About the company
László Sallay founded the company after more than 25 years of development work. Our unique mission is to provide perfect sound reproduction from beginning to end: from the microphone to the speakers, including studio acoustics, storage, reproduction and amplification.
Over the last few years more than 60 audio CDs have been recorded under our brand name Sonophil by such publishers as CBS, Harmonia Mundi France, Hungaroton and Naxos using the equipment, such as microphones, recording electronics etc, we have developed. We have references from Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, Sergiu Celibidache, Péter Eötvös, Iván Fisher, Kobayashi Ken Ichiro, Zoltán Kocsis, György Kurtág, György Ligeti and Sándor Szokolay. Thanks to Leonard Bernstein's recommendation we made contact with Deutsche Gramafon's directors, Maestro Sergiu Celibidache and the Munich Philharmonic recommended us to Philips Classics - the high quality of our recording had a very great effect on the Maestro, who had not made a recording with anyone else for the last 20 years, because of the quality. We also made a very good impression on the Japanese Denon company.
Aside from that, however, Ethalons core activity is the development and production of high-end audio products, both for the professional studio and for the enthusiast home market. We have a thriving export business to the developed European countries, with resellers in almost all countries. When the world-famous Jazz pianist, Michel Petrucciani, listened to music in his home in Paris, he did so on Etalon equipment. Reviews of our equipment in well-known magazines (Home Studio - Holland, Revue du Son -, Haute Fidelite - and Diapason - France, Stereo -, High Fidelity -, Hör Erlebnis Forum - and Hi Fi Vision - Germany, Alta Fidelidad - Spain, Hi - Fi World - England, Fedelta del Suono -, Stereo -, Suono - and Audio Review - Italy, Ihos - Greece, WAM - Croatia) compare them favourably to the best equipment in the world, and rank them at the top of their lists. Since 1992 we have won the "Diapason D'Or" prize in Paris for the best equipment of the year six times. In 1998 one of our products won an Oscar in Italy.
Etalon mirror image of living music - Loudspeakers
Have you ever heard the sound of a loudspeaker? We don't think so. When listening to reproduced music we can only hear the complex result of the interactions of all the different components of the whole playback system. The first interaction originates from the loudspeaker and the room where the speaker is installed itself. As the distribution of the sound-energy within a given room is not homogeneous and is highly frequency-dependent, it is essential to find the proper place both for the loudspeaker and for the optimum listening position. However, for natural sounding music reproduction it is important to consider the possible interactions between room and loudspeaker not only in the frequency domain but also in the time domain: the sound waves are propagated along the axis of the driver units and - also frequency dependent - in all other directions. These sound waves are radiated in all directions in the room and are reflected by both the surrounding surfaces (walls, floor, and ceiling) and all the objects in the room, including the speakers themselves and your person. The reflected sound waves are reflected again and again and interfere with the new sound-waves just radiated by the speakers. The sound energy is not only reflected, but also absorbed (damped) in the room. The material of the whole house, the objects in the room and again your person influences this absorption. As the subjective perceived sound is the result of all the above acoustic parameters, it is obvious that a given speaker will sound different in different rooms. For this reason once you decided to purchase a hi-fi system you should first of all start with the proper selection of a suitable speaker system, which means you must find the optimum match between the speaker and your room. Unfortunately, there are only limited possibilities to change the acoustic properties of a room; therefore the only route we can take is to listen to several loudspeaker models and select the right one. This is the reason we have so many models in our range of loudspeakers: we try to assist you as far as possible to find the optimum solution. From the manufacturing point of view it would be of course much more convenient to produce significantly fewer number of models in higher quantities. As always, perfection has its price...
The installation of a loudspeaker in a room is always an exacting task that requires careful listening from different positions. We recommend that our speakers should if possible be freestanding, the distance to the wall behind and beside the loudspeaker should be about 0,28 - 0,38 times the corresponding dimension of the room. (Use smaller distance for smaller rooms and opposite.)
Your next step after selecting the proper loudspeaker system for your room should be to find the amplifiers and cables necessary to drive the speakers. One often hears that the speakers are the "weak link in the chain"... however, it is a fact that above a certain quality level all speakers are capable of showing the finest sound differences - and even faults - between the "best" amplifiers. How is it possible then to say that the speaker is the weakest link in the system?
