Esprit is a French-based cable manufacturer that has a great name for building high-quality cables in their own country but were relatively little known in the UK and beyond until quite recently. In this review David Robson checks out their Eterna range of cables, including RCA, XLR interconnects, and speaker cables and priced as follows – speaker cable 3m €2360, RCA 1.2m €1890, and XLR 1.2m €1980.

INTRODUCTION

It’s been quite a while since I had a loom of cables in for review, I’d forgotten how nice it is to get well packaged, high-end cabling to unwrap. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing cables from around the globe, including Japan and Bali, but a first for me are these from France – a new brand for myself and perhaps others.

Esprit was launched in 1996 by Richard Cesari, but this was not his first foray into cable making. Richard had been building cables for himself and for friends for a few years and his hunt for better, and, importantly, better-sounding cables led him to try many different configurations and materials to gain that extra ounce of quality and performance.

As well as the speaker cables and interconnects that are reviewed here, the Eterna range of cables from Esprit also includes a 75 Ohm SPDIF digital cable, a 110 Ohm AES/EBU digital link, mains cables, and speaker jumper cables.

The family of Eterna cables from Esprit

CONSTRUCTION AND BUILD

So how do these cables look out the box? As you world* expect from cables in this price range, the fit and finish are exemplary. From the box they arrive in, to the little hand-signed certificate by the maker (a simple but still very nice addition), everything suggests a great deal of care and attention has been taken in their presentation and this is certainly a good starting point for any product. The cables themselves are sturdy and weighty and come with a dark brown/grey nylon webbing/sheath outer. The quality of the plugs and connections looks superb. The XLRs have silver-plated connectors, whilst the RCA’s have 810 strands of pure copper (6n 99.9999% pure), and Esprit’s own EH100rca silver plated (10 microns of pure silver) connections – these are custom plated with layers of silver and copper and not just “Flash” plated. The Speaker cables have 4mm Bananas which are pure silver. It’s a matter of personal choice on how you like your connections, but these used by Esprit look the real deal and I’m hoping the looks are matched by their sound.

RCA Cables showing directionality markings and polarisation box

Shielding is shielding, right? Well, not if you’re Esprit! They believe that a full shielded cable can have a dullness and constricting nature to the sound and suggest the opposite for unshielded (lively but then obviously compromised). So how are the Eterna cables constructed? A progressive shielding technique is used, where the length of cable is divided into 3 parts – the first section is unshielded, the second third has one layer and the last third has two layers of shielding, this aims to balance out the sound to give, in theory, bandwidth, dynamics, and a silent and detailed delivery. All good for the listener.

XLR cables from the Eterna range

So apart from the outward quality, what sets these Esprit Eterna apart from other cables I’ve seen or used before? Well, you may notice that on each cable there is a box at one end! A box with a button that lights up blue when you push it! Hmmm, now I’m sad to say, as much as I love HiFi and Music I’m quite errrrr, “electronically embarrassed”! So off I went to ask the question, “What do they do?”.

The answer came back from those in the know, that the Eterna uses “Polarisation” of the outer jacket. What’s that then? Developed in the ’90s for the telecoms industry, they found that by injecting the insulation materials with 12v that the signal has no chance of leakage as the insulation is saturated with DC. The signal in the conductors can excite the insulators into micro-vibrations, this is bad but the small amount of DC prevents this. The button which lights blue is to check the state of the battery conditions and serves no other purpose. So quite a technical reason for this addition, and makes sense to eliminate electromagnetic interference, as every little bit of extra detail helps what we end up hearing and the performance of our equipment. You can remove a 3.5mm jack to turn off this polarising effect as this disconnects the battery and so easy comparison is well achievable

Loudspeaker cables in the Eterna range also include the polarisation box

SOUND

So that’s the technical bit, but I’m sure the most important bit is the sound and its effects on your equipment, well on my equipment anyway!

I was told that the cables improve with a bit of use, and my personal experience tends to agree with this much-contended theory of a ‘burn-in’ period. This can be anywhere from 24 to hundreds of hours but having left the CD on at low volumes I felt confident that after about a week we were ready to go and get on with the serious business of listening to some music through the Esprits.

With the Eterna speaker cables and XLR’s, CD to DAC using my own Coax, I started going through my collection of reviewing stock. From the outset, the music was as coherent and even as my personal set up – one that has had countless interactions of cables through it over the years and finally chosen for both my own listening enjoyment and high-fidelity presentation. There was nothing stand out or glaringly obvious giving me anything to pick up as a negative with the Esprits in place – nothing! Stereo separation, both in width and depth, was as it should be and with a cosmic silence keeping everything apart. Instruments hung in their rightful places and were choreographed with pinpoint accuracy. I have a smaller listening space and the soundscape can easily be put out of balance if not portrayed correctly, a little bit like trying to focus with a magnifying glass – the Esprit Eterna perfectly framed my music. This imaging quality of the Esprit cables is certainly one of their strong points and one that I immediately latched onto. Whether listening to more full-blown productions with lots going on or more intimate recordings, I was really drawn to the way the musicians, instruments, and effects were correctly positioned with a rock-solid and locked-in quality. Imaging is an important part of the whole stereo experience for me – isn’t that what the whole stereo thing was supposed to bring to the table in the first place? A feeling of the bands and musicians being audibly ‘visible’ in a three-dimensional space in front of the listener. With the Esprit in my system, I got the feeling that this all-important spatial element of the music I was listening to was really well represented.

