WHILE THEY ARE EXPENSIVE, THEIR QUALITY OF SOUND IS WELL WORTH THE INVESTMENT.
While they are not the cheapest speakers out there, their sound quality is well worth every penny.
Atlantis Acoustique Estérel Mk3 Speaker: The Sheer Magic of a Musical Speaker
These speaker towers are gorgeous and easy to use.
These speaker towers are gorgeous and easy to use. Veneered with oiled bubinga, the speaker cases have angled corners at the front as well as a rear-facing tweeter. This fourth driver, according to the manufacturer, simulates a doublet (not the same as a dipole) and creates a better sense of space through adding a back-wall reflection. I have to leave the judgement on the particular usefulness of this approach to others. These are very fine sounding speakers and I am happy to call them doublets instead of dipoles, as long as I can listen to them.
The fact is that the speaker performs beautifully with great sources; why wouldn’t you use an excellent source with a $6,000 speaker? They were essential to the magic that the Audiomat Opéra, Audiomat Tango DAC, and the Benz Micro L2 into the Audiomat Phono 1 preamp generated.
I connected the speakers with Actinote LB-3 (12 metre) speaker cable. I also used Actinote interconnects for this review at the distributor’s suggestion. After comparing these cables with my own, I stayed with them for the duration – I do not know what Actinote has done since I last tried their products, but they have certainly significantly improved their cables’ performance. They were as good as or better than my own Nirvana speaker cables and JPS Superconductor 2 interconnects from the DAC and phono amp to the amplifier. There is also a small female banana at the bottom of the speaker enclosure that allows you to ground the speaker system through a filter connected to this ground. The distributor explains that, “by linking this to a real ground (to the chassis of the amplifier works often), the static electricity built in the components (by the displacement of the membranes, and other factors) is ‘unloaded’ to the ground, resulting in an improved sound.” Works for me either way.
As the speakers had already been broken in, I plunged into some of the music I like to listen to and also use to evaluate components.
I have often wondered about what critical listening means. What is there about hearing music as a reviewer that differs from hearing music for my own pleasure, enjoyment or understanding? Do I suddenly become able to tune my hearing to pick out which frequencies are missing, too strong or just right? Am I suddenly able to hear where each driver rolls off and the other comes on? Can I identify the brand and date of manufacture of the wood glue used to hold the speaker cabinet together and whether the drivers are anchored by drywall screws, regular round head wood screws or odds and ends from the left over parts bin? Some writers would have you believe that they are able to do all of these things unerringly, repeatedly and consistently from one listening session to the next (only kidding about the wood glue and screws – that requires a spy in the company’s plant).
Reviewing means a number of things, but choices of recordings on which to base your assessment is fundamental to the process. First of all, the reviewer must take the time to hear recorded music and to differentiate the quality of its reproduction as various parts of the playback chain change. It also means taking the time to listen to several recordings that I chose on two bases. I chose a range of music that represents the music listened to by a large percentage of our readers.
I also choose recordings that reproduce enough different types of music so that I can get some idea of the components’ effectiveness in creating an auditory simulacrum of the original performance or performer’s creation (for directly created electronic music). Thus, I listen to classical, orchestral, chamber, vocal, jazz, rock, rap, opera or some combination of these that demonstrates such things as transparency, phase coherence, resolution, body, accurate reproduction of the instruments recorded, separation of instruments is large and small groups, bass extension, presence and soundstage. This list is not complete. There are other aspects of reproduction that a reviewer will touch on and some in this list that he or she will ignore.
I have written before that I just listen to music that I love. Sometimes, one loves the music so much, that it is possible to forget to listen to the component, in this case, the speaker, instead of the music. Not possible, you say? On the other hand, if that happens, one knows it is a good speaker, since it has let you forget its presence for a short time and left you in your own world of musical enjoyment.
When I could not sleep for the excitement that these speakers and their attendant components generated from my listening to Shirley Horn’s album, You Won’t Forget Me, [Verve, 847 482-2] I knew that I had been privileged to the speaker forgetfulness test for part of the time. To start with, these speakers provide an exceptional level of coherence. I pointed out to the distributor that no speaker ever seems to hit the level of coherence that Equation speakers have and he replied with a story.
The designer and manufacturer of the Atlantis Acoustique holds the Equations as the example of coherent sound for which he strives. With the Estérel Mk3, Atlantis Acoustique comes closer to doing what the company name implies: providing the ultimate of a fabled, lost civilization.
Why such a visceral response? Consider the qualities for which you listen. Coherence, transparency, evenness of frequency reproduction across the auditory spectrum, speed of response, transient response, accuracy and the summation of all these qualities plus the happy synergy of all these that results in musicality. The voice was richly detailed, realistic sounding, accurate, as Horn demonstrated the ability to take a song at quarter tempo and not get lost. You could hear the wood of the tone blocks, the brass in the cymbals, the wood and steel in the piano. I could feel the depth of the silence between the notes; that is, the character and contrast among the instruments and musical lines was more clearly perceptible.
My point? The Est? ?rel speakers shocked me with their ability to produce the refined patterns in the work of harpist Yolanda Kondonassis playing on Music of Hovhaness [Telarc CD-80530] and also the magnificence Kynaston’s recording. The real trick in all of this is the speaker’s ability to maintain throughout all of the music it reproduces the sheer magic, the musicality of everything it reproduced. Forgive me, but I love “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” by the Black-Eyed Peas [Monkey Business, A&M Records B000434102] and the Estérels handled the demands of this CD as well as other rap, house and electronica with aplomb.
They do not look like rock speakers, but they never disappointed, no matter what the demands were.
I recommend these without hesitation. In the $6,000 range, they are in a very competitive bracket. However, they meet the bottom line – they create musical magic. In particular, they are precise, offering a full sound with excellent transient response and the ability to hold it all together at both very quiet and very loud levels. Their deep bass extension is transparent and musically true, their mids abound in presence and the highs are translucent. For six thousand dollars, a pair of speakers had better not become boring and there is a key virtue of the Estérels. They will continue to surprise as time goes by with the detail and the magic they uncover in your collection.
Weight: 35 kgs (77 lbs)
Frequency response: 29 Hz to 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 92 dB
Power: 100 watts
Impedance: 8 ohms
Drivers: 3 drivers + 1 rear, hence 4 drivers
– 1 boomer polypropylene 7″
– 1 large band medium 6.5″
– 1 ribbon tweeter
– 1 ceramic inverse dome tweeter
Cabinet: 30 mm MDF.
Finishes or colors available: Bubinga, maple, wild cherry tree.
Special order: piano black lacquer.