of electroacoustic history
Future oriented since 1969
Some of the most important milestones in the history of high fidelity audio have been marked by the ESB Company. On this page are some of them: Ideas, insights, basic applications of electro-acoustic principles and above all a passion for high fidelity audio. These are the foundations of our history.
The ESB corporation was officially founded in 1972. But three years earlier we had already entered the market with the historic 240L loudspeaker. Over fifty-plus years, we have traveled the market of high fidelity (home and automotive) through all its evolution, acquiring a wealth of experience and knowledge that is hard to find elsewhere. It has been an assembly of people, work, investments, and insights. What we present in these pages are the most important milestones, both technical and commercial. What we cannot tell, for obvious limitations of space (and memory) are all the human contacts, confrontations, discussions, and discoveries that have occurred during our unique and important journey of more than 50 years.
The ESB 240L
The rise of ESB began in the late '60s, with some loudspeaker models of craft style, but with excellent build quality and sound. Quickly they established themselves in a market overwhelmingly dominated by American brands such as Acoustic Research and JBL. The first hurdle was to sell a product in an Italian market that was so in love with foreign brands. The first loudspeaker built by Vincenzo Biasella (at the time the company ESB did not yet exist) was the 240L. This impressive speaker, with nine drivers and a woofer 45 cm in diameter, was designed with an architect who was commissioned to his house. The resulting product played so well that others who heard it ordered their own sets. These speakers were superb with the Jazz, exceeding the sound of emblazoned American brands, but they played well with classical music also. Vincenzo Biasella saw he would perhaps have to build a lot of speakers and wrote ESB on the back at the connection terminals. Thus was born the ESB brand.
The ESB L-Series
Within a few years, ESB designed and manufactured a series of speakers embracing the principle of the sealed box and putting itself directly in competition with the Acoustic Research (AR) that, in those years, dominated the sound quality market where systems typically had AR speakers, Marantz or McIntosh receiver or separates, and a Thorens turntable for vinyl records. These new ESB L-Series compact bookshelf speakers, in addition to having a relatively better price, set new standards for sound quality. Not only for the Jazz and classical genres (like AR), but also for the Rock Genre (dominated at that time by the JBL bass reflex speakers). The ESB speaker drivers at that time were designed by ESB and manufactured by Ciare in Italy. A choice, that would result in rapid growth, was made to not build drivers (then limited to one design), but instead to build loudspeakers. This so we could reap the advantage of technology advances in collaboration with multiple large driver factories (Italy was then the leader in Europe and possibly in the world for the production of high-end speaker drivers). Producing his own drivers, at this stage in its growth, it would not be possible given the diversity and quantity required by the market. The ESB would become the first company in Italy in the sector of dedicated loudspeaker design.
The UMA unit
Thanks to the dedication of Vincenzo Biasella (then "Boss", but also the engineer) and the contribution of Eng. Ferrer, ESB took a major step to advance the art of loudspeaker design. With the purchase of a set of Bruel & Kjaer tools (which at that time cost more than a house), and the building of an anechoic chamber, ESB reached, within a few years, an industrial dimension. It was the happy moment of the Italian post-war industrial boom, and everything was booming. It was in those years (1970's) that ESB built what has become a myth, and began the conquest of a market, dominated almost exclusively by Americans and British products. Now, thanks to ESB that had broken the wall of foreign domination that existed before, more Italian producers such as RCF, then Sonus Faber and many others were soon born. This was the birth of the Italian school of HiFi. First speakers, then Italian amplifiers and other audio electronics. During those years ESB became large advertiser in audio magazines (Sound and Stereoplay the first, Audiovision, AudioReview and Discoteca arriving later) and grows to know audio engineer Renato Giussani, who often collaborated with these magazines. Renato Giussani will then join the ESB engineering staff at the end of 1979, assuming the role of chief engineer, alongside the founder Vincenzo Biasella. Together, they will develop the 7 Series, which would be the evolution of the philosophy that had already generated the UMA (Unità Medio Alti) aiming at optimizing the listening front, something that no one had done until then.
New production factory
In 1978, the ESB company responded to the need for "limited changes" to the company if future growth plans were to be achieved. ESB begins the construction in Aprilia, Italy of an immense building for a Hi-Fi company (14,000 mt. Square covered surface for manufacturing and offices). The construction takes several years to complete, but that immediately allows ESB to make a qualitative and quantitative leap. Thanks to the commissioning of super modern machinery for the woodworking and a design office that could be envied by anyone in the world, with probably the largest anechoic chamber owned by a manufacturer of speakers of that time (2,000 Cu mt), productivity quickly grows to 1000 loudspeakers per day. However, the dizzying production growth is also accompanied by an equally important growth in terms of quality with the conception of the DSR and the construction of the 7 series with the fundamental contribution of Renato Giussani.
