June 1, 2010

EgglestonWorks Andra III Loudspeakers


Associated Equipment

Speakers -- Rockport Technologies Arrakis, Paradigm Reference Signature S2 v.3

Amplifier -- Boulder Amplifiers 2060

Preamplifier -- Boulder Amplifiers 1010

Sources -- Apple MacBook running iTunes and Amarra, Bel Canto DAC3VB/VBS1 DAC, Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D DAC/transport

Speaker cables -- Shunyata Research Aurora-SP

Interconnects -- Shunyata Research Aurora-IC

Power cords -- Shunyata Research Anaconda Helix Alpha/VX, Python Helix Alpha/VX, Taipan Helix Alpha/VX

Power conditioner -- Shunyata Research Hydra V-Ray II

My primary motivation for wanting to review the EgglestonWorks Andra III loudspeaker was my positive experiences with the company’s entry-level floorstanding model, the Dianne. When I reviewed the Dianne last year, it retailed for $2500 USD per pair, and today costs a still very reasonable $3250. I was impressed with the Diannes’ ability to cast a mesmerizing soundstage while virtually disappearing from my room. It was one of the pleasant audio surprises of 2009.

What I hoped for from the Andra III was a speaker that built on the Dianne’s strengths -- great soundstaging and imaging, and a convincing “disappearing” act -- but with greater overall authority and bass extension, and even better resolution of fine detail. And at $23,500/pair, I thought, it had better deliver a lot more than the Dianne to be anywhere near as exciting as that reasonably priced model.

A classic renewed

EgglestonWorks’ Andra platform is a classic of high-end audio. In the late 1990s, the original Andra burst on the loudspeaker scene to win favorable reviews from many sources. Like such speakers as the B&W 801 before it, the Andra was a compact yet highly potent floorstander that followed a simple formula: a big, full-range sound from a pair of cabinets that wouldn’t dominate a listening room. Its striking sound, particularly with strings and acoustic instruments, made it impossible for the audiophile community to ignore.

The original Andra was built to the nines, and still is, as can be seen in my “Searching for the Extreme: Building the EgglestonWorks Andra III.” The basic form of the Andra III has changed little in the years since. It still uses Dynaudio’s 1” Esotar tweeter up top, two 6” Morel midrange drivers below that, and a pair of isobarically loaded 12” Dynaudio woofers on the bottom. That last feature requires some explanation: In isobaric loading (isobaric meaning "characterized by constant or equal pressure"), one woofer is mounted internally, directly behind and facing the back of an exposed forward-firing woofer. The idea, developed by Harry Olson in the 1950s, is not to produce greater output, as some may think, but other theoretical benefits: a lower resonant frequency than would be the case with a single drive-unit, promising lower bass without a larger cabinet; lower distortion due to ideal air-compression parameters in the front woofer’s operating chamber; greater sensitivity due to a halving of impedance (with a competent amplifier, the user should see a 3dB increase in sensitivity because the amplifier is doubling its power output into the load). The disadvantages are a doubling of cost for the woofers, and a more complex cabinet geometry. So consider the Andra III a three-way, ported design with a few twists.

At 46"H by 15"W by 18"D, the Andra’s basic shape remains relatively unchanged: The III is still fairly squat and raked back. Fellow reviewer Randall Smith, who helped me unpack the speakers and move them into my room, was amazed that the Andra III was so small. He’d seen the speaker’s weight -- a stout 225 pounds -- listed on the EgglestonWorks website, and had assumed we’d be moving a much larger speaker. Suffice it to say that the Andra III is a densely constructed speaker, but not huge in overall dimensions.

