Engström ERIC Encore Mono Power Amplifers Page 2

As I mention in my Lab Report, while Engström makes no special claims for Class A operation – a refreshing modesty in its own right – the performance of these fully balanced/push-pull monoblocks suggest they are exactly that. But, once switched on, running at 185oC and 1000V, and drawing 430W from the wall apiece, these precious bottles should never be left unattended or used without the purpose-designed glass hood installed.

sqnote The Hot Seat
Fortunately, we did much of our listening to the Engström power amps over a few relatively cool days, and with windows open in PM's main room, writes AE. So while the amps' thermal characteristics may be welcome in the Swedish winter and a bit of a problem in a globally-warmed English summer, their sound – connected between PM's Melco/dCS Vivaldi One front-end [HFN Feb '18] and B&W 800 D3 loudspeakers [HFN Oct '16] – was worth every bit of the inconvenience, with its combination of massive weight and pure, organic musical flow.

Opening our account with Gregory Porter's Liquid Spirit [Blue Note 0602537410538] the ERIC Encores warmed to their task in minutes, more than living up to the title of the album, sounding gorgeously lush and refined, but never slow or leaden. Instead, they delivered crisp, tight rhythms allied to a sonorous, close-focused view of Porter's voice.


Three-position rotary selects between transformer-coupled RCA and XLR inputs, the latter bypassing the transformer when in ‘DIR’ mode. Below there’s a huge ground/earth post and to the right a single set of 4mm Furutech speaker cable binding posts

And as if that didn't tingle the spine enough, playing Kate & Anna McGarrigle's Dancer With Bruised Knees [Warner Bros 7599-25958-2] showed the Encores to be capable of bags of detail and definition, while bathed in a lovely warmth. There was a beautiful, natural generosity to the sisters' impeccable and delightful harmonies, everything in the mix sounding clear and with mesmerising presence, but without a sense of being over-analysed.

Switching musical style to the 2014 Gustavo Dudamel recording of Mahler's 3rd [Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings] and the ERIC Encores instantly delighted with their big, warm, free-breathing view of the performance. And there is that sense of performance, thanks to the massive bass weight available here, the fabulous rosiny bite to the low strings and the silky violins, and the feeling of space and air around the performers. Despite 'only' 70W per channel driving the speakers, the amps are more than capable of generating realistic listening levels while still having plenty in reserve to deliver a palpable, explosive power when required.

Ominous And Awesome
That glorious orchestral ability was in evidence with the latest Max Richter set, Exiles [DG; 48kHz/24-bit download]. The entire programme is a spine-tingler, but the closing 'The Haunted Ocean' benefits from that remarkable bass weight, while fine detail in the playing of the Baltic Sea Orchestra paints the atmosphere with great ominous sweeps of instrumentation above that menacing low-end. It's chilling, thrilling – and magnificent.

The ability of these amplifiers is truly wide-ranging. Loading up the recent 50th anniversary release of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass [Universal 192kHz/24-bit download; n/a cat. no.] their big, substantial sound makes the most of these remasters, from the catchy and very '70s pop of 'What Is Life?' to the anthemic 'My Sweet Lord'. The latter grabs the attention with the opening acoustic guitar, seducing with the string sound on the celebrated riff and bringing out all the character of Harrison's vocal.


Multiple PSU, interstage coupling and output transformers fill the ERIC Encore’s alloy-clad frame chassis. Tubes, from the left, are the GZ34 and 4x6CH3 (PSU rectification), 2xEC8010, 2x6L6GC and the pair of huge ER845 triodes

There's a very real sense of hearing deeper into this wonderfully rich and multitextured mix, even distinguishing individual voices in the first entry of the backing vocals, after which the track really shifts up a gear in a very obvious fashion. And the ERIC Encore's ability with dense mixes and characterful performances is also heard to good effect with Gov't Mule's live Dark Side Of The Mule [Provogue/Mascot PRD 7446 5], the remarkable guitar of Warren Haynes on 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pts 1-5' cascading through a solid, three-dimensional soundstage, thanks to the blend of focus and warmth here. Even better, the presentation remains clean and tight when cranked.

That's A Wrap
Enchanted by their sound, we rounded up our last session with two favourite test tracks. The first was the dense and richly detailed performance of 'The Carousel Waltz' from The John Wilson Orchestra's Rodgers & Hammerstein At The Movies [Warner Classics 3193012], which utterly delighted with its propulsive detail and the sense of conductor and orchestra having an absolute ball.

The other? 'The Dance', from the London Chamber Orchestra's 1989 recording of Nick Bicat's Under The Eye Of Heaven [Virgin Classics LCOCD 1], which can sound thin or even tinny on some systems. Here the bass weight and insight ensured a real sense of punch in Christopher Warren-Green's solo amplified violin, the sparkling percussion and the deep, hard-hitting bass and drums.

The pounding yet very clean sound brought back the thrill of hearing the piece performed live at Hammersmith Odeon back in 1990, and the poster simply saying 'Classical Music Bloody Loud'. And, yes, that's just what these Engström flagships delivered!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The rarity, price and domestic impracticality of these amps means few will ever hear them. But the payback for all that is a presentation that's both captivating and enthralling, and seemingly designed to challenge all the old clichés about what valve amps do (and don't) do. If you do get the chance to hear them, you really should do so, for they sound every bit as glorious and unique as they look.

Supplied by: Boyer Audio Ltd, UK
0330 223 3769