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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE
Amp: Bel Canto Design eVo 4 Gen II; 2 x AudioSector Patek SE
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk 1.5
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Stealth Audio Indra (x2), Analysis Plus Oval 8 (woofer) and Big Silver Oval (tweeter); Crystal Cable Reference power cords; ZCable Hurricane power cords on both conditioners
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan
Review Component Retail: $10,990/pr

Analysis Audio of Greece has built full-range 2-way planar-magnetic ribbon speakers since 1990. Cosmetics -- how many ways are there really to style a panel speaker? -- strongly mirror Jason Bloom's Apogees instead of Maggies. Priced from $9K to $20K a pair, the lineup encompasses, from the top down, the Amphitryon, Omega, Epsilon and Omicron models. With a shared crossover point of 650Hz, a common nominal impedance of 4 ohms and 86dB sensitivity, height is what distinguishes the four models. It increases surface area, bass extension and power handling. With a minimum rated power requirement of 50 watts, the max power rating climbs from 250 to 300, then 400 and finally 600 watts for the top model. F3 descends from 30Hz to 26 and then 22Hz. At 2' wide and 2.4" deep (the Amphitryon adds 4" in width and 0.4" in depth), we start at 44", move to 52", then 66" and top out at a majestic 83 inches of height. Weight proceeds accordingly, from a very manageable 68lb. to 79, then 99 and finally 145 pounds each.

Available in the States thru New Jersey importer Analysis Audio USA, this brand was first shown with H2O Audio's previously reviewed and truly exceptional ICEpower amps at HE2005 in New York City [left]. Due to unexpected complications in his professional life, our 6moons reviewer originally slated to do the honors on the Omega Model had to relinquish his review, with the loaner pair returned prior to completing the process. To accommodate my long-wall layout and closer sitting position, importer Michael Kalellis selected the Epsilon for my replacement assignment instead.

The Epsilon is the second-from-the-bottom-up or third-from-the-top down model and ships flat-packed in two wooden crates for the panels and a cardboard carton for the footer brackets. In best Ikea furniture tradition, four bolts with contoured heads screw into rear-facing T-nuts, then the brackets slip perfectly aligned atop these bolts and get fixed with the side-mounted lock fasteners and additional bolts through the bottoms of the supports into the base of the panel [see below]. Assembly takes less than 5 minutes per speaker and doesn't require a helper.

The Epsilon is a bi-wire design with clearly marked 5-way metal terminals whose hot and ground terminals are grouped as +/+ and -/- pairs. The bass panel sports an open perf metal finish on the back and a non-removable integral grill cloth on the front. The skinny mid/tweeter ribbon tucks behind loosely woven wire mesh on both sides.

The frame sports a wide 45° bevel front and aft, twin silver dress stripes on the narrow edge and the same sloped edging for the inner openings of the transducers. Ditto for the terminal bay with the model designation and serial number, mirrored up front in the recessed company decal. A matte black paint finishes all exterior surfaces for a simple, clean and elegant appearance. Three 1/4" narrow gold-colored and parallel ribbons make up the 44" long tweeter/mid transducer. The slightly trapezoid bass panel measures ca. 9" wide on top and 12" wide on the bottom. Without adjusting the footers, panel rake creates about 1.5" of clearance behind a plumb line at the top edge, a very shallow angle of lean. Raising the front footers can increase this lean to accommodate listener distance and height. The speakers are mirror-imaged to allow setup with the ribbon inwards or outwards. The terminals feature a non-standard thickness post and a very tight washer which needs to be moved forward to expose a narrow slot at the very end that accepts 1/4" spades but -- in the case of my thicker Analysis Plus spades -- just barely. While the firm prides itself on this design, a more common WBT, Vampire, Cardas or equivalent terminal would make for easier global compatibility.

With a minimum break-in of 100 hours and a brand-new pair delivered, I relegated the Epsilons to video duty [below] and asked the US distributor to give me the scoop on the company, its design philosophy and any relevant particulars about the model under review and his plans for the US market. Obviously, the Epsilon is a dipole planar-magnetic/ribbon design whose rear
radiation is out of phase with the front. The flat voice coils become circuits embedded in the stretched membranes (Kapton for the ribbon, Mylar for the bass panel) and are actuated by the gauss field of the magnetic array suspended behind the transducers (push/pull for the ribbon). As with any conventional driver, the magnetic field is modulated by the applied signal voltage to cause membrane movement, hence air pressure changes and thus, sound.

