There always are a number of mini-trends going on at any one time in the high-end. Lately, some of those have includes tape decks, vibration-control devices and integrated amps.
Among speaker manufacturers, the open-baffle concept has been on the rise. Having one or more drivers operating without being sealed in a box is hardly a new idea. But, most of the items mentioned above have long histories as well.
One of the pitfalls engineers have to deal with, however, is how to keep the rear-firing waves from cancelling or otherwise intruding on the front-radiated sound.
Emerald–- a subsidiary of Lahaina, Hawaii-based Underwood Hi-Fi — was showing two new models. System one featured Emerald’s EP-2.8 speakers ($9,995 USD), powered by the company’s EP-200.2SE hybrid dual-mono amplifier/controller (also new, $3,495 USD).
In addition, the rig contained a PS Audio Direct Stream Junior DAC with Network Bridge ($3,999 USD), an Emerald Physics bass optimization module ($499 USD), the Core Power Technologies Equi=Core 1800 balanced power conditioner ($1,995 USD) and new Deep Core A/C processor ($995). Sources were a Mac Mini running Audirvana software and a Cambridge Audio CD player.
The EP-2.8 uses Emerald’s 15-inch, carbon-fiber, cast-basket bass and midrange drivers, a new special edition passive, full-range analog crossover and the company’s neo polyester diaphragm compression tweeter. All the drivers were run full range with no DSP.
The EP-3.4 is designed to work with a subwoofer. It uses the company’s 12-inch, cast-basket midrange and its polyester-diaphragm compression tweeter — both recently developed.
Emerald Physics recommends the EP-3.4 be run full-range and bi-amped with the Sumiko S9, using the DSP 2.4 electronic crossover (which is included). The EP-3.4 also can be used in smaller rooms without a sub, the company said.
I listened to the EP-2.8 rig, with the selections including two audio-show standards – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley” and Chris Jones’ “No Sanctuary Here.”
The Vaughan track showed the EP-2.8’s to present a vivid aural picture, with SRV’s guitar rendered with impressive clarity and reverb trails stretching back into a deep soundstage. Bass was taught and deep, and did not seem to be suffering from significant cancellation.
The Jones tune highlighted how effective an open-baffle design can be on the human voice, with even the background vocals benefitting from remarkable focus and spaciousness. Highs also sounded clean and extended, with the tambourine having a lively impact but not becoming distorted.
With the total prices for systems one and two running $20,978 and $10,683 (USD, not including sources and cable), respectively, there should be nothing baffling about wanting to take a closer listen to this take on an interesting mini-trend.