At a $500 price point you don’t expect a pair of speakers to be perfectly neutral. The ELS8 speakers aren’t, but they don’t miss by much. They err on the darker side of that invisible line. Although they are slightly dark, they don’t sound overly warm or thick in the lower midrange or upper bass. Instead they merely lack a bit of presence in the lower treble and upper midrange. With many less expensive electronics, which are often a tad bright, the ELS8’s harmonic balance will be a fine match.
Many audiophiles, especially as their ages creep up toward the three score mark, tend to favor speakers with a slightly tipped-up treble response to compensate for their own lost or failing upper octaves. The ELS8 won’t help you regain any of your lost youth high-frequency-wise. Both the ATC SCM7s and Paradigm S1s deliver more in the way of upper-treble extension and air.
Serious music lovers know full well that complaining about upper-frequency air and extension is for audiophile weenies. The midrange is where 99% of the music is at and that’s where the ELS8s definitely deliver the goods. My listening notes for the ELS8s are peppered with words such as “natural” and “relaxed.” Their midrange rightness reminds me of storied speakers of the past such as the Celestion SL600s and, gasp, the Quad ESL 57s. Like these great speakers of yore the ELS8s don’t have any sonic quirks that distract a listener from the music’s core. Solo guitar recordings, such as the Tony Furtado/Dirk Powell duet “Banes Grave” from the compilation Come to the Mountain: Old Time Music for Modern Times [Rounder], sound richly well balanced whether heard from my desktop or from two rooms away.
Expecting a small box speaker to have low bass is roughly akin to waiting for the tooth fairy to deliver a Patek Philippe in exchange for your first-born’s front tooth. It ain’t gonna happen in this particular universe. What upper and midbass the ELS8s do possess is clean, fast, and well integrated. As I’ve mentioned earlier, if you want more boom in your room the ELS8s will readily accommodate the subwoofer of your choice. I especially liked using them with a pair of JL Audio F112 subwoofers. After only an hour of fiddling, I found the results were virtually seamless between the Epos and JL speakers.
For some audiophiles the idea of spending only $500 on a pair of mini-monitors is akin to asking them to surrender their premium speaker cables in exchange for an eight-foot run of zip cord. It’s too bad that snobbery and elitism may prevent many well-heeled audiophiles from auditioning the ELS8 speakers. I suspect that quite a few of them will be shocked by how good the ELS8 speakers sound and how close their overall performance comes to similarly sized cost-is-no-object designs. Don’t believe me? Try a pair. I guarantee they can make adjusting to new economic realities exceptionally palatable.
Epos ELS8 Bookshelf Monitor
Type:Two-way bass-reflex mini-monitor
Drivers: 25mm magnesium alloy dome tweeter, 150mm polypropylene woofer
Impedance: 6 ohms nominal
Sensitivity: 85dB 2.83V/1 M
Crossover: Second-order filters using film capacitors on tweeter
Size: 12.2" x 7.1" x 8.46"
Weight: 5.67Kg per speaker
Price: $499 (matching ST35 stands, $249)