Review: Elipson Legacy 3230

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Today we reviewed the Elipson Legacy 3230 speaker, the flagship model of the French manufacturer’s Legacy range, which also includes the Elipson Legacy 3210 and the Elipson Legacy 3220 floorstanding speaker.

The design of the Elipson Legacy 3230 is inspired by the architecture of the legendary Elipson 4050 speaker which was used in the ORTF studios (the French public radio and television broadcast studios) in the 70s. This 3-way floorstanding loudspeaker is comprised of a subwoofer (2 x 8” drivers) on top of which is a resin sphere loaded with a ceramic cone 6” driver and AMT tweeter.

Combining and modernity, will this French loudspeaker sold for €7.590 a pair be able to win our hearts?

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The design of the Elipson Legacy 3230 physically separates the enclosure of the bass driver and the sphere in which the medium driver and the tweeter are located.

Elipson Legacy 3230: the brand

Joseph Léon

Elipson’s history is intrinsically linked to that of the brand’s founder and CEO, Joseph Léon. This sound restitution enthusiast was born in Bordeaux and graduated with an engineering degree from the Arts et Métiers (engineering and research) school. Thanks to his education, he joined the Radio Cinema subsidiary of the CSF (General Wireless Telegraphy Company) in 1930. He then participated in the adjustment and assembly of the sound restitution equipment used in movie theaters. During the same time period, he and his brother started working on a portable recording system: the Monobloc VV3. 

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Joseph Léon in front of multiple Elipson spherical speakers.

During World War II, Joseph Léon joined the French Resistance and received the Croix de Guerre after the war. After his demobilization, he joined the company Multimoteur. This small company specialized in making small motors for electric toys mainly manufactured locomotives and train tracks for children, as well as educational toys to assemble yourself to learn the basics of industrial electricity.

From Multimoteur to Elipson

In the midst of a difficult economic context, Multimoteur decided to diversify its activity and began manufacturing loudspeakers. By 1940, the company’s CEO, Henry Bazin, along with engineer Maurice Latour began research work which eventually lead to the creation of the legendary BS50 Chambord speaker a few years later. 

In 1948, Joseph Léon became CEO of Multimoteur and brought a new lease of life to the company by focusing increasingly on the manufacture of loudspeakers. The first models were named Conques (conch shells) as a reference to their elliptical shape. In 1951, Multimoteur changed its name to Elipson, which is a contraction of the French words “ellipse” and “son”. Elipson then quickly made a name for itself thanks to its spherical speakers, which became the brand’s signature design. With their daring design, the speakers imagined by Joseph Léon made their way into the daily life of French people through their television as they can be seen on many TV sets and recording studios. For his first TV appearance, famous French singer Claude François was surrounded by Elipson speakers, while the Général de Gaulle’s inauguration speech at the Maison de la Radio was delivered by Elipson BS50 loudspeakers.

The Général de Gaulle’s inauguration speech at the Maison de la Radio in 1963 was amplified by Elipson BS50 loudspeakers (in the top right-hand corner).

Elipson and plaster

Thanks to their sound reflection system, Elipson speakers may be used as part of public address systems to ensure high-quality, precise sound delivery in large spaces. Joseph Léon then continued his research on the acoustic energy created by the sound reflector, which resulted in the creation of brand new speakers boasting an unprecedented style and design.

Because of their elliptical shape, Elipson speakers need to be made out of material that is easy to work with. Wood wasn’t an option at the time, so Joseph Léon decided to use a mixture of plaster and plant fibers. This material goes back to the 19th century and offers ideal characteristics for designing spherical speakers. It was a first in the history of building loudspeakers. Despite its excellent acoustic characteristics, plaster also comes with its share of difficulties, which is why Elipson was the only brand to use this material for an extensive period of time. 

Elipson BS50

Commercial ad for the Elipson BS50. “The full depth of sound”

In 1953, the BS50 is introduced during the Chambord castle’s first sound and light show. Both aesthetically pleasing and efficient, the BS50 ensures a precise sound restitution while boasting a pure and unique design. 

A pair of Elipson BS50s, easily identifiable with their reflector on top.

