I am the sort of guy who likes to try things that are unusual and different. Am partial to the eclectic and that preference is reflected in the food that I eat. Thus my taste in music and my exploration into the uniqueness of the cultures that is around us all. With this in mind, I came across a loudspeaker company that is in fact unique and different. Everything But the Box (EBTB) is a company based in Varna, Bulgaria and was created in 2003 by Kamen and Dobromir Dobrev. What makes them different from many of the other manufacturers in the audio market is their philosophy to create products that use shapes based on the laws of physics to create the best possible loudspeakers at affordable prices. Gone are the boring traditional rectangular cabinets that cause many sonic difficulties. They have been replaced by whimsical designs that includes no corners, a practice that subdues those nasty bouncy sound waves that tend to give loudspeaker designers headaches and potential nightmares. Their products are a combination of art and technology where they incorporate these unique designs with superior audio performance.
After looking through their catalog filled with
interesting offerings, I decided on the company's Venus series loudspeakers.
This modest series offers a pleasing aesthetic where form follows function.
Their designs include a combination of top grade materials where each unit is
hand crafted to create a unique piece that is as much art as it is a
loudspeaker. There are three models within this series including the Venus II /
IV (units suspended via cables), Venus D (an enclosure that rests on a vibration
absorbing leather pad that can be used as a bookshelf monitor) and the Venus F
(a floor standing model that incorporates a hollow shaft within the design). I
chose the Venus F for this review because of their keen aesthetics, as well as
my interest to hear how they used the included stands to help the sonic
signature of these loudspeakers. Once convinced with my decision, I contacted
the company in Bulgaria and within a few days they were on their way to New
When the Venus F loudspeakers arrived on my front doorstep, I was excited to unpack these units and set them up right away in my living room. One clear observation was that delivering sensitive audio equipment in December, right before the holidays, was not quite the strong suit for my UPS delivery person. The units were slightly damaged due to a rough trip to my doorstep but as a credit to the craftsmen at EBTB, they were fairly simple to repair. The construction was solid and straightforward and many other lesser loudspeakers would have succumbed to the mistreatment that was doled out by the delivery carrier.
What greeted me out of the boxes was a pair of loudspeakers that looked as if they could be in a hardcore science fiction movie and just might be able to shoot laser beams as well as play music. The aesthetics of the units were futuristic yet classy with a beautifully glossed coat of pleasing color beaming from the egg shaped cabinets. Each enclosure sat atop two single thick shafts that supported each cabinet with a large stable base assembly at the bottom of each unit. The loudspeakers also included substantial height adjustable legs that solidly gripped the floor. The company informed me that the color they sent was called "Old Bronze" and that they offered over 16,000 colors for all of their products. Let me repeat that... over 16,000 colors for all of their products. I can honestly say that with this amount of flexibility, a potential buyer would have no problem matching or complementing the décor of any space where they choose to install these loudspeakers.
The Venus F, as is the case with all of the
products within the series, boasts hand processed 6 mm thick die cast aluminum
egg shaped enclosures with a port at the rear and a port going into the rounded
necks of each unit. The lower frequencies are handled by a 5" Kevlar cone
shielded woofer while the high frequencies are managed through a 30 mm silk dome
neodymium tweeter with an enclosure that is fully isolated from the low
frequency speaker. The loudspeakers are phase aligned, allowing the units to
produce quality sound response along the full spectral range. In addition to
these design elements, EBTB has also created especially designed horns for the
tweeters for uniform dispersion. I usually like to see two pairs of binding
posts; however, the single pairs provided on the Venus F loudspeakers are of
high quality and another pair might have offset the aesthetics of the
loudspeakers. Since these are part of the company's more modest products, they
are not rated to accommodate monster power amplifiers. If you are into playing
your music loud and hard then these are not the loudspeakers for you. For my
purposes, I matched these beauties with a mid-powered Rotel "solid state"
amplifier as well as a low powered tube integrated amplifier to see how these
Bulgarian babies performed in different environments.
The testing took place in my living room, which
is medium sized with a listening distance of approximately 15 feet. The Venus F
loudspeakers were spaced about 12 feet apart and toed in to where an appropriate
sweet spot was achieved. The loudspeakers were mated with a pair of JPS Labs
Ultra Conductor 2 loudspeaker cables and all interconnects were also part of the
Ultra Conductor 2 series. One set of "listening tests" was done with my Rotel
RB970 BX amplifier. At 60 watts per channel, I believed that it would offer
enough punch without being overbearing. Additional listening sessions were done
with my interesting little Miniwatt tube integrated amplifier, pushing out a
respectable 3.5 watts per channel. Sources were taken from my iPod with high
resolution files fed through a Pure Digital dock with an onboard D/A converter.
