I bought this integrated 2 months ago, and i have been wondering about its quality ever since. I know this may sound confusing, but let me explain...
This is how the story goes...
I have a pair of Dynaudio Contour 1.3 speakers(first version) and a Meridian CDP, coupled with a NAIT 3. The sound is sometimes riveting, but I wish there were more body to it, and that it were not so sharp and fatiguing..After several years of this combination, in comes the ELECTROCOMPANIET ECI-3.
The Dyns are a difficult load- so the story goes. Well, yes, it is a worthwhile speaker, but rather low-efficiency and with a tendency to sound shrill if it doesn't agree with the amplifier.
I have tried several amps for the Dyns. There was once a small Vecteur integrated: no body and no bass, rather dull and small-scale sound.
Then comes a Rega Mira, and then a Rega Cursa: not bad , but I found the sound lacked finesse and veered towards the coarse and grainy at times.
Then come Crimson monoblocs , I think the model was A630: two 100 w monoblocks with the Crimson 610 preamp; ah, at last the sound has BODY: much fuller than any previous amp, less sharp, GREAT bass...but the Crimson preamp is not up to the task: what am I to do? buy the power amps and find a better preamp? the hassle of mixing and matching scares me, and the Crimson amps go...
I keep reading about amps matching the Dyns... many praise the Electrocompaniet/ dynaudio contour combination. trouible is the nearest dealer is about 150 miles away...
Never mind, you have to go to the end of your dream. So, off I go to listen to the Electro ECI-3, with my Dynaudio Contour 1.3's and a stack of CD's.
I hear the Electro with the matching Electro CDP(the ECC1 i think).: beautiful sound, lots of finesse, no harshness, very balanced sound, all the CD's I brought sound definitely better, CD after CD. But most are instrumental music, including symphonic orchestras.I never buy after just one listening session, but what am I to do? borrow the unit , come back home, and do the 300 mile-trip again? Well, there's no doubt: the sound is just all I was hoping for.. I pay the 2250 euros and take the unit home.
Back home: a different acoustic environment altogether. But let's hear some music..
Chamber music: beautiful sounds, pretty accurate, no harshness, and more body than the NAIT3...
Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique', an 1986 Decca CD: big sound-stage, brass instruments in particular sound true and lush, no harshness whatsoever.
An older Cohen CD: can't be true: some nasality in the voice, which tends to sound grainy, little bass if any on some of the tracks..
Heart beating, i put on another CD: Brassens, a great French singer/ writer, just a voice and a guitar+double bass: the double bass is believable, but once again why is the voice so sibilant?
I have played CD after CD, and always there is excessive sibilance on voices-( and on some tracks an unmistakable lack of bass.
How can the sound be so lush on the one hand, so thin and 'hissing' on other tracks?
Thhis amp is something of a mystery to me, for the time being. I'm a bit baffled right now. I have sent Electrocompaniet an e-mail about this.
Besides, the real power of this amp belies its 70W/ channel specifications. It is enough in my room, although I sometimes have to turn the volume right up- but there is no distortion-, but my 30W/channel NAIT 3 plays as loud.
So, if ever you are drawn to the sound of this amp, listen to voices as well, to make sure it matches the rest of your system. And preferably, listen to it at home, in your usual environment. This is really the only way of making sure any hifi gear is up to your expectations.
There are few components that hold my affection. I usually end up selling off gear to try out the next best thing in hopes of finding audio nirvana. The ECI-3 is one of the very few that I've kept. This integrated has been a joy to own. I am sure there are better amps out there especially when you're looking at specs. To be honest, the ECI-3 didn't wow me when I first auditioned it. It's not an integrated that jumps at you like Krells or even Musical Fidelity amps. It's presentation is subtle and arguably more sophisticated. Put it in the right system and it'll impress.
It's easy to listen to and seems to get most of the things right. I listen to a lot of Jazz and vocals and it definitely shines. It took several tries to build a system around it but I feel I've got it. Now I just sit back and enjoy.
On a side note: Yes, it leans more on the warm side as others have stated but overall I think its sound is rather neutral. It doesn't really emphasize any freq. band. It's an amp that allows for extended listening sessions without fatigue.
