Estelon is a high-end loudspeaker manufacturer based in Estonia and this year they are celebrating ten years of creating what they hope are “the world’s best loudspeakers”. Hifi Pig caught up with chief designer and engineer Alfred Vassilkov to ask him a few questions about the brand, their philosophy, and more.

THE ESTELON STORY

From a young age, and while growing up in the Soviet era, Alfred began dismantling radios and changed and adjusted their components in the hope of improving their sound quality. At university, whilst studying electro-acoustics in St Petersburg, he extended his interest in this field which led him to a Eureka moment back in 2010 whilst, of all things, having breakfast with his family.

Alfred recalls the moment, “It was a lovely Sunday morning having breakfast with my family. I had long held the ambition of creating the world’s best loudspeaker. I knew what the concept would be but instead of selling my idea to a company, I decided to build it on my own. Luckily I already had the best key executives in my family, my daughters Alissa and Kristiina. That same evening we decided to set up the company.” So, it goes without saying that family Vassilkov isn’t one to let the grass grow under their feet.

He’d been designing speakers for almost three decades and his experiences during this time helped him develop new technologies and materials with which to design and build “unique and innovative” products.

To celebrate their tenth-anniversary Estelon has Developed the Forza Anniversary model that uses technology from the company’s flagship Extreme loudspeaker. The Forza Anniversary is limited in production to a total of 10 pairs and features a combination of Black Pearl Gloss and Gold accents highlighting its curves, whilst the rear connector panel features the signature of Alfred Vassilkov.

Estelon Forza Anniversary is limited to just ten pairs

THE INTERVIEW

HP: When did Estelon launch the company, what is the background to Estelon, and how did you initially become interested in audio engineering?

The Vasillvov family. All are involved with the business.

Alfred Vassilkov: As a child, I was a member of a family full of musicians, so it was quite natural for me to listen to a lot of music. I was listening to radio stations a lot and I remember vividly how excited I was when searching for different radio frequencies. This love of music developed my interest in learning how an electrical signal converts into an acoustic signal and this led me to study electroacoustics at St. Petersburg’s University. After finishing my studies, I worked in the audio industry for 25 years. In the meantime, I was developing the Estelon concept. One Sunday morning, 10 years ago, I discussed this idea with my family whilst having breakfast and this is when Estelon was born.

HP: You mentioned in passing that it was your aim to create the world’s best loudspeaker. Do you think you have achieved this? What are your criteria for “The World’s Best Speaker’”?

Alfred Vassilkov: I would say that the world’s best speakers are the ones that can reproduce music flawlessly in any given conditions. I always believed that I could design speakers that provide the ultimate performance in every acoustic environment. This was my ultimate goal and it was achieved with the development of the Estelon speakers.

HP: What inspires your designs?

Alfred Vassilkov: I had noticed that the traditionally designed speakers do not perform as well as I always believed a speaker should, or could, perform. This is why I always start designing on a ‘blank sheet of paper’ without following any previous ‘traditional’ concepts or ideas. I always have a goal and a clear idea of what I want to achieve, and this method gives me the freedom to do that without copying previous designs.

I would say that the main source of my inspiration is Estonian nature. In my country, we have endless forests and lush nature that always fascinates me and inspires me.

HP: You have spoken in the past about each engineering, design, and materials used decision being made with the final loudspeaker always being in mind. How important is this holistic approach and why?

Alfred Vassilkov: The main idea behind this approach is the actual philosophy of our speakers’ design. As a principle, we use the best possible components according to each project that we always treat individually. But this principle proceeds in the combination of all the parameters that are equally important and contribute to the end result. From the crossover networks, the shape of the speaker, the surfaces of the cabinet, to literally everything that is included in the designing process. Lastly, the speaker should ‘collaborate’ harmoniously with any acoustic environment.

I always like to think of this process and the end result as a majestic performance of an orchestra!

Estelon’s Extreme loudspeaker

HP: Each of your loudspeakers uses a special marble-based composite material, with other processes that follow. Can you tell Hifi Pig readers a little more about these materials and the process?

Alfred Vassilkov: The material is a proprietary marble-based composite consisting of crushed marble that’s turned into a fine powder. This powder is mixed with high-temperature special epoxy to form a liquid composite mixture. The mixture is then injected into the cabinet molds from where two halves of the cabinet are formed.  The two halves are then glued together with special glue. Then the bracing walls and internal separator walls are glued together. The resulting cabinet is, we believe, acoustically superior to other well-known cabinet construction methods. The material is very dense, rigid, and with good internal damping properties, making a perfect enclosure for the transducers and the filter.

