Shipping the review pair a week ahead of their own departure, Ivo and Paul had set themselves up in a B&B around the corner, with a full day planned for hifi. As requested, their loaners retrieved from Warsaw were fully preconditioned and packed in two separate boxes not palletized. Now our local freight forwarder wouldn't come with a mighty 40-foot lorry with lift gate incapable of making it down our rural driveway. He'd not park the goods in front of the pub some 800 metres down the main road. He'd use a standard delivery van right up to our front door. No hand dolly traffic ducking. Yousa!


Because their own plugs hadn't gotten into Eindhoven on time, our Dutchies brought the power cords by carry-on. So I presampled the Ensis with my Zu Submission sub. With all resident power delivery items US style since that's where my audiophile career began, I had the locking Ensis power cords terminated to fit (my early loaner's Neutrik PowerCon interface has since been upgraded to Amphenol in the full production version).


As it happened, synchronicity came a'knocking with the near simultaneous touch-down of Spain's Kroma Audio Julieta monitors. They too combine a synthetic stone cab with wooden inners by way of chemically bonded Krion—Spain's answer to DuPont's Corian—and Canadian-sourced pine and maple tonewoods worked into ports and resonators by a Granada luthier. At €30'000/pr, Julieta's equine pedigree is even racier than the Ensis. Just so, it includes no amplified bass system. It's a pure 2-way not half-active 3-way. Given the very rare material overlap of these two stoners with woodies, I seemed predestined to compare them for a friendly game of Spain versus the Netherlands. My other planned comparator was our resident €9'750/pr Albedo Audio Aptica. Its general cosmetics and size are quite similar to the Ensis. For amps, I had a Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt F7, Bakoon AMP-12R, Crayon Audio CFA-1.2, AURALiC Merak monos for class D. Also on review, there was the S.A.Lab White Knight transistor amp with passive voltage gain via step-up transformer.

 

With Aequo's online configurator, a PDF of an arbitrary sample appeared like above. It itemized my choices and the cost associated with each. Unexpectedly, the options included speaker wires and interconnects. Why did Aequo mean to go into the cable biz as well? I had to ask our adventurous lads.


Physical inspection. Like Gallo Acoustics' since discontinued Reference 3 platform—models 3.0 through 3.5—the Ensis is a bit of a maker's nightmare. Just look at how angles and curves intersect. This demands tight but complicated finish tolerances. Æquo's concession to two-tone options merely heightens any missed opportunities. Inaccuracies telegraph stronger wherever light and dark materials meet, be it between back and synthetic stone facing whose seam curves around the slanted top; where boat-hull back meets bass bin in an angle; where the flared bin's sides flow into the baffle. It's in these junctures where fanciful ease in 3D software modelling encounters the harsher realities of repeatable and cost-effective manufacturability. Heck, strike cost effective from that equation. This is no glued-up mitre box folded up in plastic veneer. Clearly Æquo's aesthetic choices hit the till hard to deliver the on-screen's shiny appeal in the actual physical object; and under close scrutiny.


With my loaner's trim in white and oak, most the veneering was well executed. Particularly the exposed edge around the top was nicely thick to suggest a number of blind veneer layers beneath. The heat sink disc set in with some clearance showed the actual edge of the surrounding veneer. The baffles' bent top ends seemed to float by a millimetre. The woofer grill was non-removable. On the floor, four machined metal footers terminated in small inset rubber balls for a soft interface. The two front footers were lengthened with three metal washers. Those increase the baffle's rake. Removing washers is how one manipulates that aspect of the design relative to seating height and distance. The usual aim is to get the tweeters on axis with your ears. The built-in baffle slant controls that the HF don't arrive before the midrange's output. Such time alignment is subtle. Still, it's invariably addressed whenever people apply DEQX-type speaker correction. Those who claim that time alignment is a conceit and imaginary problem might ask themselves why all DSP speaker correction schemes attack it immediately; and are demonstrably audible for it.

Bass controls for room size from XXS to XXL; and placement from close corner to close wall to free space.

To wrap my physical inspection, kudos to Æquo for executing what very obviously is a complicated sculptural object to make. The shape's suggestion of a musical note is no coincidence. The memo Æquo didn't receive is the old one about audiophilia's disdain for anything that looks too good. The dismissive lifestyle designator is how the old goats stuck in their cobwebbed time warp retaliate. To them beauty with brains is an oxymoron. What a sadly wanking failure to acknowledge that listening to music over a fine system is a lifestyle. It tends to include appreciation for literature and other fine arts. That invariably insists on a more total approach to beauty than mere functionality.

My aural sneak peek before the dedicated power cords arrived.

In the case of hifi, it must combine good sound with attractive appearance and sane sizing. It's got to harmoniously integrate with where most of us put such things: in the shared living room. If you don't fancy the look of your silent speakers when you walk past them into the kitchen for your early morning's cuppa, why should you want to have them in the first place? Do people really buy furniture which they find ugly? And what else are speakers if not sound furniture? That's the memo Æquo received, loud and clear. Good on them, too. Let's now chat with two of the six gents behind this company that's been around since 2012 with numerous exploratory projects which flowed into the Ensis as their first production item.