Energy 4.1e Speaker System Review
The Energy "e" series loudspeakers, designed and built in Canada, employ technologically advanced materials and construction techniques. Typical of these speakers is the Model 4.1e, a moderate-size, two-way system with an 8-inch woofer and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter in a ported cabinet.
The internally braced enclosure is available finished in walnut or black-ash vinyl veneer. The front baffle, in what Energy calls a Spherex design, is molded of a highly rigid, nonresonant composite material in a shape that is said to improve dispersion and minimize diffraction, which can affect stereo imaging.
The tweeter is at the top, and the woofer is approximately in the center of the panel, above the bass port. The woofer uses Energy's Quadcentric design, with a ribbed plastic cone and a rubber rim surround to help terminate signals propagating within the diaphragm and thereby improve midrange detail and dispersion.
On the rear of the cabinet are separate multiway binding-post terminals for the tweeter and woofer, normally connected by jumper straps. With the straps removed, the system can be biwired (with separate cables connecting the two drivers to the same amplifier) or biamplified (with separate amplifiers for each driver). Since the speaker's crossover network is always in the circuit, no external electronic crossover is needed.
The cabinet measures 24 inches high, 12 inches deep (including the grille), and 9-5/8 inches wide. It is finished on all surfaces, including the back. The black cloth grille unsnaps easily, and the silver-gray finish of the Spherex baffle makes it aesthetically feasible to use the speaker without its grille.
The installation instructions for the Energy Model 4.1e recommend that the speakers be placed on stands that bring the tweeters to ear level, with the cabinets at least 15 inches from the wall behind them, equidistant from the side walls, and 6 to 10 feet apart.
Energy recommends using the Model 4.1e with an amplifier rated between 40 and 150 watts per channel. The speaker's nominal impedance is 6 ohms. Price: $750 a pair ($850 a pair in Canada).
Our test speakers were furnished with a pair of API SST-13 stands (API is Energy's parent company), which are suggested by Energy for use with the Model 4.1e. The stands, made of heavy steel and spiked, put the speakers about 13 inches from the floor. We placed the stands about 30 inches from the wall behind them and 8 feet apart.
Combining the averaged room response of the two speakers with the close-miked woofer response produced a composite frequency response within ±2.5 dB from 1,000 to 20,000 Hz. The combined port and woofer-cone response was within ± 3 dB from 30 to 1,000 Hz, and when we joined this curve with the room-response curve, the result was a composite frequency response of ±5.5 dB from 20 to 20,000 Hz. A moderate dip of about 3 dB at about 2,000 Hz was virtually the only clue to the crossover between drivers at 2,100 Hz.
Our quasi-anechoic FFT frequency-response measurements confirmed the essential features of the room-response measurement and showed that the tweeter's horizontal dispersion was very good up to 10,000 Hz, with typical differences of 3 dB or so between measurements made on-axis and 45 degrees off-axis. At higher frequencies the two curves diverged rapidly, which is typical of 1-inch dome tweeters.
The system's group delay varied less than ±0.1 millisecond over most of the tweeter's operating range. There was a distinct jog of about 0.2 millisecond at 2,000 Hz, and the delay change down to about 350 Hz was less than 0.7 millisecond, very good performance for a woofer.
The Energy 4.1e's sensitivity was 89 dB sound-pressure level (SPL) at 1 meter with an input of 2.83 volts of pink noise. We measured the woofer distortion with an input of 3.2 volts, corresponding to a 90-dB SPL reference output. The total harmonic distortion plus noise in the woofer cone's output was about 0.8 percent from 600 to 100 Hz, climbing gently to 2 percent at 60 Hz (the effective acoustic crossover to the port output). The port distortion reached 3.2 percent at 40 Hz and was only 7 percent in the 25 to 30 Hz range. In the pulse power-handling test, the woofer cone bottomed with an input of 230 watts at 100 Hz into its 4.4-ohm impedance at that frequency.
The system's minimum impedance was 4 ohms at 140 Hz. The upper-bass resonance was at 60 Hz, with a 15-ohm impedance peak, and the maximum impedance was 19 ohms at 1,800 Hz. The lower resonance appeared to be just below 20 Hz. The impedance phase angle remained within ±35 degrees, with several sharp jogs visible between 20 and 120 Hz. We would not expect any good amplifier to have trouble driving the Model 4.1e.
The Energy 4.1e had a smooth, slightly warm sound character. It projected a distinct stereo image, with accurate lateral positioning and a good sense of height, although there was little apparent depth dimension. Its bass performance was perhaps its clearest difference from most speakers of its size and basic type: It can deliver a useful amount of low-distortion output in the 35- to 40-Hz range.
Although there are a number of speakers with finished front panels that can be used without their grilles, most of them present a somewhat raw appearance in that condition. The unique front panel of the Energy 4.1e actually looks as though it were meant to be seen, and the speaker looks good either way. It also sounds good, with a pleasing balance and stereo presentation that make it a strong contender among speakers of its size and price.