It is also a wide-spread view - mostly of loudspeaker manufacturers - that a hi-fi component is like a musical instrument and as such it can have its own characteristic sound. Contrary to this opinion we believe, however, that we can interpret a hi-fi component as a special musical instrument, which must not have its "own sound" at all. Any coloration caused by the loudspeaker is nothing but a kind of distortion of the original musical content. In other terms, the better the technology the less audible... in this way we see a loudspeaker as a very special musical instrument, which must be able to incarnate all kinds of sound sources. This means also we cannot accept that some speakers are able to play only certain kinds of music.
The next question is how to specify the ability of a loudspeaker to reproduce music. You may, in accordance with general practice, ask us for technical data to help you decide. This is a difficult issue for us because the data commonly used for specifying loudspeakers are irrelevant in their usual form and the published figures relating to the musical capacity of an acoustic transducer can scarcely be interpreted by even those who publish them. As we do not want to join the international battle of figures, we only list data that are of practical value to the user. Would you ever use figures to describe the sound of a musical instrument? Do you think that there is anybody who could give any exact interpretation of those figures? Similarly to a cello or piano, etc. it is much more relevant to describe a loudspeaker by listening instead of by technical parameters. After many years' experience of we have found:
Music means "inner experience". Generally speaking one must pay a lot for a great experience. Nevertheless, music is not merchandise and certainly not a mass product.
Technology must be able to work right into whole artistic radiance of a performance. The technology itself must have no sound; it must remain neutral.
A musical reproduction must be able to radiate peacefulness, just as a live performance can.
Musical instruments must sound energetic, though malleable and soft. In reality, they never sound aggressive or harsh.
The reproduced sound must be open and free, but may never become cold and sterile. Music is truly warm.
Properly reproduced music always sounds somewhat exciting, but does not become tiresome even after hours of listening.
The assertion that better systems make mistakes and defects more noticeable and this is why fewer recordings now sound beautiful is wrong. On the contrary, better technology draws "more music" out of even poor recordings. It is true that better technology does show up mistakes that are present in the recording but this does not mean that the music "sounds bad".
The listener must be able to hear the atmosphere, the air around the instruments, the dimensions and the surfaces of the space in which the music was played.
Good systems, which are properly set up, allow the listener to hear the recording technology and the position of the microphones. One can, so to speak, hear into the recording.
We have striven for decades to produce equipment that thoroughly satisfies all of these requirements. Only then can it be called ETALON. One should not be satisfied until every part of the whole system satisfies one. Always let your hearing be your only guide!
We believe that mistakes must be corrected where they occur. If, for example, a sound-engineer makes a mistake during recording, it is not possible to eliminate this mistake at a later stage. No doubt some degree of correction will be possible, but this will also introduce new faults. Similarly, if a loudspeaker cannot produce certain tones, it is no use trying to force it to do so. Every such effort will result in dramatically increased distortion.
When designing our loudspeakers we try to offer optimum solutions for different acoustic environments. According to these design criteria our models are representing different technical solutions, this does not mean that our small speaker offers lower quality in terms of musicality than our top model. Our small loudspeakers are designed for use in small rooms, where one of our big - and more expensive - models, by overloading the room, would sound terrible... consequently the usual classification of products, namely "the more expensive one must be a better one" is not correct for ETALON loudspeakers. Differences in prices of our products do not have a close correlation to their quality level. Designing a loudspeaker for a small room represents criteria that can be satisfied at different costs compared to a product that should sound perfect in a large room. This is the explanation for our different prices at nearly the same sound quality for our different models. A properly constructed small loudspeaker can sound as excellent in the room it is designed for as a large system in the corresponding large hall.
At this point, I must mention an important insight that we have discovered during our search for perfection: we cannot make one property of a system maximally good without another property becoming maximally bad. We must accept that we have limited freedom of movement in the material world and that it is simply not possible to go beyond certain limits. A driver unit with a small membrane surface can offer only limited sound pressure at low frequencies and there is no way to force it. Consequently a small loudspeaker can offer either higher sensitivity at midrange and lower at low frequencies, or lower limit at low frequencies and lower sensitivity at the same time. On the other hand, a driver unit with large membrane surface can offer high sensitivity down to low frequencies but will have limited characteristics at the upper end of the frequency range.
