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Model XA

Price (in Poland per pair): 29 990 EUR

Manufacturer: Alfred & Partners OÜ

Tanuma 126 | Tallinn | 13521 | Estonia
tel.: (+372) 661 0614 | (+372) 661 0624



Country of origin: Estonia

Product provided for testing by: RCM

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photos: Estelon | RCM | Wojciech Pacuła | Viablue
Translation: Marek Dyba

Published: 3. December 2012, No. 103

Products from this part of Europe, which means – as Milan Kundera and Andrzej Stasiuk named it (see anthology Moja Europa) – Middle Europe, rarely truly get to the consciousness of Western Europe's, or Western's customers. Some brand names, usually coming from small manufacturer's get lucky and achieve some level of success There (beyond Iron Curtain), but there are still very few of them.
Lets name them to be clear. There are Polish Ancient Audio, Lampizator and Gigawatt , Lithuanian Reed and, Slovak JJ Electronic and Canor (former Edgar), Hungarian Human Audio and Heed Audio, Serbian Trafomatic Audio, just to name few, most obvious examples. One exception on that list is Pro-Ject Audio Systems, but in fact that's an Austrian company that has Czech company SEV Litovel s. r. o. making products for them.
Both Srajan at "", and us at "High Fidelity" we've been trying hard to change that status quo (see also "Enjoy The", that publishes my reviews of Polish products) but the results are not satisfying. The „old”, well known brands from Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Great Britain, France, USA, or Nordic countries still exist in most audiophiles minds and the only ones deserving trust. I will not call such attitude a wrong one, as I partially understand it. Most of us are afraid of new, unknown things that we don't know what to expect from. Even though it's been already more than 20 years since Polish Solidarity initiated the bloodless revolution in our part of Europe, the Iron Curtain still seems to exist. The West doesn't even remember it all started in Poland as for them it is about the Fall of Berlin Wall, which was only a consequence of changes initiated in Poland.

That is why I was so surprised by the success of the Estonian company Estelon. Very enthusiastic reviews in "Positive Feedback Online" and "TONEAudio" (see the review with chief editor HERE) came out of the blue. The CES Innovation Award was as surprising. Not because these speakers are not worth, simply because the place of their origin obviously wasn't a problem. The only thing that mattered were the speakers themselves and how they sounded.
And I must say I was impressed by those speakers too. Visiting one of the rooms during High End 2012 in Munich I was totally seduced by the sound of X Diamond (driven by Vitus Audio amplification with CD Player LOIT - see HERE) and hence the Best Show award for this particular system.
X Diamond, I listened then, are top model in a line of 4, that complements additionally of floorstanding XA, that look exactly the same as Diamond, and have the same dimensions - 1370 mm height, 450 mm width (maximum) and 640 mm depth (maximum), another bit smaller floorstanding model called XB, and a standmounting model XC.

I've learned that it all started with herewith reviewed XA model. These are speakers of a quite extraordinary look with the shape reminding a clepsydra with smaller upper part that hosts two drivers – midrange and tweeter – and the bigger lower one hosting a woofer. The shape called E-lon has been developed by Mr Alfred Vassilkov after many years of studying the effects of soundwaves reflections, diffraction and so on. Mr Alfred speaks of "musical instrument", although not in common sense of this word used for „resonant” cabinets of Harbeth or Spendor. The cabinets seems to be made of some kind of composite – as it is a proprietary Estelon's solution they are not willing to share the details. Anyway it seems that there is some similarity in a way the cabinets are made between Estelon and companies like Wilson Audio and Hansen Audio.
All transducers used by Estelon are products of German Accutone with ceramic diaphragms, and the woofer has a sandwich dome. It looks a bit like the small monitor with midrange driver placed above tweeter was put on top of a subwoofer. Woofer is supporter by a rear ported bass-reflex. These are 3-way speakers with single pair of speaker bindings from the WBT top line. Internal cabling comes from very expensive Kubala-Sosna wires. The herewith reviewed speakers have already received twice (2011 and 2012) the CES Innovation Award in High Performance Audio category.