The speaker drivers are loaded in a plaster sphere simply placed on a metal tripod, without any visible fasteners. On top of the sphere is a reflector which gives the speaker a unique silhouette. In addition to contributing to its acoustic design, the reflector became a distinctive sign of the Elipson BS50. 

After making a name for himself with his knowledge in acoustics and his creative mind, Joseph Léon became regularly called upon. Marcel Dassault called upon him to eradicate interference noise inside the cockpit of fighter jets. Joseph Léon also provided him with ingenious systems to reduce the noise of the reactors inside the cockpit. In 1962, he was awarded the National Order of Merit for research and invention.

Elipson Religieuse and 4050

In the early 60s, the first loudspeakers born from the collaborative work between Elipson and the ORTF were  released. The goal of this joint effort was to design a high quality monitoring speaker, and the result was the Religieuse, a revolutionary speaker boasting an unprecedented shape and design. The elliptical woofer, the midrange driver, and the tweeter are all loaded in separate enclosures.

Prototypes of the Elipson Religieuse were used as the PA speakers during an ORTF conference.

The Elipson 4050 was released in the late 60s and also benefited from the research lead by the ORTF and Elipson for the Religieuse. Just like its predecessor, this speaker features separate enclosures for its three speaker drivers.  

The Elipson 4050 is bigger than the Religieuse and features a large enclosure in which a 12” woofer is loaded. On top of it is a sphere measuring around 40 cm in diameter where the midrange driver and tweeter are located. This outstanding loudspeaker remained in the ORTF studio for many years.

It is this design which was used more than six decades later for the Elipson Legacy 3230 that we are reviewing today.

In the 70s, the ORTF installed Elipson 4050 loudspeakers in its studios.

From PA systems to hi-fi

Still involved with professional PA systems, the French manufacturer made its first steps in the home hi-fi market under the leadership of its new CEO, Charles Bonnet de la Tour. During the 70s, Elipson also stopped using plaster in favor of new speakers featuring wood cabinets, which allowed Elipson to start industrializing its output and move on to the next level. 

By recruiting new engineers, Elipson gained a new impetus and started numerous new projects: this was the birth of the 1501, 1502, and 1503 speakers along with the Elipson Prestige range.

The Elipson 402 loudspeaker marked the arrival of the French manufacturer’s spherical speakers in the world of home high-fidelity.

The spherical speakers initially designed for PA systems used in concert halls and recording studios were also a hit with hi-fi enthusiasts. This was the case of the Elipson 402 and 4240 speakers, whose design and size are compatible with most living rooms. 

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The Elipson Prestige 3 won over numerous music enthusiasts with its performance.

The 1990s and 2000s were marked by the success of the Prestige Range, boosted by the boom of home theater installations, which completely changed the world of home entertainment. The floorstanding speaker Elipson Prestige 3 was lauded by the specialized press and made its way to the heart of listeners with its accurate tones, its balanced sound signature, and the vast sound stage it delivered.

2008: the rebirth

In 2008 Philippe Carré took the helm of Elipson along with his business partner Éric James. Being a long time Elipson enthusiast, Philippe Carré wanted to revive the avant-garde design and acoustic perfection that made the brand a success.  

In order to attain this goal, he surrounded himself with a new R&D team and called upon Jean-Yves Le Porcher, a designer and music enthusiast. One of Jean-Yves Le Porcher’s first designs was the Elipson 4260. This monumental speaker harkens back to the brand’s historical designs and established itself as a demonstration of the brand’s outstanding expertise in the domain of very high fidelity. 

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The Elipson 4260 was introduced in the late 2000s. Its design is based on the brand’s legacy and provides a glimpse of what’s to come with the Elipson Legacy 3230.

More accessible to the general audience, the Elipson Planet L and Planet M range of spherical speakers were designed by Jean-Yves Le Porcher and are a testimony to the brand’s desire to be more present in the home hi-fi market by offering objects that are both esthetically and acoustically pleasing. The wideband driver of the classic loudspeakers was replaced by a coaxial driver. This type of speaker driver ensures a focused and precise sound delivery, which contributes to creating a deep and wide soundstage. The goal of the Elipson Planet range was to bring together the best of the two eras.

