Equilibrium Ether Ceramique
Audiophiles rarely agree with one another. They even divide their community into various groups that are sometimes incomprehensible even to their members. The same kind of sound can be a true discovery for some people and a complete failure to others. Examples of such situations can be multiplied indefinitely. Therefore we found it quite strange and unique that everyone seemed to speak one voice about one of last year's exhibition at Audio Show in Warsaw. Especially remarkable that show's visitors emphasized the sonic excellence of loudspeakers made by so little known manufacturer from Poland. The name of the main company is Audiothlon but it has two brands under its wings. Historically the first one was Enerr, making power cables, conditioners and accessories. The second brand is Equilibrium making speaker and interconnect cables, and whole loudspeakers. While the cables are fairly well known and have been reviewed a couple of times, speakers evolved rather quickly. We couldn't wait to see them in the final form. The Ether Ceramique is the pinnacle among the speakers designed to fit normal and smaller listening rooms.
The first design in a very similar enclosure was shown almost two years ago. The Nano was equipped with a metal dome and a carbon fibre woofer. The sound was very good even then, so many people urged the manufacturer not to make any further changes in the design, but of course - better is the enemy of the good. The company began the process of modifying this very clever design, using different components, fine tuning the bass-reflex ports with some special damping materials and bending the tunnels, so that the bass is not too pushy and humming. Finally they resorted to some of the best drivers available on the market - ceramic speakers made by Accuton from Germany. Then the speakers got beautiful metal bases with shiny spikes, high-end terminals and natural veneers. That's how the Ether Ceramique was born. During the last year's Audio Show exhibition these speakers absolutely rocked. Especially interesting when you bare in mind that they were placed in an almost empty room and the rest of the system was not some high-end McIntosh or D'Agostino amplifiers, but a rather simple setup by Atoll, powered by Enerr conditioner and cables of course. No wonder that we wanted to listen to these speakers in a more controlled environment, so we invited the manufacturer to send them in for our review.
Design and functionality
Speakers came to our editorial office packed in plywood crates, very nicely made by the way. Normal cardboard boxes were too weak to carry small but pretty heavy floorstanders, so the manufacturer decided to put an end to the likely devastation of their products by giving them a strong, solid packaging. At this price range it's not very common - only the most expensive speakers travel in such a royal way. Thanks to this entourage you can feel the sweet taste of high end experience before you even unscrew the covers of the crates. The whole installation process is very simple. All you have to do is take the speakers out of the boxes, carefully place them on the floor and connect the cables. Done.
The enclosures are completely angular with no curves or rounded sides. The speakers are just inclined 5 degrees to the rear, presumably in order to compensate the time difference in which low and high frequencies reach the ears of the listener. In terms of design and appearance Ether Ceramiques are similar to early Audio Physics such as original Sparks designed by Joachim Gerhard. The pair that arrived for our review was finished in natural maple veneer, but when we asked the manufacturer about available colours, it turned out that clients can choose from several dozens of natural and modified veneers. Therefore any attempt to construct a colour palette is pointless. As it is with a natural veneer, each set will present a unique texture of wood, so each pair of speakers will be unique. The finish is matched in such way that the left and right speaker are each other's reflections.
The front panel is occupied by two transducers - ceramic tweeter and woofer, both made by Accuton. Each of them is equipped with its own metal mesh, which is an integral part of the speaker, so in the box you will not find any additional grilles. The speakers are protected against mechanical damage and still nothing spoils the propagation of sound. If you are interested in aesthetics, you won't complain about the plastic pins for mounting the grilles and in the future the speakers won't have nasty shades in the shape of front covers, caused by the sun darkening the veneer. The back is also minimalistic. At the bottom you will find a plate with single but decent and widely spaced sockets. The bass-reflex port blows towards the floor, which should make the speakers less sensitive to the distances from the walls. In our test the Equilibriums proved to be fairly easy to set up. At the bottom you will find very nice metal plates finished in matt black and equipped with four large spikes. They are of course adjustable but the designer of the speakers advised us not to remove them, even on a wooden floor. Luckily you also get a set of metal discs to put under the spikes, and the spikes themselves are not very sharp, but slightly rounded at the ends, so they treat the floor rather gently.
In terms of build quality the Ether Ceramique is a product that represents the highest, high-end level of craftsmanship. It's hard to find even the smallest flaws in such lovely and precisely created speakers. If we didn't know the origin of these boxes at all, we would try to trace their roots to Germany, Austria or Switzerland. But no. Equilibrium speakers are made in a small factory in Poland, and they look perfect.
Don't be fooled by the small volume of enclosures and relatively small size of the woofer. A real beast is hidden in these speakers and it begins its growling surprisingly low. The frequency range is wide and very even. I didn't feel even the slightest manipulation of bandwidth, which would aim to extract the greatest possible amount of detail, dynamics and energy. The Ether Ceramique speakers don't try to pull the wool over our eyes with cheap tricks. The creation of music comes naturally to them, without any effort. The sound is very transparent, but the clarity isn't built by moving all the details in front of the vocals. Treble stick to their place in line and we aren't attacked by the show of their capabilities. However, in every moment, the details wait there to be discovered. During several weeks of reviewing, I had a chance to listen to almost all of my favourite albums. Not because I had a problem with getting to the truth about the speakers' performance, but because they showed me the truth about my beloved music.