DSR and the 7-Series
The ESB 7 series represented and still represents one of the greatest expressions in the field of music reproduction. It is a line of speakers designed and built with the sole objective of achieving the highest listening quality, of any musical genre and in any environment. The sound characteristics are absolutely exceptional, linked to the natural timbre, the enormous dynamic capacity and high efficiency. But success must be considered to the project, which sees at its heart the DSR, the "distributed spectrum" emission, a revolutionary technique, entirely developed by the ESB research center and thanks to the work of Eng. Giussani. These incredible speakers finally allow you to recreate the image of the stage and its performers down to the smallest detail. Just like alive. Not only Doug Sax will say this, but those who own Series 7 speakers at home still say it today.
“I can’t remember the last time that listened through a complete work. The result was stunning, way beyond accurate; a seamless, effortless recreation of the instruments, the room, the musician’s interplay and emotion - I have never heard a speaker re-create the spatiality of these Italian wonders. The ESB 7/06, a restorative experience“ (see full review here)
Doug Sax, Sheffield Lab about the ESB 7/06 (CES, 1983)
ESB Car Audio
The department dedicated entirely to car stereo was born in 1984. Always with a strong connection with specialized magazines and with a circle of acquaintances that will then merge precisely in the famous Italian school, Vincenzo Biasella, still in vogue as the conductor of the company, knows and introduces into the company Gianni Caserta (who later will become a publisher of specialized magazines such as Giussani). Gianni Caserta is passionate about cars and convinces Biasella to make car speakers. So, given the success of the 7 Series, Giussani was asked to develop a similar series of car speakers. Only the impedances of the speakers change, but the aesthetics remain the same, including a 45 cm sub. which then will be a great success together with the medium-low 1000 MB and the UMA unit. The range is soon enriched with very special dedicated crossovers and thanks to a sales force made up of more engineers than sellers, not only the passion for hi-fi but also the knowledge to build excellent systems in the car is transferred to the market.
Thus was born another era, that of Car Audio.
Nazionali Car Audio
It was March 1985 and the ESB was organizing winter weeks skiing in the beautiful mountains of Northern Italy and inviting some clients and some journalists to relax and ... talk about high fidelity again. It occurred to someone to listen to the systems in the cars of the participants in the ski holiday (coincidentally every car had an audio system) and it was decided to evaluate its characteristics. A discussion and a ranking emerged. The first competition, perhaps in the world, was born, without anyone noticing it yet (the IASCA trophy will come later). What happened? The journalists present at the winter weeks published in their respective magazines an account of this week made up of ratings and comparisons. The result was that many Car Audio enthusiasts wrote asking to participate in the following white weeks in order to obtain a qualified judgment and perhaps some advice from the journalists themselves. The requests were so many that, once again, thanks to the intuitive genius that was not lacking within the ESB staff, a series of competitions were soon organized throughout the Italian territory which, with the very rapid development of a regulation and a Judges School, brought the First Italian Car Audio Trophy to see hundreds of competitors compete in as many provincial and regional competitions. It will be called the NCA Trophy.
The know-how acquired over the years, the result of the great commitment that the trophy required, was transmitted to all the Italian installers who were able to enjoy an absolutely new and rare experience, original for our country and probably unrepeatable. The American trophies began a few years later, IASCA first. The Italians of the NCA immediately positioned themselves on their own installation and listening philosophy, also in contrast to the American one, which favored extremely accurate listening in a car in which the system was also well integrated, making aesthetic solutions widely enjoyable and original spaces of the passenger compartment as well as the luggage rack. The Italian Car Audio Installation School was born. It will have an echo in all of Europe first, then in the rest of the world and subsequent European trophies will follow the Italian path rather than the American one.
8000 and 6000 Series
The 8000 Series can be considered the direct heir of the 7000 series, which has achieved many successes in the world of car stereo. The goal was to renew a variety of speakers in itself exceptional, with the help of the latest technologies and the use of the best materials available today, with an eye to the versatility of installation. Every detail was taken care of with the utmost care, from the choice of materials to the forms, from the construction and finishing of the baskets to the innovative ventilation systems. The 165 mm system with the transmission line vented tweeter was reviewed in Car Audio (US) as one of the best ever and "a joy to listen to". Born in parallel with the 8000 series, the 6000 series comes in two types of products, the Series 6000 Blue Note and the Series 6000 Hard Rock, to provide the listeners of different genres of music just the right system for their individual listening needs. This decision to offer two different series came from experience in a home audio that was still present in the minds of the designers. In domestic audio listening choices of classical music rather than jazz or light had led to construction of different speakers or even choices of brands were just as those of AR and JBL to give priority to the one in the classical music with speakers totally enclosed and low efficiency and other light music and jazz with open speakers (reflex) with high efficiency. As if to say that may not exist a perfect speaker that can play both genders with the same quality results. So the ESB creates the series Blue Note (with blue carbon fiber cones) for fans of classical music and Jazz, and the series Hard Rock (with red carbon fiber cones) for lovers of pop music and rock. Slight changes in frequency responses, in the bass and midrange and efficiencies to tailor the speaker to its particular genre. The differences in the drivers are subtle, but they are there. And ESB was the first to present such an innovative and unique solution.