At the time, Jean-Yves Le Porcher’s objective was to break Elipson’s image as an exclusively audiophile brand only targeting connoisseurs. Partnerships with haute couture designers, furniture designers, and designer stores were put in place so that as many people as possible could discover the Elipson sound.

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The Elipson Planet L exist in a range of colors.

Combining history and modernity

In 2011, the brand expanded its catalog by adding the Elipson Music Center, an amplifier designed to be in tune with modern musical sources and content. This disc shaped amplifier features Ice Power digital power stages designed by Bang & Olufsen. The Elipson Music Center is fitted with a radio tuner and a CD player. It is also optimised for digital music, which can be streamed wirelessly from a smartphone or a tablet. Its most recent version, the Elipson Music Center BT HD, features a Bluetooth aptX HD receiver as well as DAB+ digital tuner.

Elipson Music Center BT HD Noir
The Elipson Music Center BT HD digital amplifier.

The Elipson / Habitat Lenny wireless speaker was born from a partnership between Elipson and Habitat and uses the increasingly popular Bluetooth technology to stream music from a smartphone, a computer, or a compatible portable audio player. It features a rechargeable battery (around 8h of battery life) and a leather carrying handle. This Bluetooth speaker combines an innovative design and indisputable sound qualities.

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The Elipson / Habitat Lenny designed by Jean-Yves Le Porcher.

Proud of its legacy, the French brand also makes a point to revamp the classic models that helped build its reputation. The Elipson BS50 Tribute is the heir to the famous BS50 and inherited its acoustic reflector while boasting modern features such as its resin baffle and coaxial driver.  

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The Elipson DS50 Tribute designed by Jean-Yves Le Porcher.

In 2016, Elipson entirely revamped its Prestige range. The design of the renewed range is the result of a collaboration between Jean-Yves Le Porcher and Elipson’s research department. The development phase was overseen by the acoustic designer and engineer Philippe Penna, who had worked with Mosquito and the French speaker manufacturer StudioLab beforehand. 

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The Elipson Prestige Facet range debuted numerous technological innovations, including custom made synthetic rubber circles around each driver. The function of this ring is to limit the baffle effect and sound reflection. The frequency response curve therefore suffers less interference and is more linear, which results in a softer listening experience. 

The Elipson Prestige Facet speakers are also built in accordance with demanding standards to ensure optimal acoustic performance. The front panel is made with two different types of material of different thickness and density and the cabinet features multiple internal braces to eliminate as much resonance and vibration as possible. 

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The Elipson Prestige Facet 8B compact speakers.

These speakers are appreciated by audiophiles and music enthusiasts for their neutrality and tonal accuracy. Because of their meticulous sound restitution and wide dynamic range, these speakers can be used in a hi-fi system or home theater installation.

The Elipson Legacy range is the latest creation by the French manufacturer and it draws from the legacy and expertise acquired by the brand for more than 60 years. The flagship model, the Elipson Legacy 3230 is based on iconic models such as the Religieuse, the 4050, and the 1303, and combines these design elements with modern technologies and materials.  

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Elipson Legacy 3230: packaging & accessories

The Elipson Legacy 3230 loudspeakers came in two cardboard boxes (one for each speaker) laying horizontally and tightly strapped to a pallet. This wasn’t surprising considering that each speaker weighs as much as 50 kg. 

The boxes open on the side so that the speaker remains vertical during the first step of the unboxing process, during which we took off all the protection except for the one located under the speaker. We then placed a protection on the floor to place the speaker horizontally and remove the base protection.

Needless to say, it requires two people to unbox the speakers and place them in their ideal spot in the room.

Each Elipson Legacy 3230 comes with three acoustic fabric covers, although we thought the speakers looked better without them.

Each Elipson Legacy 3230 comes with a set of three circular fabric caches held in place by a magnetic system. In the box are also 4 decoupling spikes (already screwed-in for our test model) and counter-spikes, a pair of soft-fabric white gloves for moving the speaker without leaving marks, a user guide (in French and English), a warranty card with an invitation to subscribe to the Elipson Club, and an Elipson sticker.

The accessories which accompany the Elipson Legacy 3230.

Elipson Legacy 3230: presentation

The Elipson Legacy 3230 floorstanding speaker is part of the Elipson Legacy range, which is also comprised of the Elipson Legacy 3210 compact speaker and the Elipson Legacy 3220 compact speaker.

