When I listen to premium two-way bookshelf monitors such as the Credo EV 350 Reference monitors, I often wonder how I could objectively rate them based on a combination of size (the internal volume of the enclosure), the “largeness” of the sound (both soundstage size and low frequency extension) and the value (price). I’d assign some kind of score, I guess. I’m not a mathematician by a long shot, so I’m not sure if I’m looking for an actual equation or a Food Network-style of awarding points for taste, creativity, and plating.
Even I recognize the problem with largeness, which is mostly subjective, but perhaps we can look at the measured frequency response as somewhere to hang our hat, at least until we save our allowance to buy a nice test bench. Mere mathematics, however, may not be the answer for describing my enthusiasm when it comes to these Credo EV 350 Reference monitors. Yes, these Swiss monitors would score unusually high on some sort of three-way matrix. When it comes to high-end audio, however, the numbers don’t always reflect the emotional bond—and I bonded with these very quickly.
First, let’s look at the Credo EV 350 Reference’s size. These are small speakers, no doubt about it. That was why I was so knocked out by them in the first place. When I visited the Credo room at AXPONA 2022 for the first time, I was focused on the big Credo Cinema LTM array speakers which retail for $175,000 per pair. I did notice the EV 350s, which were part of a static display along the side of the exhibit room. Oh, they make little speakers too, I thought. Hmmm. Later that day, Grover Neville texted me at the show, asking if I’d heard those little EV 350s. He had taken a listen, and he immediately thought of me and that I’d really like them. He told me the bass was superb. I returned to the room and asked to hear the Credo EV 350 References in that gigantic room.
Now we have to address the “size” of the sound coming from the speakers. If you read my AXPONA coverage, you’ll know that when I asked to hear the Credo EV 350s, I immediately worried about the size of the room, even going as far as to ask Credo Audio Switzerland’s designer, Michael Kraske, if they were going to have enough suds to energize a gigantic downstairs ballroom kind of space. He had no doubt. They’d be just fine, he assured me. I said welp, okay then.
Finally, we have price/value. That’s a different type of variable than the first two because it’s not completely measured by listening sessions, and it might be difficult to include in this comprehensive rating system. It’s certainly possible, if not downright easy, to come up with a score based on just internal volume and bass extension—we do it all the time. But I recently I have kept company with some very expensive small speakers, so we need to come up with a way to celebrate those who have accomplished much within a certain price point.
This third variable is where the Credo EV 350 Reference shines. On one hand, these are relatively small monitors, and while they possess a stunning level of fit and finish, they are just small bookshelf speakers in a black finish with Scanspeak drivers that you’ve probably seen before. You can therefore assess the value from two different perspectives. You can see another small two-way speaker that retails for $7,000/pr USD and ask why it costs so much, or you can do what I did—close your eyes, take a listen, and immediately declare them as some sort of crazy bargain.
Inside the Credo EV 350 Reference
The Credo EV 350 Reference monitors seem simple from the outside, and the design is fairly straightforward as well:
“The 5.5-inch paper-cone, symmetrical drive mid-woofer is accompanied by a 1-inch tweeter. The mid-woofers sliced cone prevents effectively cone breakups, so it is playing from 37 Hz and blending over gently to the tweeter, protected by a high-pass filter. As always with Credo Audio speakers, we achieved smooth, continuous impedance and a good efficiency, making it an acceptable load for amplifiers.”
The sensitivity and impedance ratings of the Credo EV 350 Reference monitors are unusually detailed. First, the sensitivity is not high at 84 dB—which almost sounds like a typical BBC monitor. The nominal impedance is 4 ohms, but that varies from a minimum 3.2 ohms at 44 Hz to 10 ohms at 1.2 kHz. When I used the Pureaudio Duo2 power amplifier in pure class A mode, about 25 watts per channel, I heard no strain. Michael Kraske quickly sent me his white paper on the EV 350s, which includes a discussion of sensitivity and impedance, and how the numbers don’t often tell the whole story.
