I’ll admit that I’m a creature of the moment. That’s a nice way of saying I’m a little ADD. Whatever. What’s here, and in my face, takes precedence. And what’s in my face these days are the magical speakers from eFicion, the F300.
I spent very little time, last time, talking about the sound quality of the eFicion F300, but if you haven’t had the time or inclination to take a look at those comments, forgive me the crass move of directing you there and encouraging you to compare those happy times with these, much happier, times.
Here’s the skinny. I love these speakers. I’ve commented elsewhere that if I was to consider the upgrade from my beloved Magnepan 3.7s to any speakers — at all — these eFicions would top the list as they’d actually be an upgrade. Bass is deeper and punchier with far more thwack. Mid range is creepily realistic and is the best that I have heard in my listening room. Vocals get this freaky tangibility that’s impossible to ignore. You will not be playing muzak on these speakers — everything you play practically commands your full and undivided attention. In fact, I turned the damn stereo off so I can finish this post. There is an openness and extension to the treble that I haven’t heard since the Joule Electra OTL amps left me for another man. Those amps were unbelievable in their ability to bring out air and life from a recording and these speakers do that same trick. I wish I still had the OTLs on hand just to see if my head would explode if those stars aligned. Hmm. Anyway, these speakers have me deeply and seriously contemplating financial chicanery. They’re wonderful.
I’m going to leave the fuller review for another time, but I did want to address a question I had when I first set up the speakers, and it had to do with those footers. My review pair of speakers came equipped with a half-set of optional Stillpoints Ultras. That means that I have 16 of these little footers, four for each of the two bass/base cabinets in the F300s that sit on the floor and four for each of the two mid/tweeter cabinets that sit on top. Apparently, the “full set” includes twice as many Stillpoints devices and a customized speaker cabinet to house them and take full advantage of them. Overkill? Maybe.
The footers I have for the base cabinet are threaded and have a very slick and well-made steel adapter to fit into the brass mounting points on the bottom of the eFicion. The Ultras just screw right in on top of the exposed thread on the adapter. It isn’t supposed to be screwed in too tight — apparently, they need some float to work right.
Each Ultra is actually two pieces, a “base unit” where all the anti-vibration tech lives and a “top hat” (for lack of a better word). The top hat screws down into the base unit and it’s what actually makes contact with the thing the footer sits atop; the base of the footer, with the threading, goes “up”. In the case of the screw-in footers on the base speaker cabinet, the top hat is what’s hitting the floor. This top hat, like the base unit, needs to be a bit loose or the Ultra won’t work effectively. I settled on a 3/4 turn to loosen both the Ultra from the eFicion and a 3/4 turn to loosen the top hat from its base.
In the case of the Ultras that sit between the two cabinets, there’s nothing separating them and their smooth, rounded, stainless steel edges from the piano black finish of the eFicion. I asked Bruce Jacobs, the US distributor for Stillpoints and eFicion, if I should put something between them, but he said no. Still, I cringed when I set the speaker’s top cabinet on top of the loosely placed footers for the first time, but no worries. The Stillpionts level of finish will not harm or even mark the eFicion’s finish. Smooth ….
There is an issue worth mentioning here. The Stillpoints, with the variable separation of top hat and base, do make it possible to destabilize the top speaker cabinet — or unlevel the entirety of the speaker as it sits on the floor. Take care. I have Berber carpet on my basement floor and this pretty much soaked up all the minute variations of height to provide a level top surface on which to settle the second set of footers, but I can imagine that tile or wood floors may not be so forgiving. Likewise with the top cabinet. I had to fiddle rather significantly with the looseness of the top hats on the various footers in order to keep even and level contact with all four footers that served as the interface to the two speaker cabinets. Tedious.
But it made me wonder if it was even necessary. I mean, the Stillpoints aren’t a “standard option”. They’re not even listed on the eFicion website. Take a look here:
and compare that with this:
The Stillpoints addition means that the two cabinets are quite separated. The gap is just over an inch high.
So, do we really need them?
