Initially, I listened to these speakers without their spikes in place. Though they sounded good, there was also a slight heaviness in the bass region that was easily corrected by installing their specially designed spikes. These spikes are made of solid brass and were able to pierce the thick carpeting that covers the concrete floor of my primary listening area. This helped provide a rigid coupling of the speakers to the floor and the overall improvement was quite noticeable.

Along with the better bass control and articulation, image focus and sound staging were improved. All instrumental and vocal images were now securely locked in their appropriate position on the stage and with no discernible wandering. Best of all, the speakers just simply got out of the way of the music and performed a wonderful disappearing act. Additionally, images produced through the ESP Concert Grand SI speakers are endowed with rich textures and delivered with complex and highly dimensional layers. Often times when listening, this brought to me in a quasi surround sound/wrap around type effect. As a result, the music poured forth from the speakers and simply covered me in a rich, warm musical blanket.

Reactions from numerous persons who visited my home and had an opportunity to hear these wonderful speakers, unanimously praised them for their high degree of musicality. Typical comments were something like …“Thanks for such a wonderful concert, I really enjoyed listening to those speakers.” Or “When can I come back for more? Your system sounds great and those big speakers you have are absolutely killer.” Essentially, the Concert Grand SI loudspeakers speak with such musical truth that they become immediately appealing and virtually grab both serious and novice listeners in a most engaging and compelling manner.

What’s also impressive with the new speakers is how they adapt so easily to all sorts of music. Whether it’s chamber music, large dynamic ensemble stuff, acoustic jazz trios or quartets, R & B, hyped-up electronic fusion or heavy hitting straight-ahead, mainstream jazz, these speakers always provide an accurate rendition of the musical performance. In speaking to Steve Hoffman, well-known mastering and recording engineer, as well as a devoted ESP Concert Grand SI speaker user, I learned that he most often uses these speakers to evaluate the quality and accuracy of his recordings. Steve stated that with these speakers being so musically accurate and revealing, they have become an excellent tool for helping him to determine the overall quality of his recordings.

In terms of companion components, thus far I’ve used both solid-state and tube electronics with the SIs and have been equally satisfied using either. The good news is that these speakers always seem to reveal the sonic character of the electronics, cables, and tweaks used with them, giving the user a wide range of options to meet his/her preference in sound.

Vocals
Vocals are a real specialty for these speakers and once you’ve heard someone like Mary Stallings sing “You Go To My Head” from her Manhattan Moods recording [Concord Jazz label CCD-47502], you’ll know exactly what I mean. Also, you should check out Regina Belle’s Lazy Afternoon [Peak Records label, PKD-8524-2] for superb vocals and outstanding instrumental background. Recently, while attending a live concert featuring renowned R&B/Gospel singer Mavis Staples (of the well known Staples Singers), my wife leaned over and remarked that she felt Mavis’ voice sounded just like it does on the ESP speakers at our home. I knew exactly what she meant and simply nodded my head in acknowledgment.

Bass
One of my all time favorite jazz recordings, Ray Brown’s Soular Energy [Groove Note – GRV 1015-3], provided all sorts of clues of how an acoustic bass should really sound. Throughout this recording, Brown varies his style from a light touch to times when he basically attacks the strings with power, authority and precision. Regardless of his approach, the Concert Grand SIs revealed subtle and not so subtle differences in his playing style. This characteristic of the speaker always allows the music to better communicate while I’m listening.

Another good example is Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubacalba’s wonderful The Blessing [Blue Note CDP-7971972]. On this recording, the sublime acoustic bass player Charlie Haden handles his instrument with a considerably different style. Again, the ESP Concert Grand SI allows me to easily hear the stylistic differences between these two artists. Brian Bromberg’s superb recording titled Wood [Music Group A440 recording label] reveals yet another contrast to playing the acoustic bass through these speakers. Here Bromberg’s clear and distinct style is quite evident and wonderfully articulated.

Midrange
The sonic reproduction of the midrange is absolutely a pure joy being very revealing and totally life like. In many instances, the level of realism through the midrange often gives the impression of music being right in the room. A good example of this can be heard on Milt Jackson’s outstanding recording entitled Mostly Duke [Pablo label PACD 2310-944-2]. Here Milt expertly and emotionally brings life to the vibes with his unique playing style. Through the Concert Grand SI, every nuance of Milt’s superb playing is captured along with the wonderful tonal character he produces with this instrument. Along with Milt, Monty Alexander lays down some wonderful tracks on the piano that, again, comes through these speakers in a most realistic and authentic manner.

