Product: Euroacoustics EA-140 loudspeaker
Manufacturer: EuroAcoustics - Finland
Cost: approx 1900 Euros delivered in EEC
Reviewer: Geoff Husband
Well a couple of firsts here, my first Finnish Speaker and my first encounter with drivers from Scanspeak. Here we have a large floorstanding two-way which at the moment is available over the internet only with a couple of exceptions. A factor which effects it's value as well as it's back-up as we'll see later.
This is an imposing speaker, at nearly a metre tall and 47cms deep it makes it's presence felt in any room.
The gentle taper giving the baffle a backwards slope will reduce standing waves caused by parallel surfaces and at the same time maximise the front to back footprint to give stability, though in this case the designer has used rubber 'doorstops' rather than spikes - these should be an option.
The finish is 'Piano Black' on the baffle which sports radiused edges to reduce diffraction. The sides and tops are then done in one of three veneers with a very high gloss finish. The overall effect is striking and obviously of very high quality - I quite liked it, Kate (official holder of the chequebook) hated it.
I was surprised but everyone who saw the effect either loved it or thought it flashy and over-the-top there was no middle ground. This is a speaker with either a negative or positive WAF or HAF, nothing inbetween.
1300 pounds will buy you a lot of speaker, and in a market where anything over 300 pounds seems to have three drivers or more a side, a simple two-way looks poor value.
But just because multi-driver speakers are fashionable doesn't make it gospel that more drivers mean better sound. In theory a three-way for example will have an advantage in that each driver will handle a narrower frequency range and therefore can be optomised for that range. A two-way on the other hand has to have (in the case of the 140) a bass/mid driver handling all frequencies from DC to 3000 hz with a tweeter taking over from there. But things aint that simple.
Firstly designing a crossover to integrate two drivers smoothly to give a flat response is not easy, add another driver and it becomes far more difficult as the number of three-ways with detached bass and tinkly treble confirm. Phase coherence can also be a casualty. Then there's the economics of the thing.
Within a given budget a two-way can use better quality drivers as the cost is split two ways rather than three and the crossover is inevitably simpler and less costly. Certainy even at this elevated price point the two-way can make a convincing case for itself.
So where is the money spent on the EA-140? Pick the speaker up (at 38 kgs no easy matter) and it's plain to see that a fat slice of it has gone into a very substancial cabinet (made in the Far-East incidentally).
Made of MDF the baffle is 44 mm thick, the rest of the carcass 23mm. This box is braced with 25mm plywood in two shelf braces which hold in place thick (glass fibre?) wadding.
This divides the cabinet into three, each part not sealed from the other, but with considerable resistive damping. The same wadding lines the cabinet but otherwise there is no stuffing. The drivers are both from Scanspeak.
A bit of research put the tweeter cost at around 50 pounds the woofer nearly 100. Though they look a little prosaic compared to the line-up in the Cabasse Sloop there's no doubt they are high quality and 150 pounds a side is at least par for the course at this price.
There's the added advantage that replacement drivers will be easier to source than with a speaker using 'custom' drivers. The tweeter is offset in handed pairs to reduce resonances and aid imaging. The crossover is a complex concoction of high quality caps, inductors and resistors.
There is a school of thought that crossovers, particularly in two-ways, should be as simple as possible, a view pioneered by Epos amongst others. The 140's take the opposite route with impedence compensation and various response filters, this isn't easy to impliment, nor is it a cheap option. The box is loaded by a large front mounted round port half way up the baffle. It looks rather old-fashioned but this has some advantages as we shall see.
So for your 1300 pounds you get a cabinet that makes the substancial and more expensive Cabasse feel like a cornflake packet and a good pair of well regarded drivers linked by an expensive crossover - so far so good.
I don't usually make much of measurements when reviewing speakers though I do measure them with crude equipment, but I thought that this review might make an appropriate place for me to pontificate, particularly in the light of Lucio's comments on the Diesis Akis a couple of issues ago.
I hope Euroacoustics will forgive me picking on them as the comments apply equally to other manufacturers and have nothing to do with the quality of the product.
The EA-140 site gives an anechoic 'frequency response curve' (see graphic) This shows the usual flat 'curve' beloved of manufacturers, very similar to that supplied by Cabasse for the Sloops.
Where it differs is in the drop in bass output below 300 hz to a lower plateau 3-5 dbl down on the midrange. This might seem little wayward for what appears such a well designed speaker, but it's purpose is to allow 'space' for wall reinforcement of the bass.
Just looking at this curve tells me that the design is optomised for near wall siting. In order to indicate the trace supplied with the speaker (shown below) the dotted trace shows the bass nicely filled in by the "in-room" response.
This is of course rubbish. Measured "in-room" the EA-140's show a wildly swinging bass response below 200 hz, just like any other speaker in any other room. In my (well damped) room the swings were of the order of +/- 6dbl as floor/ceiling and rear wall resonances came in. These could either re-enforce or reduce output depending on where you sit, though it has to be said that even hard up against the wall bass output is slightly down on the Cabasses.