HP: Your loudspeakers certainly look very different from the norm. Is this to stand out from the competition or does form follow function?

Alfred Vassilkov: It has been one of the most important goals for us to create something that does not only sound excellent but also looks great. The unique design of our speakers is the result of relentless engineering. Placing the low bass driver close to the floor with a low crossover point allows extended low-end performance and minimal bass smear. The position of the mid-woofer minimizes the coloration from the cabinet edges and the floor surface, and finally, the tweeter placement provides what we consider to be outstanding imaging and 3D soundstage rendering. The internal construction has no parallel walls, plus almost every surface is curved, for a better spread of the standing waves and also added rigidity. Furthermore, such a form allows the speakers to be more forgiving in non-acoustically treated listening spaces. Lastly, we believe that the form looks unique and fresh.

HP: This year is the tenth anniversary for Estelon. What do you have planned by way of celebration and will you be making any changes to existing lines of loudspeakers?

Alfred Vassilkov: Our 10th anniversary is an important milestone for us. We want to celebrate the 10th year of Estelon by providing an even greater experience to our customers through our products. We have already launched our latest Flagship Series model, the Estelon Forza Anniversary Edition and we have also announced our upgraded Classic line to Mk II versions. We have developed the second version of our Flagship Extreme, which we think sounds better than ever, and we have many more exciting announcements coming up in 2021! (stay tuned readers!)

HP: Will you be announcing any new or flagship models in this special year? I have heard mention of the very limited and exclusive Forza loudspeaker, indeed we mention it in our introduction to this interview. Can you tell us a little more about this loudspeaker?

Alfred Vassilkov: The Estelon Forza carries the DNA of the Extreme, our ultimate flagship model. The Forza Anniversary Edition is a true collector’s item and it is limited in production to a total of 10 pairs. As you understand it is a very exclusive product and It has a unique finish that was achieved through advanced painting technology. It comes in a unique colour combination of Black Gloss and Gold accents highlighting its elegant curves and presenting a truly luxurious finish. Only very few lucky customers will have this unique pair of speakers with the golden Estelon anniversary logo and my signature on the connectors’ panel.

Estelon Forza Anniversary showing highlights and signed back panel

HP: Your loudspeakers are clearly very luxurious and exclusive at the moment. Do you see Estelon ever releasing a less expensive “Diffusion” range at a more affordable price-point?

Alfred Vassilkov: Designing a more affordable speaker that maintains the high-end performance that Estelon is known for, is one of the biggest challenges. Let’s see what the future holds!

Estelon’s XC Diamond Mk II standmount loudspeakers

HP: What do you see the next ten years bringing for the high-end audio industry in general, and for Estelon in particular?

Alfred Vassilkov: One of our main goals is to bring the Estelon speakers and brand to more and more audiophiles and music lovers. We seek to push the boundaries in the audio industry, and we challenge ourselves continuously to improve our products. We attempt to balance traditional high-end values with modern technological achievements.

HP: Do you see Estelon moving into other areas of audio (amps etc), or do you prefer to be masters of one particular field of design…loudspeakers?

Alfred Vassilkov: We will do whatever it takes to fulfill our vision. It is not out of the question for us to bring out a product to accompany our speakers, when such a solution is unavailable, or when the readily available ones are not up to the task. Our focus is and always will be speakers.

HP: What, personally, is your proudest achievement for Estelon?

Alfred Vassilkov: I could write a long list of awards as my answer to this question, however, what’s really important to me, is the acknowledgment of the fact that we are offering more than just a product. We are offering an experience. And this contributes to our biggest achievement which is the ‘thank you’ letters we receive from our happy customers.

HP: You are clearly passionate about your loudspeaker designs and the pursuit of audio excellence, and this must be an all-consuming task, but how do you relax when you are not working, and what are your other passions?

Alfred Vassilkov: As mentioned above, one of the best things here in Estonia is nature. It not only inspires me, but it also helps me to clear my mind and relax. That’s why one of my favourite activities is hiking, either in our forests or near the sea. I also enjoy a lot of swimming and cross-country skiing.

Interview by Stuart Smith

 

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