I enjoyed my listening time with the Credo EV Reference One speakers (website) very much. It’s yet another example of the attention to detail and precision-engineered ethos that I’ve experienced in reviewing other “made-in-Switzerland” audio products.
Words and Photos by Dave McNair
A few things popped into my mind as I thought about how to describe my ear time with the Credo EV Reference One. I’ve noticed that I tend to divide speakers that I hear into those that I like and those that I don’t. There is absolutely no point in talking about speakers or any other audio component that for whatever reason, don’t quite float my boat. Additionally, in the category of speakers I like, it’s just not in my nature to like everything equally.
As of late I’ve been reviewing a lot of fantastic sounding components, including some of the finest speaker systems in production. This breeds a tendency to be a bit dismissive on my part when I hear a beautifully designed and voiced loudspeaker that sounds wonderful but may not quite one of my personal crushes. So, I’m going to talk about all the things I loved about the Credo EV Reference One and a bit about what slightly missed the mark for me—in as honest and non-dismissive a way as I can muster. It’s a phenomenal-sounding speaker that deserves no less.
Earlier this year Eric Franklin Shook and I made the drive to Florida Audio Expo 2022. I had fun and listened to some great systems. As is usually the case, Eric’s lay of the land and advanced intel results in him taking me to rooms he thinks are standouts.
When we entered the AudioShield room, Credo distributor John McGurk and Credo designer Michael Kraske greeted us warmly. I found an immediate rapport with Michael as he and I talked about speaker design, audio mastering, and a variety of other audio geek topics.
After a short listen to the Credo EV Reference One driven by some stunning Meitner electronics, I was down for a review. The speakers sounded great and it was clear to me, from talking to Michael, that he knows more than a thing or two about speaker design.
I didn’t know how much of what I heard that I liked was due to the Meitner gear—and small hotel rooms are a poor way to make critical judgments, but there was something I found compelling enough that I wanted to hear the speakers on my home turf. After the show, John McGurk passed through Winston-Salem and dropped off and set up a pair of Credo EV Reference One (and a few pieces of that lovely EMM Labs and Meitner gear).
A Deeper Look at the Credo EV Reference One
One of the things that I immediately reacted to, besides the sound, was the professional and somewhat utilitarian looks of the Credo EV Reference One. Being a lifelong pro audio engineer, that kind of look not only doesn’t put me off, I’m kind of drawn to it. Sure, I like an artistic and visually impressive speaker as much as the next person, but for me it’s primarily there to do a job—play music. I prefer to hang my art on the wall.
The Credo EV Reference One consists of a rectangular box containing a 1” textile dome tweeter and a 6.5” coated, sliced paper cone mid-woofer. This box is stacked (and decoupled, more on that later) on top of a taller box containing a side-firing 12” aluminum cone woofer. Both boxes are sealed, eschewing the near-ubiquitous ported enclosure designs that are used in most other current hi-fi loudspeaker systems. Kranske’s design philosophy for the Credo EV Reference One was to start with a very wide band driver, conceptually similar to a single driver design, and then add in a passive 12″ woofer and tweeter to extend the already wide response of the 6.5” driver.
As someone who has played around with designing and building speaker systems, to me, this approach has a lot of merits. If I ever lose my mind and decide to dabble in speaker building again, I’d start with this same concept.
The 6.5“ mid-bass driver crosses over to the tweeter using a very gentle slope that allows it to contribute to the lower treble region with audible output as high as 5-7K. This driver is allowed to go all the way down to 50hz before the crossover rolls off. The high pass portion of the crossover used on the tweeter has the same gentle slope which gets steeper towards the cut-off frequency. The side-firing 12” woofer in the lower cabinet has a sophisticated filter network to allow it to be utilized as more than simply a sub-frequency woofer.
Additionally, precision resistors of different values are supplied to let the user fine-tune high and mid frequency response curves by changing the tweeter or midrange level. Only the 12” woofer has a fixed output-level. With no resistors in-place, the midrange and high frequency bands are slightly on the plus side (louder) in relation to the woofer. So there is headroom for extremely damped (or bass heavy) rooms. These resistors are attached to the speaker terminals on the rear of the upper enclosure.
A short run of speaker wire paralleled from the lower enclosure terminals to the top box terminals ties everything together. My review sample used Van den Hul wire. A pro-audio style, matte black finish, completed the picture. Other finishes and colors are available including a gorgeous glossy wood veneer.
The Credo Isolation Base
It is important that I stop and mention the decoupling between each of each speaker housings and its footplate (isolation-base) as mentioned above. The “isolation base” itself is milled from 12mm aluminum and is an important part of the Credo philosophy. A lot of R&D went into the development of it, along with a special PUR compound, CNC machining, and so on. It’s a bit nerdy, so reading about it might scare some (most) people. So Kraske made a detailed video about it, linked here.