The inherent limiting factor of planar or ribbon transducers is excursion. Stretched and clamped sheets can only undergo so much movement before the material's tension intercedes. To compensate for limited excursion, such designs increase surface area. In conventional terms, this equates to a paralleling of low-output drivers to raise cone area and thereby output - except that a planar retains a single and seamless surface rather than being patched together of, say four 6.5" cone woofers. The electrical behavior of panels traditionally created erratic impedance swings and phase angles to make speakers using them reactive and inefficient loads that presented their amps with significant work. The subject of load behavior was thus of particular interest when I asked Michael Kalellis for background information on these designs.

Unlike previous examples of planar-magnetic ribbon speakers, Analysis Audio uses vertical rather than horizontal traces for its bass panel. It doesn't edge-clap the Mylar sheet directly to the frame either but uses a rubber suspension under variable tension on all four sides. This is claimed to minimize bowing of the membrane to insure flatter, more pistonic behavior and slightly increased excursion. In the left photo of the fully finished back side, you can clearly see the seven line magnets (about 1" wide and 1/4" thick and arrayed in alternating polarity) that set up a powerful enough flux field so that a two-sided push/pull array such as has been used for the ribbon was deemed unnecessary.

The ribbon is attached top, bottom and center (the black area at its halfway point) and under tension to make for two stacked 20" segments. The magnets are sourced from South America, the Mylar for the bass membrane from the UK, the Kapton from France and the crossover capacitors from Germany (one assumes the famous Mundorfs).

Before returning his Omega review pair, Bill Cowen -- who has owned Apogees in the past and thus seemed like the perfect candidate for the Analysis Audio speakers -- quickly itemized his preliminary listening impressions as follows: "Pros: exquisitely fast, detailed and very lifelike bass. The midrange is to die for. It reminds me of Quads except the Omegas are more revealing and detailed - kind of like a Quad with the grilles off. The treble is beautiful - shimmering, nicely detailed without sounding hyped and easy on the ears. Imaging is top-of-the-line. Everything is placed properly, doesn't wander and is life-like in proportion (height, believable outlines etc).

Cons: I was never able to get the bass to extend down real low. I'm guessing I got somewhere into the mid-30s. Not at all bad to
be sure and there was enough there to give proper weight and authority to the music. I was just hoping for a little more crunch down low and despite moving the speakers around a lot, removing everything in the room that could possibly soak up the lower frequencies etc., I just couldn't get them to hit the mid-to-upper 20s as their specs would indicate. I was also not able to get a deep soundstage. I got decent depth and good width but have been able to achieve deeper soundstages with other speakers. Lastly, I was sucking dry the 330wpc Innersound amp at even moderate volumes..."

Coming from big multi-woofered Coincident Technology speakers with higher efficiencies, Bill's expectations or larger room were perhaps clashing with the excursion limitations and therefore air-moving capabilities of planar bass. I was prepared myself for a similar reduction in bass extension/output via-a-vis my $9,000/pr 101dB Zu Cable Definitions which use four 10-inch amplified woofers per side and extend to 16Hz. That's something the Epsilon could never dream of competing with nor claims in its specs. That's simply par for the course of reasonably sized full-range (rather than hybrid) panel speaker.

To quantify what to expect for load behavior (which might also explain Bill's amplifier comment), I asked Mike Kalellis for impedance and phase graphs for the Epsilon and Omega [see below]. As per his e-mail, "these two screen shots are from last year's Epsilons and a recent Omega. The sign 'A' at the graphs means Ohms. The respective upper curves are for phase, the lower for impedance. The phase scale is at the right, the impedance scale at the left of the graphs.

As seen from the graphs, the Epsilon's minimum impedance is 3 ohms and its maximum is 7.3 ohms. The maximum phase shift is +22 to -27 degrees. The Omega's minimum impedance is 5 ohms and its maximum is 7.9 ohms. The maximum phase shift is +19 to -11 degrees. The Amphitryon is the easiest load among the Analysis models and the Epsilon the least easy. Recent Epsilons show a minimum impedance somewhat raised over the below sample but the Epsilons reviewed should measure like the attached graph." Based on the Omega's showing here, one would have to suspect some kind of malfunctioning for Bill's 330wpc Innersound amp.

From 20 to 100Hz, the Epsilon is a true and completely steady 4-ohm load. The 7.3-ohm peak occurs at 550Hz essentially at the crossover point. Above 3kHz, the load turns 3 ohms. The upper phase plot is equally benign and, perhaps most salient, both curves are as linear as a dream for the bass panel.

According to these submitted graphs, the Analysis Audio speakers are indeed a very benign 4-ohm load and a far cry from the amp-eating behavior of certain of their famous Apogee 'predecessors'. Mike Kalellis added that the integral design of all Analysis speakers has been future-proofed to allow for ready in-the-field driver upgrades as refinements or significant advances in their Athens headquarters become available.