There then follows a lift through the midrange (less than the Sloops) and the usual plummeting treble over 3 Khz. This is what a real 'in-room' response looks like, the bass all over the place and the treble, which being directional doesn't get reflected off room surfaces anything like as much as the midrange, being well down. That the Diesis claimed not to show this treble loss "in-room" goes a long way to explain Lucio's comments.
I recently had a similar experience at Steve Davey's house. He uses an active system and it was easy to adjust the tweeter to give a "flat" reponse to 10 Khz. It was increadibly bright and detailed and made me want to put earplugs in...
No manufacturer I know of gives a true 'in-room' response curve, they are frightened that an ignorant public would think something was seriously wrong and to be honest I can see their point, particularly as each will vary so much depending on the room anyway.
All a manufacturer can reasonably do is show an anechoic trace and leave it that. The EA-140's showed a perfectly reasonable 'in-my-room' response allbeit with certain trends that were clearly audible, which brings us to the listening test...
When I first wired up the 140's my impression was that they sounded very 'BBC'. Like the BBC range of monitors you could almost hear the flat frequency response, no glitches, very tight and controlled but lacking dynamics and 'life'.
I wasn't surprised, the design is obviously optomised to be very low colouration, what with the substancial cabinet with heavy damping and non parallel baffle. The highly equalised, complex crossover is also part of a shared design philosophy.
But the speakers changed dramatically over the next few days, so much so that they went from being 'ho-hum' to much more my kind of sound. Most notably they became far faster and more dynamic, shaking off that 'shut-in' quality to be quite extrovert. Compared to the similarly priced Sloops they had a less exposed midrange and slightly more open top end.
Pushing them hard against the wall filled in the bass but kept it very tuneful. Here that 'old-fashioned' port helped. The Cabasses have a low mounted slot and this caused a fair bid of bass reenforcement from the floor, the snag being that this is very dependent on the floor type and can give a detached bass -I actually use a granite plinth to lift them up to avoid this.
The 140's port, being high up, is much more consistant and of course isn't effected by wall siting like a rear-firing port. That said I did find the presentation a little bass light. My own IPL's really showed what was lacking and through this they had a better grip on the scale and drama of large scale music both classical and rock. This is a personal priority partly fuelled by my IPL's, once you've been made to jump by a crashing drum solo it's hard to give it up and it makes my home a tough place for most speakers on review...
Traditionally the main purpose of having a big speaker, and they are twice the volume of the IPL's, is either efficiency or bass extension. My problem with the 140's is that they gave neither. Efficiency was pretty much on a par with the IPL's despite the 140's being a 4 ohm speaker (so they draw more current) and a country mile behind the Sloops which had a similar bass extension.
My 30 watt Audion valve monoblocks needed to use their 8 ohm tap to get high levels at the expense of a little bass control. Contacting the designer Arto Jaaskelainen gave at least part of the answer. He told me that the box had been optimised to keep the bass driver operating in its most linear range rather than allowing it to use its full travel - all part of the low colouration philosophy.
He recommends the use of a subwoofer for the really low stuff reasoning that it's better to have good bass than deeper and less controlled bass from the main cabinet.
And the low colouration philosophy really works... Mary Chapin Carpenter's 'The Hard Way' is an absolute sod to reproduce. It opens with her voice mixed in such a way as to sound thick with resonance on almost every speaker I've tried. I did once walk in on a shop demo that used this track to show off some expensive floorstanders. I'll never forget the look of puzzlement on the face of the poor punter (he left straight afterwards!) as the assistant waxed lyrical about how good the vocals were. Not so with the 140's as they stayed 'tight' and 'dry' and 'right'.
Likewise the accoustic bass guitar of 'Fairground Attraction' can sound overblown and woolly - here you began to understand why they used such a rare instrument with it's soft warm, gentle sound. Vocal projection was top notch, particulary with female vocal though on the odd occasion it could go a little hard as with Nancy Griffiths louder moments (see postcript). Crashing dynamics such as in the opening bars of 'Nevermind' were effortlessly handled if a little lightweight.
Low colouration and fine drive units should pay dividends in detail and here there was no doubt that the 140's were from the 'top drawer', the give-away being that detail stayed there from low levels right up to full blast as the cabinet refused to 'sing along'.
Dispite their lack of low bass I prefered their overall balance to the mid-forward Sloops though this is very personal. Much to my surprise they also bettered the class-leading Sloops on image depth, though width was a little below the Sloops very high standard.
I like the EA-140's. They do everything well and some things exceptionally well. They are certainly competitive with the Sloops, a fine design in itself, and they are more to my personal taste. In detail, imaging and speed they are right up there with the best. The wall placing makes them much less intrusive than the slightly smaller Sloops and in fact they'll take up less of your room than a small standmount 60 cms from the wall.
Their appearance, particularly the high-gloss finish, is undoubtably well done but a matter of taste. They ideally need a meatier amp than mine though a quality integrated aught to do the job as long as it's not too pushy and bright. Leaving aside my slight reservations over the bass output (not quality) they would be a strong recommendation for anyone to put on their audition list.
