Electrocompaniet was created forty years ago and they are the largest manufacturer of high quality audio equipment in Norway, they export to over fifty countries and their range of amplifiers, compact disc players, preamplifiers, digital to analogue converters and loudspeakers can be found in every corner of the world.
The Electrocompaniet ECP 1 is an aesthetically pleasing bit of kit which measures nine and a half inches wide, three inches high and seven inches deep. The front panel has the distinctive Electrocompaniet Perspex panel and gold details, along with the company’s logo and a blue LED to indicate it’s receiving power from the mains via its dedicated wall-wart transformer and to tell you if it’s in MM or MC mode. The mention of gold detail and blue LEDs gives the impression that this is an over the top design, but I find it quite understated and, as I say, pleasing on the eye. My only one concern over the appearance of this phonostage is that the LED is a little bright. It was popular with my wife whose usual comment when asked about the look of an item of hifi is “It’s another black box!” She loves the LED and the starlight effect it gives through the Perspex.
Some reports and the owners-manual itself, suggest that the MC circuitry can suffer from problems of hum if placed too close to transformers, AC wires or even speaker cables. I sat the unit immediately to the right of my turntable’s power supply box and have experienced no indication of any hum or any other noise problems. The unit also runs in a high class A operating point and as such it is recommended that it has a good deal of space around and above it to allow for ventilation and heat dissipation.
The ECP 1 phonostage caters for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges with gain selection being made by a simple and easy to access button on the back panel of the unit – I’ve used both MM and MC cartridges during this review and with all it has proved to be pretty much silent.
The first thing that grabbed me about the Electrocompaniet was the bass. It fair bounces along and has great pace and power whilst managing to go deep too. The old favourite “Rumours” was duly dug out and bass lines were delivered in manner that immediately got the foot tapping. On dub reggae (Dub Syndicate’s “Strike the Balance”) the deep and powerful bass was reproduced with great control and clout. Listening to the “Orgues Historiques D’Europe” on the Harmonia Mundi label it became clear that bass reproduction is where this phonostage really excels.
The upper registers of a wide range of music are reproduced with a great amount of detail being evident, but never with a hint of harshness or brashness. Steel stringed acoustic guitars were reproduced particularly beautifully, with a great realism to the sound and detail by the bucket load. Likewise the midrange of recordings was presented with striking clarity and again detail, with female voice on This Mortal Coil’s “It’ll end in Tears” album being full of emotion. The word I would choose to use when listening to the high and mid frequencies is “transparent” which is a word I know is is bandied around a good deal in reviews, but in this case it is fully deserved.
I’m a bit of a soundstage junky and love to have music presented in a wide and deep manner and the ECP 1 certainly doesn’t disappoint. The stage is wide, deep and accurate with individual instruments being easy to place on the Symphonic Band track of the Ortofon “Test” record I recently acquired. Back to “Rumours” and the beautiful “Songbird” which is portrayed in such a way that the piano and lone voice of Christine McVie in the large empty theatre is full of ambiance and emotion; her voice and the piano appear small and vulnerable in the large space.
Price in the UK for the ECP 1 is no an inconsiderable £795 but I genuinely believe that this is a very fair price for a well made product that has, in my experience, performed very well in all that it has been asked to do.
I should add to this review, for the sake of transparency and fairness, that I was sent the Electrocompaniet ECP 1 in return for a small amount of copywriting work that I did for Electocompaniet. My intention was to give it a listen and sell it on, but it would seem that it has become something of a permanent fixture on my rack.