The vinegar. Obviously no 4.5-inch "woofer" moves proper air to do the first octave from 20-40Hz any justice. Here that's simply lost in the mists. Leashing up my Gallo Acoustics TR-3D subwoofer with a 3.5mm-to-2-x-RCA Zu cable and setting its low-pass to 50Hz took care of that. The one thing I couldn't solve was the lower soundstage. Whilst Tadeusz was correct that his coax suffers no tonal imbalance from its low mounting—one does not have to stoop down to the tweeter's axis to find the treble—he would be wrong claiming that it has no effect on perceived stage height. It's here where industrial design and a desire for minimalist size dominate over practicality. With a work desk at proper ergonomic height to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and slumping; and with the Essence baffle insufficiently angled and/or its footer too short for this 6'1"/186cm chap; only a stacked pair with the lower once acting as stand would elevate things at ear height and have the stage fill out a tall computer monitor like mine. If you worked on a Macbook, you'd not notice. You'd be looking down at a slightly up-angled screen. The music would be down there as well for perfect spatial overlay. That's how Eversound's home page illustrates it too. Many Gallo Reference 3 owners in fact had the same complaint. This opened up a small aftermarket for custom 8-inch plinths that raised up Anthony's stumpy reference speaker and with it, stage height. I can't predict who'd be bothered by it here. Some of it depends on your setup and your own size. It's simply fair to mention it so prospective buyers include it in their consideration.

The sugar. With these limitations covered—the need for a sub to attain true full range is self-evident and inherent in any concept this compact—we get at pure sugar. Remember how the driver assembly bolts to the rigid front with eight bolts which turns the thick grill rim into another stressed member for a 14mm effective baffle? This hard coupling added to the compression which the tension rods put on the enclosure creates a fresh punchy attack-mode sound without boxiness. That removal of box mud equals crystalline clarity. Hiromi-style power piano really transmits the percussive force involved in hammering long wrapped bass strings. Whilst we don't get the raw air displacement of a bigger driver's upper bass behaviour (its shove if you will), we do get speed and very adroit articulateness. Add the ability to go what in the nearfield is silly loud. It's this particular confluence of virtues plus coincident driver placement and soft membranes which move our mini into the big times without getting unnaturally sharp and needly. Tadeusz plays the piano, his son Robert the drums. It's no surprise that their hearing would be attuned to qualities like timing, transient precision and dynamic range. Cue up Tidal to "Wind" from Øystein Sevåg's Caravan album. In the cut's centre section after the piano intro and sax solo, the drums go headline act over synth pedals and low bass accents. Here one needs truly brachial cracking and spiky thunder on the drums with very fast-settling debris, on the cymbals handfuls of disbursing buzzing fire flies. The Essence aced that test at levels which caused my wife in the open kitchen 10 metres removed to comment on how amazing they sounded there.

To reiterate because it's a if not the key ingredient, a very inert enclosure of small cubic volume allied to a low-distortion paper driver with soft suspension, oversized voice coil and high-current amplifier drive generate dynamic range that's fully mature. It's worlds removed from the dynamic compression normal small desktop boxes are afflicted by. That's what the premium in this retail sticker buys you; plus stout bandwidth relative to size. Dynamic range is the spice of music. Without it, everything defaults to mush and gruel. All is equally loud with no variety, no tension, no expressiveness, no accents, no emphasis. Of course radio-ready Pop which has meters red-line with nary a flicker knows no different. But pick music with 20dB+ DR—PureMusic on my iMac can be set to show it in real time for each track—and the Essence becomes a wakeup call. Think warm shower that steams up the mirrors. Then shift rapidly to ice cold, then back to hot and so forth.

That's expansive dynamic range. Here the white minis upstaged my usual Boenicke W5se. They behaved like baby Magicos, albeit without their dryness, presumably because a similarly extreme cabinet isn't married to hard membranes. It meant a texturally seamless blend with the sealed low-volume cylindrical Gallo sub and absolutely no placement fuss to nail it. What the Essence clearly is not is an Amphion Pro monitor with Titanium tweeter driven by stock Anaview class D amps as I'd reviewed earlier. Those modules recalled early NuForce, all zip, lean and wint'ry white-out. The Essence joins my favourite ICEpower implementations from Wyred4Sound and April Music which are lusher, denser and blacker if not to the degree of Gato Audio's take on Pascal. It's the combination of rigid full metal enclosure, rigid driver coupling, soft drivers and warmish ICEpower which keeps transient rigor and greased voltage-swing reflexes on an even keel vis-à-vis tonal weight and fullness. Whilst lateral staging is wide, the real reason for sounding so preternaturally big once SPL open the curtains is the liberated dynamic range. It's this uncensored twitchy liveliness which has the minis play far bigger than they should - as though they were aspirated by a big air-intake dynamic turbo. This is particularly surprising with the use of passive filters, not active variants which would have required 4-channel amplification. Eversound rate dynamic range at 96dB max, with 106dB peaks. Adrenals, release. And it goes without saying, zero operational noise between tracks or just sitting there looking pretty.

Granted, it took medium to higher levels for this twitchy quality to awake in earnest. Faint levels didn't yet fully telegraph this speaker's major prowess. Once it kicked in having crossed the threshold, I spotted the swaggering attitude of a speaker at least twice as big. This included tautness and growl of bass. Nothing was in the least soggy, indistinct, fuzzy or bloated about these low freqs. They simply rolled out to miss the bottom octave. Saying so is perfunctory fact, not even a subliminal protest. Imagine the facial shock of shoppers stumbling upon these in a Bang & Olufsen or Bose shop. It should be comical in fact. The other key attraction—particularly so when as PC speakers, these must combat the deleterious impact of a screen between them—is their exceptionally specific imaging. In your mind's eye, walk down any stave of a virtual fully unfurled if much oversized Japanese hand fan to determine the varying distances to you, all continuous from left to right, front to back. Here point-source radiation and minimal baffle width really serve the nearfield. This rendered the material obstruction of my computer screen nothing but psychological. It also meant that, Zen-reminiscent as the goose is out, the sound was really and truly out of the boxes. If all this suggests true audiophile performance in the context of the desktop, that's because it is. But never mind the desktop. I could turn the speakers around to face our living room, crank the throttle to 14:30 hours and radiate our big space. Seriously, no problem.