Listening, Credo EV Reference One
I tried to make the most of a shorter-than-usual review period by listening to lots of different music from analog and digital sources. Components used were a VAC Master Preamplifier with phono stage, TW Acustic Raven LS turntable, TW arm, Integrity HiFi Tru-Glider arm, DS Audio 003 cart and companion preamp, EMM Labs EQ-1 Optical Equalizer preamp for DS Audio optical carts, Charisma Audio Signature One cart, Ideon Absolute DAC and Meitner MA3 Streamer/DAC, and Parasound JC-1+ or VAC Master 300 and Ampsandsound Nautilus amplifiers.
I also did some comparisons by swapping out the Credo EV Reference One speakers for both my Qln Prestige Fives or a pair of Von Schweikert Audio Ultra 55. Cables used were Cardas Clear Beyond or Siltech Classic Legend 880 series.
After playing with positioning, I got my groove on. The Credo EV Reference One was one of the least difficult speakers I’ve recently used when it came to finding the spot. The first thing I noticed was a very satisfying low end. I heard lots of great bass (when it was there in a recording) that skillfully joined the rest of the frequency range. Bass had lots of size and impact but was nicely damped to prevent things from being too unruly. Bass lines and any low-frequency content were easy to delineate even when things got big down there.
The next thing I noticed was a very nice image portrayal, almost the kind of imaging you get from a small, stand-mounted 2-way—pinpoint and expansive. The overall tonality of the Credo EV Reference One seemed voiced for a combination of neutrality with a slight nod to listenability and fun. By this, I mean that the texture of the music was easy to hear into and pick up lots of little details but a very slight leanness to the lower mid kept things from feeling congested or too dense.
Initially, I felt things were a bit brighter than I preferred, but swapping out a resistor to back off the tweeter output by just a hair, brought everything into my comfort zone. The Credo EV Reference One always gave me a ton of musical information. The tonal presentation almost reminded me of ATC monitors that I’ve used in recording studios. Maybe not quite as smooth in the upper midrange as an ATC but flat enough to be truthful and still fun enough to be engaging.
All the amps I used worked a treat, giving me intel about not only the Credo’s easy-to-drive nature but also its scalability in revealing upstream color. Most of my listening time was with the Parasound JC-1+. This combo was pretty impressive, especially at the frequency extremes—although the VAC Master 300 and Ampsandsound Nautilus did a better job of filling out the low mids, and in general brought a higher degree of refinement to the mids and top end.
I loved how well the Credos could float a phantom center image. One of my favorite things is when a system can put the vocal right in front of me without any fuzziness or slight movement. The Credo EV Reference One speakers are great at creating this illusion.
I want to comment that because my audition period was punctuated by other speakers that were already in my que, rather than simply live with them uninterrupted, there was a fair amount of swapping in-and-out. I think this ended up being a good thing from the standpoint of fresh evaluation and comparisons. What might have been sacrificed was a longer period of letting my brain rewire to their particular charms.
One of the things I noticed whenever going back to the Credo EV Reference One was a tendency for me to listen more analytically than I might otherwise. This is not a bad thing, especially for me, because it’s my default mode. This kind of listening occurs for me most often when hearing lots of very highly regarded and usually very expensive speakers. The quest by modern speaker designers for very low distortion and “accuracy” sometimes produces a speaker that activates more mind than heart. I found the EV Reference One to be a little more in the mind-activating camp than my reference Qln Prestige Fives which always seem to have a lot of heart. The Qln Prestige Fives are the sonic equivalent of a comfy, well-worn, blue jean jacket. The EV Reference One was more like a new pair of dress shoes that look snazzy but need some time to break in and feel comfortable.
Conclusion, Credo EV Reference One
I think this speaker will appeal to folks who value a portrayal with lots of detail and texture, accompanied by a slammin’ low end and pinpoint imaging. The Credo EV Reference One is satisfying at low and moderate levels and when accompanied by good clean power, it rocked as hard as the best of ’em.
The Credo EV Reference One exudes a confident precision in its sonic portrayal, without any additional sweet talkin’. And at $30,000 a pair they carry a high-end price tag, but are still a fair ask for something in this performance class—just don’t expect lots of romance and pillow talk.
The tonality, imaging, and low distortion of the Credo EV Reference One speakers are classy enough for orchestral recordings however, I found them to be a bit more engaging with other genres. For fans of modern and classic rock, EDM, jazz, and pop, do yourself a favor: find a dealer and give them a serious audition.