Does the concept sound familiar to you? An active compact loudspeaker with wireless capabilities, an optional wireless hub, a second bass membrane at the rear, and an insane depth for the size – right that would be the Buchardt A500. Now the German Buchardt distributor Hifi Pilot comes with its interpretation of the successful concept. What are the differences, and why did you co-exist these products? We’re looking at the Econik Six (from 3,699 euros), the larger of the two currently available stereo models, and the matching stereo hub from Platin (300 euros extra in the set, 700 euros as a single device).
But first of all, let’s clarify what the Econik Six compact Floorstanding speakers are. For all those who have not read the Buchardt A500 test (from 3,500 euros), here is a summary of the principle: These are 2.5 or 3-way compact loudspeakers with integrated power amplifiers, which are not only because of their size with impressive depth. Wait, 2.5 or 3 ways in one model? More on that later. Users can adapt the sound to their preferences and/or the room using various sound presets played directly onto the speaker via a USB stick. With the optional stereo or surround hubs from Platin, automatic calibration systems and DSP and streaming functionalities are added.
The reasons why the German Buchardt sales decided to establish the Econik brand may not immediately be obvious. However, after a conversation with one of the heads of sales, Berthold Daubner, it turns out that the decision was deliberately market-oriented and made in agreement with Buchardt’s Danes:
“In the past, we had many inquiries from Buchardt customers who wanted to expand their existing 2.0 system to a surround set, which would not be a problem with WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio), since this wireless transmission standard currently supports lossless transmission with up to to 7.1 or 5.1.2 channels allowed. Since Buchardt focuses on pure stereo reproduction, we decided in consultation to offer our customers exactly this option with the Econik models. Irrespective of this, for many years we have toyed with the idea of developing our own loudspeaker based on our sound philosophy, which would give our customers greater freedom of choice.”
Accordingly, with the Four (2,699 euros), Econik has smaller speakers in its portfolio, for example, for the surround channels, and with the Seven, a center speaker for 1,949 euros. Incidentally, at the time of this test, Econik was offering special introductory conditions on its website.
Differentiation instead of differences: materials, drivers, and a clever bass
Regarding differentiation, the first thing to mention is the deliberately sustainable production of the Econik models, which takes place in Germany under fair working conditions. Even the outer packaging of the Econik Six loudspeakers is sealed with paper tape, as are the boxes of the individually wrapped boxes. If you open them, you are faced with a corner protector made of a material with no petroleum. I’m guessing something like solidly formed cornstarch because it smells a little like popcorn. And the loudspeakers are not wrapped in plastic, foam, or artificial velvet but in a high-quality jute bag with a drawstring. I like that. Even the included power cords come without plastic packaging. It can be as simple as that – worthy of imitation.
The differences to the Buchardt speakers don’t end there: The drivers come from different manufacturers with different membrane materials, and the Econik Six drivers are larger than those of the Buchardt A500 across the board. The tweeter of the Six is only flanked by a suggested waveguide but surrounded by a decorative ring, the design of which can be chosen from four types of wood. The optional front covers of the Econik loudspeakers, which are fitted with strong magnets, are even available in six different colors. Last, the loudspeaker housing, the internal wiring, and the insulation material differ.
And then there is the dynamic bass adjustment of the Econik loudspeakers: a volume-dependent frequency increase in the low-frequency range, which considers that our hearing perceives low frequencies as relatively weaker at low volumes. Correspondingly, the correction boosts the bass most at low levels and then steadily less with increasing volume. From 70 decibels in the room, there is no more adjustment. The correction is based on “the latest scientific findings and the ISO 226:2003 standard,” says Econik.
So much for the first tour of the Econik Six; let’s look at the features in detail next – and start with the speakers:
The hardware of the Econik Six
As already mentioned, the chassis of the Econik Six is located on the front and back of the speakers. All drivers come from the Norwegian manufacturer Seas.
For the tweeter, Econik opted for a 25-millimeter fabric dome from Seas’ Excel series with low tolerances, thanks to the wide Sonomex surround. The low-viscosity magnetic fluid ensures optimal cooling and a low resonance frequency. The injection-molded rear chamber of the tweeter is also designed to effectively suppress rear reflections and resonances. And thanks to a double-magnet system, the tweeter achieves greater efficiency than single-magnet drives and increased control over the voice coil and thus, impulse fidelity.
