The beautiful ESSENCE is the only high-end speaker system designed from the ground up specifically for computers. Made in Switzerland.
About this project
A warm welcome to our campaign, and a huge thank you to everyone who has already pledged, and to those who will pledge. This campaign is for you!
What is Kickstarter? Read the basics here.
Watch the video in higher-quality HD:
The ESSENCE is being hailed by the audio press as the world’s best computer speaker system and a standout product heralding the future of audio. It’s a project which audiophiles, music lovers, film buffs, and gamers who love high quality audio can’t ignore. Setting new paradigms for a speaker of this size and price, the award-winning ESSENCE represents the best of the best in loudspeaker engineering and design, leveraging sophisticated methods and techniques, a coaxial driver, resonance-free aluminium cabinet, and the finest components to drastically miniaturize the high-end experience.
More than just being about the ESSENCE, however, this is a campaign about bringing quality audio back into mainstream eyes, about making quality matter. The ESSENCE is a #QualityRevolution
If you love the ESSENCE as much as we do, please share this campaign with your friends, family, colleagues, and social media. Every little bit matters to get the word out!
As a point of reference, Fr 1199 (Swiss francs) is about 1240 US dollars at the current exchange rate. Unlike a computer or camera, the ESSENCE is built to last and will not go obsolete within the blink of an eye. You’ll still be enjoying them years from now.
Today, the highest audio quality possible is from computers. Surprising as it sounds, it’s the truth, and explains why most audio companies now use computers to demonstrate their products. Moreover, more than ever before, many of us spend our days in front of a computer. And often, we listen to music when we do. Unfortunately, it’s usually on a pair of small plastic speakers or cheap headphones that probably came for free with something along the way. If that’s the case, you’re really missing out! The Essence is the perfect speaker if you use the desktop apps of Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, or other popular music streaming services, or have a large music collection on your harddrive.
For true fans of music and films, few things beat out the experience of listening on a pair of really great speakers. For those who want the ultimate desktop sound quality, there is no better option than the Essence, from Feniks Audio. The Essence is a true high end product, designed with a purist approach, aiming for the highest levels of sonic quality, and using the highest quality components.
The Essence is the ideal sound system for computers, televisions, turntables, and for use in small recording studios. Beautiful and compact, it features:
- in-house developed 4.5″ coaxial driver for superior stereo imaging
- integrated 24-bit/96kHz DAC custom designed for the Essence by world-renowned electronics specialist Gordon Rankin, based around the latest ESS Sabre DAC
- 50W/channel ICEpower amplification module
- USB, Toslink, and analog inputs
- audiophile-quality amplified headphone stage for late night listening
Made in Switzerland, a die-cast aluminium cabinet and an innovative modular assembly system ensure that craftsmanship is second to none. With the exception of a few screws, every component is custom designed and manufactured exclusively for the Essence or not available off-the-shelf.
Less than 20cm tall and just 12cm wide, the Essence is:
- a work of art for the eyes, ears, and soul
- the smallest genuinely high-end speaker system in the world
- the first high-end computer speaker system in the world designed from the outset for this very purpose. It’s not just a retrofit of a traditional, over-sized MDF speaker
- in a review by popular audiophile website 6moons received the rare Blue Moon Award and was called the “world’s best computer speaker system”.
You won’t find a speaker system of similar quality and functionality for anywhere near the price of the Essence. Before we decided to do a Kickstarter campaign, we looked into the traditional distributor/dealer sales model, but the high margins would have required setting the price at close to $3000, not a good option for our customers. Thanks to Kickstarter, we can now offer them for less than half that!
Watch Youtube channel Hardwarecanuck’s video review below (over 60,000 views!) – “I didn’t think I’d be satisfied with any set of speakers, until now… deliver an absolutely fantastic listening experience.” And yes, we’ve contacted 3M and the rubber feet issue has now been resolved.
Also seen on Kicking It Forward and:
The Essence is 3x smaller than any other high-end speaker system on the market. State-of-the-art electronics play their part, but the real secret is preservation of energy. Here’s how.
Most speakers use an MDF cabinet. MDF is an inexpensive, relatively soft material which acts like a sponge. It eats energy, softening and deadening the sound. The Essence, however, has a die-cast aluminum cabinet, tightened together under immense forces with stainless steel bolts, essentially turning the cabinet into one solid, inert block free of resonances. This results in a cabinet which, unlike an MDF cabinet, doesn’t swallow energy, resulting in the exceptional clarity the Essence is becoming known for.
