A few months back, I started thinking about a new build. I had been living with Altec Model 14”s and although they were very good, I’m one of those guys always searching for perfection. The Altec “Manta Rey” horn is a dated design and they really need a sub.
When browsing audio sites one evening I read about the new Ellipticor series of drivers from ScanSpeak. In my experience, there are three things that make a great loudspeaker. Fast drivers with little coloration, a properly shaped and inert box, and the heart of any speaker, the crossover.
I could buy drivers, check. Needed an idea for a nice box, pause. I found the Troels Gravensed site on line. Here was a guy after my own heart. Loves loudspeakers! He had a newer design that was shaped a bit like a Thiel or a Vandersteen. Sloped baffle and first order filters. I have a fondness for the old Thiel CS2. Liked the shape, the sound, the crossover, everything. One big issue. They couldn’t play loud without distortion.
After more snooping, I ordered the kit without the Hypex amp and drivers. I had a pair of 12” servo sub drivers in the garage and ordered a couple of PEQ 370 Servo amps from Danny at GR Research. Bought drivers in the USA and hired out the cabinet construction. The Ellipticor drivers are expensive to say the least, but I rationalized the cost by thinking “I’m getting older there will not be many more opportunities to do a fun project like this”.
I have used PBN Audio in San Diego on other custom builds. Over the years he has become one of my very best and trusted friends. He also loves everything audio from his pre-teen years, just like like me. My house and Garage are San Diego small and Pete is a master speaker builder if there ever was one. A few weeks later, they were complete and in my listening room. Beautiful Trans-Red Oak with a Clear coat. Pyramid enclosures made from 1” MDF. Braced to the extreme and with a sloped baffle and rounded corners, a great platform for these “state of the art” drivers.
The sound was not exactly what I expected. I tend to really like ScanSpeak drivers when well implemented. I have owned several speakers with them over the years and enjoyed almost all of them. They are famous for transparency and dynamics. Well, the Ellipticor III was Transparent like an electrostatic, but no real dynamics. Just like a “stat”, The midrange had a noticeable suck-out and the highs were a bit soft and somewhat lifeless. I knew the risk of buying a speaker I had never heard. No hard feelings of Troels, He is a nice guy, knowledgeable and a great builder. This speaker just was not to my taste, and he openly warns of such on his site. Speakers are a bit like people, all different.
Thankfully I also know Danny of GR Research and his famous ability to “make your speakers sound better”. After a phone call, off a speaker was crated shipped to Iowa Park TX from San Diego. Danny measured the speakers and came up with a new filter for the 8”-21WE woofer, 6”- 18WE Mid woofer and the D3404 tweeter.
The new filters and slopes were quite different, but he was happy with the results and sent my speaker home with new crossover parts. Sonicap’s, Mills resistors, Erse Coils, some sweet Miflex bypass caps, new hook up wire and of course tube connectors.
The Holidays slowed my progress, but finally the wire, Tube connectors and crossovers are installed.
The results. In one word. WOW. What a great speaker. Killer Servo sub bass, the transparent yet tone rich mid bass and midrange that great paper drivers produce. The Tweeter. I know what you’re thinking cloth dome tweeters? How 80’s.
This is not your average cloth dome. The Ellipticor D3404/552000 is indeed special. I have lived with the Neo 3 & 8’s and the SB acoustics Beryllium domes, Scan Speak Revelators, etc. They are all very good. The D3404 is at their level, but different of course.
Imaging, tone, transparency, bass slam and control. All must haves at this point in my audio journey. The Ellipticor III with the GR Research crossover has all of those in spades. They are an easy load of mostly 8ohms and over 90db efficient. I use solid state amplification, but with the right tubes I’m sure they would sing just as well.
An interesting journey. I learned a lot, I usually do on these projects. Spending this kind of money on a build is not for the faint of heart. If it doesn’t work out, you scrap it and start over. I find it interesting that this project had 4 designers at different times (not including Scanspeak team or Brian Ding). The result. They are simply breath taking. A unique speaker that will stand with toe to toe with the best of them. Different than some, but excellent at reproducing an emotional musical event.
Thanks Danny, Peter, Troels,
Love my new speakers!