Today’s meeting, at first, was only to be about testing a single device, a Polish tube amplifier. Yet during the process of fine-tuning all its aspects, it turned out, that dedicated loudspeakers and a sound source need also to be supplied. Why was that the case? In fact this is quite simple, the loudspeakers we use as reference are quite a problematic load for an amplifier, and we wanted to provide the Polish amplifier with the best possible configuration, so we asked the constructor about a complete set. And now we can qualify the presented set to the well known, among our readers, series of “Dream systems”, which does not kill with the prices of the individual devices, and being a system, it is maybe not very cheap, but also does not require selling all organs from the whole family to get it. I think, that you should be able to buy such a system selling only one kidney. But let us put those “Addams Family” type jokes aside, as somebody might get the idea of really doing that, when he or she listen to this system. First things first.

The main cause for this whole ado is the tube integrated amplifier Encore Seven model Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST, a 9 Watt, A-class Single Ended amp built around popular EL34 tubes. The low power output of this amplifier caused the discussion about fitting loudspeakers and resulted in high expectations about the presented sound. A hard-core construction, that requires the user to stick to the procedure of powering the amplifier up and down as described in its manual. This shows, that the constructor minimized the amount of components in the sound path. Fortunately those are simple and easy to learn activities, so they should not pose a problem for potential buyers. The potential buying decision will be heavily influenced by the external design of the unit. I must confess, that among hundreds of devices I have listened to, this is the second case, next to the Leben CS-300F, when I could own a product only for its design. There are no middle states, it is only love it or hate it, as it calls for extreme opinions, from “candy” – for me, to associations with a communist era oven for some of my friends. Anyway, the looks are highly distinctive, and this is an important element in positioning a product in a client’s mind. But let us make things short. This is how I see it. Unpacking the integrated from its protective cardboard, you see a microwave oven, where in a mirror-like chamber, after a row of four tubes, you see a V-type car engine with cylinders made from EL-34 tubes. The whole chassis is finished in a white varnish, looking like enamel, and on top there are ventilation holes cut in patterns resembling Polish traditional cutaways. The top cover is mounted by magnets, what makes it easily removable and allows to quickly access the nicely glowing tubes. The simplicity of this solution is so striking, that I see a lot of potential for this Polish brand only from this solution. But this is not the end of what we can see. The front glass panel, that allows us a peek inside, is cut out on the bottom, where a horizontal, white, scaled and quite big rotary knob is used for volume control. The last moving part in the front is the knurled knob for input selection mounted atop of the volume. The selected input is indicated by a light in the bottom left section of the front. The whole amplifier is supported by four feet, shaped in the form of a water drop, showing us the attention to detail in the whole project. There are no shortcuts to be found, only attention to the smallest details. Will it catch your attention – that will depend on individual taste and sensitivity – I was bought from the beginning. The back panels is equally shiny as the inside, it carries loudspeaker terminals for 4 and 8 ohm speakers, a power socket with two fuses and three line inputs. The mentioned power on switches, for the sequential startup, are located on the bottom, behind the front, right foot. No fireworks, only minimalism from the seventies pure. If I was to build a system around a tube amplifier, the main player would surely be the Encore Seven Egg-Shell Prestige.

The second important component of this configuration were the loudspeakers from the French company Davis Acoustic, represented by the model MV One, and distributed by Mr. Grzegorz Pardubicki. Highly efficient (93dB) using a wide band driver without filtration in a bass-reflex cabinet, seemed to be a perfect match to the amplifier described above, by their intransigence. The cabinet is quite high (1m) and not much wider than the used driver. However it is very deep, so there is space enough to generate lots of bass from the used driver, while not losing coherence of the sound. And I must say, that this bass is really something. The venting port of the bass-reflex is mounted at the bottom of the front baffle, shaped like a horizontal rectangle. The wire terminals are mounted on the level of the drivers, to make the path of the sound even shorter. On the back we can find also a golden plaque with the information about the speaker. In addition we get a black piano varnish, a matte painted plinth slightly wider to the front, so as a whole we get a beautiful piece of furniture, which generates beautiful sounds. But about that in a moment.

