The $799 Epos K1 is a stylish two-way compact with a nifty little secret up its sleeve (for which, see the sidebar.) The smallest of the British brand’s newly minted, three-model K Series, the K1 joins the 34.5"-tall K2, a medium-sized floorstander also equipped with dual mid/bass drivers, and the recently introduced kingpin, the K3. All are bass-reflex designs, featuring drivers mounted from the rear of the front baffle and, uncommon to speakers in this range, a forward-firing slotted port.
At just under a foot in height, the K1’s stout MDF cabinet is uncommonly rigid—thanks in part to a newly developed bracing pattern augmented with internal damping that reduces cabinet colorations to new lows for Epos. The front baffle encircles the transducers to the edges of their surrounds and there are no visible mounting bolts or screws to sully the smooth design. (Epos also offers an optional protective magnetic grille that automatically snaps into place against the baffle.) The satin finished K Series is available in black or the bright arctic white of the review sample I received. The driver array includes a 25mm soft dome with high-temperature voice coil. It’s ferrofluid-cooled and driven by a neodymium magnet system. The mid/ bass transducer is a six-inch polypropylene cone with a 25mm high-temperature voice coil and shielded magnet system. Internal wiring is 18-gauge oxygen-free copper throughout. Twin sets of terminals are provided for users who find bi-wiring too alluring to dismiss.
Two-way compacts, stand-mount or floorstanding, have steadily chipped away at an old laundry list of small-speaker limitations— from output deficits to attenuated bass extension and overly compressed dynamics. The K1 reflects constructive developments in all these areas with a character that’s open, dynamically engaging, and mainly neutral in tonality. Its spectral balance is lighter overall as befits its pint-size profile, but it’s not a lightweight sonically. The midrange has a slightly forward lean and descends smoothly into a nicely proportioned mid-to-upper bass region. The K1’s output in the upper bass is very good for the speaker’s modest size, which lends it a welcome warmth that secures music’s foundation and pulse, and generates a sense of gravity—a quality often lacking in sub-12"-tall compacts. While the addition of a good subwoofer reveals the full range of ambience and acoustic air in a recording, the K1, in a good setup, is quite convincing on its own.
The K1 reproduces vocals of all stripes with point-source-like solidity, as it demonstrated on Audra McDonald’s “Lay Down Your Head,” a vocal and string quartet track that underscored the attractively full-throated midrange of the K1. On a 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution track like Ana Caram’s bossa nova cover of “Fly Me To The Moon” the reproduction of Caram’s soothing vocal, the gentle energy of the classical guitar, and the softly brushed snare and metallic crackle of the hi-hat were detailed, beautiful, and lifelike. Similarly Eva Cassidy’s soaring version of “Fields of Gold” highlighted the ability of the K1 to reproduce the expansive and immersive reverberant field around the singer. Treble response was quite smooth, pleasantly open, and well integrated into the greater tonal spectrum. The sibilance range was kept nicely in check. There were minor hints of darkness on the very top, with less than the full load of speed, brilliance, and detail found in the finest tweeters; nonetheless, the K’s tweet is a top competitor in the under-$1k class.
The K1 offers superior balance and poise on small-to-medium-scale music, but can also rise to the challenge of full-range symphonic pieces like Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man—which has dynamics that can give fits to even the largest loudspeakers. Certainly the smallish mid/bass driver can be pushed beyond reason, or asked unfairly to fill cavernous volumes of cubic footage. But in these instances, the K-1s compress evenly and undramatically, adjoining images shrink slightly, and tonal decay is somewhat attenuated. Basically the K-1 is an amazingly potent little speaker that pretty much doesn’t know the meaning of the word “uncle.”