I really love this amp and the system I've built around it. I trully enjoy it as much as my more expensive setups.
By far and away the hardest aspect of owning an Electrocompaniet is pronouncing the name. I’ve found the best method is to split the “Electro” and “companiet” into two pseudo words and to simply call it an amp after more than five pints of lager. Otherwise this somewhat eccentric device has already proved to be an astonishing bit of kit and I thought it only fair to sing its praises here.
Of course six months ago I had no intention of buying this amp. Indeed my awareness of the brand was negligible to say the least- a couple of reviews and some periodic visits to the Electrocompaniet room at some European shows. I was all set to buy an Exposure 3010 which seemed to be doing everything right. With my chequebook dripping in anticipation, two flies then buzzed into the ointment. The first, childish to relate is the fact that the 3010 is not available in black. Not the end of the world I know but everything else is black and isn’t due for replacement any time soon. This may have been a passing issue but for the week spent with a Prima Luna (in £999 KT88 equipped mode). This showed that for about 30% of my CD collection and 60% of my vinyl there was a different level of performance at the price. However whilst the Prima Luna excelled with Cinematic Orchestra’s Every Day when it came to Hybrid’s We are in control put bluntly the Prima Luna wasn’t. So I was hooked on two extremely different amps. I considered selling a kidney and buying both but suspected the buyer’s remorse might have been severe.
I was going nowhere fast in my efforts to replace my amp until more recently when as luck would have it HiFi Choice and Mr Black intervened. I am not in the habit of asking what I will be listening to in the test, so I was surprised when the amp that stood out in my notes in the “£600-1000 amp test” was the Electrocompaniet ECI3. Possessed of a timed, assured and surprisingly deep bass coupled to a detailed yet smooth mid band and treble it was a genuine surprise. Of course one doesn’t buy an amp on one test of this nature but obviously Richard had other ideas as I’ve attended three more tests with it used as a control unit. During the turntable test in this months issue, it became increasingly clear that this was the amp that bridged the gap between my two previous units of choice. Some judicious begging to Castle secured me the very unit I’ve been listening to at the tests.
First impressions out the box are “god its big.” I’ve become perhaps too used to the nineteen inch wide hegemony of most units so the fact the ECI3 is 21 and a bit inches wide at the front panel. Coupled to the fact it is extremely deep- virtually square when viewed from above it was perhaps no real surprise that it didn’t fit in the rack. Mercifully it goes on the top just fine. Ah well, I’ve been intending to put my turntable on a separate shelf for a while now………….
Build quality is good although I will make the odd proviso that the ECI3 is black. I maintain that it is much easier to make a silver unit look very well built by a smattering of black hex bolts and hey presto. The ECI3 is well built however- taking the lid off is an afternoons work, the buttons have a beautiful weight against the finger and the socketry will support whatever ferrite laden silliness you might choose to connect to it.
My unit effectively came run in which meant I could get into the rather pleasurable business of listening to it. Now as I said elsewhere, the ECI3 effectively bridges the gap between the rather disparate talents of the two aforementioned amps. This is not to say that the amp is better than those two at everything but it has a huge range of talents. As I said it has a fabulous, well timed bass response that is at once immensely rhythmic and when required, epic in scale. The mid has certain similarity to valve amps (the Prima Luna and an Audio Note in the office are similar) but again has a spontaneity of timing that is much more solid state. The treble is lovely and can do almost “holographic” tricks with voices but if I’m honest, the amp is actually being held back by the CD player which doesn’t really excel at the very top end. If you feel so inclined you can create a compilation which stems from the soundtrack to Le Choriste through to Human after all by Daft Punk and be genuinely thrilled by both. It is also happily tolerant of poorer recordings which is good news with my collection at least.
Downsides? Well beyond the size of the thing, the top plate was resonant out the box and required some damping. The remote is a grim piece of plastic which is reminiscent of those supplied with Beko 14” TV’s. There is also no form of microprocessor control in the unit which means that it always wakes up on the balanced inputs which sadly I don’t use. The looks are of course an acquired taste but mercifully I love the oddly retro futuristic appearance.
