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Jupiter Audio Europa Active Speaker System

 

May 2005

       



Space: Don’t you wish you had more of it?
If you answered “Yes!” to the above question, I may have a neat and compact solution for you. If you have a small to midsize room and a wife that doesn’t appreciate the rugged good looks of your favorite power amp parked in the middle of her flooring of choice, the Jupiter Audio Europa Active speakers may be just what the audio-shrink ordered!

The Jupiter Audio Europa speakers are compact two-way monitors that use Chinese, Silver Flute drivers and high-quality crossover parts and internal wiring. The front-ported Europas can be purchased in either an active or passive version and either model measures 10 1/2" W x 7 3/4" D x 21 3/8" H. Available finishes include Black Lacquer or Antique Cherry for the Europa Active, and Black Lacquer or Oak Veneer for the Europa Passive. The cabinets are solid and use real wood veneers although no grills are available. Jupiter Audio’s Greg Singh feels that the speakers are attractive enough as they are and that the use of grills would only serve to diminish the performance. Those ‘philes with a WAF (wife acceptance factor) to consider or with small children roaming around will need to ponder whether or not this constitutes an issue.

The driver compliment includes an 8-inch wool-filled paper cone woofer with a rubber surround, a 38mm oxygen-free copper voice coil, and a die-cast aluminum frame and former. The Silver Flute tweeter is a 3 1/2" x 6 3/4" ribbon driver using a Kapton film membrane with copper conductors and a Neodymium magnet system. System response is stated as 50Hz-20kHz with no tolerance given.

The Europa Active, which is the focus of this review, uses a two-way Hypex amplifier module that supplies 65 watts to each of the Europa’s drivers. The Netherlands made amplifier incorporates an electronic 4th-order Linkwitz-Riley filter with the crossover frequency set at 2.7kHz via a tidy plug-in crossover module. Quality parts are in evidence, including a beefy toroidal transformer and Wima capacitors. The active Europas can be configured for either single-ended or balanced operation, which should be specified when ordering because you have to remove the amplifier module to change the internal pin-strap. This is not at all difficult, but folks that don’t like to tinker may not be comfortable performing this short procedure. I used the review pair only in the single-ended mode.

It is worth noting that Greg Singh uses high-quality QED Silver Anniversary cable to connect the Hypex amplifier to its drivers. This heavy-gauge cable uses spiraled, quad bunches of silver-plated, oxygen-free copper strands, and is silver-soldered directly to the speaker terminals. Additionally, absorptive, sound-damping material is used to pad the amplifier mounting plate. Damping the mounting plate helps kill any potential ringing that might be induced by its close proximity to the speakers.

In addition to being inconspicuously bolted to the Europa’s rear panel, the Hypex amplifier modules have a number of control and convenience features worth mentioning. First of all, there is a rear panel IEC receptacle for use with audiophile-approved AC cords. The amp has a master volume control as well as separate volume controls for the respective woofer and tweeter levels. Once the on/off toggles are set to the “on” position, the amplifiers have signal-sensing circuitry that automatically turn them on when a signal is present and automatically shuts the power off when there is no signal for 15 to 20 minutes. From an ease-of-use standpoint, it just doesn’t get much simpler!

Additionally, there are room equalization pots that offer plus or minus 3dB of adjustment below 150Hz and above 6kHz. All the adjustments can be made with a small screwdriver and once set to your room and liking can be largely ignored. My listening tests were performed with the EQ controls set flat, and with the master volume, bass, and treble controls turned almost fully up.

I set up the Europa Actives in my 12’ x 14’ listening room with its vaulted ceiling. They were supported on heavy-duty, metal, 18-inch stands supplied by the manufacturer. This positioned the tweeters close to ear level at my listening seat. I located the speakers approximately 3-ft from the front wall and 2 feet in from the side walls, and toed them in a bit. Homemade Helmholtz resonators and Sonex panels were employed to improve the imaging (as with all speakers used in this room). SignalCable Analog Two interconnects were used to connect the speakers to my Parasound P/LD-2000 preamp, and 14-gauge Belden power cords (nothing too exotic) were used for the AC power connection.

As it happened, my particular speakers had been inadvertently wired with the drivers in opposite polarity (on both the left and right speakers), but I was able to correct that mistake by switching the tweeter wires (at the amps) in the early part of my evaluation. With the drivers wired in opposite polarity there was a little more of a suck-out in the crossover region where the respective driver’s response overlaps. Switching both drivers to the same polarity improved the speaker’s reproduction of brass instruments and piano, in particular. My listening impressions (below) are based on the Europa’s sound after the polarity issue had been corrected.

To The Listening!
The first things one notices about the Europas are their sense of intimacy, outstanding imaging capability, and their prowess on vocal reproduction. The speaker’s overall character is warm and musical but without the typical euphonic embellishments that detract from the naturalness of lesser designs. Male vocals sound natural and correct, without the artificial chestiness that some speakers impart. Listening to “Good King Wenceslas” from the Crash Test Dummies’ Jingle All The Way (Koch KOC-CD 8439), even with the predominant male vocal, the backing female singer’s words could be heard distinctly and clearly. And on Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company (Concord Records/Hear Music CCD-2248-2), both Ray Charles and Natalie Cole sounded fantastic singing, “Fever” along to the beat of that snappy acoustic bass.