In our new range of loudspeakers we have now developed our own quite conservative electrodynamic drivers for best possible focus and precision. However, this kind of driver-principle also has its restrictions. We believe, with careful design and production we can manage these and we can avoid all negative properties inherent in other kinds of drivers (electrostatic, magnetostatic, ribbon, etc.). As the vibrating cone of the membrane around the tweeter can cause different coloration of sound, we do not use coaxial drivers either. In order to limit the possible effects of coloration we also use special construction for the cabinets. The design of these enclosures - offering a wide range of aesthetic options - is an organic part of the whole system.
Similar to any other hi-fi component, our speakers need to be burned-in over at least 200 hours before they can offer their final musical capability. To do this you should use one of the burn-in methods widely offered on the market but you also can use your tuner or any kind of signal source with noise or even music. It is VERY IMPORTANT you connect the loudspeakers with the correct polarity for both channels in the same way as you will use them after the burn-in period.
Should you bring the loudspeakers into a new environment then, depending on the mass of the speaker, you will need up to about 8 hours of burn-in until the unit can offer its full quality again.
When installing any of our Etalon loudspeakers it is important that the listeners ear is about 950 mm high above the floor level. In order to secure the highest possible accuracy both in focus of image, exact timing and resolution of fine musical nuances, the closer the loudspeakers are placed to the listener the more important this is. The listening angle should be within the range about +/- 30 degrees off axis.
Etalon mirror image of living music - Amplifiers
Etalon integrated amplifiers
Einstein once said that we should always use the simplest solution possible, but never ever use a simpler one... following this principle our "integrated amplifiers" are not the classically accepted solution, but rather power amplifiers with high input sensitivity, complemented by a passive pre-amplification stage. Even so, the creation of an amplifier with low noise and high amplification is quite a challenge, and a carefully designed passive preamplifier costs as much to build as a complete music centre in the "no fidelity" category. At least a design simplified to the absolute minimum required to solve above-mentioned is sure to meet the requirement that it will introduce as few faults as possible into the reproduced music, leaving it as faithful to the original, live performance as possible. Over more than the last decade we have created a new school of thought with this concept, which many of our competitors have tried to emulate. It is true to say that considerable skill and knowledge is needed to design an amplifier that produces good sound reproduction, but far more is required should one wish to specify what should be left out of it, in order that the quality should improve.
Etalon Pre- and power amplifiers
When we established our range of amplifiers, and during their design, we always kept their usage at the forefront of our mind. It is an established fact that the type and length of the cables with which the components are connected also have an effect on the quality of the reproduction. It is also true that good quality cables are exceedingly expensive. From these two facts it is clear that one should use as short cables as possible. This is the basis from which we extrapolated our entire amplifier range. Since the input signal to the amplifier from the source is low amplitude it is advisable that the source equipment is as close as possible to the amplifier. On the other hand since large currents flow in the cables from the amplifier to the speaker it is advisable that they should also be as close as possible to the amplifier. It is really unfortunate that I should so often find myself swimming against the tide of general opinion, but all of the above factors lead me to the conclusion that in the majority of cases integrated amplifiers are the best solution, since only they can satisfy both the cabling requirements listed above. Considering all of this we designed our integrated amplifiers according to the principles already given.
In practice, of course, it may be impossible to locate the amplifier and components near to the speakers (for aesthetic or interior design reasons, for example). In such cases - and only in such cases - it is necessary to separate the equipment into two groups. In order to keep the speaker cable as short as possible, we recommend the use of a separate power amplifier, which should be sited as close to the speakers as possible. Given the small signal from the source equipment, the preamplifier should be located as close as possible to the source equipment, obviously in a place where it can be easily operated, and where it fits in aesthetically, and so forth. In the case the only long cable (between the pre and power amplifier) has fortunately to carry a relatively high-amplitude, low-power signal. This can be done with relatively low distortion. One further factor remains for our consideration: the preamplifier must be capable of driving the cable to the power amplifier (this is nothing like as simple as it seems. This can be seen from that fact that - many other factors aside - in practice an integrated amplifier can sound better in a given set-up than another manufacturer's separate pre and power amplifiers).