It won’t appeal to everyone but if you have an itch that the more normal choices at £1000 aren’t scratching, then give it a listen. What have you got to loose bar some saliva pronouncing the name?
After a slow and painfull learning experience involving testing all sorts of amps at all sorts of shops I ended up at Northside hifi, a shop which I didn't know was soon to empty my wallet again and again. Just walking in casually browsing I saw the electrocompaniet in the back room. After auditioning the ECI-3 with some B&W 705s, 804s, some Vandersteens (model eludes me now) and some Advantagrade Horns I imediately fell inlove with its sound, and at $4000AUD I was very surprised such sound could be obtained at such an entry level price.
The ECI-3 can only be described as fantastic. The sound is lively, yet dull, punchy yet laid back. While this all contradicts, in essence I am trying to explain that this amp can extract the raw emotion in the original piece and style of music. If you like laid back jazz it will rock you gently to sleep, if you enjoy hard rock it will fire you up. It is an amplifier which can reproduce any form of music. Sure it does do some better then others, and the smooth sound can sometimes be percieved as boring for rock listeners however this entirely depends on the speakers which they are coupled with. If you like rock then do not power dull vandersteens with this smooth and warm amp.
The sound itself is very akin to tubes, but without the hassle and ugly (presonal preference) looks. The bass is strong, powerful, and precise. Midrange is smooth, if anything this area is the amp's greatest forte. The reproduction of vocals is nothing short of perfect. The treble is incredibly detailed without the harsh sound normally associated with highly detailed solid state hardware.
The amp itself is stylish with a clear / black front facier and 5 gold buttons (prev, next, vol up, vol down, and power), and the revolving blue light for volume control results in gasps from all. The remote control is equally simple.
The ECI-3 has a major shortcomming. Because of the incredible value of this amplifier it is likely to be coupled with components which are not up to the ECI-3's standard. It is hard to justify a $4000 cdplayer for a $4000 ampflier. The increidble detail resolved also highlights the effects of mains filtering which gives noticable improvments. Likewise interconnects and speaker cables must also be up to the task.
The choice of speakers also becomes very difficult. The warm and smooth texture of the sound in my opinion is best matched with a detailed and slightly brighter speaker. In my case the B&W Nautilus 805 is the perfect suitor despite being a small bookshelf speaker. However don't be fooled by the 2x70watts rating. This amp can also easily drown out the noisy neighborhood.
The fully balanced nature of this amp also mean that 6dB increase along with a boost in sound quality come from using a balanced source, and the balanced outputs allow for easy bi-amping, or to use this integrated as an extremely capable preamp akin to likes of the Electrocompaniet EC4.7
The bottom line is if you are after excellent value for money, and love smooth and warm tube like music this is the amplifier for you. If you enjoy jazz, classical, swing, and other soft music this is the amp for you. If your music taste is very varied than this amplifier will prove itself perfectly capable.
However if you listen to only rock, metal, or pop, and have no interest in other softer forms of music, or have been brought up on North American PA style whollop then this is NOT the amplifier for you. In such a case unless combined with bright punchy speakers it would be best to look towards Classe, Krell and other similar sounding amplifiers.
If you do like the above and have bright and punchy speakers then this is the amp for you.
Providing components are mixed and matched correctly this amplifier is well deserving of its 5 star rating.
A big b*stard with delicate manners.
The ECI-3 is one of those amps that makes any kind of music sound great!
It handles well and build quality is solid. The remote works well but lacks the solid feel of the amp itself. The key reason for looking into this amp is if you are more into music than you are into the actual gear in your rack.
The EC doesn't come out on top in bass reproduction; it does it well, but it is not as tight and gripping as many competitors. Where it really shines is the mid and upper frequencies; vocals tend to sound great. Even poor recordings become enjoyable on the EC. I found myself putting old CD's I couldn't stand hearing on my Amplifix and now they were quite enjoyable. Very well balanced amp which doesn't require a lengthy warm up to sound good. However, it is not recommended (by me) for driving demanding speakers - it hasn't enough oomph! for it. It would play my 86db/5ohm speakers well, but not loud. Kudos for keeping the good sound character on all levels right to the very end though. It is an amp that grow on you - you can't help but like how it sounds!