The coaxial driver also plays its part. Besides the superior stereo imaging inherent to a coaxial driver, it has an extremely light moving mass of just 4.5 grams, which is less than half the weight typical for a 4.5″ driver. You can’t beat physics, and just like a small, light car can change direction quicker than a heavier car, a light moving mass results in sound that is far quicker, livelier, and more engaging. Combine that with the inert cabinet, and you start to understand why the Essence is so special and why it sounds so powerful despite its small size.
It’s hard to argue that this isn’t the most important aspect of a speaker, so the audio performance of the Essence has been our primary focus and driving force from the start. It’s also the aspect we’re most proud of.
The sound quality of the Essence turns everyone’s heads, whether it’s the first high-end sound system someone’s heard, or an audiophile veteran. The greatest skeptic is convinced the moment they hear them. They’re that good, something multiple audio critics have confirmed in their reviews.
In short, they sound fantastic, with a powerful, dynamic presentation, and superb stereo imaging. The way the sound is spread between the speakers is almost holographic. Listeners particularly praise the incredible clarity and speed of the sound. The purity of the sound takes the breath away.
The Essence has a very rich, clear midrange, so vocals, horns, and guitars are particularly impressive. A local female vocalist told us she has never heard herself sound as good, and as realistic, as on the Essence.
Bass is quick, tight, and rhythmic, not mushy and boomy like many other speakers. They have what is often referred to as the “jump factor”.
It’s the sound quality of the Essence that most turns heads during demonstrations, and as good as they are as a home or office system, they are also ideally suited as compact studio monitors due to the neutrality and pureness of the sound.
Here’s what Martin Gisler of Martin Studios in Beringen, Switzerland had to say:
“I had the opportunity to hear a demonstration of the wonderful Essence speakers at Martin Studios. It was great to hear Ted’s ideas and concepts about building loudspeakers. Listening to the Essence sound was a great experience. The speakers sound amazing and though they are small, they are very balanced. No doubt a serious contender to all the big brands.“
With USB, Toslink, and analog inputs, the Essence is far from being just a computer speaker system, even though that’s what we set out to design. It’s an incredibly versatile system ideal for a wide range of devices.
- asynchronous USB with a Type-B connector for plug-and-play driver-free operation on Windows and Mac computers
- can also use with an Apple Camera Connection Kit (iPhone/iPad) or OTG adapter (Android) to play music from your phone
- the system automatically enters and wakes from standby when you turn off your computer or put it to sleep
- Televisions which have an Optical audio out
- Bluetooth receivers which have an Optical audio out
- many other digital devices such as CD players
- the system automatically enters and wakes from standby when you turn your digital device on or off
- 3.5mm stereo mini jack for phones
- RCA/AUX inputs for phono stages for an awesome compact turntable speaker system. The analog and digital signals in the Essence run in parallel, meaning the analog signal is never digitized for a pure analog experience
- auto standby/wake function so once you choose an input, you almost never have to press a button again
- top-mounted volume wheel with a Teflon washer for buttery-smooth operation
- high quality switchable amplified headphone output
- the cabinet is entirely die-cast aluminium and composed of a total of three interlocking panels that go together in a unique fully modular assembly method called Feniks Modular Assembly System (FMAS)
- a system of grooves which run along all joints and tension rods across the length of the cabinet acoustically seal and lock the entire cabinet to form one solid inert block free from resonances
- in-house developed 4.5″ coaxial driver for point-source stereo imaging and breathtaking time coherence, resulting in a dynamic range unheard of for speakers of this size
- 50W/channel ICEpower® amplification module
- made in Switzerland
The Essence is CE certified
The Essence is available in 8 visually striking and unique two-tone color combinations.
Front panel: matte powder-coating in black or white
Side panel: glossy powder-coating in black, white, blue, or red
You can tell us your color choice at the end of the campaign when we send out the backer survey.
Fr 1199 Early Bird Special reward option
Fr 1299 reward option
Choose any of the black and white combos.
Fr 1349 reward option
Fr 1499 custom RAL side panel color reward option
Your chance to have an Essence all your own! Choose the standard black or white front panel, and any RAL color of your choice for the side panel. For a chart of RAL color options, please gohere and you’ll be able to let us know your choice at the end of the campaign when we send out the backer survey.