Obviously the visceral impact of moving bigger air now diluted. That was poxy Physics and no limitation of necessary SPL. It's why the Eversound goes über on the desktop or any other nearfield app like on a bedroom or studio lowboy; normalizes as cubic air volumes and listener distances grow; and finally fades as things get too capacious. Here it is perfectly adapted for its intended application. Like a pet cat rather than Bengali tiger, nothing more is required or desired. Good riddance external electronics. Good-bye standard 5.25" two-ways with vertically spaced mid/woofers and tweeters. Happy funerals, various plastic and MDF pretenders. Six feet under to digital volume controls which bleach out at low levels. The two-finger maloik to USB drivers for WIndows whose users in that regard always feel like 2nd-class citizens. A big cheery hello to top low-impedance headphones. A loud cheers to 10 standard finish options. Colossal applause to industrial design, build quality, fair pricing given the lot and country of origin. And many enthusiastic encores for such superlative performance which, on the desktop, shot right up into the #1 spot of anything I've heard there yet. Who would have thought that two Polish emigrés* opting to settle down in Switzerland's northern-most canton of Schaffhausen would rewrite the rules on what to expect from computer speakers, each no bigger than a stack of three fat Robert Ludlum paperbacks?

* Of course there's good precedent for that, with Antoni Norbert Patek founding Patek Philippe and Stefan Kudelski Nagra for just two famous precursors.

Vital to any successful PCfi business is the USB interface and subsequent DAC implementation. One wants to keep computer noise entirely divorced from the audio signal. Contracting with Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio nets the Essence another few gooey brownie points. After all, this man was first to market a performance-oriented USB DAC when few others foresaw how ubiquitous that functionality would eventually become; and he has continuously refined his own offerings plus contributed as OEM to others. That same lengthy experience pooled into this little computer speaker with a custom digital/analog converter/gain board. No wonder that it took Ted Kwolek altogether 5 years to develop the right suppliers, perfect the die-cast alloy mouldings to the required tolerances to seal metal on metal, ease the assembly protocol to reduce final labour fees and kick off mass production. All good things are worth waiting for. That's what the old proverb says. If you've been amongst those who, like this scribe, waited patiently for a no-compromise premium computer speaker that brooked no compromise on any front; or if you didn't know you were waiting until seeing the Essence now: your time has come. Your slow boat from Switzerland has arrived. It's docked right outside your window. Whatcha gonna do about it?

Indialucia's Acatao CD next to the right Essence serves as final size reference. Here I put the active box on the left to conform to my setup (computer, AC power and headphone tree aka lamp are on the left). Having bought the review pair, a pair of curved glass shelves from Italy's Infabrica has been ordered to raise the speakers 16cm above the table top and elevate their soundstage.

Your answer should primarily depend on your keenness of purpose. Audiophile legacy snobs still don't view the desktop as a proper milieu for deep listening. Meanwhile mixing and mastering engineers spend their entire working hours in exactly such setups. Are they any less serious listeners? My Chinese Rapoo keyboard would simply be replaced by massive mixing consoles, the studio monitors of choice placed right behind them though usually elevated. Such a nearfield perspective neatly removes most the room from the equation. It gets far closer to the purity of headphones which track the recorded signal, not how it happens to interact with your acoustics. Still, nearfield listening presents the typical speaker perspective out of the skull and spread across free space. It's thus quasi headfi but projected outside the head. Having compact monitors one meter apart and one meter from you obviously scales down the panorama vis-à-vis midfield setups where the stereo triangle may have 3-meter sides. Other advantages are that any small bedroom or nook can suddenly transform into a dedicated listening palace; that you needn't use heady volumes which bleed into the rest of the house; and that you won't fight typical bass issues of riding room modes like a big-wave surfer. If these items suggest that legacy audiophiles who diss desktop fi are shortchanging themselves, I'd agree with you most loudly. Essence for president!

Packaging: Engineered double carton the size of six wine bottles, with individual cloth pouches for each speaker and a tray for the power cord, USB cable and mini XLR speaker link.
Fit'n'finish: Review pair done up in a high-quality matte white for the central C panel and semi-gloss white on the cheeks.
Self noise: None.
Operational temps: None for the slave speaker, mild for the active speaker.
Concept: Self-powered not active speaker (crossover between amp and drivers, not before the amp) with analog and digital inputs.
Pricing: Ultra premium for the category, perfectly fair and on the money once featurization, build, sonics and country of origin are factored.
Application conditions: Very wide-dispersion coax suffers no tonal-balance shifts despite its low mounting but does cast a lower soundstage. Will need subwoofer for 20-45Hz heroics which is why the 3.5mm stereo sub output is there in the first place; and a matching Eversound sub on the drawing board. Those requiring a remote control will want to wait for the floorstanding version.
Final comments: Perfectionist product that goes the extra mile to hit its size objective without sacrificing bandwidth or SPL. Far too good and costly if you think Bose is the business. Spot on if you think a $1'495 Wyred4Sound mINT driving $1'500/pr KEF LS50 belong on your desktop. An unexpected but deal-seal bonus feature is the quality fully switched headphone output.

Final setup with glass risers and acoustic resonators.

Eversound website