Recordings used during this test (a selection):

  • David Sylvian, Sleepwalkers, P-Vine Records, PVCP-8790, CD (2010)
  • Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, [PIAS] Entertainment Group, PIASR311CDX, "Special Edition Hardbound Box Set", CD+USB drive 24/44,1 WAV (2012);
  • Depeche Mode, Enjoy The Music....04, Mute, XLCDBONG34, maxi-SP (2004).
  • Elgar
  • Delius, Cello Concertos, wyk. Jacqueline Du Pré, EMI Classic, 9559052, 2 x SACD/CD (1965/2012).
  • Eva & Manu, Eva & Manu, Warner Music Finland, 5389629, CD (2012).
  • Hilary Hann, Hilary Hann Plays Bach, Sony Classical, SK 62793, Super Bit Mapping, 2 x CD (1997).
  • Jim Hall, Concierto, CTI/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2012, SACD/CD (1975/2003).
  • Maria Peszek, Jezus Maria Peszek, Mystic Production, MYSTCD 214, CD (2012).
  • Miles Davis, Milestones, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2084, SACD/CD (1958/2012).
  • Novika, Tricks of Life, Kayax, 013, CD (2006).
  • Pat Metheny, What's It All About, Nonesuch/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-14176, CD (2011);
  • The Beatles, Yellow Submarine, Parlophone/Apple/Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-51121, CD (1969/1998).
  • This Mortal Coil, HD-CD Box SET: It’ll End In Tears, Filigree & Shadow, Blood, Dust & Guitars, 4AD [Japan], TMCBOX1, 4 x HDCD, (2011).
Japanese CD and SACD editions available from

The loudspeakers of this size, with such a large bass woofer, with top notch drivers, and last but not least. So expensive must provoke particular expectations. Surely everyone will expect powerful, punchy bass, great dynamics, power and so on. And these expectations are fulfilled by Estelons. There is drama, power, large scale of sound, and amazing volume of sound. You won't get that from small speakers, no matter how hard they try. There is also a proper vertical scale to the sound, which, in my experience, can be delivered only by tall speakers. But you'd need much better understanding of audio world to say more about Xas only by looking at them. Because the choice of drivers, the way they were applied, and the special enclosures were composed together into something that is beyond standard assessment criteria.
Because Estelon will deliver quite sophisticated but still emotionally inert material, like from This Mortail Coil box, in tonally neutral fashion. On the other hand, when presented with a warm musical material, that doesn't include to much energy in upper range, like Jim Hall's Concierto, or Miles Davis Milestones, they will deliver nice, warm performance. Again – when fed with bit melancholic material from Path Metheny's solo album What's It All About they will sound melancholic, and with passionate, even though filled with some sadness, recordings from the latest Maria Peszek's album Jezus Maria Peszek (Marysiu, I'd like to congratulate you on this fabulous recording!!!) they will present passion and melancholy at once. Simple? Just neutral speakers that deliver whatever they get? It surely looks that way at first but there is much more to it.

