AXPONA 2018 marks the return of Gayle Sanders with the launch of EIKON Audio. Sanders co-founded Martin Logan in 1982, where he stayed for nearly three decades only to sell the company in 2005. After about four years, Sanders recognized he was missing the industry and got the itch to return as he hit the audio show circuit and prepped for re-entry.
Sanders realized digital was evolving at a rapid pace and aspired to see if he could leverage improvements in technology to solve age old problems he faced while at Martin Login. During an AXPONA EIKON presentation, Sanders said:
“How many times have you seen you have a perfect system, but you put it into a room that isn’t that perfect? What if we were able use technology in a way that we could resolve those problems? That is about the time Bernt and I got together and starting pushing the envelope.”
“I’m utilizing some of the new DSP technology, which has vastly improved over the last few years, and putting it together with my own engineering. It’s a perfect solution designed to work together in perfect harmony in any environment, and it wasn’t ready for prime time until recently.”
Sanders went on to explain that the DSP-based Eikontrol system consists of: the Eikontrol DSP Wavelet Controller driving Eikontrol speaker containing four mono-block amplifiers powering the tweeter, mid-range, front and rear woofer. Sanders explained:
“With this array we cannot only refine and clean up difficult things in the speaker itself from frequency response to time alignment, but we can also look closely at the room. The DSP controller uses wavelet analysis to understand the room in a 3D like manner.
If you have a reflection at 1000 cycles, and it is like 5-10 ms late, or boomy bass building up at 80 ms most systems can’t see when that build up occurs. Eikontrol can.
For the most part, traditional systems using FFT can see destructive energy building up. But one can’t really see clearly what is going on and more importantly, when. With the Eikontrol system, you can watch the room in time and actually see and control build-up in the all-critical time domain, providing clean, clear sound everywhere.”
Five minutes in, I could tell Sanders was happy, excited, and emotional about the release. It is that moment when you put everything into building something really special, and then unveil it. It was authentic, and heartfelt.
Sanders passed the baton to David Solomon to continue the conversation. Solomon, a familiar face who we all remember from peachtree audio, and also supported bringing TIDAL to the USA, has joined the EIKON team. Solomon has years of speaker experience, and seemed incredibly excited about the launch. I enjoyed his analogy of how Sanders design was similar to how large concert theatres are built:
“Gayle has given us a speaker that allows us to tune it just like the finest concert halls. They have full control over every driver in each array.
He (Sanders) started with the bass, with two drivers. Each have their own amplifier and independent signal in both time and amplitude. Through the power of advanced DSP the rear opposing-driver is acoustically time-aligned to the front, driving bass forward and canceling out wall reflective energy allowing for clean, tight bass everywhere. Similar to what you would do in a concert hall.
With Eikontrol, you can adjust it for any room. It allows us to create a pure system. So if we are in a digital world, we can control every driver a microsecond at time, to get everything time aligned. We align the driver profiles to a perfect curve. “
Interesting. But I really wanted to better understand how Sander’s offering and DSP processing is different. My past experience with room correction has been un-satisfactory and I typically fall back to fixing the room as my go-to solution. Bernt Böhmer who is responsible for the technology used in Eikontrol was able to give me the skinny. Böhmer explained:
“What is very different about this system, is this system works predominantly in the time domain. That is because our ears are operating in the time domain. We like to look at frequency response since it’s easy to interpret and a nice flat curve. Unfortunately our ears don’t agree with that, they think and operate in the time domain. If you have a driver, there are going to be irregularities happening at the time that it is launching, you will have some resonance, but you also always have delays or stored energy as well as diffracted reflections from edges of the enclosure. If you are just equalizing at one point in time you are blind to when these problems occur and the problems will not get resolved.
What the Eikon system uses an entirely different approach known as wavelet technology. You can think of it as a band-pass filter, but its particular since It has a real part and a complex part. The properties it has is that it is very accurate in the time domain and by theory should not be accurate in the frequency area but by creatively and carefully using many individual wavelets along the time domain we get an extremely accurate representation in both the amplitude, frequency and time domain. When you look at waterfall diagram it is very accurate in the frequency domain but not in the time domain. The wavelet is the other way around, but is more pleasing to our ears”
Intriguing and definitely interesting, these dudes might be on to something fresh. Enough explanation, how did it sound? Before Solomon hit play, he encouraged us to move around the room. He and Sanders stressed not to worry about just the sweet spot. Go listen in the worst locations of the room and see what we hear.
Solomon hit play on his Tidal playlist, and the horribly shaped, thin walled hotel room filled with music. The tonality was beautiful, the bass was effortless. Toes were tapping, eyes were closed. Time to get up, and stretch those legs, I migrate to the worst corner in the back of the room… closest to the free donuts. This should have been the worst location in the room to listen, but to my surprise, it sounded… good. Yes, the free donut tasted great too (No Dunkin’ Donuts in my hometown of Seattle).
I approached Böhmer again (yes, I’m that guy with too many questions) to learn more on how his wavelet analysis managed to get such even sound through the room. Böhmer explained:
“We are measuring the wave launch into the room, and the way the wave is bouncing around in the room, and when it arrives back at different points in time back. So it’s optimizing the wave launch such that the wave launch is as uniform as possible.”
We’re interested, and would love to hear these in a Part-Time Audiophile listening room. We hope to have have a review pair in the fall and will report more at that time. Sounds tasty and something that may change my opinion on Active Speakers with DSP magic.
Production starts around August 2018, and the complete system costs $24,500 USD. Made at home here in the USA.
Spec’s from the Eikon website:
Active Digital Loudspeaker with iOS/Android remote
Integrated Hi Resolution 8 channel DAC driving individual dedicated amplifiers per drive
Async USB audio, 24bit, 44.1-96kHz, PCM up to 384 kHz,
Spdif, toslink, 24bit, 44.1-96kHz
Super inert constrained layer cabinet
Wavelet Room Analysis
User Programmable Profile Mpas
Weight – 80 pounds each
42inch (H) 9.5″ (W) 15″ (D)