Aside from the many encounters with Esprit Audio products at the trade shows in numerous premium high-end audio systems, this is my first hands-on experience with their products in my familiar and well-controlled listening environment
When Vivien Falize, Esprit’s export manager, suggested that I evaluate the brand’s flagship L’Esprit power cord, I was happy to oblige.
The story of Esprit begins in 1995, when Richard, who had always been interested in music and hi-fi, started making cables. As usual in the audio industry, the cables he made for himself were good enough to attract the interest of quite some enthusiasts.
|Richard CESARI Founder and CEO|
So it happened that Richard also made cables for friends. So one thing led to another, and he founded Esprit with a single goal: to make the best cables money could buy.
Nearly 25 years later, the ethos is still the same: selecting the best materials for every part of every type of cable and then putting them together in the best possible way.
Richard often says that it’s like a cooking recipe: if you do not know how to combine the ingredients, you can have the best there is and still get it all wrong. However, if you know how to combine them, you can get outstanding results.
The Esprit range reflects just that: over 20 years of testing and research into every conceivable material.
Esprit today offers a wide range of products, from the affordable Alpha, which gives any music lover access to the celebrated Esprit musical performance, to the superlative l’Esprit, the absolute pinnacle of audio bliss.
All Esprit cables use a symmetrical structure for the conductors and an asymmetrical structure for the insulators:
The symmetrical structure of materials:
- Identical conductors for phase (+) and neutral ( -). Compared to coaxial cables, this provides a more dynamic, detailed, and quiet reproduction.
- It also contributes to tonal balance and timbre.
Asymmetrical structure of the insulating materials:
- To avoid the build-up of an electrical charge in the cable, two different insulating materials are used.
- Identical insulators charge in the same way. Once they are charged, this can often lead to a more aggressive sound. The asymmetrical design avoids this, maintaining the sonic balance of electronics and speakers.
Esprit uses only OCC copper as the conductor throughout the range. The blend of silver and OCC copper is the best conductor available on the market. One advantage of OCC copper over silver is that it is relatively easy to find a good supplier who can guarantee consistent quality of the material. The price, of course, is another.
A persistent myth is that silver cables amplify the upper end of the sound spectrum. Pure silver is indeed a very soft-sounding material, similar to OCC copper. The myth behind this reputation stems from the fact that most ‘silver’ cables you find on the market are actually made of silver-plated copper.
Silver-plated copper cables are not originally made for audio purposes. The plating consists of an extremely thin flake layer applied using a technique called flash plating, typically 0.3 to 0.4μm. The reason for the presence of this material is purely industrial: the silver layer is there to make the copper filament more resistant to heat when a PTFE insulating jacket is extruded over it. This ultra-thin silver layer is responsible for the ‘uplift’ and somewhat bright-sounding character of these cables.
Esprit uses only 5N and 6N OCC copper. 5N is 99.999% pure OCC copper, and 6N is 99.9999%.
5N copper is used in the Alpha, Bêta, and Kappa series. 6N copper is used in all cables from Celesta to Gaïa. Esprit Audio sources copper from a Japanese company that guarantees consistent, high-quality.
RELATIVITY OF ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY
As can be seen from the table, only pure silver is more conductive than copper, and only by a few percent. Esprit uses large cross-sections of pure copper because this eliminates the risk of noise caused by an overly stressed conductor. The lower resistance of these larger conductors allows for better dynamics across all bandwidths.
A multi-stranded structure is preferred, with 0.08mm strands on all RCA and speaker cables and 0.32mm strands on XLR connections. These conductors were selected for their sonic performance after numerous listening tests for each application.
As mentioned in the introduction, starting with excellent materials is a basic requirement, but it is the listening tests that confirm a selection. The countless hours spent with each material have allowed Cesari to know exactly what results each component of a particular cable produces.
Insulating materials have their sonic signature. For example, stiffer dielectric materials such as high-temperature PVC tend to have a bit more bass, slightly attenuated treble, and quite a bit of punch. Softer dielectric materials, such as silicon, have drier bass, as well as more detailed mids and treble.
Esprit cables use two different insulating materials: one wire is insulated with a stiff dielectric material, and the other with a soft one. The result is a more balanced sound with a combination of both qualities.
To put it stereotypically, fully shielded cables are usually very tranquil, and have a wide bandwidth and lots of detail, but can also be a bit dull.
On the contrary, unshielded cables are livelier, and have more punch, but also produce more noise, have a narrower bandwidth, and reproduce less detail.
Esprit has developed a so-called progressive shielding: one-third of the cable is not shielded. On the next third, there is one layer of shielding and on the last third, there are two layers of shielding.