The overall presentation was smooth, refined, detailed, and tight, without being forward or coarse. Certainly, there was no high-frequency tizziness that can become tiresome and lead to listener-fatigue very quickly. Using the word smooth may suggest I thought the cables rounded off the higher frequencies, but that’s not the case and the level of detail the Esprits brought to my system confirms this to my way of thinking – you can’t have this amount of detail if there is any high-frequency cut-off.

Bass was full and dug deep and with no flab or overhang or blurring of the notes. All in all, the bass was very tuneful indeed. Whether electric bass, acoustic bass, or electronic basslines all were taut and accurate sounding and there was a good deal of engaging with the bass by way of my right foot tapping along to the rhythm sections of a lot of the music I played.

There is excellent mid-range detail with the Esprits, and that, in conjunction with the silky sheen of the top-end, made the listening experience very relaxing and enjoyable. Indeed, there was no hint of fatigue or strain even after hours of listening to music. Vocals projected nicely into my room and I could hear the little inflections and details of different singers’ voices clearly. The lasting crispness of the decay of notes from the likes of cymbals and bells added that extra hint of realism to the whole experience and this was achieved without sounding fake or slushy. Often it is little things like how a cymbal or reverb decays that can really enhance the way we experience and enjoy music and the Esprit present these well and without them feeling overdone or being enhanced artificially.

Adding in the Eterna RCA’s to both my CD player and Auralic Streamer (SSD HD with ripped CD’s in .wav format) bought the same thoughts as previously encountered. The level of details and presentation are very similar if not identical across the cable range – in that I mean that swapping out the XLRs for RCAs brings out the same experiences as previously outlined. The superb qualities that Esprit has designed into this range of cables is very welcoming. I really don’t see any integration issues with other well-balanced systems. The easy-going nature and silk-like delivery make these a must try choice if you’re looking for cables of this level of performance and price.

To confirm I was actually hearing these differences as opposed to either becoming attuned to the cables presentation or imagining their effect, I put the ‘box’ in and out of the circuit and without exception, the differences were clear to me.

CONCLUSION

This engineering on this cable was something I’d never experienced before, and in all honesty, I was a bit sceptical about “add on” boxes on cables. Once the technology was explained to me, I began to get the concept and a little of the scientific thinking behind them. Then the listening experience I had proved to me that the polarisation effect that the add on box gives, is, indeed, a good addition and a worthwhile technology – as I say, I was very sceptical to say the least.

Esprit utilising the best cabling, components, scientific thinking, and materials in the construction of these cables has made this range very hard to ignore. Of course, as with all equipment and not just cables, I strongly suggest you have a listen yourself and with your own equipment if at all possible.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Superb fit and finish, as you would expect from cables in this price range. I really like the quality of the connectors, and I really can’t see anything that can be done to improve what has been utilised in this respect

Sound Quality: Highly detailed, non-fatiguing and silky smooth delivery. Tuneful and tight bass delivery

Value For Money: These are not a cheap option, but if you have invested in a quality set of electronics then these cables make perfect sense

Pros: 

Non-fatiguing presentation

Silky smooth mids

High level of detail

Great build and associated components

Polarisation technology does work

Cons:

The cables are very well made and that makes them a little weighty for lighter equipment

Price (Euros):

Eterna Speaker Cable 3m €2360, RCA 1.2m €1890, and XLR 1.2m €1980.

 

 

 

 

 

David Robson

Review Equipment: Mytek Brooklyn Pre/DAC, (with Ferrum Fe HYPOSOS power supply), Nord NC500mk2 Power Amp with various modifications, Oppo UDP 205 (used as CD transport). Auralic Aries Mini (Auralic LPS Power Supply ), Wilson Benesch Arc Speakers. Chord Shawline Digital Coax. Titan Audio power cables and Titan Styx mains block.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

RCA Interconnects:

Conductor 810 strands of pure copper
Asymmetric twists
Symmetrical electrical structure Asymmetrical
dielectrics
Triple insulation on air
Partial screen on air
Polarization
Esprit EH100rca connectors
Multilayer copper/silver plating 10 microns

XLR Interconnects:

Silver-plated
plugs Asymmetrical structure
Symmetrical diagram Air insulation
Partial
shielding Polarization

Speaker Cables:

Pure silver banana connectors

Silver plated copper fork connectors 40 microns
Pure copper conductor 1680 strands
Asymmetrical
twists Asymmetrical dielectrics on air
Partial screen on air
Polarization

Read More Posts Like This

  • Nordost have reintroduced their SuperFlatline Speaker Cable. SuperFlatline was one of the original cable options that Nordost created and that is easily distinguishable by its flat design. Nordost’s SuperFlatline Speaker Cable consists of 16, 23 AWG, solid core, flat, rectangular copper conductors. SuperFlatline is designed and manufactured entirely in the USA. The retail price for the SuperFlateline Speaker Cable starts at…

  • New Speaker Cable From The Chord Company

    Following the recent launch of the Crimson, Cobra and Chameleon interconnects in the entry-level sector, The Chord Company has expanded its affordable product line with a new speaker cable, Sarsen, priced at £8p/m.   The new Sarsen speaker cable is The Chord Company’s most discreet cable design to date. A speaker cable that’s hard to see, but easy to hear,…

  • RD Acoustic of the Czech Republic, have released their own RCA audio cable. RD Acoustic are known for their loudspeakers, you can read more in our reviews of the Euphoria and the Evolution speakers. Reference RCA Cable The Reference cable is made of pure OCC silver, is handmade and has 24K gold plated plugs. It is soldered with special oxygen free…

You must be logged in to leave a reply.