MB Car Audio School
When the ESB corporate, engineering, and manufacturing facilities were built in Aprilia, Italy, a small “mall” was built in the basement area that contained a small but totally realistic cobble stone street with several HiFi shops stocked with audio gear. Here audio professionals could train reps and salespeople on current audio advances. Knowledge is power, and more knowledge in the industry advances the industry and everyone in it. As car audio was growing and ESB was entering the car audio market, new levels of education were needed. A full installation and fabrication center was added to the training mall for the training of car audio sales and installation personnel.
The National Car Audio Trophy has been a unique and overwhelming experience for the ability to transfer know-how quickly and effectively by ESB and NCA members to Installers. MB Car Audio School was the complement that allowed the same installers to refine techniques of work and to gain knowledge in an environment that can be fairly compared to a graduate school, with the equivalent of a Master's Degree. ESB has invited National Car Audio Professional installers and also installers and installation trainers from the USA (where there has always been high knowledge of the materials and workmanship of the same) to teach to all those who need it the most advanced techniques. MB Car Audio School has had regular and advanced classes for several years throughout the first decade of 2000, centered on several topics, from the use of specialized tools and test equipment to complex technologies like the DSR for a perfect "Sound Quality" drive and the SPL (Sound Pressure Level) for the dB Drag car for the maximum sound pressure.
From 1979 to 1984, Renato Giussani took on the role of Chief Engineer of the Research and Development Department of ESB, designing all the models in the numerous series produced in those years, including the LD, XL, CS, QL, FX, DCM series. and the glorious 7-Series. Renato Giussani had a fundamental contribution to the invention of the DSR (Distributed Spectrum Radiation), applying it to the 7 Series models, the most famous of which was the 7/06 model. The most important feature of the DSR emission technique consists in the possibility of listening to a stereo system, without having to undergo perspective or timbral distortions, even from off-center positions with respect to the classic position at the top of an isosceles triangle outlined with respect to the two loudspeakers.
Between the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s, ESB dedicated itself to the “professional” audio market, offering a series of loudspeakers with high efficiency and absolute construction quality, using the best professional drivers available. A series dedicated mainly to recording studios, where the highest neutrality was required, but also auditoriums, theaters and discos. The FX series will soon be chosen for the listening room of many lovers of high dynamic systems or even just of the "monitor" tone that shared these speakers with other famous examples of studio speakers of the time.
The midrange/tweeter group (Fostex components, as well as the woofers) is built to place the emission planes of the drivers at the same distance from the listening point, without appreciable delays. The loudspeaker is equipped with an original crossover circuit that allows to obtain an “extra kick” of sound pressure when the second of the two woofers (both of 15”) is switched from the passive (or braking) to the active function. This particular concept allows to use the same loudspeaker in three different configurations. The entire loudspeaker is able to handle amplifiers up to 1000 watts peak, at the limit of saturation, with an extraordinary efficiency of 100 dB/W/m.
The FX series is a further demonstration of the high level achieved in those years by ESB in the field of loudspeakers, occupying the most advanced positions in the world in terms of research skills and construction solutions, even in the professional field.
The GOLD Series
"The ear wants its part!"This advertising slogan was the presentation of the Gold Series.
Dedicated to those who rate the quality strictly with their ears and was appreciated by the "golden ears" of the most critical experts. With the simple elegance of the finishes, the Gold Series focuses on the musical result, from the smaller book-shelf models to the Flagship Gold 4 and Gold 5.
"The Gold Four had all the necessary characteristics to play a leading role and will be able to conquer the ever-growing audience of audiophiles" (Audio Review, Sept. '92)
“The Gold Four allow you to bring home not only a high degree of musicality but also an excellent completeness of response, with a bass that is certainly a great speaker, at a drastically competitive price. The Gold Four are able to easily accompany much more expensive amplifications" (Suono, Gen. '93)
"Examined from different points of view, the Gold Four appear as one of those speakers made with the clear intention of marking a point of reference in the somewhat chaotic panorama of world electroacoustics..." (Stereoplay, May '93)
"The Gold Four are loudspeakers with absolutely Audiophile Oriented characteristics, I can hardly say that I had rarely heard in the past a speaker system that was so clearly addressed to the audiophile people... A small masterpiece to listen carefully"
(Fedeltà del Suono, June/July '93)
The new 7000 Series
ESB has operated over the last decade with an output of absolute reference for what concerns loudspeakers, designed and manufactured solely for use in the car. These excellent speakers were added in 1993. This new line was named the 7000 Series, as they were a match of the famous 7 Series home speakers. The 7000 series was greeted immediately with a real critical acclaim and audience, thanks to their remarkable sonic characteristics and absolutely top level construction. Particularly notable were the UMA-800 unified mid-high unit and the 480-S2 46cm subwoofer, but many other components were also made to complete the Series.