The result is a true combination of the qualities of shielded and unshielded cables in terms of silence, bandwidth, dynamics, and details.
Esprit uses only superior, high-quality shielding material: silver on braided strands of pure copper, similar to the material used in military or satellite applications.
As mentioned earlier, silver is the best conductor of all metals. Esprit uses proprietary connectors with very special technology.
Like silver-plated cables, most silver-plated connectors are coated with an extremely thin layer of silver: 0.3 to 0.4μm. To make the silver adhere to the copper, the manufacturer usually adds a layer of nickel or chrome. Unfortunately, these metals are not good at conducting electricity.
Gold plating is no better, and rhodium is even worse. The most important property of rhodium is that it is a self-leveling material, which ensures a nice, even surface. However, its conductivity properties are very poor.
Esprit has its plugs made from a core of pure copper, which is then sent to a plating company where several layers of pure silver and pure copper are applied to the connectors.
All connectors are soldered with 4% silver solder. The result is a sweet tone, no harshness in the highs, and plenty of dynamics.
There are two ways to look at an insulating material: as an insulator or as a poor conductor. The way Esprit polarizes its cables is based on this assumption.
Esprit polarizes only the dielectrics of their cables.
To make them more efficient, Esprit saturates them with a continuous voltage of 12 volts.
This method of polarization, introduced by Esprit in 1999, improves the dynamics, the details, and the softness of the image.
No more can be said about it because it’s part of Esprit’s secret recipe! The general idea behind it is to charge the dielectric materials with an electrical voltage that is independent of the audio signal itself.
The L’Esprit power cord from Esprit Audio features a multi-ferrite filter system. Above 10 MHz, the multi-ferrite system increases the impedance of the cable so that the power supplies operate under the best possible conditions.
It is a fully filtered power cable, including shielding, so it can do its job fully without interfering with the signal.
All the insulation is polarized in 24 volts, and the structure is asymmetrical, with soft insulation and hard insulation.
Esprit Audio L’Esprit connector is made of pure copper, silver plated, fully insulated, and has a square 3 x 6 topology.
The Esprit Audio L’Esprit power cord consistently delivered a limpid presentation across music genres and tracks equitably. As always, here are some of the reference tracks/albums that shed more light on the qualities of L’Esprit.
A luminous and very unique This One’s For Blanton by Duke Ellington and Ray Brown is an epitome of clarity and depth.
It was fascinating to observe how the Esprit Audio L’Esprit power cord produced even richer geometries and made the “Fragmented Suite for Piano and Bass (Movement 1)” sound even more unclouded, melding both the piano and the double bass into a powerful juxtaposition of single and harmonic shapes
L’Esprit enlivened the sonic alchemy with such force that the effect echoed and I went back a few times to review the enthusiastic remarks I had jotted down in the listening notes to confirm my findings.
The eclectic, hypnotic spirit of “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” from the remarkable Automatic For The People sums up so many emotions and a superb holographic presentation
Still… Esprit Audio L’Esprit added a unique, newly discovered harmonic richness, extended the delay and reverb tails, and brought out even more acoustic focal points that elevate the almost poignant, nostalgic, and melancholic mood of “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” to a new level.
L’Esprit entranced me with its hidden power and made the whole album even more enchanting and mysterious, a kind of Elysian musical manifesto.
A different kind of exuberance, an electric one, continued with John Scofield Überjam where the music with the Esprit Audio L’Esprit power cable permeated the room with revivified energy, level-up dynamism, and with far more chipper and contrarian shifts than I had anticipated.
Many power cables, even the top-of-the-line ones, can squander the bass with “Ideofunk” and make Scofield’s guitar sound circumscribed, which is the exact opposite of the rich and vibrant tone this guitar maestro produces.
With L’Esprit cord, the guitar tones become ratcheted notes with lightning speed, instantly morphing the attack/decays/sustain/release spot-on. With L’Esprit, Überjam became even more actual, and more sonorous, letting the gut of the music epicenter unmoored and discharge with full intenseness.
Esprit Audio’s flagship power cable also cast a brighter beam on the sonic sphere, magnifying micro and macro dynamics with a fuller sweep.
Der Ring des Nibelungen Ring Cycle, Wagner’s opus magnum is an emotional tour de force, a dramatic journey into the world of love and mystique, embedded in a beautiful narrative.
Under the baton of the ardent Sir Georg Solti and with the Esprit power cable, the cognition of the Vienna Philharmonic momentum was even more vivid, pulsating the brute force of the orchestra unreserved, and surprisingly never trouncing the energy of the music’s undertow.