Michael summarizes his philosophy like this:
“The speaker is a significant load for the power amplifier’s output stage. When we look at numbers, we often read four or eight Ohms specified impedance, which is meant from 20 Hz – 20 kHz, but that is radically simplified, since no speaker has a stable impedance of exactly 4Ω. So we never have a stable load for our amplifier. When looking at the typical design, it is obvious that a stable impedance helps the amplifier to perform, also at higher frequencies.
“Our design guidelines: The impedance of a loudspeaker must be as linear and smooth as possible, no excessive ‘impedance correction circuits’ in the crossover and no dips exceeding 20% of specified impedance according to the IEC 60268-5 standard.”
Credo also takes pride in making their speakers in-house and not relying on outsourcing from the Far East. Speaker terminals and circuit boards for the crossovers are made in the Credo factory in Switzerland, and the company has its own CNC machines and builds its own enclosures.
Finally, the Credo EV 350 Reference monitors are available in a wide variety of finishes. My pair came in black finish that might be called semi-gloss, but there is a piano black finish that is even shinier. So while I do suggest that the Credos are rather understated in my listening room, you can gussy them up somewhat. But I do think they’re lovely speakers in any finish.
When I received the Credo EV 350 Reference speakers, I immediately placed them on the Acora Acoustics SRS-G stands and settled in for a listen. Then I realized the EV 350s came with stands, and that I should use them because they’re special stands that use the same type of isolation as the footers for the Credo EV Reference ONEs that Dave McNair reviewed.
The Credo stands are slim and petite, and the EV 350s are small, and that made the combo appear even smaller. That’s not important, other than the fact that the Credos won’t be in the way if you’re stuffing them into a room with another main purpose. That’s part of the understated charm of the Credos, that sooner or later you’re going to have all those first impressions erased by the sheer performance. One day at a time.
I hooked the Credo EV 350 Reference monitors up to several amplifiers during its stay—including the aforementioned Pureaudio Duo. I’ve borrowed a “vintage” Ayre V-3 power amplifier, which has turned out to be a stunning amplifier. It has 150 watts per channel, more than enough for the Credos. Toward the end of the review period, I brought in the new Bel Canto e1X integrated amplifier with DAC, which is class D and has plenty of power. All three amps, connected with Furutech Speakerflux, were fine partners with the EV 350s.
Credo EV 350 Reference Sound
Return to your journeyman audiophile days—which might be now, and that’s okay, too—and remember all those stories about hearing something incredible at a hi-fi shoppe and taking it home and being truly disappointed that it didn’t sound nearly as nice as it did back in the showroom. I worried about that as I set up the Credo EV 350s in my listening room and that without Michael Kraske sprinkling fairy dust on top of the cabinets as the music played, I would no longer be as enchanted.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t experience that very often. If I can’t make hi-fi gear sound better than it did at the dealer, or at the hi-fi show, I shouldn’t be doing high-end audio reviews. Once the Credo EV 350s were connected, however, they looked around the room and told me this’ll do just fine.
It’s not important that the Credo EV 350 energizes my smaller listening room in the same way they energized the large ballroom at AXPONA—what’s the protocol for that A/B test? I was worried, however, that the prodigious bass energy that emerged in Chicago would somehow overpower my room and awaken those pesky and somewhat unpredictable bass nodes that appear in this room. Nope, the EV 350s acted as if they had a little room correction gadget tucked away in a spare pocket. The Credos exhibited a very smooth and balanced sound that felt downright bespoke for the room.
It’s obvious that I noticed the low frequency performance first. When I thought of that big AXPONA exhibit room, the bass from the Credo EV 350 wasn’t remarkably deep as much as it prowled around the room boundaries and figured everything out and came back with a detailed and accurate report. The sound of the EV 350s seems to be focused on becoming BFFs with your room, for solving all the acoustic problems in advance, on making you love them at first listen.
Oh, that’s just the beginning. The Credo EV 350 Reference also excelled at imaging, so much so that I really noticed it. I’ve been spoiled by so many stellar two-way monitors over the last few years that I take it for granted that those little boxes are going to disappear, and that imaging and soundstaging will suddenly transform into a Dionysian rave of sensations. With the Credos, however, I was drawn to the imaging because it seemed to be a touch more vivid than with my other bookshelf favorites. For instance, I heard more slap and decay with percussion recordings, more of a sense that I was witnessing the real thing and that I could see a hand or a stick making contact just a few feet away. The transient response of this speaker is superb, and the clarity and speed make everything feel more alive.
