French cable expert and electro-mechanics engineer Richard Cesari founded Esprit over 20 years ago. Esprit might not be the first name to roll off the tongue in terms of audio hookups, but perhaps it should be. Why? Because the Esprit Beta interconnect and loudspeaker cables, and the Alpha power cords all represent extraordinary value for money. They are basically high-end cables that forgot to get a bit too ‘spendy’. Everything about them, from the box they come in, to the braided shield, to the quality of the connectors, all says ‘money’, and the performance they elicit isn’t exactly cheap-sounding either.
OK, so the Alpha and Beta ranges are just the jumping off point; there are six more lines of ever more esoteric and expensive cables in the Esprit line-up. The same 1.2m interconnect, 3m of speaker cable, and 1.5m power cords from the company’s top ‘laboratory standard’ Eureka range will set you back €7,200, €10,200, and €5,300 respectively. OK, by upper echelon cable standards, these are practically freebies, but for those of us who aren’t deposed African dictators that’s still a significant investment in cable.
Back to Alpha and Beta. The cables use 720 strand high-grade copper conductors (in the Beta interconnects) and high-grade 20-micron silver-plated copper conductors and terminators in the Beta speaker cables and Alpha power cords (there is no mix and match mystery here; we wanted to listen to the Beta range, but at this time there is no power cord in the range, so the Alpha power cord stepped up). This is not only a good starting place for financial reasons, but also many of the company’s core concepts start at this point, and the materials science stays constant throughout. There’s no shields of unicorn hair or magic metals throughout the range; just good, honest PVC, silicone, air, copper, and silver.
Both ranges have worked on the application of shielding carefully. The Alpha power cord uses a unique directional shield, while the Beta interconnects and power cords rely on a partial shield (integral in the case of the Beta speaker cable). Arguably the most interesting of these is the Alpha interconnect cable. Although an electrically symmetrical design, the Alpha cable uses an asymmetric dielectric (PVC on one conductor, silicone on the other), with an air layer insulator. The asymmetry is seen in a cross-section of the cable, rather than an asymmetry along the cable’s length.