Along with this stunning musical reproduction, through the midrange, the level of detail and clarity is outstanding. In particular, these speakers quickly take on the character of whatever instrument is being played. As such, the musical colors and flavors are highly dependent on the instrument or voice that’s being reproduced.
It is often said that the heart, and perhaps the soul, of music is in the midrange and I can tell you that the high level of performance provided by the ESP Concert Grand SI speakers will easily make you a believer.

Treble
Moving further up the frequency spectrum, the Concert Grand SI speakers reveal the high frequencies in a very extended, open, airy, detailed, sweet and delicate manner. The highs are also quite smooth and never sound harsh or irritating. Detail and ambiance retrieval, in this region, are superb with subtle nuances readily detectable. Also, the transient attack, particularly through the midrange and the upper registers is quick and sharp and not overly etched. Notes start and stop as they should and also shimmer and hang in space very convincingly and much like the sound of real live instruments.

Strings, in particular, sound simply gorgeous through the Concert Grand SIs. On Shirley Horn’s recording Here’s To Life [Verve record label 314-511 879-2], not only is her voice rendered in a very realistic manner, the strings sing ever so sweetly. Additionally, the strings come through in a very open and seductive manner as do the cymbals, bells, chimes and other delicate sounds in this frequency region.

With the ESP Concert Grand SI speakers in my home, I have experienced new levels of musical pleasure that were well beyond my expectations. Consequently, many of my evening listening sessions now often go well into the night. As a result, at times, sleep seems to become a distraction since once I start listening to music through these speakers – it is definitely a challenge to break away.

One very significant change that I made during this review was the installation of a special dedicated 240-volt AC line. This allowed me to incorporate the 240-volt version of the Richard Gray Power Company Sub Station into my system (review forthcoming). With it installed, the already low noise floor of my system is now even lower. The effect is a noticeable improvement in clarity, openness, dynamics and musical flow. Sound now emerges from an even blacker, quieter soundstage with each instrument or voice appearing more clearly and distinctly. This change has literally improved every aspect of the sound produced by my system. Likewise, the sound produced by the ESP speakers has improved as well.

Conclusion
By now, I’m sure you get the gist of what I’m trying to tell you about these very fine speakers. With them in my home, I now have, by far, the finest sound that I’ve ever had. Overall, the ESP Concert Grand SI speakers have power, finesse, intimacy, elegance, sonic beauty and are totally engaging. For the most part, I can offer nothing but the highest praise for the outstanding level of musical performance they provide.

For sure, ESP has definitely hit a homerun for the Concert Grand SI. Additionally, these speakers clearly affirm the designer’s dedication and commitment to advancing accurate musical reproduction and high levels of craftsmanship. For me, I consider the ESP Concert Grand SIs as keepers with my search for a new reference speaker system now over.

Congratulations to ESP for developing such an absolutely magnificent loudspeaker.


  
Bill Wells
                                            ____________



Specifications
Driver Complement: Four 8.75” paper cone woofers in two compound drive
(per speaker) units
Four 5.5” doped paper cone midranges in two compound units
Two 1” soft domed tweeters
Sensitivity: 90 dB, 2.83V / 1 meter
Impedance: 6 ohms nominal, 5 ohms minimum
Power Handling: 25W to 500W rms
Crossover Frequencies: 125 Hz and 5000 Hz
Dimensions: 62”H x 14.25”W x 19.25”D
Net Weight: 300 lbs. each
Shipping Weight: 350 lbs. each
Price: $40,000 per pair plus shipping
Available Finishes: Quilted Maple, Olive Burl, Santos Rosewood and Padouk

Manufacturer/Distributor
ESP Loudspeakers/Audio Critical Mass
15001 Southeast 47th Place
Bellevue, WA 98006 U.S.A.
Tel: (425) 614-0518
Fax: - same -
Web Site: www.esploudspeakersna.com
Inquiries:inquiries@esploudspeakersna.com

                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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