Up through the midrange, the XC remains completely comfortable regardless of what levels of musical detail it is called to deal with. The Vivaldi and Berning set up through the Nordost cable provided quite a challenge in terms of both musical density and dynamic opportunities, but this is a speaker that yells ‘bring it on’ and just thrives on clean driving power and solving rhythmic puzzles. The XC’s cabinet construction must be seen as a complete success as it allows the drivers ample opportunity for sheer musical expression without a hint of compression, be it a delicate background phrase or just a different ambient structure surrounding an instrument. You cannot hear the cabinet. The structural and mechanical design elements give these Estelons a great sense of musical togetherness and integration. The music is as seamless and ‘joined-up’ as I have heard from three drive units. It is a real music-lover’s delight and heaven for detail-spotters. Driver integration is exceptional. That inverted dome ceramic tweeter is the master of everything, from its pure transient attack through to an immaculate view of instrumental sustain and decay. Speed-wise, the Estelon is completely cohesive, but it is the overall musical picture that is so remarkably and intricately balanced.
The uncoloured nature of the speaker’s tonality and balance means that you can listen, without fatigue or predictability and is made all the more interesting by the way the XC’s open up the musical stage. This is somewhat different from most similar arrangements I have heard, where the voice or main instrument is located with unwavering stability slap bang in the centre, and the supporting cast is layered in neat, detailed tiers back to the cabinets. Close your eyes and you would be hard pressed to point to the speakers at all as the XC has enormous projection but forms a very wide and open soundstage way beyond thespeakers’ outer boundaries.
It has no prescribed formula into which it fits the music. Each disc has its own unique presentation and musical shape. Take Nickel Creek’s eponymous album for example. Producer Alison Krauss gave the band a powerful identity on this cut. She loves close-microphone techniques and here she employs them to accentuate the percussive elements of Chris Thile’s fantastic mandolin playing. His astonishing plectrum technique is integral to the sound of this album. He is a master of the instrument and throughout the album shows its broad dynamic and tonal versatility. Krauss uses these textures and attack to give the instrument its recorded voice and leading role to drive the songs and builds the album around it placing it to perfection to provide the tempo, closeness, and tension. When the voices come in they are held, solid as a rock, in the air in front of you and as the harmonies swell out of the song the XC shows you a very potent, touchable view of the band. Many speakers would buckle here as the complexities of the musical threads increase (through the Diablo it can be a little relentless), but the way the XC manages the perspectives leaves it entirely accessible, very vigorous, and exciting.