I’ve known Roy Hall, Epos’ U.S. distributor, for over twenty years, but I’ve never reviewed any of the components he imports. While this may have been good for our friendship, it has denied me the pleasures of his products. With the new Epos ELS8 speakers now in my clutches I’m probably destined to join the ranks of journalists who’ve been the objects of Roy’s prickly manufacturer’s comments. But before the barbs fly I’d like to go on record as stating that the Epos ELS8 ranks as the best under-$500-a-pair monitor speaker I’ve ever heard.
The ELS8 is a ported two-way monitor with a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a five-inch polypropylene midrange/woofer. Using a second-order crossover with a 2.3kHz crossover point and a port tuned to 58Hz, the ELS8 is designed to work either with a subwoofer or as a stand-alone transducer. The ELS8’s drivers are made to Epos’ exacting specifications in China.
Although it was designed as an evolutionary product based on the ELS3 speaker, the ELS8 shares no parts with its predecessor; both of its drivers were designed from scratch. The new midrange/woofer uses a steel basket for added strength and rigidity. Even its pointed dust cap isn’t merely cosmetic, but specifically created to maximize its ability to withstand physical stress and minimize in-band resonances. The driver’s polypropylene cone material has a neck that is thicker than its edges to control linearity at the frequency extremes. Even the driver’s suspension is specially terminated to avoid frequency peaks and troughs caused by internal resonances.
The ELS8’s new aluminum dome tweeter is only 50 microns thick. Because of this physically fragile dome structure Epos uses a black metal mesh screen to protect it from foreign objects like fingers and pencil points. Unlike earlier generation tweeters, the ELS8 tweeter doesn’t need a phase cap to augment its intrinsic dispersion characteristics.
Both the tweeter and woofer have curved-plastic trim-plates that not only give the front baffle a cleaner appearance but also improve the drivers’ dispersion. The speaker’s front baffle is curved, as well. According to Epos’ Mike Creek this curved shape was introduced more for cosmetics than sonics, but it does slightly reduce front-surface diffraction. The ELS8’s grille covers use traditional insert pegs to hold them in place, but they required particularly painstaking tooling to precisely fit into the speaker’s curved front baffle.
The ELS8’s cabinet is constructed of 18mm-thick MDF with glued-in vertical and horizontal crossbraces. During initial design stages extensive accelerometer tests were run on the ELS8 cabinet to determine optimal dimensions so Epos wouldn’t need to employ complicated damping schemes to minimize cabinet resonances. If you tap on the sides, top, or front baffle, you’ll notice that each has its own unique resonant frequency. Except for a small amount of fiber inside, the ELS8 doesn’t have or need large amounts of internal damping materials.
Instead of point-to-point wiring the ELS8’s crossover employs a carefully laid-out printed circuit board. Epos feels that the circuit board insures more consistent performance from the crossover than production-line point-to-point assembly could. Unlike Epos’ more expensive speakers, which are wired internally with solid copper wire, the ELS8 uses braided copper wire. Another difference between the ELS8 and Epos’ more expensive speakers is the ELS8’s use of push-on connections rather than soldered ones.
Stateside fashionistas will be disappointed to learn that the ELS8 is only available in the U.S. in a black ash finish. Brits, Europeans, and other citizens of the world may choose the ELS8s in a light maple veneer. But since the maple veneer is actually vinyl rather than real wood, the black ash option may well be your best choice regardless of where you live. Even though the black finish is also faux wood, it looks quite convincing—more so than the maple option. Despite, or possibly because of, its “just the facts ma’am” black exterior the ELS8 is a very stylish speaker. Its black-mesh tweeter cover and black polypropylene midrange woofer cone give it certain Darth Vader-like vibe.