I can see why Essence is Kimura-San's reference speaker. Like his Shigaraki components -- each to its own extent, but with a distinct family resemblance -- Essence too excels at combining a gutsy, full-bodied projection with a sense of effortless relaxation and strong rhythmic verve. And like Shigaraki, Essence doesn't throw detail at you, doesn't bamboozle your attention with soundstaging or whiz-bang tricks. The details are there and the boxes soundstage - but these won't be the things you'll notice unless the upstairs audiophile alarm goes off reminding you to become analytical. Rather, this speaker's calling card is a very organic, natural continuousness - a Jacob's coat of many colors: Tonal richness, yet one garment, not many.

When you first listen to Essence, there's a coming-off period in which you'll likely notice the things she doesn't do compared to what you listened to before - holographic focus; rarefied Himalayan air and reach; bass from Krell; get-whacked dynamics; leading edges on amphetamines. Then you acclimate. And you'll eventually notice that now you're listening to music without being aware of doing it. Can you appreciate the difference? Self-consciously, effortfully attentive -- put-on in a way -- versus relaxed, casual, comfortable, easy, self-forgetful, "put-out" : The audiophile observer put out of his -- always his, never her -- sorry commission/misery. The listener from before-when-audio-became-important resurrected.

It reminds me of a question that was put to my teacher Osho Rajneesh once. "Bhagwan, why don't you do miracles?" To which the charismatic mystic replied: "Miracles are fine for wonderworkers. But the greatest miracle of them all? It's not to perform any miracles whatever. It's to not manipulate what is. Trust and let existence have its own way. That's the real miracle."

Starting off with Abed Azrié's Omar Khayyam [Sony/France SAN 491951-2, 1998] seemed fitting. His regular Middle-Eastern accompaniers on Ney, accordion and Oriental percussion here augmented by the Archet Type string quartet with additional doublebass, Azrié's profound, instantly recognizable, hair-raising baritone vacated the usually high-lighted center stage to appear as an integral, less soloist part of the whole ensemble. In a way, this effect of envelopment-of-meaning in which each participant was given equal weight -- hence not demanding individual attention -- was similar to the blending effect of listening in the farfield. Closeup sharpness, adrenaline steaming off the performers, accentuated transients were traded for greater relaxation and perspective. Things meshed, quite literally taking enough steps back from observing the intricate toothed-wheel mechanics of details. Instead, one related to the greater -- while somewhat less defined, more amorphous -- whole which these details melted into.
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So there was this continuousness of details. It acted as an equalizing force that didn't erase things but rather put them into a different -- smoother, more laid back -- context, albeit without turning rhythmically slack. The midbass reach of Jean-Philippe Viret's upright remained well within the scope of Essence to be reproduced without undue drop-outs in the lowest notes. Having reduced speaker toe-in to a very shallow angle, the finger cymbals' shimmer became more red-gold than white-silver, Azrié's voice fuller, with less head and roof-of-mouth, more chest and diaphragm components. My earlier comments about Essence's inherently "lifted" tonal balance remain accurate - but only if you care to accentuate them. Their tapered off-axis response allows for a far greater degree of tailor-to-suit than designs from the Canadian NRC school of thought that aim for 60-75° dispersion to closely track the on-axis response.

With my initial concerns over a tipped-up response evaporated, I now concentrated on instrumental timbres. The literal coherence of fundamentals and their harmonics arising from a single transducer (rather than being phase-shifted, time-delayed and hence truncated by crossover networks) - how would that actually sound like?

Soundstage - Genuinamente Brasileiro, Vol.1 [Audiophile Records, 7701, 1999] is a superior production of Brazilian audiophiles endeavoring to create a true audiophile reference disc. They succeeded. "Bachianinha" by Paulinho Nogueira is a piano/cello duet, the former a Steinway D Grand. Now I began to appreciate why Sead calls his speaker the Essence. Unlike my Avantgarde DUOs who present a very charged, intense performance that grabs you by the lapel and won't let go -- which here unearthed more percussive piano traits, greater dynamics, a more visual sense of the sounding board, more cello string friction creating a metallic aura around the central warm kernel of sound -- Essence zeroed in on the gestalt of the instruments. They were recognizably cello and piano yet not as rendered by a supreme draftsman but rather an impressionist - less direct sensory excitement, a more intuitive connection.

