A twig breaks 50 yards away, signaling danger. Our ancient ancestors relied on their ability to localize sound, to identify its source, so they could run the opposite direction. Our sense of hearing evolved as a survival mechanism. Only by hearing the direct sound can we identify its source. Blind people use this sense to navigate the world, a form of echo location. We use this ability when we evaluate high performance loudspeakers.
One essential quality of electrostatic technology is its directionality. In fact, its a myth that this feature is somehow a curse, perpetuated by manufacturers of electro-dynamicspeakers because they cant get past their own inherent characteristics. Somehow they made people believe that dispersion was more important than focus, they sacrificed directionality so more high frequencies were dispersed into the room. This increases the amount of reflected sound reaching our ears before the direct sounds, smearing the stereo image, losing any sense of realism and stability. The critical direct sound from a conventional speaker loses 50 percent of its output after traveling about 3 feet, never reaching the sweet spot the way an electrostat can.
By focusing +5 dB more spectral energy at the listening position, electrostats reveal an un-rivaled level of resolution and clarity, with a precise stereo image that conventional speakers cannot achieve. For the owner of electrostats, its audio nirvana, invoking a feeling of bliss, awe, and wonder.
Essence has just increased the range of frequencies reproduced from the electrostatic diaphragm by 3 octaves. Instead of relying on a hybrid using a dynamic woofer for the frequency range of 50 Hz to 400 Hz like the competitors, the Essence is electrostatic all the way, from 48 Hz to 23 KHz, ± 3 dB These are the most important octaves because accurate articulate bass and mid-bass tones are critical to localization cues; without those cues its hard to tell where the bass player is standing on stage. Or the cellist.
In the world of high fidelity sound, the sweet spot is defined as the listening position equidistant to each of the two front channels as they are from each other, so the arrival time of the sound is equal at your ears. If so, a stereo image appears in space in front of you that conveys a sense of realism; voices and instruments can be localized with specificity in the space between the speakers as if on a stage. The only person who hears it perfectly is the person in the sweet spot—that’s how it got its name. Why? Arrival time. The psycho-acoustic phenomena reveals itself only when the sound arrives at the same time from both channels. This is the “ah-ha moment,” when you realize you can’t do much to change that; that’s how stereophony works.
The term “precedence effect” means the speaker you are closer to is louder. It’s a law of nature and evolved for our survival. Even if off-center by just one inch, one channel will be louder. Our auditory systems are governed by this rule, and the stereo image loses its precision and stability when the arrival times are off by just milliseconds.
There are two rules to get great imaging. First, sit in the sweet spot because that’s the only place you’ll hear it. They are your speakers after all. Second, buy the Essence. Contrary to popular belief and marketing hype, flat stators outperform curved stators when it comes to precision imaging by focusing more direct energy at the listening position instead of the side walls.
AV industry veteran Bob Rapoport is the CEO of Essence Electrostatic LLC. Rapoport also serves as the CEO of St. Petersburg, FL-based NewPower, and CEO for sales and marketing consultancy TRG Marketing.