The eFicions ship with a rubber mesh mat that’s to be used as a dampener to separate the two cabinets. It’s rather thin and looks like a custom-cut sheet that you’d stick into your kitchen cabinets to keep your glasses from trapping moisture underneath them. When used, it lets the two cabinets sit flush, resulting in look that’s quite seamless if a bit boxy and mechanical. With the Stillpoints inserted, you get the feeling that the top cabinet is trying to get away, and has partially succeeded.
I think it’s obvious that there’s a mechanical value to having the two cabinets separated. That’s why Wilson Audio did it a decade or two ago with the WATT/Puppy design. That bass cabinet must vibrate like crazy and there’s no way that all that shakin’ is good for the delicate electronics in the top cabinet. But that said, does that mechanical value translate into a sonic value? I mean, the speakers were designed without them, right? So, the assumption is that the designer knew about the problem of shakage and designed around it. So, how much impact can aftermarket add-ons really have? More specifically, is it worth the extra $3,600 (or $7,200 for the full monty)?
I took the liberty of stripping off all the Stillpoints, slipping the mesh mat between the speaker cabinets and setting the speakers back up in their same locations. I played a half-dozen tracks and then added in the Stillpoints that separated the two cabinets, removing the mesh. I replayed the half-dozen tracks and then replaced the Stillpoints on the base cabinet, lifting that cabinet off the carpet.
The speakers, au naturel, sounded superb. Imaging was freakishly pinpoint. Sound stage was wide and deep and extended past the walls in my listening room. Bass was deep, if not crushingly cavernous, but very tuneful and impactful. Mid range was faultless and treble was extended and pure. In short, they sounded great.
With the Stillpoints back in place, but only between the two cabinets, I was surprised when the sound stage took a large step forward. Immersion! Clarity and resolution also jumped up a notch. And when I say “notch”, I mean that it was noticeable. Not shockingly, jaw-droppingly, so, but rather that I had the perception that the song I’d played only a short while ago was convincingly different — and better sounding. The sound stage appeared to be nailed down a bit tighter, a bit more precisely. It was a notch. Not a leap. A notch. But it was enough to notice.
Adding the Stillpoints back in place on the bottom, I was also surprised, but here it was because I really couldn’t tell the difference. I had been primed to expect that there would be a bump similar to what I imagined happened when I inserted the devices between the two cabinets. It just didn’t, or if it did, I missed it, though I did spend more than a few minutes scratching my head as to why that might be. Note that I had started with the speaker sitting flush on the carpet, with no footers on at that point — no spikes, no Stillpoints. As I said, each speaker had it’s ass directly touching the carpet. But that isolation is pretty good — good, thick, padded carpet. Perhaps adding the footers didn’t do much because there simply wasn’t enough vibrational energy being transmitted through all that padding for them to work with? If so, I assume that owners with harder floors may see different results. What I didn’t try, but perhaps I should, is slipping some kind of hard interface between the speakers’ footers and the carpet. Another time.
So, all in all, I was a little annoyed. I had hoped that the Stillpoints could have been dispensed with entirely, to be perfectly frank. The little buggers are $225 each, so the prospect of being able to safely shave a few grand off the price of an already expensive speaker (~$17k list, $~$20k as reviewed, ~$24k with all the Stillpoints tech you can eat) was quite a pleasing prospect. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it. The difference, to my ear at least, was tangible enough to warrant the conversation with your dealer. Luckily, this is one of those upgrades that can be safely had after the fact, should you choose to venture down the rabbit hole. At the very least, you should try your eFicion F300s with the footers separating the two cabinets. I think you’ll be as taken as I was. If I order a pair, I’ll be doing so with the Stillpoints upgrade.
Buzzing around in my head as I write this, of course, is the curiosity around that “full monty” option. What would the $7,200 worth of isolation tech do to the performance? Would it take it up another, incremental but tangible, notch? Two? Or none? How much would the appearance of the speaker change? Hmmm ….
Gah. I need to find a cheaper hobby.