The whole system was amended by the CD player AVM Evolution CD 5.2 – again distributed by Mr. Grzegorz, but we will test it individually in the near future, so I will depart from describing its looks, to keep the text a bit shorter. The cabling was a combination of Acrolink, Harmonix and Acoustic Zen.

I must confess, that the unpacking process of the tested system worked like an aphrodisiac on me. The amplifier enchanted with its looks and the modest 9 watts power, and the usage of a single wide band speaker boded an ideally coherent sound spectrum, something I have offered in a different way by my concentric Bravo! This similar approach to sound offered by the French and the Japanese was the reason, I had so much faith in the final result. The whole was supported by the sources: the digital AVM with tubes inside and my turntable. The listening session seemed to become tasty and, probably unnecessarily, I will say, that it only got better. When during initial warm-up I was cleaning the loudspeakers from hand prints – after placing them in the final spots – I do not know why, but I was not surprised with what I heard from them. That what I suspected in the beginning – ideal synergy between amplification and speakers – was fully realized. The only thing I needed to do is to assess the refinement of the musical spectacle. So I sat down in the sweet spot and played the first disc, a cooperation between Bogdan Holownia and Jorgos Skolis titled “Tales”. It was by chance, that this disc was the first one, but I must praise the tested system for proper reproduction of the sizes of virtual sources. I waited patiently for the third piece, as many times a system can blow-up Skolias’ face to the size of a hippo, what is liked by many listeners, but has no justification in the increase of joy from listening, when a gigantic face can inhale me when taking a breath. The material recorded by the two mentioned gentlemen showed also other assets of this system, like the separation on the musical stage, its depth and very good reproduction of the reverberation in this recordings. The gradation of the planes with the dark background positioned the musicians ideally, allowing us to absorb even the smallest nuances of the music listened to. The timbre fitted my taste for warmth and weight ideally, there was a good balance with the unobtrusive, but very readable treble. In addition this weak amplifier connected to those massive loudspeakers produced so much bass, that many more powerful devices could be intimidated. I was really impressed by this system. Listening to a dozen discs did not change my initial observations, but small ensembles are not the only kind of music on the planet Earth, so I moved to parts of my library, that I do not visit often. With a smile on my face – having the reaction of Marcin before my eyes – I reached for the recently reviewed position of the Percival Schuttenbach ensemble, playing the not so easy genre Folk-Metal, titled “Svantevit” – the review of this disc broke every record on our web pages. My goal was to check the readability of the surprisingly strong bass, generated by those wide band speakers. Dense and quick guitar riffs, supported by artificially generated multi-kick base drum accents. If those would be reproduced at the edge of capabilities of those speakers, this would result in a spectacular failure. Yet the sounds that reached my ears allowed to become engulfed with music played by this band – at least when you regard a story about a small girl in conflict with the hero of the second piece as pleasant. I leave that to the readers, but the way this system handled the bass part was very good. Probably it can be done better, but please take into account, that this kind of handling of metal music is extreme, even for loudspeakers designed to handled that, and even more for Davis, which emphasize upon the quality of sound reproduced. Despite the set was destined to other genres of music, it went unscathed, and now knowing, where it has its “G” point, I returned to listening to more human music.

Approaching the end of this meeting, I recommend this system for testing with your own repertoire with clear conscience. For sure, the audiophiles emphasizing timbre, weight and amount of information without falling into racket will find a resolution for their needs. Listeners to heavier music, but who do not overdo the amount of decibels produced by their system, should also consider, if this set is not their way to go forward, when their period of rebellion is over. Trying to evaluate the capabilities of the system against its price I can say, it is worth every cent of it. This is really a well setup system. If this is a system for all – you need to check for yourself, but the visual aspects and sonic aspects go hand by hand. Can this be done better? Of course it can. With very good, energetic bass it would not be bad to have some more resolution, not only in the treble, but also in the midrange. But please do not depreciate the tested products with my last remark, I just wanted to show, where the manufacturers can move forward, if they ever think they want to make things better. Please remember also, that this is an evaluation of the complete system, where the individual pros and cons are different for each of the components. However if we would try to search for similar effects with other components, then it will cost far more than a few zlotys, because that what was achieved at the beginning, will stand ground against many competitors for a long time. And I am saying that based on my experience. And when somebody falls in love with the design and build quality, then the threshold can be put so high, that passing it with acceptable money will not be possible. I am happy, that Polish companies, like the tested Encore Seven, are able to build with a well sounding and distinctive looking devices. Enough praise for foreign construction, there is now time for the Polish ones.

