Epos Elan 35 Floor standing speakers

Clever, very clever. And that's just the removable front baffle of the new Epos Elan 35 speakers. Add in a vast 92dB sensitivity which makes flea Watt partnering amplifiers usable and it's clear that beneath their prosaic exterior some serious design work has gone into this new floorstander from Epos.

But more of all that later. First let's look at the basics. The 35 is the largest of the company's new range of Elan loudspeakers, designed to replace its previous popular Mi line-up. There's also a smaller floorstanding model and two standmounts.

Clocking in at 915 x 210 x 320mm (H/W/D) the Elan 35 (the number refers to its cabinet volume) is constructed of 18mm thick MDF and comes in either Cherry or Black Oak real wood veneer.

It boasts two new Epos developed 187mm polypropylene drivers with bullet-shaped dust caps for mid and bass duties and a 25mm short horn tweeter which the company says has the speed and accuracy of a good metal dome unit, with the smoothness of a soft dome.

The crossover networks are second order with the two main drivers working together at low frequencies. The lower one reaches up to 800Hz while the second clocks out at 3.2kHz - effectively giving true two-and-a-half way operation.

Round the back there's a set of bi-wire speaker terminals and a large port flared at both ends which undoubtedly aids the Epos's high damping and low distortion.

I used the Elans with both Naim and Creek amplifiers (traditional partners for Epos loudspeakers) and briefly substituted a low-powered Unison Research valve integrated. None had any trouble producing decent sound levels in a mediumsized room.

Oh, and that baffle...which isn't a true baffle at all. Instead it's a sturdy cloth-less grille that snaps onto the front of the speaker to hide all the drive unit fixings. The top portion moulds itself around the tweeter which actually sits proud of the speaker's front face and the attachment has chamfered edges to aid sound dispersion.

It's an ingenious arrangement and Epos also supplies a second cloth-covered grille for those who want to protect their drive units. The company says the sonic signature of the two grilles is the same. That's as may be - but there's no doubt the better sound comes with the clothless one in place.

Sited some 600mm clear of rear and side walls, the Epos Elans presented a big, bold, sumptuous sound right from the off. That 92dB sensitivity means you could well find yourself backing off the volume a notch or two on your amplifier compared to other speakers. But it also means they give the impression of having tremendous headroom. Crank up the volume and the Elans simply give a subjective shrug as they confidently handle the increased sound pressure levels. It's as though they want to be played that little bit louder.

Epos speakers of the past garnered something of a reputation for superb musical timing but were occasionally criticised for sounding rather thin and dry. Here, the musical timing is still present but there's now a much richer tonality that adds authority to whatever you play.

Bass is taut and well-defined while the mid-band is deliciously fullbodied and exuberant. Led Zeppelin's Communication Breakdown sees the John Paul Jones/John Bonham rhythm partnership stampin its authority in superb fashion - a solid foundation for the guitar pyrotechnics of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's vocal gymnastics.

The low-end is undeniably prominent but not in an overbearing way. It does what it's supposed to do - and that is give a solid base for what's going on further up the scale.

That new soft-dome tweeter integrates well too. No, it doesn't have the zing of a metal dome affair - and if that's what you are looking for then perhaps the Elans may not be your thing at first.

But after a good listen you'll realise that they may have been voiced to be a little smoother but that doesn't mean a lack of dynamism. There's also plenty of detail and definition to their sound.

Hard-edged material like The Pixies Bossa Nova album benefits from all this. Where some speakers can turn this into a painful aural assault the Elans separate the different elements - firm bass, dense guitars and Frank Black's trademark vocals - to form a musical whole. It never threatens to trip over into screechiness. Instead there's enough definition to enable individual instruments to be tracked if you want - or else you can just let the music take you along with it.

Valery Gergiev's recording of The Rite Of Spring with the Kirov Orchestra demonstrated the Epos's full range of talents admirably. Quiet passages were replete with detail and a lifelike rendition of the orchestral interplay while louder passages brimmed with power without ever becoming overly congested.

But perhaps the best example of these speakers' strengths came from two albums separated by a good four decades. Neither The Clash's 'Live At Shea Stadium' nor John Coltrane's 'One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note' could be considered anything approaching audiophile-quality recordings - but they both crackle with musical energy.

And that's what you hear through the Epos Elan 35s. Yes, they let you know the drawbacks in the recordings - but they impart so much fun, detail and enthusiasm to the music that you really don't care.

Any speaker that can do that deserves high praise. If you're looking for a floorstander at anywhere around this price they are well worthy of an audition.

Epos Elan 35 Floor standing speakers photo