May 1, 2009
EgglestonWorks Dianne Loudspeakers
The 2009 Consumer Electronics Show seemed to me a study in
contrasts: the wave of computer-based audio components vs. the increasingly irrelevant CD
transport; the rise of several new high-end-audio companies as other, historically
prominent companies struggle to survive; some newish manufacturers of brutally expensive
gear practically begging folks to visit their rooms, while lower-priced, higher-value
products drew more attention than their makers imagined it would. That last contrast
applied somewhat to the EgglestonWorks Dianne loudspeaker ($2500 USD per pair), which I wrote about
in detail in SoundStage! Networks coverage of CES.
Memphis-based speaker maker EgglestonWorks has been around
for over ten years now. Their first model, the Andra, was hugely popular in the late
1990s. (The company introduced its third iteration, the Andra III, at CES 2009.) But the
new Dianne appears to be the highest-value product EgglestonWorks has ever produced -- a
substantial floorstander expertly constructed and reasonably priced. I was so taken with
its appearance and sound at CES that I requested that the demo pair be shipped directly to
me. Owner and chief designer Jim Thompson enthusiastically agreed.
Getting to know Dianne
The Dianne is a medium-sized (41"H x 8.5"W x
12"D, 55 pounds), two-way, floorstanding design with a 1" cloth-dome tweeter
mated to a 6" double-magnet woofer, both made by Israeli driver manufacturer Morel.
Its low-frequency extension is rated at 51Hz (-3dB), with its top end reaching 24kHz. The
impedance is specified at 8 ohms nominal, 6 ohms minimum, and the sensitivity pegged at
The Diannes cabinet is slightly raked back and
faceted on top, to create a sleek, jewel-like shape sure to appeal to the
décor-conscious. The finish is an automotive-grade job that comes standard in
charcoal-gray metallic, with gloss black available on request; other colors are available
at higher prices (check with the factory). A single set of gold-plated, five-way binding
posts is inset in the lower rear panel. Aluminum feet are attached to the bottom of the
cabinet, into which spikes (supplied) can be screwed. The Diannes I received were the
first pair manufactured, and no grilles were supplied with them. Jim Thompson assured me
that when they start to ship Diannes (by the time you read this), theyll include
grillecloths as standard equipment. And the Diannes impressive six-year warranty
against defects somewhat exceeds the industry average of three to five years.
I just love the look of the Dianne -- this is one speaker
that will actually improve the appearance of many peoples living spaces. In
fact, after thoroughly auditioning them in my Music Vault listening room, I moved the
Diannes into my downstairs living room for the rest of their stay -- they looked great to
either side of my Sharp LCD, and sounded terrific in this large, reverberant room.
All in all, I had very favorable first impressions of the
Diannes build quality and sound right out of their boxes, and those impressions
carried through the first week of listening. I realized early on that the Dianne would,
for me, be aural comfort food. What Id heard at CES was no fluke -- the Dianne hit
all the right buttons. In fact, I cant remember a review product at or near its
price that instantly made more sonic sense to me.
One of the first tracks I like to play when auditioning
speakers is "Tall Trees in Georgia," from Eva Cassidys Live at Blues
Alley (CD, Blix Street 10046). Her spoken introduction is just right for assessing a
speakers ability to re-create a realistic sense of soundstage depth -- this
recording has enough natural ambience that, with the right system in a good room, a close
approximation of the acoustic signature of the jazz club in which it was recorded comes
through with spooky realism. Cassidy also produced a wonderful track that will let you
know exactly how a speaker reproduces the fine gradations and inflections in a female
vocal performance. The Diannes sailed through this track with flying colors: the physical
depth of Blues Alley was palpable in my listening room, very deep and full of activity. I
could hear the tinkling glasses held by members of the audience, and could sense their
presence, laid out in front of the stage. Cassidys voice was finely detailed, yet
with no added emphasis in the upper registers, and there was no harshness or grain to
dissuade me from putting in a long listening session.
The Diannes reproduced the central image of Cassidy with
stable solidity, which tells me that the pair-matching of EgglestonWorks
quality-control department is nigh on perfect. If youve heard speakers whose imaging
was skewed to one side because they werent quite perfectly matched,
youll know how important this is, and it seems that EgglestonWorks, too, cares
deeply about this aspect of the listening experience. I cant guarantee that every
pair of Diannes that leaves Memphis will sound exactly like my review pair, but hopefully,
they will. Off-center imaging can drive you crazy.
