Hedone Mk.I Speakers From Ecobox
18th August 2020
Offering a relatively large form factor, Paul Rigby reviews these specialist, full range, stand-mounted speakers
And I have to add that they’re a rarity indeed. In fact, I have the only completed pair of Hedone Mk.I speakers in the world, as I write this. There’s others out there but they sit in various stages of build with no finish. They will be ready to buy when you read this review, though.
Based in Sofia, Bulgaria, this outfit is not – despite the name – a packaging or shipping company but a hi-fi manufacturer of, “…boutique, high-end home loudspeakers.” And other hi-fi kit.
The company tends to take an unorthodox approach to design, as you’ll see if you peruse its website (link below)
As for the name itself? According to the company, “We are not just striving to keep the sound clean but our environment as well. All our products are manufactured with natural, recycled or recyclable materials, reducing the negative influence on our surroundings in the best possible way.”
What we have here is a stand-mounted speaker and a large stand-mounter at that. Call Hedone (“It’s Greek for…the Goddess of pleasure…”), this design features a full-range driver. Chosen, “to avoid any distortions and stay as close as possible to reality. In addition, this allows us to design our own budget driver and keep the price relatively acceptable.”
The group tend to manufacture on-demand and offer its speakers in natural veneer or any matt or gloss lacquer requested. These speakers are stand-mounted designs although you could use them without in the right situation, of course. The company doesn’t offer any of their own stands for immediate sale, “…but are able to offer some options if requested and match them with the speakers’ colour,” said the company when quizzed. It then added, “If requested, we are able to design and manufacture wooden or metal ones to respond to customer’s demands.”
The model you can see here is known as the Mk.I. The Mk.II model is designed as a floor standing variation with a port facing the floor.
Apart from the driver, there’s also a front-loaded port which aids room positioning but is also there to enhance bass, “Another plus of the front port is that here we have surface boundary reinforcement of the lower frequencies,” said the company.
So, how do they sound?
I began with a quest for accuracy and focus and so played the guitar picking of Leo Kottke and the album, Regards From Chuck Pink. Kottke’s guitar is complex in string terms with a many-layered presentation affording the chance for muddy and blurry midrange and treble to appear. Any speakers need to be on the ball and wide awake to properly track this performance.
In use, because of the high sensitivity of these speakers, I had to run to the gain on my pre-amp and knock that down by several clicks to maintain the same volume as my reference speakers. These speakers will be ideal for use with a lower cost (well, in relative terms) valve amplifier. The Hedone speakers won’t need much oomph to work well.
Now I must admit that I was in a state of slight trepidation when I was installing the Hedones because much of my past experience with full range speakers has not been particular trouble free. Many of the designs I’ve stumbled across have produced a slightly aggressive and edgy performance with bright mids and a harsh treble.
Not here, though. That was a relief.
What I did hear was a very clean soundstage, scrubbed and shiny with an open and airy background. Here the music was clean and full of transparency. The sense of clarity also reflected on the swift and nimble nature of the midrange.
Transient performance was impressive with notes starting and stopping with no skidding or smearing.
The sense of accuracy was striking. Kottke’s string plucks fell over themselves to be heard. You could hear Kottke’s fingers flying across the instrument with notes spilling here and there. Many speakers would have issues keeping up, to be frank, producing a smearing muddy effect as the presentation averaged out the notes into tones only.
The Hedone did no such thing because it was able to keep pace with the music. Hence, the notes were offered in a much more precise manner with a sense of focus thus giving the music a sense of bounce while staying faithful to the arrangement. While the space tracked the decay of each note, adding to the tonal realism.
I wanted to try more dynamic music so turned to a slice of prog metal. The band Caligula’s Horse and their new album on vinyl this time, Rise Radiant. Here though, there was no sense of deep bass or any form of solid foundation of lower frequencies.
As a contrast, I used a pair of Spendor A1 speakers of a similar price but less than half the size and they produced far more bass and a greater tonal balance to boot.
Bass on the Hedone speakers resided firmly in the upper section of the frequency with no deep grunt on offer. Percussion was firm, accurate once more with a fast moving and wholly impressive agility.
On this high dynamic, high energy piece lead guitar was slightly illuminated in the mids, moving towards a clinical effect although it never reached an uncomfortable stage.
The space and air around the percussion did mean that it never encroached upon the lead guitar or vocals which helped the track as a whole to maintain a fair old pace. The music never dragged and what bass there was never bloomed.
The overall presentation was rich in detail and instrumental separation was impressive. For example, even at its most chaotic and busy, you could still separate cymbal taps. You could still hear the cymbal being fully explored and its own decay falling steadily across the soundstage which was effective indeed.
Nevertheless, as a rock experience, the playback left a lot to be desired.
Moving back to CD and now jazz and Dave Brubeck Quartet’s The Singles Collection 1956-1962 (Jasmine) and the single version of Take Five.
The introductory cymbal effect was just a delight here. Open, spacious, full of filigree and delicacy with the sax and piano moving around the percussion. Here, the music was open and free to roam.
What also impressed was the sense of imagery from the Hedone speakers. The drums were obviously sited behind the sax. The relative positioning was notable and obvious. These speakers are excellent in imagery terms. How one instrument sits relative to the rest, even how one note emerges relative to the rest. The Hedones provide you with a sonic map of what goes where and why.
Give these speakers the right source, the right kind of music and they will interpret it will style and grace.
The Ecobox Hedone speakers are specialists in their field and you should buy them with that fact in mind. They’re not for everyone but they are perfect for a niche. And that niche is music that demands accuracy. I’m talking about classical, jazz and other analogue music genres like acoustic guitar and considered vocals, especially harmony vocals.
With music like this, the Headone speakers are nimble and accurate enough to keep pace with even the most complex and intricate of arrangements while infusing the same with emotion. With such music, these speakers can keep pace and track the sort of detail that many other designs fail to even notice, never mid translate to the ear.
If you’re into classical, jazz, analogue presentations using acoustic instruments and voice, then give these speakers a careful demo. Fans of this form of music genre will find these Ecobox speakers a delight.
ECOBOX HEDONE SPEAKERS
Price: €1,428 per pair
GOOD: accurate mids, 3D stereo image, spacious soundstage
BAD: bass, size
[Don’t forget to check out my new Patreon Page at www.patreon.com/audiophileman, for exclusive postings, giveaways and more!]
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp
Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II Monoblock Amplifiers
Quad ESL-57 Speakers with One Thing mod
Spendor A1 speakers