Estelon XC Loudspeakers Compact Elegance

By Jeff Dorgay

It’s been a year and a half since we penned the world’s first review of the Estelon XA speakers, the premier product from Alfred and Partners. Since then, the lineup has expanded to five products, including models below and above the XA, not the least of which is the XC. The latter utilizes Accuton ceramic drivers. They’re combined with designer Alfred Vassilkov’s proprietary crossover designs and wrapped into a sexy enclosure shape, also unique to Estelon, which involves a marble-based composite material.

The XC’s alluring design stops enclosure vibration cold. Between the distinctive composite material’s high density and undulating shape, which eliminates standing waves and resonance, the XCs provide a striking clarity. You merely hear what the drivers are capable of producing—and the sound is indeed very, very good.

The XC is designed for smaller rooms than its three larger siblings, yet the tonal quality is essentially the same. How? The XC employs the same 1.2-inch tweeter as the XA and X Centro, and the XC’s smaller stand-mounted enclosure uses a pair of the 7-inch drivers similar to the ones in the larger speakers.

Having just spent some quality time with the XAs at the Munich High End Show, my memory of the company’s house sound is extremely fresh. These speakers boast incredibly low distortion; they have clarity reminiscent of a pair of full-range electrostatic speakers. Vide, the detail present on “The Seeker” from the Crash Test Dummies’ And God Shuffled His Feet simply staggers. A huge soundstage extends well beyond the speakers, and the multiple overdubs are easily laid bare.

Small Speakers, Big Sound

The tonal purity and low-level detail rendered by the XCs allow them to shine on any densely packed recording—electronic or acoustic. Brian Eno-like in nature, Dave Stewart’s Greetings From the Gutter features endless layers of miniscule electronic sounds that hover out in front of the speakers and bounce off the walls in all directions. When the music is experienced through the XCs, a full-range electrostatic speaker comes to mind, confirming the precision of the XC’s crossover network, even in the critical vocal range.

Throwing a piano-and-violin torture test at the XCs doesn’t cause them to blush. “Poco Adagio,” from the Jung Trio’s Dvorak Trio In F-Minor, Op.65, features both instruments together. Despite the record’s lack of bass, the XCs prove the equal of a massive full-range system, reproducing the record’s width and height all the while keeping the three players perfectly separated in the recording space. Get this wrong and the violins become screechy. The XCs shine, especially near the end of the track, where passages become decidedly more fortissimo.

Using the XCs in medium- and small-sized rooms yields great results. Remember, all four Estelon models are designed to produce an almost identical sound in terms of quality, tone, and timbre. It’s just that the smaller XC is optimized for rooms of lesser volume, and in which the large floorstanding model doesn’t make sense.

The room gain from my small (11 x 17 foot) living room convinced me there’s more than enough low-frequency extension to comfortably play any kind of music. Even bass-heavy tracks, like those from Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, enjoy enough weight to forgo the thought of a subwoofer. Unless you are trying to spin hip-hop discs at club level, the XC will impress. And while formidable in my dedicated listening room (16 x 25 feet), the XC lacks the last bit of the XA’s dynamic punch, staying true to Estelon’s design brief.

Perfect Pace

The speakers’ ability to keep musical pace intact is excellent. Of course, the freedom from coloration (both driver and box coloration) makes vocal recordings a thrill—whether it’s the gravely warble of Elvis Costello or irreproachable tone of Ella Fitzgerald.  The five-part harmonies on the Fairfield Four’s Standing In The Safety Zone epitomizes the XC’s capabilities at handling wide dynamic swings just as all five vocalists remain distinct from one another.

Low distortion is another of the model’s outstanding virtues. Regardless of the music, these speakers return breathtaking clarity. While they have no problems rocking out, acoustic-music aficionados will be astonished at their tonal purity. Even the most densely packed test tracks are charming, suggesting that many of our recordings may not be as limited as we often suspect. We just need a bit more resolution to delineate the information contained within.

While the XC cannot play as loudly as the XA in a large room, the additional 2db of sensitivity (89db for the XA versus 91db for the XC) makes for a better range of amplification choices. The XA performs admirably with 45 watts per channel of vacuum-tube power, yet more power is always better. In contrast, the XC is well matched with amplifiers in the 50-75 watt range. It’s even a charming partner, albeit at slightly lower levels, with Unison Research’s 25-watts-per-channel S6 amplifier.

Looking for extremely high quality in a moderately sized space? The XC needs to be on your short list. You can start with modest amplification, and upgrade to the world’s finest gear without needing to trade-in the XC on anything else.


Highly resolving without being discordant, the XCs put you right at the front of the presentation. My listening position in the main room is more intimate than with the XAs. The XCs work well about seven feet apart (tweeter center to tweeter center), and my listening position is eight feet back. They produce an awesome soundstage in all three dimensions. It almost feels as if my couch is inside a gigantic pair of headphones!

Unless you need to reproduce the last bit of sub-40Hz bass at earthquake levels, the XC handles every kind of fare with equal aplomb—from electronica with SBTRKT and Fuel Box or heavy rock, ala Black Sabbath. The recently remastered CD of Paranoid is a treat when cranking the XCs to their limits on “Fairies Wear Boots.” There’s a wall of screaming guitars, but no exhaustion from the speakers. And the big beats in Fuel Box’s “One Day” do not detract from the vocal stylings or delicate percussion tracks laid over synthesizers.

Just like that of the XA, the XC’s slightly forward tonal balance—combined with its ability to resolve detail—needs to be considered when choosing the proper amplifier.  These speakers will show off what your upward components can and cannot do. Naturally, your personal taste will determine amplification selection, as will any speaker capable of such high performance. If possible, audition the XCs with your amplifier.

Setup Simplicity

The XCs are carefully packed in foam-lined flight cases, with integral stands. Ask a friend to help you unpack each of the 110-pound (49kg) speakers and move them to their initial spot in your listening room. From there, fine-tuning should be a cakewalk. Akin to an electrostatic speaker, careful attention to rake angle—easily adjustable with the spikes in the stands—and distance from the rear wall afford the best balance of low-frequency energy and image size.

Our test speakers arrived after logging plenty of hours, so they were immediately ready to go. My experience with the Accuton drivers in other speakers, as well as the XA, dictates that Estelon models need at least a few hundred hours to sound their best, especially in the low-frequency range. Their extremely low distortion triggers one other caveat: The ceramic drivers exhibit barely any cone breakup, so there’s a small margin between driving them to distortion and driving them to damage. Fortunately, they play at high levels quite comfortably, so only the most overzealous users need worry.

Such small cautions aside, the Estelon XC provides fantastic performance in a compact shape. Suitable for most rooms, these speakers are highly revealing and make for an excellent cornerstone for a no-compromise system. Enthusiastically recommended.

Estelon XC Loudspeakers

MSRP: $22,900/pair (stands included)


Analog Source AVID Acutus Reference SP/TriPlanar/ Lyra Atlas
Digital Source dCS Paganini stack    Sooloos Control 15
Preamplifier ARC REF 5SE    Burmester 011
Power Amplifier ARC REF 150    Burmester 911 Mk. 3    Pass XA200.5
Cable Cardas Clear
Power Running Springs Maxim & Dmitri
Accessories SRA Scuttle rack    Audio Desk Systeme Record Cleaner    Furutech DeMag and DeStat