If you have ever been to a high-end audio show, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that there are dozens of new speaker manufacturers making outlandish claims for their babies. Even though I wish all of these products were as superlative as the claims made for them,, it’s actually rare to hear a brand-new speaker from a brand-new company do many things exceptionally well, while at the same time remaining affordable. The E-3 floorstander from Endeavor Audio Engineering is one of those rarities.
Since Endeavor Audio Engineering is a new company, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by its debut model, nor was I expecting it to deliver continuous listening enjoyment month after month. Yet from the moment I first set up the Endeavor E-3s it was obvious that they were something special, and they only continued to improve after four months of tweaking.
The Endeavor E-3 is rather like a Goldilocks floorstander— not too big and not too small. Standing 44" tall and weighing 82 pounds, it is big enough to produce big sound, while small enough not to dominate the room, overload it with bass, or require several friends to help you reposition it. Standing waves inside the enclosure are greatly reduced due to the E-3’s cabinet design: The front baffle measures nine inches and tapers down to five inches at the rear, eliminating the effects of parallel cabinet walls. For the top end, the E-3 employs a high-dynamic-range dual-ring radiator; in the midrange a single 6.5" Kevlar cone handles frequencies from 220Hz to1.8kHz; and two slightly larger 6.9" anodized aluminum cones provide fast low-end response in a Butterworth bass-reflex enclosure.
On the backside are a single pair of five-way rhodium-plated binding posts with knurled edges for easy tightening. The entire speaker sits on two steel outriggers that have fully adjustable spikes for easy leveling and adjustment of rake. All you need to do to adjust angles is twist the knobs at the top of the spikes. This allowed me to experiment with various rake angles throughout the review period—something that can be quite difficult with many speakers. (Constantly adjusting small spike feet on the bottom of a speaker quickly becomes tedious.)
The E-3’s sensitivity comes in at 88dB, which means that low-powered tube amps will quickly run out of juice, but most other amps should have no problem bringing SPLs up to a respectable level. Most of my listening took place with the Rogers High Fidelity EHF-200 Mk2 integrated tube amp (112W), which has an output transformer optimized for the E-3’s 4-ohm load. I also used the Arcam FMJ A19 (90W at 4 ohms), the TEAC AI-501DA (60W at 4 ohms), and the Stein Music Stateline Amp2 (40W at 4 ohms), all of which produced satisfying SPLs. My vintage Harman Kardon A500 (25W) couldn’t drive the E-3s adequately, so if you’re a tube fan you’ll need at least 40W, unless you listen at very low levels.
Most people probably have an average-sized listening room similar to mine, which is seventeen feet wide, nine feet tall, and nineteen feet deep. After playing around with speaker position, I found a sweet spot with the E-3s about eleven feet apart, 42" from the rear walls, 39" from the sidewalls, and toed in around fifteen degrees. This provided the extremely precise imaging I crave, while retaining a wide soundstage with a controlled low end. Because the E-3s are rear-ported, bass-reflex loudspeakers, they need some room from the rear walls to properly breath— anything closer than two feet begins to muddle their bass just a bit. Though the E-3s never sounded overly bright, they mellowed just enough to produce exceptional sound when rake was adjusted to about a two-degree upward slope. This was actually counter to what I had presumed when I first set up the E-3s. Even though the tweeter aligns above my ear in my listening position, the upward slope allowed the woofers to sync better with the top end, which provided better coherency and imaging, especially when listening to bass-heavy jazz.
Before the speakers had been properly tuned for my setup, some of the imaging seemed out-of-whack. Low-end piano notes tended to dive toward the floor, rather than flow toward the listener (think of a piano oriented forty-five degrees from the microphone); cellos and upright basses liked to do the same thing. In such cases, imaging was “precise,” though not accurate with regard to natural spatial cues. This problem was ameliorated by proper setup, including careful tuning of the rake angle.