The appearance of Fasolt and Fafner was portrayed as human-like figures rather than three-dimensional mapped objects, as can be the case even with some more expensive power cables.
With Esprit Audio’s “Heda! Heda! Hedo! Zu mir, du Geduft!” the orchestral tempos aptly follow the narrative, dramatically ravishing orchestral swirls, aptly presenting nuances and also revealing fragments with pinpoint accuracy and finer distinction.
Wolfgang Windgassen’s voice for the titular role was also more forte and sounded more real, more energetic, and less arid.
With Esprit L’Esprit, the emphasis is on drama, so the listener is much more drawn into the fantasy world. With L’Esprit, the focus is also more on the music recording than the sound of the music, which is too quickly noticeable with less expensive power cords, or even some in a similar price league.
I could also decipher more audio cues, extended reverb tails, and how harmonicity and the energy of the orchestra came together profoundly differently.
The L’Esprit revealed many folds and the mass of the orchestra without shadowy outlines (as is often the case with many power cords) and reproduced loud tuttis with aplomb.
The importance of the power cable still seems to be neglected by many. The power cable is the center stage no matter what axioms we think are fitting. In the real world, the path of electricity begins with the first meter out of the wall and then continues throughout the audio system chain.
Many high-end audio cables can aggravate the dynamism permanently and create a filter effect. The Esprit L’Esprit power cable, on the other hand, brings dynamic stability without sacrificing performance and without cutting dynamic range or headroom.
But not only that. While some power cords can bring out the intensity of the music more distinctly, they cannot deliver an even distribution of power across the frequency scale, compromising the full impact of the music, which quickly becomes apparent, especially with large orchestral music.
With the Esprit L’Esprit, there is no embellishment, no modicum phenomenon, or artificial altering of sonic density. It’s all about a recalibration of music energy to a proper plane of auricular equilibrium.
L’Esprit acts tactilely, but also in the realm of feeling, where the sense of power is tangible in dynamic passages, reflecting the ease of transition of the power of a well-designed mechanical gearbox, where the energy is transmitted smoothly, offering seamless integration of the experience.
The performance of the Esprit flagship is by no means a reductionist power cable. Quite the opposite. The L’Esprit can handle the juxtaposition of brutal power and feather-light sound reproduction in an unadulterated, unsullied manner.
Not only does it provide the too-often-marketed, but not delivered unlimited dynamics. It also allows for enhanced reproduction of detail.
With the Esprit L’Esprit power cord, music rehabilitates the sonic sphere by fixating the frame of reference, acting with quiet tenacity, and escaping the marginalia enhancement that many high-priced power cords institute.
The L’Esprit power cord is far from introducing an incremental improvement to the sound experience. It packs a lot of those jump-out-of-your-seat momentums. The positive enhancements are integrated delicately at all points of the music feed and merge seamlessly with the system.
The L’Esprit’s unique ability to break with convention leads to counter-ordinary deliberation, where the imprint of the device fades. On top of it, even more rare encounter take place, where a power cable bypasses the limits of its stability.
We live in a world where apps can create photorealistic images of people or places that do not exist.
High-end audio also doesn’t escape the trend of visualization of an illusory verity, a kind of virtual reality experience that has nothing to do with the real world.
Esprit Audio L’Esprit power cord comes with distinguished panache that interferes with actuality. It unobtrusively preserves and enhances the natural vitality of the music.
A well-laid, properly constructed power cable, especially in higher price ranges, should not get in the way of music playback, but rather support its authority. And this is exactly where Esprit Audio L’Esprit’s power cable shines.
It never averts attention from the music and allows the physical structure of the music to be conveyed with the necessary fullness.
Mixing all sorts of attributes and techniques always runs the risk of creating a sonic mess, an acoustic cacophony.
The right balance is a crucial point in merging different materials and creative takes to create a non-contradictory, tactile musical experience, and Esprit has managed it in spades.
In the upper product ranges, we want to dive into the music immediately, have a justified ROI, and not wait for the appropriate moment that never comes. And L’Esprit is the kind of product that delivers all these benefits unconditionally, and without waiting for the WOW effect.
The true potency of a high-end audio system is revealed when we get actively involved in the listening and emotionally engaged.
Esprit Audio’s L’Esprit power cable has repeatedly proven in multiple system deployments that it has a rare magnetic crux, that invites listeners to return for more music intake.
The Esprit Audio L’Esprit power cord exceeds my high expectations in this price range and brings out the best attributes in music, cementing its primary devotion to the music. I am more than happy to give Esprit Audio L’Esprit power cord a 2022 Mono & Stereo Editors Choice Award. •
- 15 450 € (1,5 m)