Franco Serblin’s Accordo Essence could be a victim of their own success. So lovely are those striking solid wood cabinets that it's too easy to park these floorstanders in the ‘all show, no go’ category. But to do so would be a big mistake, for these are highly capable and charismatic performers.
Franco Serblin (the man, not the company) founded the renowned Italian speaker brand Sonus Faber back in 1983. There, he was responsible for designing some of the most beautifully made and musically rewarding speakers we’ve heard. We’re pleased to report that the Accordo Essence are good enough to be counted among them.
Considering their price, these towers are modestly sized. Standing just 110cm high and 23cm wide at the front baffle, they are smaller than most floorstanders we see at this price. But they will grab your attention regardless, thanks to their unusual shape that curves and tapers along its depth.
Frequency response 35Hz - 22KHz
Minimum power 20W per channel
Dimensions (hwd) 110 x 23 x 43cm
Weight 30kg (each)
The bulk of these lovely cabinets is made from solid walnut, but aluminium and chrome have been strategically employed to add rigidity, resonance control and some sparkle to the appearance. The unusual grille helps too – it uses tensioned elastic strings instead of the conventional cloth/wooden frame approach, and is essentially sonically transparent. This means it can be left in place if desired.
The Accordo Essence are three-way designs, electrically. That tweeter is a 29mm silk dome unit designed by Ragnor Lian, the co-founder of premium OEM drive unit supplier Scanspeak. This is a unit that he’s been developing for decades, and once you hear it, it’s clear that this driver is a special performer.
The midrange is equally unusual. It’s a custom-made 15cm driver from Scanspeak that uses a ‘microsphere’ polymer cone with slits cut in it to control resonances. Those slits are then sealed with a special compound.
This unit has an elaborately shaped phase plug in the middle to help control dispersion at higher frequencies. The low end is generated by a similarly designed 18cm bass driver, which mirrors the midrange’s cone material, but replaces the phase plug with an aluminium dust cap.
These three drive units are linked with a carefully calibrated crossover that aims to maintain phase integrity at the crossover points. The result is a relatively reasonable sensitivity of 88dB/W/m but a potentially demanding nominal impedance of 4 ohms.
While the minimum recommended amplifier power is claimed to be 20W per channel, we think you’ll need something far meatier to get the best out of these speakers. During our test, we use our reference Burmester 088/911 Mk3 pre/power combination (180W per channel) and Dan D’Agostino’s Progression Integrated (200W per channel), and at no point do we feel that muscle is wasted.
These speakers are demanding of the amplifier when it comes to quality too. The Accordo Essense are easily provoked and don’t take kindly to electronics that are in any way bright, forward or aggressive. You’ll need something with refinement and finesse, and capable of delivering the level of detail and transparency a speaker at this level deserves. Add that requirement for muscle and it’s clear that the ideal partnering amplifier isn’t going to be cheap.
We wouldn’t attempt to cut corners on the source. We use Naim’s range-topping ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and the Technics SL-1000R record player for the bulk of this test – go much below these standards and you’ll sacrifice much of the Accordo Essence’s potential.
They’re fussy over positioning. Not so much about the distance from the rear wall – in our test room they sound pretty balanced from half a metre out – but with angling towards the listening position. We suggest starting with the Accordos pointing directly at you and tweaking from there. There comes a point where the soundstage just snaps into focus. Rarely have we heard a speaker respond so dramatically to a small shift in angle.
Get it right and these floorstanders image superbly. We listen to Lakmé – Viens, Mallika (The Flower Duet) by Delibes and are greeted by a wide-open presentation populated by crisply focused vocals and instrumentation. These speakers layer the image impressively and generate a convincing sense of scale.
We have no issue with tonal balance, provided care is taken over system matching – these floorstanders are pretty even throughout the frequency band. There’s a decent amount of bass weight and extension, but larger rivals will invariably generate more in the way of depth and power in this region.
As good as the Accordo Essense are in the bass, and in terms of definition, agility and tunefulness they have little to fear from any rival, it’s their ability from the midrange upwards that marks them out as truly special. They excel with voices, delivering a combination of texture and expression that’s spellbinding on the right recording. These towers dig up a massive amount of detail but never sound overly analytical. Their presentation is unforced, natural and displays a rare degree of subtlety.
We switch to Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 and the Accordo Essence deliver strong dynamic contrasts and exhibit a high level of composure. They have a calm and poised disposition no matter how demanding the music gets. High volume levels are on the menu too, though if you have a massive room or frequently play at party volumes, others will do that job even better.
There’s a great level of insight here, with the Accordos digging deep into the recording. We can track low-level instrumental strands with ease, and these floorstanders reveal the space around those instruments far more convincingly than most. We hear the acoustic clues that define the character of the recording venue and that helps to make the performance all the more convincing.
Moving away from classical, we play a range of music from Kanyé West and Bruce Springsteen to Bob Marley, and these towers shine regardless. They’re a cultured, transparent and insightful listen, but they never forget to have fun. There’s a reasonably surefooted sense of rhythmic drive coupled to impressively expressive dynamics. More than that, there’s a strong feeling that you’re hearing everything on the recording, but without it sounding like the sheer quantity of information dominates the listening experience.
We didn’t know quite what to expect from the Accordo Essence. It turns out that they produce some of the most musically engaging results we’ve heard at this level. Add the exceptional build and relatively compact nature into the equation and we consider these to be one of the front runners at this price. Just make sure you pamper them appropriately.
- Sound 5
- Compatibility 4
- Build 5
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