Fr 1599 Limited Edition Silver Metallic reward option
A beautiful glossy metallic finish. In contrast to the other options, both the front and side panels are coated in the same finish.
The image below is for illustrative purposes only.
All reward options include free worldwide shipping!
We will do all we can to get as many pairs shipped in August, but many will probably ship in September.
Feniks was founded with the aim of providing the best listening experience and exceptional quality to as many customers as possible without compromises. With the shifts in listening habits over the past decade away from traditional hi-fi to computers and all-in-one devices, true not just among general consumers but audiophiles, too, a regular speaker made no sense at all. The same was true with us. We spent hours each day on the computer working, watching YouTube and movies, and listening to music. Problem was there was no high quality computer speaker available on the market so you had to settle between either generic plastic junk or spring for a pair of high-end monitors and the associated electronics (not ideal anyway as they’re designed for farfield listening). So we decided we had to do it ourselves, and Feniks was born.
The Essence, with an internal 24-bit/96kHz DAC designed by world-renowned electronics specialist Gordon Rankin, is the latest generation of this concept, and it’s the only high-end computer speaker system designed from the ground up to be a computer speaker system. Putting a DAC into a traditional large bookshelf speaker, as the “competition” has tried, does not a computer speaker make. More than just that, however, the Essence is the most compact high-end speaker available today, period. If you want truly stellar performance in a small package or have limited space, there is no better speaker on the market for you.
It all started with the ES-1, a colorful little speaker we made in our garage. Only 10 pairs were built and mostly sold among friends. Still, it tested the concept of what a truly high-end computer speaker could be, and sounded great.
Next came the ES-2, the first of our speakers to feature an aluminum cabinet, and the sonic benefits were immediately obvious. We made 60 pairs of the ES-2, and it was sold only in Switzerland. The ES-2 received first place in a Schaffhausen innovation competition in 2013, the IVS Innovationspreis.
With the Essence, things got serious. We set out to design a far more mature product, both in terms of design and technology. An internal DAC was a must, so we contacted the best man in the business to help us design it, Gordon Rankin. Gordon is often referred to as the godfather of high-end USB audio, being essentially the first person to make a high-quality USB DAC with his own line of Wavelength products.
It was also essential that it be far more efficient to manufacture, so we decided to make a die-cast aluminum cabinet, and use a special grade, low resonance alloy. One of the huge benefits of die-casting is that every piece is identical to within a few microns, giving us far more control over the final outcome.
It was also important that the styling be an evolution of the ES-2, as that design was well loved and great for acoustics. We played around with a few options.
All the concepts feature a design trait which made it into the final design, that of the top surface being angled towards the listener to make reaching the volume wheel an easier task.
After the design had been more or less finalized, we proceeded to make prototypes, this time out of aluminum, not cardboard. These were made using a method called sand casting, wherein an expensive one-off mold is made. It’s the same method Ferrari uses to cast their engine blocks.
We then moved on to making 12 preproduction samples, made using the same die-cast molds that will be used to manufacture the production versions you will receive. These samples are nearly identical to the final product.
The Essence is packed with industry-first innovations aimed at making the best sounding speaker possible, and it’s not value engineered to reach a target price: this is a superbly engineered cost-no-object precision machine with every visible surface made from metal.
- Each speaker cabinet consists of just 3 thick aluminum precision die-cast panels made of a special low resonance aluminium alloy.
- Every piece has its own mold, which weigh hundreds of pounds, and cost upwards of $10,000 each.
- The side panel is clamped between the front and rear panel using threaded stainless steel tension rods, interlocking with each other thanks to a system of grooves which run along the entire length of the joints.
- The immense pressure under which the rods are tightened bonds the panels together, almost as if they were one solid block. locks the free resonance modes at the edges of the panels. The panels stay under continuous compression, further eliminating unwanted resonances.
- Internal ribs not only reinforce the panels, but their irregular placement eliminates resonances at different frequencies.
- The thick panels work as radiators for the electronics inside.
- In the Essence, each component serves as part of a whole, all being bolted one after another to the front panel, which in turn is sandwiched between the driver basket and external grill ring, forming a 14mm thick front panel.
- We call the modular nature of this system the Feniks Modular Assembly System, or FMAS.
