Demand Better Audio Envy 2

[Demand Better Audio Envy2]

Perfection in the Round

[Italian version here]

Product name: Envy 2
Manufacturer: Demand better Audio - UK
Cost: 2,399 (Currency conversion)
(YMMV)

Reviewer: Mike Cox - TNT UK
Reviewed: July, 2015

Back in October 2014 I reviewed the Demand Better Audio Envy 3 and, at the time I said I was looking forward to hearing other speakers from their line up. Recently I was lucky enough to have the Envy2 for a few, very pleasurable weeks. Like the Envy3 there is no conventional rectangular box, there is no box at all, as the drivers are mounted in carbon fibre spheres. The spheres are mounted on an aluminium column that is particle filled and has a carbon fibre core. The Envy2s come with speaker cables included and they exit out the bottom of the speaker under the crystal-acrylic base that is supported on 4 spikes. Also included are 60 ply carbon fibre floor-spike coasters to prevent damage to wood floors. The speaker cables are 399 strand 0.1mm cryogenically treated oxygen free copper with 18-carat gold plated and cold welded 4mm (banana) connectors. The cables are physically protected using a polyester/terephthalate earthed sheathing. The standard finish is lacquered carbon fibre that is outstanding, though if you prefer they can be painted in any colour from the Millennium paint pallet.

The bass driver sphere is vented into the upper, tweeter sphere to increase the volume. The drivers are bonded into the sphere to provide uniform energy dispersion. The highly polished finish and the use of spherical enclosures allows the Envy2 to deliver a dispersion characteristic that is closer to the ideal than any box shaped speakers. The inside of the spheres use a unique texturing to minimise internal resonances so reducing colouration. Whilst the upper and lower sphere are ported internally the Envy2 are not a ported design, there is no external port to the front or rear.

[Single Envy2]
Solo Envy2

The Carbon Fibre spheres are an amazing piece of manufacturing, they are only 1mm thick yet I defy you to compress them! The fit and finish of the Envy2 is in the Roll Royce league and everyone who sees them wants to go up and stroke the outside of the spheres. The speakers are best not handled with bare hands as you will leave unsightly finger prints that spoil the looks, handle them with gloves. Finger prints are easily removed with a polishing cloth, so there is no harm done. You will just end up, spending a few minutes, after each visitor leaves polishing the Envy2s.

Like the Envy3 the Envy2s seem much smaller than regular wooden floor or stand mount box speakers. The relatively small diameter support column and clear acrylic base seem to vanish and you are left seeing what appears to be a couple of spheres floating in the room to the left and right of the seating position. The Envy2 are not sensitive to room position, although I did not try sitting them right in to the corners, as my room layout prevents this. Before anyone writes to me and complains that I should have just moved some kit around to allow me to try the corner position, that is not possible. My listening room is on the top floor with dormer windows, this means the roof slope encroaches into the room so the right hand corner is only about 50cm high! The spherical shape means an even sound distribution so from the rear you get a respectable sound. You could place the Envy2 well away from the walls in a large room and get a good sound even when not sitting in the normal listening position.

I brought out my regular array of amplifiers and sources with the Envy 2 letting all give their best. I tried my mighty Emotiva XPR2 with 500W per channel. Then moved on to all my usual H J Leak amplifiers (ST20, ST50 & TL12+) and my treasured 300B SET integrated amp and they all sounded wonderful in their way. I also used the Amptastic Mini1 and the original Trends TA 10.1, the Mini1 was truely excellent, especially when you consider the lowly asking price of 99 + P&P. In the end I completed the review with my Leak Stereo 50, the extra power helps to fill out the bottom end compared with the lower powered amps, whilst retaining that valve sweetness that was missing with the super power of the Emotiva.

Listening to the Envy2

For many years I have been a fan of the BBC LS3 5A design and I own a modern interpretation from Sterling Broadcast. For me, in my listening room, the smaller speakers seem to fit in better and deliver a more realistic sound stage than larger speakers. I have had several loudspeakers of larger size and they can sound very nice, although I always revert back in the end, to the smaller models. My current reference loudspeaker is the Eryk S Concept Superioro that I reviewed a while back. This is a single 4" driver design, in a simple ported plywood case so somewhat different to the Envy2. With the Envy2 in position they have the pin point imagery of the LS3/5A and the Superioros yet they have a wider bandwidth than the other two loudspeakers. The Envy2 are lower in colouration than the LS3/5A and the Superioros whilst they are faster paced than the BBC design.

Compared to the Envy3 the 2s are a smaller window on the sound stage, they cannot manage the bass depth. The high frequencies are much the same as the driver is the same though the crossover is different. With the Eagles track, "Hotel California" from the "Hell Freezes Over" album the kick drum that follows the guitar intro has much more weight and obvious decay than with my Superioros. The Envy3 is even better at displaying the decay and adds more weight than the 2 though the timing is slightly slower.

The clarity and lack of colouration the Envy2 provide is amazing and is significantly better to my ears than any regular wooden box speaker. My Ella Fitzgerald albums (vinyl or digital) sound wonderful with that voice richly textured and with great presence. Through my regular Superioros the voice sounds as if there is veil between me and Ella. With the lack of crossover the Superioros have that undefinable something to the sound that is so attractive that no multi driver speaker I have experienced can reproduce. It was the same with the Lowther based horns I have owned in the past, although these horns had that immediately recognisable Lowther sound, some say coloration, that after while became too much to live with. I guess it is all down to personal preference, I prefer smaller speakers with a simple crossover, or no crossover at all.

Conclusions

The Envy2 are a very modern looking loudspeaker, with the ability to disappear in the room. They look good in most environments. The positioning is not critical, unlike some designs, and their ability to work with most amplifiers makes the Envy2 very easy to accomodate. I finished the review listening to the Envy2 using a 200W class D amplifier and the synergy was excellent. You don't need a 200W amplifier, the Envy2 work well with my 8W 300B valve amplifier, it is just you have more headroom and scope to annoy the neighbours!

If I had free choice of speakers, who does except perhaps those who live alone, I would change to the Envy2. They let the rest of the system perform, delivering a very engaging and compelling sound. The bandwidth is perfect in my room, the Envy2 avoid the bass resonances some loudspeakers seem to excite, yet you don't feel deprived of bass. The organ in a Bach "Toccata and Fugue in D" is captivating, the extra octave or more of bass makes the performance so much more fun compared to my Superioros. If you don't like the black carbon fibre weave then talk to Demand Better Audio about a painted finish to match your room and furnishings.

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© Copyright 2015 Mike Cox - mike@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com