The sound of Ether Ceramiques is fast and well controlled. Even a hard turn of the amp's volume knob won't push them out of balance. The bass is a great combination of depth and speed. Blow, cutting off, silence. The lows don't tag along and stick to everything around them. Quite the opposite. They are filled with the content, but still lightweight, fitting into the overall character of the sound. Speakers play with a great verve and dynamism, but at the same time they retain the admirable naturalness and nobility. In this respect, they have something in common with fresh nature of Amphion speakers, which sound in a similar, uncompromising way. Sound temperature is set to zero and sometimes you can feel their somewhat studio-like, technical character. They let the sound flow evenly, smoothly and without distortion, but every twitch of the membranes is under their control. You probably won't find the affected romanticism here, but still the speakers don't deprive the music of its emotions. They are actually like the relay of the stories told through music, rather than an element that adds something. Thanks to this, they enchant by the sincerity, truth and realism.
All of this is connected with another feature that is attributed only to truly high-end constructions. Each record has its own character, its own soundstage and its own timbre. Differences between recordings can be seen as through a huge magnifying glass. Usually the speakers offer one kind of soundstage - close, as in the case of JBL monitors or wide and deep, like Audio Physics for example. Here it's difficult to identify what type of soundstage do the speakers build, because each record is showed adequately to its essence. When you listen to them, you can forget about their existence, close your eyes and feel like you were sitting in the front row at a jazz concert or at the end of the audience at the philharmonic chamber. It takes a huge artistry to design speakers which will allow us to feel the music in such a tangible, realistic manner.
There is no need to read between the lines to notice that I really liked these Equilibrium speakers. Disadvantages? Clearly they don't like the quiet listening. They are definitely not the speakers that can be put in a corner to twang in a whisper. They can give a lot, but also require attentiveness and being focused solely on them. Then they rock! Although I must admit that it's not difficult to become absorbed by thir sound. For a long time the editorial board was discussed on another aspect of their nature, which is the result of the application of ceramic drivers. All Accutons have this in common - they are even and neutral, but a bit dull at the highs. Sometimes we wanted a bit more crystal and polished sound. This makes the impression that the Ether Ceramique speakers try to control the music so much that they don't allow for the overexposure, even if it clearly should be there. Whether or not we call this a drawback, it depends on our taste. Those who now feel a little dissatisfaction, should try the hybrid version of Equlibrium speakers with ceramic woofer and a metal dome. This version was created for those who feel slightly unsatisfied with the high frequencies. During the review the speakers played with two systems - Naim XS series and Creek Evolution 50 series. Ethers didn't complain on any of those devices. However, we doubt that very cheap or simply weak amplifiers would be able to present all advantages of these speakers. These are only our guesses, but we would recommend caution, configuring the system. Grasp all, lose all.
In summary, the Ether Ceramiques are hi-end, highly neutral, dynamic, transparent and even speakers. Additionally, you can put them in the 18-meter-rooms with no problem at all. This model was designed not only for the owners of the apartments the size of aircraft hangars, but also for people living in common flats.
Build quality and technical parameters
Ether Equlibrium Ceramique is a two-way design with a bass-reflex pointing downwards. Ribbed, Multi-housing is made of thick MDF with a thickness of 23.2 mm. Panels are finished on both sides, before placing boxes in one piece - from the outside they are finished with natural veneers available in dozens of varieties, and from the inside you have a special veneer which prevents buckling of the MDF and also seals the enclosure from within. The whole process is very complex and requires great precision, so the panels are made using CNC machines. Polish company also doesn't apply any carpentry clamps during folding and gluing the housings. All this is done in order to retain the ideal geometry and eliminate even the smallest defects. No wonder that the speakers look as perfect as on computer renders available on the manufacturer's website. As for the speakers, this model uses a ceramic tweeter with a diameter of 1.2 inch and 6.25-inch ceramic woofer, both supplied by Accuton. After removing the speakers, you can see a lot of internal bracing and reinforcements. The inner chamber is damped with lots of natural sheep wool. The designer says it's a much better material than its synthetic replacement because it has a linear damping characteristics, which provides high predictability in terms of sonic results. Speakers are connected with rather short, twisted cables so that nothing will be vibrating inside the cabinet. The cables are made by Equilibrium of course. The screws holding the speakers do not enter the housing directly, but are joined with a metal sleeve mounted on the inner side of the front board. Everything looks extremely neat and gives the impression of a monolith. As for the parameters, the frequency response extends between 33 Hz and 27 kHz. Nominal impedance was set at 8 ohms, and the efficiency is 85 dB. Not much, but in real life the speakers aren't extremely difficult to drive. The minimum amplifier power recommended by the manufacturer is 30 W and I am inclined to believe that. The weight of the single speaker reaches 20 kilograms.
Naim CD5 XS, Naim NAC 152 XS, Naim NAP 155 XS, Creek Evolution 50CD, Creek Evolution 50A, Tellurium Q Black, Cardas Clear Light, Albedo Geo, Enerr AC Point One, Enerr Symbol Hybrid, Ostoja T1.
I'm not going to beat around the bush, Equlibrium Ether Ceramique is a great speaker. Their sound, performance, finish, or even such little things as how they are transported indicate that we are dealing with a hi-end, almost perfect product. Anticipating questions, I declare that I did not receive any bribes, wires or bottles with expensive wine. Everyone who visited Equilibrium's room at the last Audio Show in Warsaw knows that in this case all the exaltation is justified. And if you haven't heard these speakers in action, catch up as soon as possible. They are really worth it.
Speakers type: floorstanding, two-way
Sensitivity: 85 dB
Impedance: 8 Ω
Frequency response: 33 Hz - 27 kHz
Dimensions (H/W/D): 100/19/19 cm