AXPONA 2015

AXPONA 2015: Endeavor Audio, Constellation, Your Final System and EMM Labs

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by Joshua Emmons

I listen to headphones mostly because I live in an apartment with absurdly thin floors and anxious neighbors. Still, by my reasoning, it’s easier to get good sound out of tiny drivers an inch from my ears than loudspeakers. Separation is never a concern. All those fiddly crossover calculations go away. Resonance isn’t really a thing. And you never get a “bad room”.

But Endeavor Audio doesn’t care about “easy”. They care about perfection. And I swear to Crom they’ve found it with the E-5.

Some gear makes me want to buy new cables, some makes me want to buy new amps. The Endeavor room makes me want to buy a new house so I can ditch my headphones and bask in this sound again.

Down in Front

The Endeavor room is clearly not buying into the whole wood-grain-and-exposed-tubes kind of audiophile experience. The design of everything can be safely described as “understated”, but this is most true of the massive twin Constellation monoblocks driving the system.

Constellation Audio‘s solid-state Inspiration MONO 1.0 amps have plenty of grunt to them, pumping 400w / channel with impressive clarity. But they definitely put the “block” in “monoblock”, looking like nothing so much as large, smooth, cinder bricks. This minimalist aesthetic would be out-of-place in a lot of rooms, but their no-nonsense presentation fits right in here.

The Inspiration Premp 1.0 breaks from this look just enough to allow for a small touchscreen and two dignified knobs on the front panel. And with the clever Constellation Direct interconnect, the pre can interface directly with the amps, skipping their input stages. Fewer stages is a Good Thing.

But I have to give special consideration to the preamp’s remote. Given the remote is, 99% of the time, the only part of the system I actually interact with, I can’t overstate the importance of making it solid, weighty and, well, expensive feeling. This one feels as if it’s milled from a single billet of aluminum. Constellation’s hit it out of the park.

The E-5

Endeavor’s E-5 is certainly tall, but its front face is unexpectedly narrow giving the entire enclosure a stately, columnesque appearance. And what better way to fill your column than with 7 drivers split 3 ways? The E-5 easily hangs 4 woofers, 2 mids, and a beryllium tweeter in a svelte, modern-looking package.

Much of this modern look is owed to the “resin-impregnated fibrous composite” used for the cabinet’s construction. I have no idea what that is, but as I discuss later, it certainly cuts down on resonance. The E-5 clearly believes form should follow function. That it also looks good doing it is bonus.

The Sound

My first few goes with the E-5s are pretty standard show listening. Some classical. Some jazz. Some Madonna thrown in for color. Served up by the intuitive Digital File Transport by Your Final System, it all sounds full. Enveloping even. But it isn’t until I hear a favorite Bad Religion tune, with its exquisitely mic’d drums that are all but drown out by punk guitar thrashing, that I realize how quick and dexterous this system really is.

A lot of rooms at AXPONA reduce Bad Religion to a Michael Bay flick. It’s 3:18 of loud explosions and spectacle. The Endeavor system turns it into Spielberg. Nothing collides. Nothing shakes. I’m able to hear exactly what I’m listening for and to know the part it plays in shaping the music. It is absolutely rad.

Highly encouraged by this, I break out the big guns: Perfume’s Laser Beam. It’s digital synthetica taken to the kinds of extremes only Japan takes things. An incredibly intricate, violently compressed, all-over-the-spectrum romp that has toppled many a room before this.

The experience of listening to it on the E-5s is damn near synesthetic. I felt like David Bowman entering the stargate. The fidelity with which Endeavor’s system allows me to peer into the infinite complexities streaming at me… It’s all swirling light and color, 100% engrossing, completely flawless.

I can’t put it any more simply: this is the best this music has ever sounded. On anything ever. Full stop.

Hard Work

How did they do it? Did they discover some new driver technology? An innovative cabinet shape? A novel way to encode sound?

No. They did it by taking the measurements, solving the math, and doing the work. I got the chance to hear this room late Thursday night, and while I liked what I heard, Leif Swanson of Endeavor wasn’t satisfied. He complained about a “wall of sound” and immediately started tweaking, knowing exactly what to look for. Knowing what he wanted to change.

I would have left well enough alone. But I’m not obsessed. I’m not a crazy man driven to strive for a perfection most would say is unobtainable. I have neither the passion or the skills to entertain that sort of quixotic quest.

But Leif does. And the result is beyond a doubt the best room I heard at AXPONA.

Prices

  • Endeavor Audio E-5 Reference Loudspeaker: $35,000
  • Constellation Audio Inspiration Mono 1.0 Amp: $10,000
  • Constellation Audio Inspiration Preamp 1.0: $9,000
  • Your Final System Ref-3 Digital File Transport: $15,500
  • EMM Labs DAC2X DSD DAC: $15,500

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