The room was quite pleasant in atmosphere and a world away from the hard, booming, inarticulate, and muddy sounding spaces I have heard so many times before. It didn’t have that cloying deadness of absorptive oppression that can be so unpleasant and unnatural. The partnering equipment, supplied by Ideaworks, was unfamiliar to me also. Driving were a pair of hefty Mark Levinson mono amplifiers and some extremely modest £10 per metre cabling carrying the signal over long lengths. I imagine that, given a free-hand, Kog would have loved to have installed their own amplification, perhaps from the upper echelons of the Vitus range, and would no doubt have been rather more fussy when it came to the details of the installation itself – possibly with Stillpoints racks and no doubt some Entreq grounding boxes and cabling.
A guided tour of the speakers with the charming Alfred was impressive. Estelon are very much about cabinet design. Obviously the fit and finish is exemplary and where the unusual shape of the design might seem on paper to be somewhat ‘extreme’, once you understand the relationship of the two enclosures to each other, it all makes perfect sense. The top enclosure can be moved vertically within its confines via a remote control (very much in the manner of a Gerry Anderson sequence from something like Thunderbirds), but the curvature means that it also arcs towards the listener as it does so. Imagine a less exaggerated Scorpion’s tail and you won’t be far off. The physical relationship and distance between the twin bass drivers and the mid and treble units can therefore be altered to your taste and this is going to depend on where you will be sitting. In this way, the Extreme can grow from 1770mm to 2070mm tall. The listening room dimensions dictated that we would be seated fairly near field in enormously comfortable reclining chairs and therefore the speakers were quite close together. Alfred ran the options past me as the central column slid up and down, and the differences were very interesting. Pretty quickly you will make your decision on a favoured setting as the musical integration snaps into tighter focus. I am told that, once the motors have done their work, the moving column comes to rest on a very small internal pin/spike design that detaches them physically from the bass enclosure, eliminating resonance and vibration that might interfere with the delicate high and mid frequencies. As Alfred was explaining the mechanism, trying to envisage exactly how this might be achieved was difficult, but it was impractical to disassemble the Extreme at that moment to make it clear exactly how the design functioned. The cabinet material is described as a “Proprietary marble-based composite” and is, according to Alfred, the speaker he has been designing in his head for the past 30 years. It just took a while for driver design and cabinet materials to catch-up. But, for anyone who has seen Estelon speakers before, the curves and stance are unmistakable.
The lower part of each Extreme handles the low frequencies through two 250mm aluminium domed units arranged so they are firing toward each front quadrant to the listener’s left and right and not sideways. This is a large enclosure where it needs to be, but tapers in the centre, giving the speaker a wonderfully elegant line and contour. Estelon really knows how to finish a product and the superb metallic copper of the bass cabinet continues across the front, but transforms to a beautiful slight matt black as the cabinet falls from sight. This ‘trick’ on the eye makes the whole unit actually appear much less bulky than it is. In the centre of this is the tapering slot that the upper part slides into. Here you will find what Estelon call a Mid-Woofer at the top. This is another 250mm aluminium domed unit while just beneath it is a 180mm inverted dome ceramic driver. The tweeter is a quite magnificent 32mm diamond design, again with an inverted dome. This tweeter section can be moved forward from its standard location through three positions via a discrete side-mounted key providing even more scope for further adjusting the speaker’s balance of presentation. All the drivers are custom made by Accuton and each speaker sits on four black Stillpoints Ultra 5s.
As soon as the listening began it was clear that this was not just a flagship statement of the company’s abilities, introduced to establish a presence in the lofty and expensive ultra high-end market. There were no twenty-foot wide guitars or bizarre instrumental dimensions. Instead, the whole musical picture had understandable scale and, even when huge, was focused. The lower bass section was doing a fantastic job at realising pitch and shape but still had that physical impact that is so much a part of experiencing music through speakers of this type and yet the area most likely to get itself or the room into difficulties. My first trip to The Ideaworks was really concerned with examining the speaker and speaking to Alfred about the concepts and design. Listening to him explain how and why he came to any number of decisions was fascinating and his demonstration of the way that moving the twin enclosures, relative to each other actually worked in a musically dynamic situation was almost spell-binding.