ENIGMAcoustics Sopranino supertweeter

02.09.2013..

ReMusic Spark Award

Warning: it seriously damages your health!

The use of this product can create addiction.

 

Well, yes. Using the Sopranino tweeters by ENIGMAcoustics means to mortgage a future that cannot prescind from them. The beneficial effect these amazing devices have on the sound of your loudspeakers, whatever type they are, is not perceptible until their removal. Just try. Use them for some time and then remove the Sopraninos. You will find yourself quickly approaching your system and connecting again the supertweeters. There is no way out.

 

The story begins in Las Vegas, in the rooms of the fantastic Venetian resort hotel casino hosting the C.E.S. 2013. The meeting is very friendly and the ENIGMA operators seem very confident about their product: an electrostatic supertweeter based on ESL technology. After some pleasantries, the listening session takes places in the room prepared with Pass Labs amplification and Magico loudspeakers. On a shelf stands out, together with the award won in 2012, the "Innovations Award" given by the C.E.S. 2013. One important prize after the other to the same company? Well, that means something, doesn't it? Then, we are ready to make our listening test playing our reference tracks: the outcome is a great sound but I had no doubts considering the front-end!

 

Ok. It is time to unplug the Sopraninos: nothing easier since they are connected in parallel to the speakers. Sic et simpliciter.

 

We play again our reference track. Wait a minute! What about the image? And the harmonics? And the details? Also my wife Silvia looks at me incredulous with her eyes saying "Wow!"

Pleased smiles: maybe the exhibitors are already used to such reactions. We agree to test the Sopraninos by ENIGMAcoustics in one of ReMusic's listening rooms.

 

So, here I am now to refer about this pair of supertweeters.

 

The Sopranino is a supertweeter based on electrostatic - and not electromagnetic - principles that exploits a proprietary SBESL™, self-biased electrostatic loudspeaker technology. ENIGMAcoustics' new system is an improvement of the famous ESL technology, the one used by Quad ESL-63, just to give you an idea. A system that can permanently implant a huge amount of electric charges onto a special non-conductive film with a particular molecular structure. This diaphragm is ultra-light (practically 1/100 of the weight of the cones of the traditional transducers), ultrathin and sandwiched between two metal stators that carry the musical signal and push/pull between the electric fields. The fixed electric parts, made of conductors and magnets, have been object of long and deepened researches on the applications of a special copper-covered fiberglass substrate of absolute quality. Such characteristics, together with the lightness of the diaphragm, prevent from any distortion during operation with the transient response left unmatched.

 

The low inertia mass moves the film micro-dynamically and the result is a transparent and detailed sound which is also acoustically non-colored as usually happens with the cone speakers.

It is surprising but this electrostatic system does not need to be supplied. In fact, a film membrane that is electron impregnated, thus able to maintain its own electric field has replaced the diaphragm. Hence, no external Bias, no conductivity, no electric consumption, no intermodulation distortion, just small dimensions and an almost weightless device. To avoid any interference with the back waves of the transducer the designers have studied a parabolic horn-like enclosure filled with acoustic stuffing material.

 

Let us talk about the crossover, which is a high-pass filter connected to the primary stage of the step-up transformer: so we have the simplest design, therefore a 2nd order filter formed by an input capacitor with series inductance. This should ensure a stable load to the amplifier even though, as we are dealing with very high frequencies, the feeble powers at stake should not hinder the amplification also with very low impedances. The audio enthusiast has to take particular care in the positioning of the Sopraninos, looking for a balance in the response of the temporal phase. I suggest adjusting the tweeters towards the listening point.

 

Hey, guys, this is the perfect panel!

 

So easy to be inserted in your system. The connection cables have to be attached in series, I mean just insert a piece of power cable to connect your speakers to the Sopraninos. Another condition is leaving some room on the speakers top to lean upon these ENIGMAcoustics or, if you prefer, you can use a pair of tall stands.

Ah, I had almost forgotten. They are beautiful! In the front panel a small dark grey opaque die-cast aluminum frame supports a metallic pierced grid, while a fine and elongated golden triangle with the logo embellishes and slims the design. The part supporting the grid has a metal horn shape that, actually, counteroperates, since the dipole diaphragm is placed in the wider opening of the horn. Everything is supported by a parallelepiped whose glass walls are so fine and shiny that seem crystal. In the Sopraninos back side are excellent golden WBT connectors and a nice knob to regulate the cut-off point at 8.000 Hz (LOW), 10.000 Hz (MID), 12.000 Hz (HIGH). The wood container is beautiful, the crash pad is covered with an elegant velvety fabric that gives a precious and elegant look to the package.

 

And now the listening test.

 

First of all, I must say that the Sopraninos are user-friendly. Furthermore, all the loudspeakers at my disposal have a flat top so no problem to place them directly on the speaker enclosure.

 

Solid state system with Gato audio Amp150 integrated amp, DIY digital source, DIY two-way loudspeakers and White Gold Stradivari Reference Professional and Fono Acustica serie Armonico cables. I have placed the Sopranino onto the speakers and I have connected them in parallel with a piece of power cable. My steps: first, I want to listen to some reference tracks with the supertweeters and after that without them.

The sound image is very wide both in height and in width with a great resolution of the different sound levels and an excellent depth. Both male and female voices are characterized by an emission roundness that expresses them with naturalness and spontaneity. Both the electric and acoustic instruments have body and are literally chiseled with a detail that is not very common to notice elsewhere. The timbric aspect benefits from this richness of info and any instrument reproduced by the system is vivid, intensely passionate and involving. My system is already dynamic and fresh in the sound and musical flow. Nevertheless the velocity in the instrumental attacks and releases creates a listening pleasure that predisposes my psyche to a satisfying relax, so to lay down on the musical foundation in total syntony with the environment. In general, I notice a full and structured sound, very balanced in the response to the dynamic transients on the entire frequency spectrum, a wide soundstage in the three dimensions richly embroidered with details and macro dynamics. Everything is based on an absolute natural emission. The listening test has been made with all kind of music, like male choir, female choir, acoustic bass, electric bass, classical and electric guitar, symphonic music, chamber music, jazz and fusion.