These Estonian speakers have their own distinct way of delivering sound, they model it and probably to some extend modify it. I think they „amplify” the distinctive features of each music material we send to them. I guess that is why the Maria Peszek's album was such a profound experience, that's why I chilled out so nicely with Eva&Manu recording sent to me by Anssi Hyvönen, the owner of Amphion (his speakers where used in the process of creation of that recording), only to get tormented with This Mortail Coil in the end of a day. And so on... .
Everything in this presentation is deep, rich. It seems to be a proprietary feature of well applied ceramic drivers and I had heard that already before – for example from (most) Avalons and Isophons. Estelons offered the same but at the level I'd never heard before, as this richness, lushness even of the sound that made it bit warm -ish, was perfect, and not exaggerated, which happens often with other speakers with the same drivers.
On the other hand you have to appreciate extraordinary resolution these speakers deliver. Apart from one, narrow sub-range (lower midrange) they offered as much resolution, as rich and „vigilant” sound as Harbeth M40.1. In some other sub-ranges (top treble, lowest bass) Estelon's resolution is clearly better than Harbeth's. I was stunned and amazed by their bass, and to that extent it happened to me only once before when I auditioned Hansen Audio Prince v2. It's being quite some time already since than but I still remember the sound of Canadian speakers and it's been a reference for me ever since. Starting now I'll have to references. When it came to assessment of treble Harpia Dobermann (New), with metal tweeter, were a nice reference to compare to, and the Sonus faber Electa Amator (I), owned by Janusz – member of Cracow Sonic Society, with original Esotar Dynaudio tweeter. These are my two treble references, that I'm closely familiar with. The Estelon's ceramic, reversed dome reproduces treble in a different way, more creamy one, so at the beginning I was under impression that it wasn't as „fast”, as open as the above mentioned two. But in fact it offers much richer, more precise sound than Dobermann's SEAS tweeter, as it offers better depth of sound, delivers treble with more „weight” and these are features Dobermann's lack a bit. After giving it more consideration I think that after all only above mentioned Sonus faber speakers are a worthy opponent, even though they deliver treble in their own, bit different way – more open, more direct, with even more details. But we have to remember that these are only small monitors, that are simply unable to deliver a full scale of sound.

Lets get back to the bass range one more time as in fact it might be the key to Estonian speaker's sound. As I mentioned before it seems that Estelons play exactly what is delivered to the, keeping sonic characteristic of each piece of music. But at the same sound it also seems that the tonal balance is rather bit lower than usually. I mean it feels this way, like there was some small but noticeable accent put in a lower band.
The midrange and treble seems to be blended together perfectly, meaning I can't hear clearly the crossover point. I mean I can hear it a bit but it doesn't come from some changes in tonality or dynamics but rather from natural directivity of a tweeter.
Anyway the bass range is the most important factor in the whole presentation. The way Estelons reproduce bass reminded me, to some extent, the way studio monitors do it. I mean some „true” studio monitors used for „monitoring” and not juts any bookshelf ones. I'm thinking Amphion Kripton3, Harbeth, large Tannoys. In such cases on one hand a very rich, extended bass with great resolution, hence very clear is delivered, but on the other is doesn't dominate the presentation. When some strong impulse come it is delivered with full power, but when there is time to deliver something in the midrange or treble, bass stays „quiet” making speakers sound a bit like shelfstanders. Of course bass is always active but when needed it just makes a perfect base for midrange, blending into it, supporting it which results in better spacing, with more 3-dimensional imaging of instruments.

That's exactly what it did for Metheny's guitar. Although this is a solo recording of an acoustic guitar, sounding bit dark I admit, but still an acoustic guitar which means there is no bass, but still I could feel the bass woofer working, creating some pressure. It built some aura, some foundation for midrange driver and tweeter, helping them to deliver whatever they were asked to without any fatigue.

On the other hand when it is required it will deliver real slam. Like in Maria Peszek recording, like in David Sylvian's, like in some by Depeche Mode. It is huge, it has power but it is very well controlled, articulated, never gets boomy, never „pretends” to give some sound. The pace and rhythm factor is an another of their advantages. When reproducing recordings of some huge spaces, with some particular „mood”, like for example Blade Runner soundtrack, they deliver the whole universe built in front of us. And you can never ever hear bass-reflex working.

