Posts Tagged "Howard Popeck"

Bob Rapoport – the public face (and a lot more besides) of Essence Electrostatic Speaker Systems – interviewed by Howard Popeck

 Essence 1600

HP’s introduction:

More often that not, I go straight into posting the interview without too much, if any history. However in order to avoid confusion and to minimise misunderstand, I’ve lifted this maker’s history from their site. Here it is – and please take time to read because it is relevant. Thanks.

Company history:

“Maarten Smits founded Final BV in 1990 with his brother Michiel to design and manufacture electrostatic speakers.  In 1998, banker Hans Van Heteren joined the team.  Maarten was the engineer, Hans was the business manager.  Hans left Final in 2002 to return to his roots.  After winning CES’s Innovations award as the best new speaker of the year in 2002, the company was poised for growth as sales took off.


Like any venture, Final needed capital to grow.  In 2003 Maarten sold some of his shares to an investor group led by a colorful ex-Philips /ex- Apple exec who was best known for introducing the CD in the early 1980′s and then the Newton PDA in the 90′s at Apple.  As the sales grew, pressure for more capital required the release of more shares and as time went by, Maarten’s control eroded so much that by the end of 2004 his stake was below 50% and he lost control of the board.  They voted him out of his own company, the hostile take-over complete.

The company changed its name to Final Sound after Maarten left and began selling a completely new line of products without Maarten’s involvement, with new engineers who made extensive changes to the original designs.  Those models were the 90i, 150i, 300i, 400i, and 600i speakers, along with some receivers and subs.  The only model that did not get changed was Maarten’s flagship model 1000i at $10K per pair.

The 2008 credit crises forced Final Sound to liquidate.  Maarten was not at Final Sound after 2004.  In the years since he left, Maarten has provided service for many old Final customers who needed help.  He also continued his research and experimentation towards perfecting electrostatic technology.

Maarten never relinquished ownership of the intellectual property, he is the inventor and holder of all the patents.  He started Essence™ in 2009, returning with new designs that build on the foundation of the past, advancing the science of electrostatic speaker design decisively forward.”

Hello Bob. First things first – can a full range pure electrostatic loudspeaker (no cone drivers) be built that is nominally flat from say 30 Hz to 20k?

Thanks for inviting me to join the conversation Howard. Before I answer this question, please allow me a moment to tell you and your readers about myself, to add some context. I was born and raised in North Hollywood, Calif. My mom worked for Columbia Studios and we lived right near Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros. I was surrounded by the classic movie theaters with the best sound systems of the day.

I grew up listening to Triple KLH 9’s powered by Audio Research, listening to open reel master tapes of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra and local jazz artists as a source. We played albums too but it was astonishing to hear how much dynamic range was missing compared to open reel on a Revox at 15 IPS. This is what Neil Young meant when he said he couldn’t listen to vinyl; they wouldn’t play loud enough, not like in the studio on tape. The record labels would not sell us copies of the master tapes, they made us turn to the vinyl record instead, figuring only the fanatics would care or hear the difference. They were right.

KLH Nine triple stereo3 frame cropped

In order to get 12 songs on two sides of a single vinyl disc, each with 20 minutes playtime, the dynamic range was peak limited to 60 dB and bass below 100 Hz was filtered out, replaced after equalization by the RIAA network in the pre-preamp, the phono stage. It was a rumble filter and kept the stylus in the groove. These were the glory days for record sales and the hi fi industry was born.

I graduated high school in 1967, by then I was the audio geek advisor to all my friends, a hobbyist since I was 8 years old. After college, I went to work for a manufacturer’s rep selling Sennheiser headphones and Bang & Olufsen audio systems, Bose, Stanton, Phase Linear, Rabco, and Discwasher. It was Dr. Bose who was a big influence; he was still a professor at MIT and knew how to explain things in a down to earth way. I learned about psycho-acoustics, how a combination of direct and reflected sound is what we hear in our daily lives unless living inside an anechoic chamber. The acoustic signature of the room is embedded in every sound we make or hear indoors. Dr. Bose did research at MIT on this subject and founded his company on the basis of that research. He passed away recently, he was the father of the hi fi industry in the USA, creating the #1 speaker company in the world.

As a rep in 1977, I discovered and launched Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs with Brad Miller, he found a way to get more bass and dynamic range from vinyl and the audiophile record business was born. 20 years later in 1997, Brad and I were the first to sell an add-on dts® decoder for 5.1 digital surround sound, an improvement over Dolby Pro Logic. Within 18 months, dts® was a standard feature on all AV receivers and preamps. At each step along the way, I have led the industry towards higher resolution and wider dynamic range, culminating in Blu-ray audio today. OK, back to the stats.

The human auditory system evolved over millennia for survival. Hearing a twig break 50 yards away was the difference between life and death. It was critical to be able to locate the source of a sound so we could run the opposite direction! This ability to localize direct sounds came in handy as audiophiles would learn to judge a speaker on its ability to create an illusion of the instruments and voices in the space between the two speakers, the stereo image.

Essence™ Electrostats uniquely focus their audio output straight to the listener’s ears, minimizing dispersion. In that way, the listener gets 5 dB more direct spectral energy from the recording, the reflected sound from the walls, ceiling, and floor arrives lower in level and later in time. This ensures that the direct

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Unhesitatingly recommended

Terrific. And not least because it was yet another eBay Bargain. The review published HERE is I feel a little under-enthusiastic. Or perhaps I’m overly receptive? In any event this one has survived many repeated plays here in the office…

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