CAS 2013: Endeavor Audio Engineering, YFS, Jolida

CAS4 It’s only fair that I start out talking about this room. This is, after all, the room I heard the most.

Mostly through the wall.

We rolled into the hotel on Thursday while setup was still in full swing, and the obsessive tweakers in this room spend the next six hours dialing their system in. Around midnight, the sound of David Gilmour was drowned out by shouts of “[expletive deleted] Yeah!” from the folks next door as they finally locked it in. Then they turned the volume up.

You’d think that would be annoying, right? It was anything but. If anything, it made me resent having to wait until morning.

Music here was sourced from the modestly named Your Final System HD REF-3: Special Edition ($15,500) music server. This nearly silent, customizable black box is usually seen in much costlier systems. In this room, it cost more than the rest of the system combined.

The price-performance champs, Jolida, provided the rest of the electronics. An upgraded Fusion DAC/Transport ($3500) handled the number crunching duties, and a JD 1000RC integrated amp ($2700) provided the power and control.

The big surprise here, though, was the E-3 Speaker — priced at just under $6000 — from newcomer Endeavor Audio Engineering in Corona, CA. That’s what I was hearing through the wall, and that’s what I was so eager to get in front of on Friday morning.

Boy howdy did I regret that. It was a mess. The tone was off, the drivers all sounded different, the soundstage was flat, the dynamics were lazy, and the overachieving bass somehow managed to be anemic and bloated at the same time. See, the problem with getting a show system dialed in at midnight is that every other system in the hotel tends to be idling along and sipping minimal electricity. By Friday morning, the Jolida amps were starving, and the perfectionists in this room were swearing under their breath at every half-hearted transient.

Saturday afternoon was another story. The Jolida gear was firing, and the Endeavor speakers started to show what they were capable of. Audiophile standards were well served, with a remarkably well layered soundstage and an easy delicacy. There may have been a hint of boxiness in the midrange, but it was nothing intrusive.

The much bigger problem, of course, is that by Saturday afternoon, the very idea of hearing more audiophile standards is utterly abhorrent. One more sampling of “Keith, Don’t Go to the Hotel California” would have had me strangling someone. So on went the Clash, and up went the volume, and homicide charges were narrowly avoided. If you willingly miss the chance to hear “Atom Tan” cranking out of this system, you and I will have nothing more to say to one another.

This was a promising debut. It’s safe to say that I’m very eager to hear more from Endeavor.