The Elipson Legacy range of speakers is comprised of three models for now.

The Elipson Legacy 3230 is a massive 3-way speaker made of two distinct parts. The lower part holds two 8” drivers and acts as a subwoofer. On top of this enclosure is a sphere loaded with a 6” midrange driver and an AMT wide delivery tweeter.

Combining past and present

The French manufacturer didn’t start from square one for the design of the Elipson Legacy 3230. The design of this loudspeaker is based on that of multiple previous models, including the Elipson 4050 which was initially released in the late 60s. 

Just like its illustrious predecessor, the Elipson Legacy 3230 features a design in two parts. The lower part is loaded with two woofers and is physically separated from the enclosure which holds the midrange driver and tweeter. 

Two 8” drivers

The Elipson Legacy 3230 is loaded with two 8” (21 cm) bass drivers.

The two bass drivers of the Elipson Legacy 3230 are loaded inside a large cabinet made of 20 and 30mm thick MDF with a veritable wood veneer. Multiple internal braces are used in order to increase the rigidity of the speaker and annihilate any resonance and vibration. The air volume is substantial, which means the drivers have room to work without restriction.  

The lower part of the Elipson Legacy 3230 features internal braces to increase the rigidity of the cabinet. 

The sides of the cabinet are curved and the corners are rounded. Because the sides are not parallel, there are much fewer stationary sound waves inside the cabinet and the circulation of the soundwaves behind the drivers is thus optimized.

The two 8” drivers are fitted with a cellulose pulp cone covered with a layer of aluminum. This design results in a light and stiff cone which acts as a piston and can move air very efficiently and rapidly.

One of the two bass drivers of the Elipson LEgacy 3230 speaker.

The bass-reflex enclosure features a wide, down-firing, flared port. The manufacturer left space between the bottom of the cabinet and the base so that the air may flow in all directions. As a result, the placement of the speaker according to the wall does not have much of an impact on the sound.

View of the down-firing port located under the speaker.

Decoupled midrange driver and tweeter

The midrange driver and tweeter of the Elipson Legacy 3230 loudspeaker are loaded in a sphere which is separated from the bass cabinet.

The medium driver and the tweeter of the Elipson Legacy 3230 loudspeaker are physically separated from the bass drivers. They are loaded inside a sphere made of resin and silica, a material which ensures optimal damping and vibration dissipation.

Close-up view of the ceramic cone midrange driver of the Elipson Legacy 3230 speaker.

This speaker is loaded with a 6” (15cm) midrange driver. It features a ceramic cone and a large coil set in motion by a powerful neodymium magnet. This very reactive driver stands out with its realistic and energetic sound restitution and complete lack of harshness. Because it covers a total of three octaves (crossover filters set at 400 Hz and 3200 Hz), it guarantees a perfect balance of the frequencies to which the human ear is the most sensitive.

The midrange driver of the Elipson Legacy 3230 loudspeaker features a powerful motor system and a large diameter coil.

The restitution of high frequencies is handled by an ATM (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter located on the top of the sphere in which the midrange driver is loaded. This type of tweeter is not to be confused with a ribbon tweeter which is based on a slightly different type of design and working process.  

The Elipson Legacy 3230 AMT tweeter.

While the membrane of a ribbon tweeter is completely flat, that of the Elipson Legacy 3230’s AMT driver features multiple folds all through its entire length. This unusual design has the advantages of increasing the membrane’s contact surface and offering more velocity to the frequencies delivered.

Because the AMT tweeter’s folds pinch the air while giving an impulse effect, the diffusion speed is far superior to that of a standard ribbon tweeter which only pushes air forward.

The folds of the Elipson Legacy 3230 AMT tweeter’s membrane are visible.

Thanks to this AMT tweeter, the high frequency range is faster and more clear, without being sibilant nor causing fatigue. The speaker’s transient response is also slightly improved.

Realism and liveliness

The Elipson legacy 3230 speaker has a linear response curve over the 25Hz to 30kHz frequency range. Its power handling is 200 Watts RMS at 4 ohms for a sensitivity rating of 91 dB. We recommend pairing it with a powerful hi-fi amplifier capable of delivering 100 Watts or more per channel.