The voices of male singers were reproduced with admirable
realism, though this area of the Diannes sound will more appeal to someone looking
for a warmish midrange balance. The Dianne wasnt the most neutral speaker Ive
ever heard -- it seemed "voiced" to remain listenable with recordings both good
and bad. Its top end softened bright recordings ever so slightly while warming up the
lower midrange, to make voices sound full and dense. I didnt find this aspect of
their sound objectionable -- in fact, those characteristics are something that gives me a
little extra comfort level in recommending this speaker to my friends. For instance, on my
computer are a few Coldplay tracks I downloaded from iTunes in MP3 format at 256kbps. They
sound decent through much more expensive, more neutral speakers than the Diannes, but
theyre nothing Id listen to for long periods of time in a ruthlessly revealing
reference system. Through the Diannes, however, they were just a touch more listenable --
something I could really enjoy.
I dont want to give the impression that the Diannes
werent capable of revealing the nuances and details in really good recordings. When
I listened to "Everest," my favorite track from Ani DiFrancos Up Up Up
Up Up Up (CD, Righteous Babe 13), the Egglestons reproduced DiFrancos plucky
guitar and vocal grit with excellent fidelity. When she explores her vocal range toward
the end of the song, the Diannes scaled perfectly with the music. The bottom line for me
was that the experience was enjoyable, and encouraged me to keep listening -- to good and
more average recordings alike.
The bass was full and weighty down to about 45Hz in the
Music Vault. Although the Diannes couldnt fully energize the room with pipe-organ
recordings or deliver the full chest impact of a massively engineered Metallica kick drum,
they could closely approximate a bass guitar with admirable fidelity. With a little
front-wall boundary reinforcement in my downstairs living room, they came alive in the
lower registers without bloat or boom. All in all, the Dianne provided that critical bit
more energy in the bass region than what I hear from most reasonably sized bookshelf
speakers, some of which cost more than the Dianne, and some of which have a larger
footprint (when stands are taken into account). This, in fact, was one of the
Diannes trump cards: they could sound like a minimonitor in terms of imaging and
soundstaging, but could reproduce real scale and good bass depth -- characteristics that
enabled them to handily eclipse most smaller speakers, minimonitor and otherwise.
Last, the Diannes imaging prowess in either of my
rooms was ridiculously good -- not good for the price, or good for the size of the
speaker, but just plain really good. Leonard Cohens "Hallelujah,"
sung by the late Jeff Buckley on his album Grace (CD, Columbia 57578), filled my
room from wall to wall with mood and texture, and the Diannes midrange emphasized
the haunting vocal that Buckley floated on this track. I was listening to this song as I
was finishing writing this review, and something interesting happened: It was so enjoyable
that I had to listen to it three times running. The EgglestonWorks Dianne made me want to
listen to music more than any $2500/pair speaker that I can remember.
I hesitate to describe the EgglestonWorks Dianne with the
cliché "a speaker for a music lover." After all, that would imply that a
speaker balanced just a little differently is not meant for music lovers, but for
some other sort of listener, and I dont believe that for a minute. A more accurate
description of the Diannes target audience requires a bit more explanation.
The Dianne is not tilted toward ultra-resolution or sonic
fireworks. Instead, it impressed me with a more graceful ability to present the fine
details in my recordings. It laid out an inviting sonic landscape that lent itself to most
of the music I listened to during the audition period. It could sound bigger than most of
the two-way speakers Ive heard, and, when positioned correctly, served up generous
helpings of midbass and even a touch of low bass. The pair of them soundstaged like
champs, with highs that delighted rather than pierced my eardrums.
If youre tired of the razor-like highs prominent in
many of the home-theater-slotted speakers that cost between $2000 and 3000/pair, or
youre weary of speakers that seem designed more for extreme sound-pressure levels
than for reproducing a recordings finer details, or you dont want a
thin-sounding bookshelf model thats unlistenable without a subwoofer, then the
Dianne might be the speaker for you. Its well-thought-out combination of strengths
places it smack dab in the sweet spot of many audiophiles.
Still, the Dianne is no substitute for a large three- or
four-way design -- it wont do large-scale dynamics in a cavernous room, and it
wont play subterranean bass. But it does plenty right. If I didnt need a
"reviewers tool" -- a reference loudspeaker -- but instead was someone who
just wanted to enjoy his music through a finely crafted, living-room-friendly pair of
speakers, and had $2500 to spend, the EgglestonWorks Dianne is the speaker Id buy.
Its a tremendous value. Get to know Dianne yourself and see if you dont agree.
. . . Jeff Fritz
EgglestonWorks Dianne Loudspeakers
Price: $2500 USD per pair.
Warranty: Six years parts and labor.
540 Cumberland Street
Memphis, TN 38112
Phone: (901) 525-1100
Fax: (901) 525-1050