 

The digital tracks are high res. The fact of having used high res digital tracks make me think that, maybe, the analogue source could produce another effect. I resort to my J.A. Michell Girodec with SME IV tonearm, Denon 301 cartridge with Denon AU-300 step-up and AM Audio phono preamp. But things do not change and there is always the same listening pleasure, better the body of instruments and voices is even more evident than with the digital source. Please, do not ask. I know what you are thinking. How can a supertweeter influence a very high frequency like the analogue frequency that is not very extended? Well, I do not know. I can only assure you that the listening comparison is as I told before and, unfortunately, I already imagine what is going to happen in a little while.

 

Ok. Now the listening test without the Sopranino Tweeters by ENIGMAcoustics. Well, let us start with the analogue source whose memory is still fresh. I say again that it is difficult to believe that also the limited frequency response of the analogue source could valorize the effect of a supertweeter, but so there. The image of the musical soundstage has drastically reduced now in the three dimensions. It seems like having lost the magic made of details that pertain to the environment where the event was recorded. Everything seems poorer and thinner, without body, without breath...without life.

With the digital source, the result is always the same: same loss of detail, same loss of body. The image is reduced and closed in the central space between the two loudspeakers, forced to occupy an absolute insufficient surface for a pleasant and involving listening session. I am crying.

 

Of course, I have taken particular care in choosing the crossover frequency at 8.000, 10.000 and 12.000 Hz.

I start with 8.000 and the effect is evident although not very brilliant. Then I hand to 10.000 where the sound and musical stage is very wide, almost infinite at 12.000 Hz: maybe too much, actually too much since the tone colour seems a bit distort. A step backwards. I think the best solution is the lowest, at 8.000 Hz.

 

Well, let us test now the Klipsch Heresy II driven by the Cary Audio Design SL80i. I must say that the effect concerning the image is a bit reduced now. So I decide to select the cut at 12.000 Hz as it is more satisfactory. Again a pushed detail and a three-dimensionality of the image that I can define amazing and charming.

 

In my listening room, I still have at my disposal the Cabasse Pacific 3 speakers. With some efforts, I move them to the ideal listening point and connect them to my system using the Restek Editor preamp and the AM Audio B-80 monoblocks. I still remember the sound of the big Cabasses Pacific 3, but I decide to test them without the Sopraninos. The mid-low is the absolute protagonist of the gigantic sound of the French speakers. I connect the Sopraninos, which, I repeat, offer an extraordinary facility of interface thanks only to the piece of power cable connected in parallel. I leave the cut at 12.000 Hz. The Cabasses seem to revive, they raise up a span and gain the brightness they missed before. The atmosphere is vivid and real, the room is full of music, of notes that arise and die in an inter-transient silence extraordinarily full...of pathos! The room seems breathing together with the musical event. It is like feeling the audience breathing. At last, a great sound.

 

The shattering thing is that the sound and the musical differences I have noticed with and without the Sopraninos can be detached also with tracks where only the double bass or the electric bass are performing. I mean, it is not only the refining of the high frequencies, but the resolution of the first and second harmonics that surround the main note, and what a surround!

 

I have also tested bi-amplification. It is a valid suggestion if we consider the results of the technical comparisons where the impedance trend is not very easy since it goes occasionally below 2 ohms. Anyway, as the frequencies are very high, the electric demand is not dramatic. I have chosen the valve Audiosophia VSR25 monoblocks for the Sopraninos and the AM Audio power amps for the Cabasses. Well, this is the proof that the optimum can be improved by turning it into excellence. The sensation of control has sensibly increased, the order and the cleanness reign supreme and you have just to...listen to the music.

 

I have continued and I keep going on in using the Sopraninosn which, as well as being well performing, have a nice Italian name.

 

Therefore, I suggest you to avoid using the Sopranino. Do not fall into the trap of testing them, DON'T DO IT! Look at me, I am a "Sopranino-addicted", I cannot stay without them. I am forced to ask my wife to buy the Sopraninos by ENIGMAcoustics. Moreover, she said they are beautiful and complement the furnishings. Will I convince her? In the meantime, here is one of our Spark in the Dark awards!

 

 

Official technical specifications:

Nominal impedance: 4ohm

Frequency Response: 8kHz-50kHz +/-3dB

Sensitivity: 86dB at 1m/1W on axis

Recommended Power: 50W

Crossover Frequency: 8/10/12kHz

Crossover Slope: 12dB/Oct

Weight Net/Box/Carton: 2.7/10.4/13.6 Kg

Dimensions Speaker/Carton WxHxD: 181x193x207mm / 560x380x356mm

Manufacturer: to ENIGMAcoustics website

Official price: 3,690.00 USD per pair

Associated equipment: to Roberto “The Rock” Rocchi's system

Addenda - May 6th 2016, Munich High End: at the sides, me and Giuseppe Castelli, ReMusic Executive Editors,<br />in the middle of us, Mr. Wei Chang, CEO and owner ENIGMAcoustics, with our Spark in the Dark award.
Addenda - May 6th 2016, Munich High End: at the sides, me and Giuseppe Castelli, ReMusic Executive Editors,
in the middle of us, Mr. Wei Chang, CEO and owner ENIGMAcoustics, with our Spark in the Dark award.
by Roberto Rocchi
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