Design

  • Floorstanding speaker
  • Type: 3-way
  • Midrange driver and tweeter loaded in a resin and silicium spherical cabinet
  • Bass drivers loaded in a large, wood veneer cabinet
  • Cabinet thicknesst: 25-30mm
  • Bass-reflex enclosure
  • Down-firing, flared bass-reflex port

Speaker drivers

  • Tweeter: AMT (Air Motion Transformer)
  • Midrange driver: 6″ (150mm), ceramic cone, large voice coil, neodymium magnet
  • Bass driver: 2 x 8” (210mm), cellulose pulp cone covered with a layer of aluminum
  • Audiophile-grade crossover filter with high-end components
  • Internal wiring: dual 1.5mm² OFC conductors
  • Cutoff frequency: 400Hz (electric, 12 dB/octave) and 3200Hz (acoustic and electric, 24 dB/octave)

Measurements

  • Power handling RMS: 200W
  • Frequency response: 25Hz – 30kHz
  • Sensitivity: 91dB
  • Impedance: 4 ohms

General

  • Dimensions (LxHxP): 1340 x 347 x 450mm
  • Weight (per unit): 50kg

Elipson Legacy 3230: testing conditions

For this review of the Elipson Legacy 3230, we powered the speakers using a McIntosh MA352 stereo amplifier, then an Atoll IN200SE amplifier, both connected using Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP speaker wires.  

Before starting our listening sessions, we had to break-in the speakers by using them for a little over 100 hours, as recommended by Elipson. For the break-in period, we left a playlist covering a mixture of musical genres on repeat at moderate volume.

We used the iFi Audio iDSD Pro 4.4 mm connected DAC to listen to digital files (FLAC and DSD) stored on a computer and streamed over the local network. We also used it to stream CD quality files from Qobuz using the Müzo Player app. 

Our test pair of Elipson Legacy 3230 with the Atoll and McIntosh hi-fi amplifiers, Rega turntable, iFi Audio DAC, and Pioneer 4K Blu-ray player.

We also listened to records using the Rega Planar 3 turntable with a Denon DL-103R moving coil cartridge and connected to a Thorens MM08 phono preamp.  

We then called upon the high-fidelity stage of the Pioneer UDP-LX500 4K UHD Blu-ray player to listen to a few audio CDs.

Note that it took us a few minutes of active listening to figure out where the best spot was for these speakers in the room. The most satisfactory solution was to place the speakers right by the back wall, 50/60cm away from the side walls. 

Elipson Legacy 3230: listening impressions

With the McIntosh MA352 amplifier

The McIntosh MA3230 is ideal to drive the two 8” drivers of the Elipson Legacy 3230 very efficiently, thanks to its large amount of power and high damping factor. 

The lows are powerful, swift, and deep, which provides a wonderful structure to the sound stage. Going from dense to very intense without ever being exaggerated, this frequency range is delivered with great energy and without exuberance. The aluminum covered cellulose cones show exemplary reactivity, which adds to the vitality of the sound presentation which opens right in front of us.

The McIntosh MA352, the Rega Planar 3 turntable and the Elipson Legacy 3230.

The midrange is handled by the ceramic cone 6” driver. Although some may fear that this material would result in cold and harsh mids, using it was actually a great idea. The ceramic cone is light and responsive and manages to communicate all the emotions conveyed by the instruments and vocals thanks to its tonal accuracy. There is substance and consistency, which makes the soundstage even more realistic. There is no lack of vitality and what makes it even better is that the tweeter isn’t lacking either. The sound is clear and lively, and we felt absolutely no audio fatigue. The stereo imaging is both wide and spacious.  

Click here to read our review of the McIntosh MA352 amplifier with the Elipson Legacy 3230 loudspeakers.

With the Atoll IN200 Signature amplifier

While the Atoll amplifier only delivers 2 x 120 watts at 8 ohms, its power rating almost doubles with a 4 ohm load, which is the case with the Elipson Legacy 3230 speakers. In this respect, it can be compared to the McIntosh amplifier, and you can hear it.