Jacek Pazio

The system used in the test, a complete set of Combak Corporation.

 Electronics Reimyo:
- Separate DAC + CD player: CDT - 777 + DAP - 999 EX
- Tube preamp: CAT - 777 MK II
- Solid state power amp: KAP - 777
Speakers: Bravo Consequence +
Power cables: Harmonix X-DC-350M2R Improved Version
Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (Section woofer)
IC RCA: Harmonix HS 101-GP
Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
Table: Rogoz Audio
Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2, Harmonix Enacom improved for AC 100-240V; Harmonix Tuning Room Mini Disk RFA-80i; Acoustic Revive RST-38H platform; Audio Philar

 Analog stage:
- Turntable:
drive: Dr. Feickert Analogue "Twin"
arm: SME V
cartridge: Dynavector XX-2 MK II; London AEC C91E “POD”
- Phonostage: RCM „THERIAA”

Opinion 2

After devices with a price tag of several thousands of zlotys, adding up to dream systems costing much above 100000 zlotys, time came for something less crazy, but aimed for an advanced, and seasoned audiophile. In addition we wanted a Polish product to be the heart of the tested system, while the rest of the components should only be showing its full potential. Our choice went for a product, which is so characteristic, and so standing out from the competition, that it cannot be mistaken for anything else – I am talking about the tube integrated amplifier Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST, a purist, A-class, 9 watt Single Ended amplifier.

Like Jacek already mentioned, our reference loudspeakers seemed to be a too difficult load for the tested amp, we gladly accepted the offer, to test together with the ‘eggshell’ the highly efficient Davis Acoustics MV One, which we received in black piano varnish, nicely contrasting with the white cabinet of the main hero. This made us owners, albeit for a few weeks, of an “almost” system, costing about 30000 zlotys. I wrote “almost” on purpose, as from the distributor of the Davis we received an appropriate sound source to go with the system, but we decided to test it separately, so until the AVM will accommodate to our system, we will use our C.E.C. CD 3N. We handled cable issues on our own, having Acrolink, Acoustic Zen and Harmonix cables at our disposals we had plenty of choice.

Let us concentrate on the tested units. I do not know, how you see it, but for me personally, being born in the times, that I remember the 90-ties quite well, I could not refrain from smiling. Why? Well, associations caused, that I put this nice Polish amplifier in the “oven” drawer. Of course I am aware, how absurd this sounds, but I cannot help it, that when I look at it, I want to get a ‘zapiekanka’ (very popular in Poland in the 90-ties, baked baguette with cheese and champignons), which were baked in ovens looking almost identical to the amplifier, that were in every fast-food joint.  But please do not treat this digression fully seriously, or find it, by any means, malicious – those associations are fully positive, and could be called “flavors of childhood”, and those are always positive.

And now much more seriously, and as objective as it goes with me. The intriguing, and for sure standing out of the crowd, design of the Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST alludes, with incredible taste and tact, to the canon of the golden era of Italian design, which were in the 60-ties of the twentieth century, cultivated by brands like Brionvega or Davone Audio, which combine the retro style with contemporary trends – please look at the model Ray. Putting it short – the design of the amplifier should be recognized by the Italian masters like Mario Bellini, Rich Sapper, Marco Zanuso. A big bravo for the authors of the project – the design bureau of Paweł Hankus, who got the order from Mr. Andrzej and Krzysztof Grabowski (the owners of Encore Seven). The design got a commercial name, Woodwind. As you can see on the attached pictures, the final effect is a feast for the eyes. Combining the varnished, MDF side panels with nicely rounded metal elements and a glass front results in a very nice looks. For the test we got the white version, called Albino, with all details finished in white color, but you can opt also for a black version and white with black details. The apparent minimalism works ideally with ergonomics and makes the handling of the amplifier a breeze.