On tracks like “The Nearness of You” from Branford Marsalis’ Trio Jeepy (Columbia CK 44199), I was surprised by the Europa’s ability to develop a sense of space and exactness to the soundstage. You can virtually walk around Marsalis’ bass sax and when he turns away from the microphone it is clearly evident, which implies the adept portrayal of the related phase information and micro-dynamic shifts. Here again, the acoustic bass is tight, right, and palpable, and the cymbals on the drum kit shimmer like the real thing.

Without a doubt the Europas are enthralling on vocals and are very convincing on guitar and other string instruments. Listening to a complex musical work such as “Plymouth Rock Roll” from Brian Wilson’s masterpiece, Smile (Nonesuch 79846-2), I was struck by the layering of the voices and instruments within the soundstage, and also by the sweet decay of the piano and strings. This provided a kind of eerie ambiance that captured the mood of the piece beautifully. Also evident on Smile was the fact that the weight of the deepest bass notes was somewhat lacking in authority, which is to be expected from speakers of this size.

While I find the Europa’s bass extension adequate for much of my music collection, certain of my bass-heavy recordings could benefit from the addition of a competent subwoofer. And just coincidentally, Jupiter Audio makes a very good subwoofer appropriately dubbed the “Subterfuge A”. As you may have guessed, the “A” designates the audiophile version. But the Subterfuge A is not the subject of this review, nor have I actually heard it. I am told by Greg Singh that it works exceedingly well with the Europas and do not doubt it.

Ascending into the treble region, the Europa’s Silver Flute ribbon tweeter acquits itself extremely well. It is not at all hard or nasty sounding, but rather smooth, airy, and open. It lends detail to song lyrics and supplies the upper overtones of acoustic instruments in a manner that is easy on the ears, yet on the polite side of neutral. The Silver Flute tweeter did a nice job of defining the skins on drum rolls and of painting the brushes on cymbals. I find its horizontal dispersion to be excellent and its vertical dispersion to be much better than one would expect from such a ribbon design. Of course the most extended high frequency reproduction was near the tweeter’s horizontal axis but when I stood up, the highs did not disappear as they do in other designs with similar tweeters. They did roll off slightly, but it was not a night and day affair by any means. To me this neat trick was a pleasant surprise.

Shortfalls
The Europa’s flaws are mainly sins of omission. As I explained, the lowest octave of bass is lacking while the mid-bass and upper bass is quite articulate and rhythmic. I find that the bass the Europa does produce is convincing and natural, without overhang or exaggeration. It does appear to roll off around 50Hz as the specifications suggest. Many would not require a subwoofer if the Europa is used in small to mid-sized rooms and/or possibly placed a bit closer to the front wall than the 3-foot distance I used.

As superb as I find the Europas to be on vocal music, they are not quite as convincing when portraying brass instruments. This was evident when playing tracks from my Squirrel Nut Zippers’ retro-swing CDs, which flaunt the brass vividly and often. It’s hard to put my finger on the exact reasons for this other than to note that in comparison to my VMPS RM30s or even my Newform Research Module 30 speakers, brasses through the Europas are not quite as plausible.

Part of the reason my lie in the Europa’s seeming inability to excel in the reproduction of macro-dynamic contrasts, and transient speed. The Europas, while very good for speakers of their size and price, do not quite match the incisiveness or dynamic capability of today’s best speakers. This is not an egregious shortcoming by any stretch, but it is an area where I found a bit of room for improvement.

Summing Up
The Europa Actives are capable of painting a very vivid, intimate, and captivating musical portrait in smallish and mid-sized rooms. They manage to supply a wealth of detail and articulation, and yet, are easy on the ears. They sound fabulous at low listening levels and can play moderately loud; but, are not for someone who requires high sound pressure in a large room.

The Jupiter Audio Europa Active speaker system will certainly find a niche in the audiophile marketplace. It’s compact dimensions, ease of use, flexibility, and potential to reduce the typical system’s clutter factor are all strong enticements. The fact that the Europas perform so extraordinarily well for their size and price category is the icing on the cake. Without hesitation, this adroit active speaker system comes highly recommended by me! Did I mention the Europas are enchanting on vocals?

Frank Alles

                               _________


Manufacturer
Jupiter Audio
P.O. Box 5441
Glendale Hts., IL 60139
Phone: (630) 649-4329
Fax (630) 871-1330
Web: http://www.jupiter-audio.com
e-mail: contact@jupiter-audio.com

Specifications
Jupiter Audio Europa Active
Hypex Amplifier Section: 65W into 8 ohms per channel (one channel for the woofer and one for the tweeter)
Electronic Crossover: Fourth order Linkwitz Riley 2700 Hz
Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 85 kHz, +0/-3 dB
Per Channel Gain 12 dB independent adjustment
Overall Volume Range: 30 dB
THD: Less than 0.05% THD at rated power
S/N: Greater than 100 dB at rated power
Damping Factor: 1000
Input Impedance: 10k Ohm
Input Voltage: 115VAC (220VAC available)

Speaker Section
Drivers: Silver Flute ribbon tweeter and 8-inch wool-filled paper cone
Frequency Response: 50Hz-20kHz
Size: 10 1/2" W x 7 3/4" D x 21 3/8" H
Finish: Antique Cherry or Black Lacquer
Weight: 30 pounds each
Price: $2000 USD/Pair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jupiter Audio Europa Active Speaker System