This solid-state amplifier in dual mono configuration is very lively and is quite simply imperial with the Elipson loudspeakers. The amplifier keeps the speaker tightly under control with a lot of precision thanks to its generous amount of power on tap. There is no need to turn the volume up very loud to enjoy the full dynamic range of the Legacy 3230. The lows are perfectly tight and even more responsive than with the American amplifier. This sound signature is ideal for modern productions with beefy bass.  

The Elipson Legacy 3230 driven by the Atoll IN200 Signature.

Some may think that the sound signature provided by the combination of the two French products isn’t quite as round as that of the McIntosh amplifier, which proves to be particularly comfortable with Jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms for example. Nevertheless, the sound signature of Legacy 3230 speakers driven by the Atoll amplifier remains precise, soft, and harmonious. Once again, the pairing of the ceramic cone midrange driver and AMT tweeter has no equal in triggering emotions when listening to vocals accompanied by a guitar or a piano. Orchestras also benefit from the dynamic qualities, efficiency, and spacious sound these speakers offer.

The tonal accuracy, the flow of the notes, and the cohesive soundstage are all efficiently used to serve the music better.

Elipson Legacy 3230: compared to…

Elipson Prestige Facet 34F: priced at almost a third of the Elipson Legacy 3230, it goes without saying that the Prestige Facet F do not fall in the same category. Nevertheless, some aspects of the acoustic design are quite similar. Such as the internal braces used to reinforce the structure of the cabinet, for example. The main ressemblance between these two speakers is that they have the same ability to transport the listener to the heart of music. A quality which is dear to their designer, Philippe Penna.  

In practice, the Elipson 3230 are more rigorous in the lows, offer more substantial mids, and more detailed highs. This contributes to the realism of the restitution and the immersive listening experience.   

Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: we tested this speaker with the “smaller sibling” of the McIntosh MA352, the MA252, which shares the same DNA. Loaded with a single concentric driver, the Cheviot wowed us with its ability to bring substance to the music by delivering a wide, well layered, and precisely laid out soundstage. While the Tannoy speaker is a little bit warmer than the Legacy 3230, the latter is on par when it comes to the tonal richness and accuracy. The French speaker even has the upper hand in the high-mids and highs, which are incredibly realistic. These two speakers are also comparable in terms of openness and  spaciousness of the soundstage, although the English speaker retains a small advantage when it comes to soundstage depth, which is a little bit more noteworthy.  

Focal Kanta N°2: very neutral and analytical, the Focal speaker offers incredible spaciousness and a particularly unusual sense of verticality. It is stricter with dynamics, but the Elipson speaker won us over with its perfect balance of softness and warmth.

Klipsch Forte III: boasting a more “old school” esthetic design, the Klipsch also fall into the category of speakers that bring substance to the music. Dynamic and natural sound is on the menu, and this speaker proves to be remarkably at ease with any musical genre. The acoustic solutions used for the Klipsch and Elipson are different but both manage to transport the listener into the heart of music with incredible ease. The Forte III are not quite as massive as the Elipson (or are they?) and are easier to drive due to their extremely high sensitivity rating (99 dB). The Elipson speakers require a little bit more power than their American competitor to deliver their full potential.  

Elipson Legacy 3230: conclusion

The Elipson Legacy 3230 loudspeakers are incredible vehicles for musical emotion. They are capable of delivering an unusual amount of intensity and energy while remaining subtle and refined. Despite their massive size, they are never overly forward or overwhelming. In fact, it is quite the contrary, they seem to take a step back so that the music may miraculously come to life. Once paired with a powerful amplifier, they offer a unique opportunity to fully immerse yourself in music. 

What we liked

  • The tonal accuracy throughout the entire sound spectrum
  • The precision of the spatialization
  • The clarity and precision of the AMT tweeter
  • The tight and punchy lows
  • The ability to kindle emotion

We would have like

  • To have the same speakers at home

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Après plusieurs années passées dans la vente de produits high-tech d'occasion avant de rejoindre l'équipe de Son-Vidéo.com en 2007, je ne compte plus les amplis, enceintes, casques, TV, vidéoprojecteurs et autres baladeurs qui sont passés entre mes mains... Je suis toujours curieux de découvrir de nouveaux produits et de partager cette passion pour la hi-fi et le home-cinéma.

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