Existence Loudspeakers Erotic
A review of Existence Loudspeakers Erotic.
Two things I've always appreciated in their loudpeakers. The first is the woodwork. The Existence loudspeakers are miles away from the ordinary black/white/birch/cherry boxes pouring out from the assembly line. Whether solid wood or combination of solid wood and veneered mdf, Existence's speaker cabinets tell a quite a different story of a much more nuanced conception of the possibilities of wood as a material for speakers.
When it comes to using wood, Existence Loudspeakers obviously has an eye for the texture and color, play of light (always different when looked at from different angles of view), combination of matt and shining surfaces (the aesthetic goal is not Sonus Faber's shining perfection), and that sort of things. In short, they seem to have a grip of the "feeling" that real wood surfaces arouse in the viewer. The Existence speakers may not be for everybody, but if "wood" is high in one's personal preference order, as well as reasonably good finishing, Existence Loudspeakers is a genuine alternative.
As for today's guinea pig, Erotic, the cabinet is made of 30mm thick heat treated ash with cognac oil wax (front and rear panels), plus 30mm mdf beautifully veneered with Bird Eye Maple and waxed with colorless oil wax (chassis). It's a great looking speaker with shining sides and matt front/rear panels, physically imposing without looking too massive or too commercial.
The second thing I like about the EL speakers is their technical straightforwardness. Behind the constructional simplicity lies a single widebandwidth driver, the size depending on the model, mounted in a ported cabinet. With no filter, needless to say. (In some bigger models a series of widebandwidth units are used in unisono).
By choosing bass reflex loading Existence Loudspeakers swimms against the tide. Among single-driver widebandwidth speakers port loading is not that popular. Far more frequently manufacturers load the driver with transmission lines, rear horns of various kind (TB Speakers does that too), OB baffles, etc., not least because very often widebandwidth drivers aren't designed for ported cabs as the first priority.
Naturally there's more to the Erotic (and Existence speakers in general) than their BR-loading. For example, the cabinets are specially damped internally in order to reduce panel resonances, the edges of the front panel are rounded to kill diffractions, and so on. Overall, however, I find these measures much less essential for the final sound than the question of proper loading (cab resonances are often 60dB down from the direct sound, and it's their frequency distribution that probably matters more than their amplitude; diffraction may not be a problem but from a single listening angle; etc.). No, essential to the Erotic and its sister models is their design, how accurately the dimensions have been calculated, how well the flow of air inside the cabinet is modelled and controlled, how successfully the manufacturer has succeeded in tuning the speaker, most notably with respect to the bass output, and so on.
The driver of the Erotic is a 6,5" Tangband unit with a bamboo fiber paper cone (moving mass 8,07g) carrying also a whizzer cone (F Series W6-1916). It sports a neodymium magnet, underhung design, aluminium phase plug, and santoprene surround. The fs is 60Hz, the frequency response 60-20000Hz, nominal impedance 8 ohms, sensitivity 91dB, and Qts 0,46.
With a speaker such as the Erotic, the reviewer has a twofold task (I may have said this times before): one, he must characterize that part of the sound for which the driver alone is the main cause, ie. basically the "sound" of the driver itself; and second, he must judge, for frequencies below which the driver in free air starts to short-circuit the bass, what sort of bass the designer/manufacturer has been able to conjure up from a relatively small single driver, including how well he's succeeded in combining the direct sound from the driver with the output from the port.
First off, I came to the conclusion that the Erotic sounded not too dissimilar to other Existence Loudspeakers' models, including the two I've reviewed earlier. The family resemblance concerns "cohererence" of the sound, but also the overall "color" of the sound. By color I mean color, not the tonal balance.
Let's deal with coherence first. There's no fooling the brain when it comes to the number of active speaker units in a speaker. No matter how seemless and coherent a 2-way may sound, somewhere deep down in its labyrinth the brain detects the presence of more than one sound source, even if the listener were not consciously aware of it. By contrast, with a single driver the sound has an unmistakable unity, point-source like homogenousness over a wide frequency band. Not surprisingly, the Erotic, as well as other Existence speakers I've heard, sound coherent in this sense.