You cannot miss the horizontal, centrally placed “platter” for volume control, but due to the horizontal placement it does not optically crush the whole amplifier, but is ideally composed into the glass front panel. The input selector placed above it does not call for attention either, but is always there when needed. The active input is indicated by lighting one of the three pictograms placed on the left side of the front near the bottom.

Behind the glass (available in three colors – grey, blue and green) there are electron tubes placed with finesse – in the first row we have four smaller ones, the EF86 and ECC83, and behind those, in a V setting four (one per side) 5AR4 and EL34. The inside of this original chamber is covered with polished steel, what makes the tubes not only see their reflections, but also their glow is amplified. The top cover is covered with holes cut in fine designs, and gives a lot of tuning capabilities over to the customization freaks amongst us. It is mounted by means of four strong magnets, what easies down the process of changing the tubes, as you do not need to use a screwdriver. 

The back panel does not surprise with anything special – quite modest loudspeaker terminals were placed near each of the sides, dedicated to 4 and 8Ω loads. Besides those, there are only three pairs of RCA inputs and a IEC power socket integrated with fuses. You probably noticed, that I did not tell you about the main power switch, which is located on the bottom plate, near the front. There is also a standby switch present, near to the main one, which allows to put the amplifier in power save mode without completely switching off the tubes, saving us startup time when resuming listening. You should also read the user manual, where the details about the amplifier are nicely covered, but there is also a detailed procedure on how to power up and down the amplifier, which should be followed. Optionally a round remote for volume control can be ordered.

Despite the almost 30 year history of the company (it was founded in 1986 by Mr. Michel Visan) Davis Acoustics products were only occasionally  present on the Polish market, and even if available, those were mainly the Kevlar drivers, which were even used in local constructions like the Radmor LS-30 and LS-40 (the Davis KLV-17 was used). But when we consult the internet, then we can see, that manufacturers like Avantgarde Acoustics, MBL or Goldmund used their products.

The MV One speakers are part of the top line Dream and are located between the bookshelf speakers Nikita 2 and floor standing, modular Karla, weighing 142kg a piece. Construction wise those speakers seem to be the coming to life of the dreams of most purist audiophiles, searching for loudspeakers fitting to their minimalist, low power tube amplifiers. Based on a single wide band driver 20De8, directly connected to the wire terminals, working in a quite big cabinet, vented to the front, those speakers looked tasty. The simplicity of the construction is underlined with the construction of the cabinets, which do not  have any complicated setups like a transmission line, horns or similar. The only extravagance is the rectangular venting port, and that is it. According to the manufacturer, this simple solution offered the best sound quality. 

The exclusivity of the product is underlined with an elegant, black piano varnish (a version with natural veneer is also available).

So let us get to the point, being the sound of the tested system. When everything was setup accordingly, placed accordingly and connected in a logical whole, there was nothing else left, as placing a disc in the player, sit down and press Play.

As a warm-in I played the album Michel Godard “Monteverdi: A Trace of Grace”, full with concentration and music soothing our nerves. Sparse usage of instruments and the voice playing the main role  were put into a phenomenal space. The aura surrounding the participants of the spectacle and the very natural, and most of all brilliantly reproduced reverberation, that is part of the recording, enchanted me in such a way, that I even did not notice, when the disc was over and I did not write anything in my notes. The sound produced by the system standing in front of me were so intriguing, that I could not treat it just like background for my writing. I did not want to destroy the contemplative mood, full of intrinsic harmony and so different to the everyday rat race, that I reached for the often played “Missa Criolla” with the late Mercedes Sosa and … that what enchanted by Godard, the truthfulness of reproducing acoustics and size of the recording room, jumped up by a level or even two. The “Kyrie” opening the mass had proper power and monumentality. The ethereal parts of guitar and flute created an aerial  environment for the elevated parties of the choir and low, dark voice of the singer. The selectiveness and resolution of the sound were accompanied by saturation and an almost organic musicality. The whole sound was reproduced in an absolutely natural, obvious way, what made it easily available for the listeners. The homogeneity of the sound was surprising, and looking at the price of the system, as expected as getting the main prize in a lottery.