If I was to compare the „character” of these speakers to my Harbeths, I would say that if British speakers were choleric, Estelons would be rather sanguine. Of course that is a far fetched analogy, but I wanted to point you to some direction. If you audition them after such an expressive speakers like Harbeth's M30.1, M40.1, or so selective ones like Amphion's Kripton3, or totally sonically different Avantgarde Acoustic's horn, you will find Estelons sounding... „ordinary”. Maybe even boring. You'll think that there is nothing particular going on in the sound. And it will last until you adapt to this way of presentation, until something „clicks”, falls in place in your head. Because audio is an art of choosing. Designers have to chose, their companies have to make choices, and finally clients make choices to. So if you get a chance to audition these speakers let the music flaw while you relax, adapt. I'm pretty sure that even if that won't be your final choice, you will notice some things in that presentation, that you will lack with any other speakers. You will miss this amazing, immaculate smoothness and clarity of sound that gives you an impression of some warmth. They also seem to restrain some portion of expression – like the lower midrange and upper bass were slightly quieten down. I'm pretty sure of that as it reflected in a bit tighter space delivered by these speakers in This Mortail Coil, and some gentle „grip” over female voices. Interestingly it did not concern male voices.
This modification of sound doesn't really influence in any way the assessment of the sound but it gives it some particular character which might or might not be, what each of us expects. I'm pretty sure that this a component of the above mentioned limitation of expression. I heard something similar with other speakers sporting ceramic drivers. I think that it might a part of a price that designer of such speakers have to pay to achieve perfect sonic alignment of ceramic transducers. Listening to the Estelons I can't really pinpoint the exact frequency where this „restrain” is happening. Maybe there is a little bump around 2 kHz but this could be an effect of my rooms acoustics rather than speakers themselves. These are the first loudspeakers I know that while having so flat frequency response measured show no weaknesses during listening sessions. Usually when measurements are perfect something doesn't sound right one way or the other. I did not find anything „wrong” here. Some designer's choices – yes, but very reasonable ones, giving good sonic effects.

As I mentioned before Estelons generate huge soundstage. These speakers „breathe” and differentiate recordings in this aspect very well. The depth of the soundstage is extraordinary, and it goes for the size itself, but also for the ability to present each item in particular place. The soundstage has also proper height, which is not the case for many smaller speakers. Sound is not constrained to the speakers, maybe apart from a part of treble, which is caused by directivity of ceramic tweeter. Midrange and bass drivers deliver sound from between speakers, from around them, even from behind, but never directly from speakers.
The phantom images, meaning an illusion of voices instruments and so on, are very solid – can't find a word better describing it as „solid”. They are not just spots in the space but rather whole „blocks”. Maybe not perfectly 3D ones, as that is achieved only by small monitors, but distinctive enough, with their own structure, character and so on. It doesn't matter if they are shown closer to us or further to the back of the soundstage – the feeling of a „presence” is always the same. These are speakers that never loose focus even down the depth of soundstage.


Expensive speakers usually offer damn good sound. Rarely, less expensive ones like Sonus faber Electa Amator (I), Harbeth M40.1 or Amphion Kripton3, are also capable of delivering so sophisticated sound that most of us can fully enjoy it and spend the rest of our lives with it, taking huge pleasure in listening to the beloved music, regardless the medium it is stored on.
But Estelon XA get you to think. They cost much more but they offer more. They are capable of differentiating sizes also in depth, differentiate bass, integrate everything into one, coherent entirety – to get all that will cost you a lot. And only than you'll get what Estelons offer. Your first impression will tell you that their expression is somewhat restrained, maybe even that sound is rolled off a bit, and they always follow sound signature of the reproduced recording. Sound seems a bit warm, but it's not really warmed up. The „warmth” you can hear comes from very low level of distortions. I get it form time to time from reviewed amplifiers or speakers, and it usually means that they offer great resolution despite not that good selectivity. The latter must come from somewhere else.

These speakers are huge and look as such. Their round shapes might save you from being intimidated, but when I placed them next to Harbeths M40.1 they dominated British speakers with their size completely, despite the fact that Harbeths are huge monitors.
To be honest I'm not a huge fan of drivers with ceramic diaphragms. I'm aware of their virtues that are clear each time I listen to speakers equipped with those drivers and driven by proper amplification, but I personally prefer more expressive sound, even if it is, objectively, bit more colored. That is my personal view/choice and I;m sure many Readers disagree. Good for them – that's what our hobby is about – different choices. Estelons are the first speakers that allowed me to enjoy fully virtues of ceramic drivers. I know that even more expensive Avalon models could do the same thing but I never had a chance to listen to them in my room, although I heard them during some fairs and exhibitions. But I had a chance to experienced the XA model in my room and I know they are worth every penny you need to pay for them...

