Cabasse Eole Speaker System
"The only thing constant is change" is a corollary that surely applies to consumer electronics, as new technologies and products are regularly brought to market. Loudspeakers are no exception; however, it seems as though some speaker designs remain timeless. A good example is coaxial speakers that have passed the test of time because they work. The French manufacturer Cabasse produces an entire line of speakers built around the coaxial design, and their latest offering is the Eole 5.1-channel speaker system.
Georges Cabasse founded the company in 1950. His passion for music, as well as a family heritage steeped in crafting musical instruments, inspired many loudspeaker models based on a design concept dubbed the Spatially Coherent System, or SCS. The goal of SCS is to achieve a coherent sound quality using coaxial (or multi-axial) sources in which all drivers are on the same axis. This design achieves a coherent, in-phase sound wave at all frequencies.
Audio in the Round
The Eole speaker system is based, in part, on the La Sphere, Cabasse's flagship speaker. However, the Eole is significantly smaller. La Sphere is a four-way coaxial speaker system housed in an exceptionally large sphere. I heard a demonstration of this model at CES 2007 in a large hotel meeting room that was clearly not acoustically suited for a pair of $150,000 speakers. Yet, they filled the room with a sound quality that defied the room's acoustics. As it turns out, the selection of the room was no coincidence, as explained to me by Christophe Cabasse, the founder's son and Cabasse's international sales and marketing director. The goal was to demonstrate that the La Spheres were capable of outstanding performance, even when confronted with less-than-ideal acoustic conditions. The demonstration proved to be convincing.
Compared with the La Sphere—a 28-inch sphere with a 22-inch woofer, 8-inch low-midrange, 5-inch midrange driver, and 1-inch dome tweeter—each Eole satellite uses a 4-inch, two-way driver housed in a 6-inch sphere. The Eole powered subwoofer is called the Santorin 21, with an 8-inch woofer and a 250-watt amplifier.
I began my evaluation of the Eole system with the film Jesse Stone: Night Passage, a film in which music tells much of the story. The piano and violin used throughout the film to convey suspense, drama, and emotion had a very full and natural timbre. The Eole speakers had remarkable fidelity, a natural tonal character that I typically expect only from larger speakers. The underlying bass track from the subwoofer integrated very smoothly with the satellites and ably conveyed the sadness when the lead character, Sheriff Jesse Stone (Tom Selleck), had to put down his dog Boomer because of an incurable illness. The gunshots in several other scenes were reproduced with such a wide dynamic range and clarity, they made me flinch each time. Dialogue clarity and intelligibility—which are an important measure of a home theater speaker—was exceptionally clear. The Eole satellites also created a much larger front image and enveloping soundfield than would seem possible, considering their size. The sweet spot covered a wide listening area.
Why Sound Coherence Matters
Coherence is a critical aspect in sound reproduction and is directly related to phase or time. A coherent sound wave means that all the fundamental and harmonic frequencies in a musical presentation reach your ears simultaneously, whether the sound is a violin, a piano, or the human voice. The results of a coherent, or phase-aligned, sound are sonic clarity and preservation of the instrument's harmonics, resulting in a keen sense of realism. An incoherent sound lacks definition, intelligibility, and fidelity compared with the original performance. In a sense, you know a coherent sound quality when you hear it, and the absence of coherence is easy to recognize.
The Eole system indeed revealed this sound quality with two-channel and multichannel music sources. Oregon's Rewind had a very good, three-dimensional soundstage and excellent bass extension. It bears repeating that the Santorin 21 subwoofer integrates well with the satellites. Ana Caram's Anos Dourados and Sara K.'s Miles Away had very focused imaging and detailed, articulate vocals, although I detected the absence of some midrange warmth and fullness that I'm accustomed to hearing in these recordings. Distinct, focused imaging is a benefit of a small point-source loudspeaker. The Eole satellites provided very quick transient response that was easy to hear with guitar, piano, and other string and percussion instruments, a distinct advantage of the 4-inch drivers.
In addition to the underlying technology, the Cabasse Eole is also an attractive alternative to boxy floorstanding speakers. The Eole's stylish design resembles the same motivation that drives the sales of flat-panel televisions: sleek, refined aesthetics combined with high performance.
Versatile Placement Options
The Cabasse Eole system offers several mounting and placement options. The system includes two sleek, 36-inch-tall speaker stands for floor placement of the front speakers and smaller brackets for shelf placement or wall mounting of the center and surround speakers. Actually, you can shelf or wall mount all five speakers. I preferred shelf placement for the front speakers because the satellites were a little precarious on the stands and did not attach firmly to the pole that supports them. They are also a bit top-heavy when placed on the speaker stands. The supplied spikes helped make them more stable, especially on carpet. For homeowners who prefer to hear and not see the loudspeakers, shelf placement is a good option, and it preserves floor space. I also found that the speaker terminals were too small and closely spaced to accept premium speaker cables with banana jacks or other types of connectors. Regardless, the speakers can accept bare speaker wire as large as about 14-gauge, which is they type of wire Cabasse includes with the system.
Style is an ever-changing constant, and the Eole from Cabasse is a sleek and stylish speaker system, ideal for contemporary or minimalist décor. The system is available in three finishes: silver, glossy black, or glossy white. Their sound quality, especially for movie and video sources, truly belies their small size, and they produce a large sonic image typically found only in larger speakers. They're a great alternative to floorstanding or in-wall speakers and are well suited to homeowners interested in a good speaker system that doesn't dominate the room. Priced at $2,395, the Cabasse Eole system is an attractive, tasteful complement to a wall-mounted flat-panel or floorstanding rear-projection television.
• Classy, stylish speaker system that doesn't dominate the room
• Good tonal balance and clarity, especially for movies
• Great alternative to floorstanding speakers