Episode ES-700 Series Tower Speakers Reviewed

Episode_ES-700_floorstanding_speaker_review.jpgEpisode is a brand that you may or may not be familiar with. Distributed by SnapAV, Episode speakers are sold exclusively to A/V professionals and custom installers. Episode’s President Jay Faison, a custom installer, has teamed up with a design team that consists of engineers who have worked with many well known speaker manufacturers. The result is a company that believes you should never sacrifice performance by cutting corners and all products should come with extras as standard, with a limited lifetime warranty.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• Search for an amp to drive the ES-700 speakers in our Amp Review section.
• Find audiophile-grade source components in our Source Component Review section.

Episode has four different speaker lines, the 300, 500, 700 and 900 series. In each series, the company offers timbre matched in-room towers, in-wall and in-ceiling models, which allow installers flexibility when meeting their client’s needs for aesthetics even in the most difficult room configurations. The Episode ES-700 Series Towers consist of a single one-inch titanium catenary dome, ferrofluid cooled tweeter, dual six and one half inch Kevlar reinforced woofers with high temperature voice coils and dual bottom firing ports discretely hidden in the bottom of the enclosure. The speakers measure 37 inches tall, seven and one half inches wide and 12 and one half inches deep, and weigh just under 40 pounds each. The reported frequency response is 35Hz to 23kHz and is rated at 200W RMS (500W peak) at a nominal impedance of six Ohms. Speaker sensitivity is measured at 89db, which is very efficient, making the Episode ES-700 Towers compatible with a wide range of AV Receivers and Home Theater Amplifiers. A pair of ES-700 floorstanding speakers retails for $1,500.

The ES-700 speakers arrived in a very sturdy double thick shipping box. Opening the box revealed a custom molded Styrofoam shell that protected the speakers from impact damage. I cannot express how impressed I am with the way in which the speakers were protected. One box arrived with a hole punched in the side and a corner was torn away from the top of the other. Thanks to the excellent packaging, the speakers arrived without a scratch. Removing the speakers was a simple process and quickly revealed a shiny high gloss black finished cabinet, with a brushed metal face surrounding the drivers. It is a really attractive combination and the promotional photos really do not do the mirror-like finish justice. Also included in the box are the ES-700’s magnetic grills and rubber feet for use with hardwood floors and spikes for those with carpet.

Connection to my Onkyo TX-SR707 AV receiver was very straightforward using cables from Transparent Audio. For the purpose of this review, I choose not to bi-amp or bi-wire the speakers, although that is possible by removing the terminal jumpers from the five-way gold plated binding posts. I found the posts to be extremely versatile, easily able to accommodate large gauge stranded speaker wire, spade lugs or banana plugs. My Pioneer DV47ai served as the CD transport and two-channel stereo mode was selected on the Onkyo receiver. After placing the ES-700 Towers three feet off my front wall and approximately eight feet apart, I was ready to begin the burn-in process and start some critical listening.

Read about the performance of the ES-700 loudspeakers on Page 2.

Episode_ES-700_floorstanding_speaker_review.jpgI began with a little jazz, cuing up K.D. Lang’s “Skylark” from the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Soundtrack, (1997 Warner Brothers). The opening orchestration floated effortlessly from the ES-700 Towers while Lang’s vocals had a lighter, airier presence than I remember in earlier auditions of this track. When the entire ensemble joined in, I found the upright acoustic bass, which at times can be boomy, to be tight and well focused within the soundstage. Truly a well imaged performance by the speakers.

Next, I switched to the Bluesy “Old Love” from Eric Clapton’s Journeyman album, (1989 Reprise Records). Clapton’s edgy midrange guitar playing has been at the cornerstone of his signature sound. At higher listening volumes, I find it to be a bit harsh after a few minutes of listening. With the Episode ES-700 Towers, the edge was still there but never fatiguing to the ear. The raspy quality to his voice was present but not overly so, nor was it overly warm or bloated in the midrange.

Jazz and blues are great genres of music, but how do the ES-700 Towers rock? Few bands have the raw energy that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have. The opening track of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik, (1991 Warner Brothers), “The Power of Equality” provides a four minute audio obstacle course for judging a speaker’s response. Flea’s constantly moving bass lines were clean and distinct without sounding muddy. Chad Smith’s heavy-handed playing style on drums was clean, from the crisp attack on the cymbals to the palpable hit of the kick drum. Each percussive attack was handled expertly by the speaker’s quick response.

High Points
• At a suggested retail price of $1,500, the ES-700 Towers are a great value, easily performing like speakers at a higher price point.
• The high gloss black finish and curved edge profiles provide an attractive look.
• Five way gold plated binding posts provide options for a variety of different cables and connectors, as well as the ability to bi-amp and bi-wire.

Low Points
• Even though the high gloss black finish is very attractive, it may not fit into every décor.
• While the low end response is very tight and rated down to 35Hz, I much preferred the sound of these speakers when mated with Episode’s C5 Series 300-Watt 12-inch subwoofer, the C5-SUB12.

Competition and Comparison
The ES-700 Towers fall into a price category with no lack of competition. The Klipsch RF-63 comes in at $1,998 and adds an additional six and one half inch driver. Definitive Technology’s BP-8020ST utilizes two slightly smaller three and one half inch drivers and a self-powered eight-inch subwoofer for just under $1,200. Other comparisons can be found on Home Theater Review’s Floorstanding Speaker Review page.

Conclusion
When I was asked to review these speakers I had no idea who Episode was. After reading about the company I was excited about getting them into my listening room for review. Bottom line, these speakers are great values for the money and service a wide range of musical tastes well. They image well enough to handle jazz vocals and acoustic music, but can still rock even at higher listening volumes. The bass is tight and well controlled and I find the midrange and upper frequencies smooth and realistic. I know that anyone looking in this price range has a lot of options to choose from, but I encourage you to contact Episode for the name of a local A/V professional who can give you an audition. These speakers sound fantastic and could demand much more than their $1,500 retail price.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• Search for an amp to drive the ES-700 speakers in our Amp Review section.
• Find audiophile-grade source components in our Source Component Review section.

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