- The bass ports, integrated into the casts of the side panels, are different lengths in the right and left channels, thus covering different frequencies. The foot panel below acts to extend the length of the port.
- In most speakers the bass port is tuned to add volume to the bass, usually creating a distorted “boom” at a specific frequency. In the Essence the port serves to extend the low frequencies, thereby giving a more balanced, clean, and natural sound.
The coaxial driver
The 4.5″ custom-designed coaxial driver of the Essence is the heart of the system. A coaxial driver is the ideal choice for a nearfield computer system as it guarantees a point-source sound, meaning superior stereo imaging. A coaxial driver is also less sensitive to proper placement because you don’t need to match the alignment of multiple drivers.
- 115mm mid-woofer, and 20mm tweeter
- Rigid die-cast aluminum basket, aerodynamic to minimize rearward reflections
- Combination of a very light cellulose membrane (moving mass of only 4.5g) and powerful neodymium magnets ensures high efficiency and awesome dynamic range
- High power handling due to large 32mm voice coil and Kapton™ voice coil former
- Integrated high quality passive crossover, made exclusively with audiophile grade components such as air core inductors and PP caps
- Pro grade gold plated connector terminals
Feniks is the incredibly passionate father and son team of Ted and Robert Kwolek, an ideal combination of an engineer and a designer. We’ve always been obsessed with quality and the best of the best, and that’s translated into everything we do at Feniks. We love music and films, and strongly believe that everyone deserves to hear their favorite tracks in the best possible way, without compromises.
We’re based in the Canton of Schaffhausen in Switzerland, known around the world as the home of renowned watchmaker IWC.
As amazing as the Essence is, we hit a roadblock: the steep margins of high-end audio distributors and dealers. This industry is not geared for selling products to the masses. Rather, it aims for low-volume yet high margin products, where a single sale can net a distributor and dealer thousands of dollars. Did you know a high-end audio manufacturer only gets about a third of the retail price? The result, plain to see across the industry, is increasingly high prices and little interest in fair pricing. This situation doesn’t leave much room for comparatively inexpensive yet exceptionally innovative and high-quality products like the Essence, and goes completely against our original aim of getting great quality to as many customers as possible.
The industry was pushing us to set a US MSRP at close to $3000. Are they worth it? Compared to other products on the market with similarly high margins, absolutely yes, but a price like that closes the door on the every day music lover we most want to reach. It would transform our product from something an enthusiast can afford to a luxury product for the 1%. That’s not what we want, hence Kickstarter. We’re reaching out directly to you, our fans and customers, giving you a chance to purchase our product direct at less than half price, and worldwide shipping is included! Did we mention they’re actually made in Switzerland? It’s the only way to maintain strict control over our exacting standards.
We believe that everyone deserves to experience the highest fidelity sound in the comfort of their own home. If you want the best desktop listening experience in the world, and appreciate the beautiful design and bulletproof construction, look no further than the Essence. You’ll get to experience some of the best stereo imaging on the market, a pure clear sound that rivals the best of the best at any price, and a fantastic DAC and headphone amp to boot. Let it enable you to enjoy your music and films more than you ever have before. Reviews confirm that the Essence is the real deal: don’t miss your chance to back the “world’s best computer speaker system”.
It’s been a long and hard road to get to where we are now and bring the Essence into reality, and we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved as underdogs in this industry. But we need your support to get to the next step and bring the Essence into production and into the hands of lovers of true quality.
More than anything that’s what we believe this campaign is about, a vote for true quality, craftsmanship, and beauty.
Join the #QualityRevolution and support our project. Thank you.
Risks and challenges
We learned a whole lot about how to do things right, and what not to do, with the ES-2 project, so we feel very confident with the Essence. Unlike a lot of projects on Kickstarter, the Essence is already fully developed, fully tested both by ourselves and professional critics, all of our suppliers are in place, and everyone ready to go.
The speakers you see in the photographs are not handmade prototypes, but rather preproduction samples made in limited quantities on the production machinery, using the same die-cast molds that will be used for the production run.
As with any manufacturing endeavor, however, delays are always a possibility, especially when the quality standards are as high as ours. Which is why we are not waiting for the end of the campaign, but already coordinating manufacturing and supplier with our partners. We will strive to make sure everything stays on track and keep backers updated regularly.