I could not do this without listening to some vinyl, so I also brought down my
modified Moth Alamo X turntable (basically a Rega turntable) that lives in the
attic study. With a cup of tea in hand, I was ready to put these loudspeakers
through their paces.
Venus F Loudspeakers Sing To Me
Next on my list was a little bluegrass from
Allison Krauss and Union Station off of the compilation Blue
Ribbon Bluegrass. "Everytime You Say Goodbye" is one of my favorite
songs from Ms. Krauss that features a great melody line, tight harmonies and
strong instrumental work. With the Venus F loudspeakers, the mandolin and banjo
picking sounded detailed and rich, allowing me to clearly hear the interplay
between the instruments. Krauss is also known for her sweet, innocent and
girlish voice and the Venus F units did not disappoint while bringing a truly
believable experience that was delicate, natural and easy. Switching gears to
something more rhythmic, I turned to La
Candela Viva by Toto La Momposina y sus Tambores from the nation of
Colombia. This recording is a solid representation of the Afro-Colombian
tradition and features intricate and intense drumming patterns and percussion.
With "Mapale", the Venus F loudspeakers handled the complex drumming sequences
with agility and authority, with separation that made it easy to follow each
drum line while allowing Toto's commanding voice to soar over the percussion in
this traditional "call and response" tune. Song after song on my iPod, the Venus
F loudspeakers turned in involving performances that were extremely musical and
never seemed to bring along any listener fatigue. After hours of listening and
evaluation, it was time to switch up the format and bring out the vinyl for a
My turntable for this review was a very budget friendly, high performance unit that features a warm Goldring 1042GX cartridge, an upgraded acrylic platter, an aluminium record weight and a venerable rewired RB300 Rega tonearm. The phonograph preamplifier was a unit built by Tokyo Sound. My first spin was a "180-gram" pressing of Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud, a soundtrack album by Miles Davis. The Venus F loudspeakers turned in a performance that was warm and detailed with a smooth delivery. The sound of the record was almost ethereal and many portions of the album were wispy and transparent, a truly enjoyable listening experience. Next in rotation was 421 by Honky, an album filled with chunky rock guitars and intense drum kit work. The Venus F loudspeakers handled this wall of sound respectably well with no distortion and surprising tightness in the bass. While the porting of the bass frequencies into the stand shafts seemed to work to improve the bass response, they did lack some slam. This is not really a failing of the speaker, rather it is beyond what I believe the scope of the design will permit while being driven by a small 3.5 watts per channel tube amplifier. To test this theory, I switched to a more potent solid-state amplifier that would drive more power through the loudspeakers.
I located a passive preamplifier that I built a few years ago to use with my Rotel solid-state amplifier. Continuing with my foray into the world of vinyl, I pulled out The Grand Illusion by Styx. One of my favorite tunes on this album has to be "Come Sail Away", a classic by this band. With this new amplification configuration, the instruments sounded tighter, the vocal placement was spot on and the guitars had more substance. The Venus F loudspeakers seemed to be more at ease with the increased power and the drums had a lot more punch while the bass response seemed to improve a bit. In this tune, the music switches several times from the right to the left channel. The Venus F loudspeakers allowed a good deal of space for this special effect and produced clarity and detail better than I have heard in a while on this track. Shakedown Street is an interesting album by The Grateful Dead that sounds even better in the "180-gram" Audio Fidelity pressing. The Venus F loudspeakers did a great job with the title track "Shakedown Street" and the percussion rich track "Serengeti", providing good punch and agility that was noteworthy. Finally, I switched back to my iPod to hear a few more tracks. I ended my listening sessions with "Little Wing" off of The Sky Is Crying, a wonderful recording by the late guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. The presence of the guitar and pace of the tune were simply remarkable, a great way to end a listening session with these truly unique loudspeakers.
Everything But The Box has created a product in the Venus F Loudspeakers that is musical, balanced, detailed and just sounds darn good. They are not for everyone, especially those who are interested in high impact, hard rocking, in your face sound. If this is you, please move on to something else. If you are like me and enjoy loudspeakers that help to reveal the music in a non-fatiguing and tasteful fashion, give the Venus F loudspeakers a try. At the reasonable price of $2199, you will not break the bank while you enjoy the music.
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