and perhaps representing an appealing theoretical proposition?
In other, far more ancient words, should you - just because you can? What follows is my attempt at describing this single-endedness in speaker design. Unlike Herb Reichert's debut review which came at the hands of someone intimately familiar with the genre, this particular exploit is more like Titanic's maiden voyage: Will she sink or swim - not in terms of good sound (we've already gotten that far), but whether there exist 3,500 solid and good one-dollar reasons to go about it in this particular fashion.