Test methodology

The XA Estelon speakers are truly large and heavy. They are much larger that my Harbeth M40.1, that I directly compared them to, and reminded me rather Amphion Kryptony3, that I reviewed directly before XA. Despite their size the same placement that worked for Hansen Prince v2, and before that for Avantgarde Acoustic Uno Picco and now works for Harbeths was also optimal for Estonian speakers. There were no issues with bass nor soundstaging.
I spend some time choosing the best amplification for them. Manufacturer declares the minimum amplification power as 20W since the speakers feature high sensitivity and flat impedance. But I tend to disagree – Estelons love power – the more the better. But not only raw power matters but also its quality. If what you care most is top neutrality, Soulution 710 should be a perfect choice. Still solid-state but with bit more creamy sound than Vitus Audio, offered in Poland by the same distributor as Estelon, will be a better choice. If you'd rather had less neutral, more characteristic sound you should try something like McIntosh Mc275 (I had an „anniversary” version at my disposal). Yes, tube amp will do too, but not some low-watt SET, but rather powerful one!!! Another option – top version of ESR Emitter II (see HERE).
Testing was a A-B comparison with A and B known but it wasn't a direct comparison and moving such a huge speakers was a true challenge. Musical samples were 2 minutes long, but after official listening sessions I listened to full albums too.


XA is a three-way, bass-reflex, floorstanding speaker made by Estonian company Estelon. It's rounded shaped cabinets were to exclude corner reflections, and to isolated mid-woofer and tweeter from bass-woofer. Cabinets are made from some kind of crushed marble based composite, that might be delivered in one of many colors of. These speakers are massive with almost 1400 mm of height, depth going up to 640 mm and weighting around 85 kg (a piece) net, and 140kg in a solid shipment case! That's why even Polish Distributor – RCM – decided to hire some movers to bring these speakers to me. They were very happy that I tested only stereo system and not 5.1... Drivers come form Accutone - a 30 mm (1,2 ") tweeter comes with reversed ceramic dome, and protective grill; a 180 mm (7") midwoofer also comes with ceramic diaphragm, a metal grill and rubber suspension, and a 280 mm (11") bass woofer comes with sandwich diaphragm with outer ceramic layer. Crossover is located at the bottom of the cabinet, that needs to be removed if you want to get to the crossover. Expensive internal wiring comes from Kubala-Sosna. Speaker binding posts are pure copper, 0705 model of Nextgen series by WBT. You can roll in the speakers to your apartment on some nice rolls but for listening you need to replace them with spikes. You'll get those in a very nice box, with manual, white gloves, and a piece of polish material for the cabinets. Spikes called QTC Spikes are made by German company Viablue.

(according to manufacturer):

Frequency response: 25-28 000 Hz
Power rating: 200 W
Nominal impedance: 6 Ω (min. 3,5 Ω at 60 Hz)
Sensitivity: 89 dB/2,83 V
Min. amplification power: 20 W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 1370 x 450 x 640 mm
Weight (piece): 85 kg



40-077 Katowice | ul. Matejki | Polska
tel.: 32/206 40 16 ǀ 32/201 40 96 | fax: 32/253 71 88



  • Sten Tamikivi, A Year With Estelon, "Sten Tamkivi's Seikatsu", see HERE [available: 09.10.2012].
  • Roger Gordon, Estelon XA Loudspeakers, "Positive Feedback Online", Issue 58, see HERE [available: 09.10.2012].
  • Jeff Dorgay, The New Estelon XA Loudspeakers, "TONEAudio", No 34, December 2010, see HERE [available: 09.10.2012].

  • associated-equipment

    • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition, review HERE
    • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
    • Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE), Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE
    • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III [Signature Version] with Re-generator Power Supply
    • Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version, review HERE
    • Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro; 600 Ω version, review HERE, HERE, and HERE
    • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300 (article HERE, preamp-power amp: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review HERE
    • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
    • Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE
    • Stand: Base; under all components
    • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD and preamplifier
    • Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS [Custom Version]; review HERE