Differentiation of not only the quality of the recordings, but also the way of articulation, timbre of the voice, colors did not leave the smallest space for criticism. The duo of Mercedes Sosa & Sharira in “La Maza” (“Cantora 1”) was the best example. Both ladies sing with a slightly matte, low voices, not once and not twice flew together into one, impossible to separate, duet. And the 9WST with the MV One it could be clearly heard, that they stand next to each other, and although they ideally act together, yet we deal with two, distinctive beings.

Well, how does the situation look like with much less moody repertoire? Well, if I would say, it was nice, then … I would be lying. It was good, with chances of becoming very good. Those chances are only depending on the size of the listening room and the amount of decibels we expect. The first, initially timid attempts with the hardrock soundtrack “Songs of Anarchy: Music from Sons of Anarchy Season 1-4” were so promising, that when the last notes of “Slip Kid” (Anvil featuring Frankie Perez) sounded, I reached for Avenged Sevenfold “Hail to the King” and … that was it. Power, freedom and directness mocked the power output of the Egg-Shell and the minimalist construction of the Davis speakers. Of course, when I got too excited, and the volume knob went in the area around maximum levels, you could hear compression, but I have to say, that I allowed myself such an experiment only once, knowing that the neighbors are far away, and the system is located in a room with over 30 square meters and 3 meters height. In normal listening rooms there is no chance to observe similar things.
At the end I tried the symphonic-like Hollywood super-production sound from “Gladiator”. The momentum and openness of the sound made the plans to listen to only two or three samples disappeared and I listened to the whole album. The entrance of the horn, or the tutti of the orchestra moved all senses, while losing nothing from the stability and readability of the further rows of the orchestra.

Now looking at the tested duo Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST & Davis MV One in absolute categories and objectively, there is no way of going around the statement, that things can be done better. We had the comfort of being able to do such a comparison within minutes, because we were testing, almost in parallel, the separated amplification of Thrax powering the three-way, tube Odeon speakers. The difference in scale, power, volume and realism generated with the mentioned system was obvious and undisputed, and at the same time adequate to the price difference between those two systems. But staying at acceptable levels of burden to our home budget, and following only my personal preferences, I must say, that I was, and still am, enchanted by the tested system.
Incredible musicality and homogeneity of the sound, creating hectares of space allowed to get only positive experiences from every kind of music. The absolute lack of nervousness, jagging or artificiality soothed nerves and at the same time returned faith in the return to the roots, the genesis of true, ambitious Hi-Fi, which is created by passionate people for lovers of the sound of highest quality. So if you do not have the time, the patience or experience for searching for the audiophile nirvana, I warmly recommend start your listening sessions from the system described above. It is highly possible, that this will be the first and at the same time the last listening session you will do during that search.

Marcin Olszewski

- Davis MV One - Grzegorz Pardubicki /
- Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST - Encore Seven

- Davis MV One - 22 700 PLN
- Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST – 7 400 PLN

Technical details

Davis MV One:
Nominal power: 100 W
Max Power: 150 W
Number of drivers: 1 fullrange Davis 20De8
Sensitivity: 93 dB
Impedance: 8 ?
Frequency response (+/- 3 dB): 40-20000 Hz
Bass reflex : rectangular front port
Dimensions (cm): 27 x 50 x 100
Weight (kg): 28

Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST:
Power: 2 x 9W
Class: A (Single-Ended)
Frequency response: ~30 Hz – ~20 kHz (+/- 3dB)
Output impedance: 4?, 8?
Power consumption: <120w 55w="" i="" stand-by:="">
8 tubes: EL34, EF86, ECC83, 5AR4 (tube power supply system)
Power: 240 V AC, 50-60Hz
Dimensions [cm] (W/D/H): 40/39/19,
Weight: 20kg

System used in this test:
- CD: C.E.C CD 3N
- Preamplifier: Thrax Dionysos
- Mono power amplifiers: Thrax Heros
- Speakers: Odeon No.28/2;Albedo Aptica
- Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ; Acoustic Zen Double Barrel;
- IC RCA: Harmonix HS 101-GPA; Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Acrolink 7N-PC9500

Link to article: here