The 16.5 cm bass-midrange drivers are from the Seas Prestige series. The membrane with distinctive speckles is based on a reed and paper mixture. Among other things, Econik attributes “a natural melting sound” to the material. The magnet system has a light voice coil made of copper-coated aluminum (there’s always something new…), which promotes good transient and, thus, impulse behavior. The metal basket’s large ” window ” minimizes sound reflections, airflow noise, and cavity resonances.
The active modules of the Econik Six, developed in Denmark and manufactured in China, are not purely proprietary solutions but, like the Stereo Hub, come from the manufacturer Platin and, according to Berthold Daubner, are used in various well-known products. There are reasons for that; he says: “With WiSA, XLR, four power amp modules, each with 150 watts of power and a freely programmable digital crossover, the module offers everything we need – in particular the option of loading sound presets directly via USB stick. The module has also proven high-quality, sound, reliable, and durable.”
The “Stereo Hub” – wireless control center and preamplifier
The Econik Six loudspeakers can be operated in a classic way as “normal” active stereo loudspeakers via analog XLR connections with a preamplifier. However, the user misses out on the possibility of influencing the sound that goes beyond the sound settings via a USB stick and a lot of comfort. The Stereo Hub – in the package only 300 euros more instead of 700 euros – enables the speakers to be integrated wirelessly into a 2.0 to 7.1 system via WiSA and acts as a preamp with additional inputs. The music signal is transmitted to the loudspeakers with a word width of 24 bits and a sampling rate of 96 kHz. The 40 meters specified by the manufacturer apply to “barrier-free” radio links; according to the sales department, a stable connection can be established at 10 to 15 meters through two walls. My home office or listening room is too small to exhaust the checking.
The TV, CD player, or even a phono preamp can contact the Stereo Hub thanks to its analog and digital inputs. High-fidelity networking is also possible via DLNA/UPnP, including native collaboration with almost all popular music streaming services. Chromecast (also a Roon endpoint) is supported, as is Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX. At a later date, compatibility with AirPlay 2 will also be updated; currently, the hub “only” works with Apple AirPlay.
By the way: for surround fans, there is the Surround Hub X, which expands the possibilities of the stereo hub to up to 7.1 or 5.1.2 channels. And if you first bought a Stereo Hub and then want to upgrade to Surround, you can send the “old” device back after receiving the Surround Hub, and the purchase price of the Stereo Hub will be reimbursed. This also contributes to sustainability.
radio remote control
The radio remote control switches itself on automatically when it detects movement or a connected source device is switched on. Thanks to its LED display, you can theoretically operate the Stereo Hub from another room and still have an overview of the selected source and volume.
Sound presets and calibration system
The sound presets of the Econik Six and the calibration system of the Stereo Hub, these are two fundamentally different features. The sound presets can be used without a hub, as they are loaded onto the speakers via a USB stick, and modify the crossover settings directly there. “In this way, customers can optimally tune their loudspeakers to different applications without additional hardware. Since the digital crossover offers these possibilities, we use them as a matter of course, whereby Buchardt and we develop and tune our loudspeakers according to our design and sound philosophy,” says Berthold Daubner.
On the other hand, the calibration system and the manually adjustable EQ work via the Econik app and, thus, solely via the hub. The calibration works in a few minutes – but only with Apple iOS devices because only the built-in microphones are calibrated, and the quality is good enough. Logical: In the Android world, a wide variety of microphones are used, so a reliable measurement is almost impossible. If you don’t have an iPhone, you probably know someone whose iPhone you can borrow – theoretically, the measurement only has to be carried out once in each room. The manufacturer also announced that a special measurement microphone would be launched in the year, making Econik owners independent of iPhone devices.
Sound test and comparisons: Econik Six
I could now make it pretty easy for myself and guide you to test the Buchardt A500 because we are not only dealing with speakers that are very similar in structure but also similarly tuned. But despite all the similarities in the construction principle and the fundamentally related, rich, deep-bass, and rather smooth sound character, the Econik Six differ from the Buchardt half-sisters not only because of different equipment and different production sites but also through individual sound signatures in detail, which – spoiler – in the case of the Econik appear a little more natural.
But from the beginning:
Setup and test procedure…
I conduct the basic assessment of the sound of our test speakers via an analog XLR connection to my trusty Norma Audio Revo SC-2 preamp (5,400 euros) with an integrated DAC module (2,000 euros) and the upstream Waversa Systems Wstreamer (999 euros). I also judge the sound presets in this configuration. I then examine the influence of the wireless transmission via the Platin Stereo Hub separately, as well as that of the automatic calibration via the Econik app. The loudspeakers are spaced two meters apart with 90 centimeters of air in the back (i.e. a little further away from the wall than my bulkier ATC SCM50PSL, currently 15,500 euros). They are only slightly angled towards the listening position.