Embedded in this essentialness was a more intimate scale of presentation that contrasted with the hornspeaker rendition's far greater raw physical presence. Another way of hinting at this hard-to-pin quality? Musicians very often listen to rather modest equipment. It's as though all they required were a reasonable semblance of the aural event - an accurate sketch (to provide the requisite outlines into which their active imagination can then fill all the details) but not a photo-realistic leave-nothing-to-the-imagination carbon copy. But before you misunderstand - said sketch needs to be accurate. It needs to capture the essential quality like a superior cartoonist captures a subject's very soul in a few seemingly casual strokes. So ask yourself this: What audiophile details could be subtracted from the razzle-dazzle type of presentation to retain this vital essence such that it perhaps more poignantly than before refers to the inner feel of music rather than emphasize its more extraneous ingredients?

As I began logging "essential" hours, the initial come-down from my Avantgarde's was replaced with authentic appreciation for these one-eyed wonders. They're conducive for, nay in fact stimulate, a different kind of listening, one that's intimate with the music like you're intimate with a long-term lover. You no longer notice the many outer signs and characteristics; you're beyond needing to impress (or be impressed in turn); you tune directly into less tangible, more inner qualities -- moods, unspoken confessions, unspeakable dreams -- and bypass the earlier focus with more external fascinations.

I initially respected these speakers more for the apparently impossible they managed to pull off -- honest-to-gosh treble extension from a bloody midrange; enough-to-not-seem-lacking bass from the same bloody midrange; perfectly satisfactory boogie levels -- but I didn't entirely grok them. Only after the adaptation period to their peculiar magic had concluded did I begin to really understand the equal validity of their way with the music. Once this makeover had taken hold, I was no longer "missing" anything. But here's the thing. Returning to my Avantgardes left no doubt in my mind: If you can connect with that same essence of music despite the usual audiophile distractions, then the additional visibility of their greater detail; their greater impact of far weightier mass, displacement and dynamics; the intensified resolution of micro nuances... all this can make the experience even more compelling.

Sead's personal system
You can of course also get lost in detail. That kind of going astray is something the Essence -- pay attention, grasshopper -- nearly by design makes rather impossible. So it comes down to this: What kind of listener are you? Do you insist on a carbon copy of reality rendered in the most exacting of likeness? Essence will strike you as an odd experiment. Are you a dare-devil type listener in search of the next heart attack? Essence won't hit you hard enough. Is most your music enormously complex, large-scaled and dynamically extreme? Essence won't quite make it to the finishing line. Now that all these listeners have left the building with Elvis, who's left but us reporters?

I spot somebody burnt out on chasing the phantom of greater and greater resolution that's become a means to no end, an end unto itself. I spot somebody else who routinely grabs the last chair in the farthest corner of a club only to fade from notice while he disappears quietly into the music, there in the distance until a rude waitress asks for another drink or else. I see family folks for whom music is vital but listening as a hobbyist activity is not; who enjoy music as a tacit presence without overly concerning themselves over it. I recognize others who are done with Hi-fi but want to give "it" one final chance. To all these souls, Essence may speak far more loudly and compellingly than other, more mainstream designs. It also integrates visually and sonically far easier close-up against the wall for those living rooms where the stereo system isn't an altar but something functional to be toned down in size, maintenance and obviousness.

In closing, this age of greater and greater resolution -- with shorter and shorter attention spans lurking in its shadow -- may cause Konus Audio's turnabout to easily be mistaken. Its simpler, more fundamental truth could appear as a relative lack or excuse. I don't think it's either. But I also don't believe it's for everyone. And even those who do embrace it without hesitation may still grapple somewhat with the expense. What clearly is the one-up work of a detail-obsessed artisan is also -- in its final form, not the process of arriving at it -- a rather simple affair. That's especially so when I compare it, say to an equivalently priced Meadowlark Audio Osprey with the latter's extravagantly contoured solid wood baffle, pinstripe inlay, even more complex transmission line, additional drivers and concomitantly greater weight, extension and SPL potential.

But do riddle me this now: Could one arrive at Essence's special qualities the multi-driver way? That is really the heart of this matter. And, I'm not sure. I kind of doubt it. If so, the choices suddenly shrink in alarming fashion. Even among the esoteric single-ended options, the Lowther variants sans super tweeter won't compete with Jordan's JX92s top-end extension. The back-horn loaded ones are humongous. I haven't heard enough Fostex versions to know how their treble balance holds up to Essence but even if they did, they're equally rare. In the final analysis, I will posit that any audiophile intent on being jacked-in, up-to-date and thorougly versed must give Sead's speakers a listen. They will confound preconceptions and presumptions the way Geronimo kept evading his trackers. You will likely also hear what makes them so very different. Is that a good thing? Only you will know. But rest assured: This is a very serious, very articulated effort. It thus deserves to be taken very seriously, if for no other flabbergasted reaction than "and all that from two puny drivers - who woulda thunk?"....

US distributor website
Bosnian manufacturer's website