It follows from this that ETALON integrated amplifiers are an exception to the generally accepted wisdom that integrated amplifiers are lower quality, and that if the sound they produce is not good enough then one should buy a - usually more expensive - pre and power amplifier combination. Similarly to our speakers, the normal "the more expensive the better" argument - which really serves to further a primitive consumer attitude - simply does not apply to our products. It is just as applicable to our amplifiers that one must base the range and design of all products on the consumers' real needs and possibilities, and the cost of them simply reflects the cost of realising the best possible solution. Between similar solutions the more expensive is not necessarily the better quality.
Etalon Regarding controls
Our amplifiers are extraordinarily easy to use. They have only two knobs. One controls the volume, and the other the source. There are no other controls - such as tone and balance - because there is no need for them. As shown in the technical data, all of our amplifiers are pre-set in the factory to an accuracy on 0.1 dB. That accuracy is well below the hearing threshold of even someone with remarkable hearing, indeed even most instruments cannot detect it. If the speakers seem to be out of balance when listening to music, then the cause does not lie in the amplifier. And it should be clear that we should not therefore try to correct it there either. (In fact it is often of real help when trying to find the cause of such an error to know that it cannot possibly originate in the amplifier). Truly, it would be a big mistake to arbitrarily change - for example with a balance control - our painstakingly adjusted amplifiers. It therefore follows that there is no need for the balance control, and we can omit it. Changing the listening position or the location of the speakers should solve any apparent balance problems. It is true to say that in all cases we should strive for the maximum acoustic symmetry.
Furthermore we basically do not offer remote control for volume, since there is no need for it either. Naturally, this statement outrages many people. However we have yet to come across a solution that doesn't affect the sound quality, and we do not wish to favour the comfort of the listener at the expense of our basic principles. We state that it is also unnecessary since over many years experience we have come to the conclusion that once the speakers have been properly placed in the room, and the right, true to life volume has been set, there is then no further need to adjust the volume. In other words, strictly speaking the volume control could also be left out (which would improve the quality).
Only occasionally does it happen that in the case of a few recordings, when the studio has not set the maximum signal level sufficiently carefully, one needs to adjust the volume setting. I repeat that this only very occasionally happens, for example if we play a so-called "audiophile" recording which has the signal level set too low by the producer (according to the label, this is done in order to protect insufficiently good-quality equipment - another example of how quality is sacrificed due to lack of consumers demand). Contrary to this (that in order to protect the equipment the recording should be played back at a lower volume setting than normal), when playing such recordings the volume should not be reduced, but rather raised somewhat - or even in some cases drastically - so that the listening volume is approximately equal to that of the live performance (in extreme cases it can occur that the equipment reaches the limits of its capabilities. This is not a fault, but a physical fact. If we wish to avoid this situation then the answer is not to reduce the volume, but to change the item of equipment that has reached its limits. ETALON can supply products for even extreme requirements).
But in practice, the following are the real reasons for frequently changing the volume level:
ˇ The telephone rings while we are listening to music.
Since the reason for listening to music is to have an artistic experience, which requires total concentration, it is simply not a solution to turn the music down, since we cannot concentrate on two things (the quiet music and the telephone) at once. Far better to pause the music than to fiddle with the volume.
ˇ The volume of different tracks appears to be different (on lower-quality systems), leading us to constantly change the volume.
There are two possible reasons for this. The equipment's dynamic resolution may not be sufficient (this is a frequent quality problem) which often means that the music is "too quiet." This forces us to increase the volume in order to be able to hear the quieter passages, but then the following passage of track is too loud, and the sound is distorted by the physical limits of the equipment. We then feel that it is "too loud" and reduce the volume. And so on and so forth....
To put it another way, we could say that frequently having to adjust the volume control is a good indication that there is a basic quality problem with the system. Since our systems do not have this problem, there is really no need at all that we can see for a remote volume control at all. It would only cause a degradation in sound quality or - for there are solutions which would not degrade the sound quality, but they are exceedingly expensive - make the equipment much more expensive for no good reason. Since we are against any solution that would irrationally increase the price of our equipment, we will not be offering this facility in the foreseeable future.
Our products are carefully made from the best quality materials using the most modern technology. All our products are designed and manufactured to ISO 9001. All our products and work is guaranteed for two years, except for parts subject to wear and tear (input and output connections, switches and volume control), the input and output transistors and the speakers built into our cabinets.
Should you for any reason decide within a period of 10 days after purchasing our equipment that you are not fully satisfied with it, then we will refund your money in full with no questions asked, provided that the equipment is returned undamaged and in its original packaging.