The analog standard
Wow, that’s big. So not the speakers themselves, but the space they design. Assuming the appropriate canned music and controlled by the high-quality Norma audio front end, the Econik Six set up a truly impressive stage that stretches from the far left to the far right next to the speakers. Voices such as Jacintha‘s in “Danny Boy” and individual natural instruments depict the Econik in a pleasantly large yet clearly defined manner; they are given enough space to develop and set boundaries. The events appear unveiled and present, although the entire virtual stage construct slips a little further behind the speaker level than I know it. But it doesn’t feel remote.
Irrespective of this, the small active ones can speed. Especially with transients, the Econik Six shine with a feather-light gait and effortless sprinting ability, which may not be unique in this class but is nevertheless remarkable and is reminiscent of similarly expensive passive compacts such as the ATC SCM19 (3,300 euros) (which then still have the correspondingly high-quality electronics need).
Speed itself is one thing, the way the acceleration is implemented – especially below the treble – another: Al di Meola‘s lower guitar strings on the very produced album Morocco Fantasia give a hint of what Squarepusher‘s electro impulses on Hard Normal Daddy or in Madonna’s “Die Another Day” in the middle and bass range confirm: Hard dynamic jumps round off the Econik Six a bit. At least compared to crisp contemporaries like the Cabasse The Pearl Akoya (3,120 euros/pair). In return, the Econik Six gave the French pearls the physically perceptible power of cracking bass coarse dynamics as in Nenad Vasilic’“Bass Drops” (Album: Bass Room) ahead – housing volume and membrane surface pay off with all intelligent equalization and long excursion.
What the Econik Six have in common with the Cabasse (and the Buchardt A500) is a basic tonal character with a rather homely timbre in the standard tuning. Compared to the A500, the Econik Six are a little reserved (good!), but “slim” is still something else. On the plus side, there is an almost enormous depth; for example, in Yello’s “Kiss the Cloud,” the deep rolling sub-basses in Nicolas Jaar’s “Colomb” (Album: Space Is Only Noise) lacks the last bit of contour and precision. But: You can’t and shouldn’t expect that from active streaming speakers in this price range – it’s amazing that you can still hear (and feel!) these signals so clearly with such compact speakers. Incidentally, the sound presets or the automatic calibration are very helpful, depending on the installation situation. The standard bass tuning should, therefore, by no means be understood as a “baseline” but as a “maximum expression” that then only further “domesticates” the individual sound presets.
The mids are neutral for the Econik Six; the bass range gives voices over the lower mids only a warmer note. The articulation noises, the breathing of singers, the timbres of stringed instruments, the subtle brush noises on a snare drum head – the Evonik Six transport all of this not in a studiously analytical manner but pleasantly effortlessly. Here I would like to point out the sound presets, particularly the 3-way preset, which also significantly influence the midrange – and not just tonally. More on that in a moment.
In the treble, the Econik Six are slightly reserved compared to their Burchardt sisters. Here we end up again in the realm of taste, and the interpretation of the Econik meets my opinion a little better. This applies, in particular, to emphatically audiophile music material such as “Polite” by Erika de Casier, but also vice versa to rubbish produced stuff from the noise core corner. If you like it more brilliantly at the top, you’re welcome to play the “Brilliance” preset, et voilà!
The sound presets
The conclusion on this in advance: The presets fulfill their purpose, as has already shone through here and there, and show comprehensible results. The 3-way preset is the most convincing for me. With this, the basses appear domesticated, which can reduce the bassy fun factor a bit, but in the end, it leaves the most balanced impression.
You can still go deep, but with this filter, the tonal emphasis on the lower frequencies has almost completely disappeared without sounding ironically hard or humorless. The second effect: The mids are slimmer and, above all, more open, transparent, and free in the upper area – that’s how the tester ears spoiled by ATC bear noses like it!
