The Eikon room at AXPONA
When Gayle Sanders designs a new speaker, I go out of my way to hear it. Sanders is the co-founder of MartinLogan. In the second half of the 1980s, he spawned the CLS (curvilinear line source): a full-range electrostatic panel, made with a single sheet of Mylar, that so excelled in speed and midrange purity that it made many highly-regarded traditional speakers of the day sound plodding and gray.
After more sonic and commercial triumphs, Sanders sold MartinLogan in 2005 and took a long sabbatical, then returned to critical accolades a few years ago with a new company, Eikonand a floorstanding speaker called the Image 1. Actually, to refer to Eikon products as “speakers” is to sell them short; they’re systems that include a control unit called (what else) the Eikontrol, built-in amplification, state-of-the-art DSP/room correction, even cables.
Outside the Eikon room at AXPONA, sharply projected onto the hallway carpet, floated the company’s logo in bright white. I like to think I wasn’t the only one who reacted to it like a little kid from Hamelin, powerlessly compelled to follow the music that was now within earshot.
Inside, I greeted Sanders plus Eikon’s house evangelist Jerry Stoeckigt, and was invited to audition the just-launched Image .5 standmounts ($12,000/pair). This is a two-way with traditional-looking drivers, not a panel in sight. Again the Eikontrol (which measures the room to digitally counter frequency gremlins and time-domain issues) formed the heart of the system, taking its musical signal from an Aurender N20 streamer (also $12,000).
Chris Stapleton’s “Death Row” was up first, appropriately full of bluesy despair, the raw vocal nearly holographic. Very good stuff. Of course, it’s a small-ensemble affair, just a few instruments and a voice, so not exactly a torture track. How about a symphony orchestra recording? With each of the two Image .5 speakers sporting a duo of modest-looking 5.25” woofers, it didn’t seem like a fair challenge, and when Stoeckigt cued up the Minnesota Orchestra’s rendition of Fanfare for the Common Man, I half-expected to hear stridency and breakups at higher volumes. But as the SPLs rose and dipped and rose again, not a single instrument sounded strained or stressed. Massed horns never went glassy; timpani entered the room with appropriate thunder and heft. The music ended, everyone was quiet for a few seconds, and Stoeckigt, seeing the look on my face, smiled. “Hardest-working 5″ woofers in the building,” he said.
They really were.
One more thing: Eikon originally designed nicely-machined, extruded-aluminum stands for the Image .5, priced at an eye-popping $1800/pair. Then COVID and supply-chain issues forced a rethink. How does $320 sound instead? The company now suggests that Image .5 owners purchase a pair of 28″ Monoprice stands for $120, and affix Eikon’s custom top plates ($200/set) that in turn bolt to the bottom of the .5.
A high-end company giving Monoprice a nod, and looking to save customers $1,500 bucks with a nice custom solution? That’s another reason to be impressed.
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