And here we hit the snag. For most of the world these are only available over the 'Net'- this direct sales tactic being partly responsible for their good material value and it's an increasing trend.
I am painfully aware of the pressure that puts on a review like this. Should you buy these on my say-so without having heard them? Well - they are a very good all rounder with few vices and handle all types of music with equal aplomb.
They're not a tweaky or difficult speaker so I can't see anyone hating them. They are undoubtably good material value and a lot of care had gone into their design. But I wouldn't spend 1300 pounds 'sight unseen' on a speaker no matter who told me how good they were :-)
They carry a one year guarantee, but to be frank as this is of the 'return-to-manufacturer' type it's of little value. Say a driver fails - it'd be much cheaper to just replace the driver yourself than to send it back to Finland even for those living in Europe.
I would hope that in these circumstances EA would be happy to forward replacement drivers on receipt of damaged one's, free during the warrenty period and at a discount thereafter.
Euro-Acoustics are looking for international distributors. So if your country gets one go listen - you may well be impressed though the price will be higher. The only alternative is if Euro-Accoustics offer a no quibble 'sale-or-return' service.
Dynavector offer this with their 'Superstereo' and I can honestly say that this is the only way to go with internet sales of quality (and expensive) hi-fi. The problem is that sending back the Superstereo will cost a few pounds.
Sending back a pair of large speakers weighing nearly 100 kgs is going to be another matter altogether, the cost meaning customers may keep the speakers without being happy with them.
I think EA need to arrange a carriage deal in each country so that if a customer does want to return a pair they will pay a fixed cost - say 50 pounds with the speakers being collected. This will obviously involve some subsidy and perhaps a price increase, but using such a system I'd be much happier and of course if EA have confidence in the product it shouldn't cost them much. Under these circumstances they'd be a safe buy and the ability to listen at home would be better than any shop demo...
I and other commentators did notice a slight hardening on female vocals though in my case the use of a top vinyl source and valve amps reduced this so I didn't really feel it detracted from the overall positive review.
Arto pinned this down to the slight lift at crossover (3000 hz) and introduced a filter to correct this. He sent me the updated boards but time and an inability to remove one tweeter stopped me assessing the mod.
Personally I feel the change would be very slight in my system so my overall comments are still valid. However I note that EA offer this as a free upgrade for all existing owners which is a nice touch and gives me some confidence in EA's after-sales service though my comments on the difficulty in returning speakers still apply.
Thanks for the draft of your nice & detailed review. About return policy, I understand buyer's point of view in that matter and I plan to change that
policy asap for Europe to be the way you suggested, i.e. flat rate with
possibly some subsidy.
I guess USA is just about on the limits considering subsidy but for other areas it may be somewhat headache to implement (though not impossible), shipping expenses are 2..4 times higher there than in Europe. Still I like that "make it simple for buyers" idea. I have requested a quotation from UPS and after seeing that I can decide on actual numbers for flat return rates.
Swapping only speaker elements due to a burned one is a good idea and I'll be rewriting that part of warranty terms soon. Regardless what warranty term right now say swapping would probably have happened should there have been a case like that abroad (provided buyer is pleased to use a screw driver...).
By the way, those "RMA" and "Disclaimer" things on EuroAcoustics web site may look annoying & silly for Europeans but I have seen many warnings those are absolutely needed when doing business with other countries than EU.
Maybe someone could find better wordings for those sentences there...? :-) You are right what you say about "Room Response", there will be always a number of peaks and gaps in a real life room response.
Maybe "Room Response" is not exactly right word to describe the second curve, a better one would "Desert Response", i.e. the box standing on earth and radiating free to all the directions except down.
Actually the idea is not to show the reflections from the walls or ceiling in that curve but to give some rough idea how much bass response of the speaker is boosted when it's carried from anechoic test room (where it's in the air, not on the floor) to any room into a floor standing position.
An interesting question after all is: If a speaker has a totally flat bass response in anechoic test room what will the bass response be when the speaker is located 1) on desert 2) on desert with one wall behind it 3) on desert with two walls (i.e. corner) behind it 4) a real room.
The lesson briefly is that a speaker having flat anechoic bass response will be boomy when located on the earth and bass will be lifted up even more in a real room. Unfortunately most people are used to that kind of bass reproduction and some recordings are obviously bass poor --- guess why ? :-)
Still EA-140 needs a subwoofer for full 20..40 Hz range though the mod made to xover appears to slightly help that "bass poor" situation.
Spikes & door stops: Usually it's desirable to avoid speaker to radiate via floor. Most studio designers agree on that based on the fact that speed of sound through solid material is higher than through air. There are many ways to avoid floor carried vibration but simple rubber buttons alone are rather effective provided the building material under the speaker is rather heavy.
It's possible to put some marble under the boxes if the floor happens to be floating or otherwise lightly constructed. No comments about those spikes, results may vary case-by-case (including the cash book owner).
Arto Jaaskelainen for EuroAcoustics Oy Ltd
© Copyright 2000 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com