The Platin Stereo Hub and the room measurement
In contrast to the test of the Buchardt A500, the stereo hub no longer represents such a significant bottleneck in the – admittedly unfair – comparison to the 7.4K euro Norma DAC pre-analog control via XLR. Neither the spatial representation nor the dynamics differ as clearly from my reference devices as I remember with the A500. The platinum has probably been improved, and the radio link and the internal signal processing of the amplifier modules have been polished – very nice! However, some caution is required when setting it up. If the hub is very close to a strong WiFi router or repeater, interference can occur, expressed in audible crackling and disconnections, at least in my experience.
The automatic room calibration via the app only affects the frequency response below 500 Hertz. The app reliably recognizes the known room modes around 40 and just under 90 Hz in my room. The calculated correction intervenes audibly – there is no longer a trace of bass emphasis, all the more tightness. Be sure to try it!
The bottom line for my listening taste is that the Econik Six places itself ahead of the Buchardt A500 – although, in the end, that is also a matter of taste because the somewhat better coordinated and slightly restrained bass and the more defined mids of the Econik are opposed to the more lively and detailed treble of the Buchardt.
But that’s only part of the story. Because the Econik Six should not simply be seen as “active loudspeakers” but rather as the “hardware” of a sound machine consisting of several components – hardware and software alike. This system can only demonstrate its full potential and do justice to Econik’s intentions when combined with the software and adapted to the respective situation and installation at the user’s home.
The Swabian developers have set themselves a high goal: They want to offer simplicity, compactness, and maximum flexibility at a high (sound) level at an affordable price – and they can do it. The Econik Six are quite simply several loudspeakers in one – or even several systems in one. And if stupendous depth, pressure, fullness, generous reproduction, brisk transient reproduction and a clear vocal range are important, it will be very difficult to find better suitable loudspeakers for room sizes between 20 and 60 square meters.
In addition, there is good conscience given the sustainability in sourcing and production, the optional variations of the modern, simple design, and the possibility of putting together a powerful surround system with the smallest space requirement.
The Econik Six…
- Put a real pound in the bass on the scales, which makes larger loudspeakers appear almost redundant. They play (not only for their size) insanely deep into the bass cellar and can even do it louder than expected – a (well-groomed) party sound system would not be a problem.
- Depending on the preset or with/without preset, the bass ranges from voluminous to semi-fat, always more supple, sedan-sprung than rock-hard, sporty.
- Sound high-quality (!) analog controlled, even more natural than via the WiSA WiFi connection.
- Using a three-way preset, one can score points with openness, attention to detail, and definition; with analog control, the Econik always tends to be slightly warmer.
- Hold back slightly at the top in the standard setting, which can be quickly changed with the Brilliance preset.
- Come with a treble that – instead of indulging in high resolution/analytics – remains engaging and pleasant. No harshness, but also no whitewashing.
- Design a virtual stage that is extremely generous in width and depth, which is built up behind the loudspeakers. Voices and instruments seem a bit larger than “normal,” which promotes the charming character of the playback, but the space between the actors also appears well-defined and spacious. Sufficiently three-dimensional image with clearly defined outlines.
- Offer sound presets that can be loaded via USB stick in every operating mode, which enables effective adjustments with a view to the setup or personal taste.
- It can also be automatically adjusted to a room below 500 Hertz using the Stereo Hub and Econik app, or the frequency response can be manually influenced within certain limits.
- are very well made and, thanks to the multicolored optional front covers, fit into almost any environment – whether inconspicuous or as a deliberate splash of color.
- Model: Econic Six
- Concept: closed, compact 2.5/3-way active speaker with DSP and wireless option
- Price: 3,699 euros, plus 300 euros for the “Stereo Hub” bundled with the speakers, magnetic speaker covers between 45 and 60 euros/pair
- Power internal amplifier: 3 x 150 watts per speaker (class D)
- WiFi: WiSA 24-bit / 96kHz lossless
- Analog inputs: XLR
- Extended interfaces via stereo hub: 1 x USB audio, 3 x optical (S/PDIF), 1 x coaxial (S/PDIF), 1 x HDMI (ARC), Bluetooth 5.2 | analogue: cinch and 3.5 mm jack
- Streaming via Stereo Hub: UPnP/DLNA, Apple Airplay, Chromecast (Roon Endpoint), Spotify Connect
- Dimensions and weight: 200 x 380 x 300 mm (W x H x D), 12.1 kg
- Colors: satin black, satin white
- Miscellaneous: USB sound presets and an automatic calibration system using a stereo hub, Lossless Advanced EQ
- Manufacturer’s Warranty: Speakers – 5 years (10 years upon registration); Stereo Hub – 2 years (5 years upon registration)