The Credo EV 350 also has a thrilling grip on tonality and timbre, also a by-product of that lightning-fast speed. I’ve been thinking a lot about the gap between the sound of voice recording, and the sound of a voice, and when high-end audio ventures across No Man’s Land and almost reaches the other side. I felt that the Credos offered plenty of those moments, even when walking around the room, where I could furrow my brow and say yes, that comes as close to the real things as I require. Maybe a little more.
I really tried to push the Credos and find out their fatal flaw. They didn’t wimp out during a handful of Tool/System of a Down listening sessions by hardening up in the treble or breaking up in the low frequencies, although I tend not to listen at eviction-prompting levels. These speakers kept up with me and did everything I wanted them to do. I can’t think of one time where I wanted something different to happen to my music.
I suppose it’s become predictable for me to subject all two-way monitors to the Yulunga test, where I listen to the very first drum beat, deep and soft and slow, from Dead Can Dance’s “Yulunga” from Into the Labyrinth. The Credo EV 350 Reference monitors were able to dig in, produce all those different tones, keep it round, and provide an accurate beginning, middle and end. They passed with flying colors.
I have been obsessed with a recent new jazz recording from Barry Coates, Jimmy Haslip and Jerry Kalaf called New Dreams, which is one of those jazz recordings that barely maintains the traditional structures of jazz while embracing a newer, more liberated and universal sound. This is an album of incredible sonic range, especially for a simple jazz guitar trio, with both shimmering highs released from Kalaf’s very present ride cymbal and propulsive lows delivered with Haslip’s fretless bass. Coates’ guitars and synthesizers provide all of the textures without delving too readily into mere melodies, giving these original compositions a dreamlike feel.
I suppose I’m so smitten with this album because I heard it numerous times with the Credo EV 350 Reference monitors, the deep layering of details, the extreme sweetness roaming shyly through the upper treble, all punctuated with an occasional and completely satisfying low note from Haslip.
I’ve also received the latest sampler from Rhymoi Music in China. It’s the third or fourth one I have now—they have very similar covers but the music inside is always different. Rhymoi LPs and CDs are sonic references for me, much like 2L Recordings, and I always learn something new about the timbres of traditional Chinese instruments. The Credo EV 350s were able to faithfully reproduce both types of Rhymoi music—the exotic instrument solos and the big sweeping orchestral pieces—with equal passion.
I even supplemented the Yulunga test with the Chocolate Chip Trip test. Yes, I did. Is this where the Credo EV 350 Reference finally screams “UNCLE!” and asks me to please stop in a very polite but very agitated Swiss accent? Nein. I kept smiling, and I kept re-experiencing that same sense of surprise I felt back at AXPONA. These speakers, if you haven’t guessed, really impressed the heck out of me.
Credo EV 350 Reference Conclusion
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been spoiled by excellent two-way monitors over the last few years. An overwhelming percentage of the monitors that pass through my listening room are quite capable—that’s because I tend to scout out review gear before I say yes—and yes, they usually earn my recommendation. For a while I even kept a list in my head, a ranking of my favorites. Over time, that’s become more and more difficult to maintain.
Instead, I tend to place the emphasis on whether I would buy a particular hi-fi component for myself. If I was at a high-end audio store, listening to a product, would I pull out the credit card? The list of those products, for me, is a far shorter one, and the Credo EV 350 Reference qualifies. To paraphrase an old audio buddy, if someone handed me a pair of the EV 350s and told me those were the only speakers I could ever listen to for the rest of my life I’d say okay, thanks!
I am enchanted with the Credo EV 350 Reference because its flaws are so few. Would I like something a little flashier, something with a little more bling, something that tells my audio buddies that a fancy pair of small monitors is all you ever need to be really happy in this hobby? That recalcitrant voice in the back of my mind has been thoroughly bullied in recent years, so I’d say no. This is a speaker where you must close your eyes to assess it, and then you will become as beguiled as I am. Highly recommended.