The Erotic doesn't have exclusive rights to this type of coherence - in fact it's a property, a strength, of nearly all single-driver loudspeaker. What all single-driver speakers do not have is the Erotic's huge soundstage, a way larger than eg. in its little brother Euphoric. While the soundstage occasionally showed that "larger than life" quality, it was never anything but fully enjoyable to listen to.
I'd not say that the Erotic's soundstage is particularly deep though. The solo instruments did come behind the speaker line but not three meters behind. The speaker also threw a portion of energy toward the listener creating a little ambiguity about the depth image. But otherwise the size of the soundstage and spaciousness of the sound was truly impressive! Add to that the sound's great, almost unreal height (the focal point being 20-30cm above the ear level), and you get an idea of the sort of illusion of a live performance that the Erotic is able to charm up.
If the size of the sounstage starts to annoy it can be adjusted by repositioning the speakers or simply turning the speakers toward the listener by a certain amount.
The Erotic's soundstage goes with its tonal balance: the midrange is reasonably flat and consistent, not raising passions to this or that direction. As a result, eg. piano and vocal music are being reproduced without bestowing them any privileges, and yet quite handsomely. Highs are high but not tweeter-like, the treble is more or less what one would imagine from this kind of driver, competent and unobtrusive. More importantly, as compared to the smaller TB drivers, the 6,5" driver seemed to produce less artifacts of intermodulation distortion (nasty not music-related sounds especially audible when played loud). Neither did I hear non-linearities that I'd normally associate with a whizzer cone itself.
According to the manufacturer, the Erotic is so tuned that "the bass response extends below 30Hz in a normal room and with a standard placement". My impression was that the 30Hz is not taken from the sleeve. The bass dives deep to give life to certain very low bass notes. On the other hand I felt that the range from the low/mid bass to >500Hz midrange sounded under-represented, at least in a room such as mine where the room does not provide help over that range. Despite the shallow valley, there appeared to be no major discrepancy between the direct sound from the driver, and the output from the port. The Erotic sounded fully logical to my ears/brains.
When it comes to "intimacy" of the sound (one of Existence's sonic goals with the Erotic), we´re talking more about the qualities of the driver than qualities of the speaker as a whole. In this area of competentence I'd say the 6,5" TangBand is not such a specialist as some other WB units such as the PHY E17, Voxative AC-1.5 etc. are. It does not concentrate on every detail (eg. every breath of the vocalist) with the same intensity, the same density. The TB can sound detailed too but in a more outgoing and earthly manner, more suitably for the rock&pop department as if it were. There's no reason why the sound should be regarded incorrect in this regard, the TB driver simply has different things in it's mind. It's not a driver that carefully articulates all phonetics, instead it cheerfully sings out what it has on its heart.
From left: Erotic, A+Audio BassReflex and PHY E17 TL
As to inner "color" of the TB driver, and the sound of the Erotic, I must first say that there appears to be less of it than in some other single driver speakers. The sound certaily doesn't have, metaphorically speaking, that red-yellow quality of some vintage drivers, neither the speaker sounds velvety purple as PHYs sometimes, or chrystal white blue. If the sound has a color it's light grey of silver or chrome, or something like that. This color is attached to every tone, just like other WB speakers have their own inherent color.
To sum up, the Existence Loudspeakers Erotic gave me hours of happy listening with music from various genres. It showed that widebandwidth drivers can be ported if the designer has patience and accurate ears. It also confirmed my belief that WB speakers possess undeniable strengths, and set the standard for all multi-way speakers apart from certain multi-way horn designs perhaps. To my ears the most irresistible sonic feature of the Erotic was its life-like soundstage, and although it is not the deepest (depth psychology) sounding widebandwidth speaker I've heard, it definitely sounded largely positive and cathcy.