What has changed in the Andra III is important. The most obvious are the 6” Morel midrange drivers. The older drive-units had polypropylene cones; the new cones are of carbon fiber, for a greater ratio of stiffness to mass, with new motor structures that promise lower distortion. The midrange drivers are still run without a crossover, the intent being to keep crossover components out of the critical range of the human voice. The tweeter is now mounted on an aluminum skin attached to the front baffle, an arrangement that allows for better coupling of driver to baffle, and gives the speaker a cosmetic flair it previously lacked. The midranges and woofers are still mounted on the MDF baffles -- in their case, the aluminum is purely cosmetic. The granite side panels of the Andras I and II have been replaced with panels of aluminum.

For biwiring, which is how I used them, the Andra IIIs come equipped with two sets of rhodium binding posts by Cardas. The standard finish is gray with natural aluminum side panels; other colors are available for an upcharge, including piano black with black-anodized aluminum hardware. Another change from the older Andras is that the finishes are now automotive-grade paints instead of gloss-black laminate. The grille is a sleek affair of fabric stretched over a thin metal frame that attaches to the speaker with magnets embedded in the cabinet’s front face.

EgglestonWorks rates the Andra III’s frequency response at 18Hz-24kHz, and its efficiency at 88dB. The impedance is said to be 8 ohms nominal, with a minimum of 6.3 ohms. The warranty is a generous six years for parts and labor.


It took me a weekend to get the Andra IIIs set up to my liking in my Music Vault listening room. I began by having them fill the footprints of the Dynaudio Focus 360s, which I review this month for SoundStage! In these spots, the back of each Andra was about 5’ from the wall behind it. The speakers ultimately ended up closer to the front wall -- about 3’ away from it. These positions gave the Andras more boundary reinforcement in the bass, and something else as well. In fact, these speaker placements in my room are a recent revelation. Perhaps it’s because of the ample room treatments (five polycylindrical diffusers) I’ve affixed to the front wall, but now, setting speakers deeper into the corners of my room does absolutely nothing to diminish the soundstage depth, as conventional wisdom suggests it might. In fact, I’ve found that, in addition to the expected bass reinforcement, it makes for even wider soundstages. And that’s what happened with the Andra IIIs.

I began my listening as I had with the Dianne -- with “Tall Trees in Georgia,” from Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blues Alley (CD, Blix Street 10046). The EgglestonWorks Diannes had captivated me with this track due to their amazing ability to create a deep soundstage in my room. Well, soundstaging turned out to be one of the Andra IIIs’ strong points as well. The larger speakers were able to re-create all the depth that the Diannes got so right, while also producing wall-to-wall width -- some of the widest I’ve heard in my room.

The Andras’ bass response was able to fully energize my room so that the acoustic space -- in the case of the Cassidy album, a jazz club -- was even more palpable: I could literally feel the dimensions of the physical space. With the Diannes, I was able to only imagine it. This is a clear example of why low-bass capability isn’t just important for reproducing bass instruments. You need deep bass to pressurize a room, something that’s absolutely critical when playing live recordings because the acoustic signature of the venue, be it club or concert hall or opera house, has so often been captured on the recording. The Andra III did deep bass, if perhaps not quite down to EgglestonWorks’ specification of 18Hz. In my room, the Andra III was 3dB down at 20Hz, which is very respectable. The bass was more round than ultratight, though this might depend somewhat on the room in which it’s used.

The ability of the Andra IIIs to position images on the soundstage was impressive in its specificity: aural images of instruments and voices were precisely spaced and placed between room center and right speaker, and room center and left speaker. Performing “These Bones,” from I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (CD, Warner Bros. 46698), the singers of the Fairfield Four were positioned in a wide arc across the stage. In terms of dimension of soundstage, the Andra IIIs were as adept as any pair of speakers ever deposited in the Music Vault.

All audiophiles agree that the inability to reproduce voices correctly sounds the death knell for any loudspeaker. It’s surprising, then, that so many come up short in this regard. Although from the lowest lows to the highest highs the Andra III was not the most neutral speaker I’ve ever had in my room, it was exceptionally neutral where it mattered most: in the midband, the range of the human voice. There, I heard no tonal colorations with any of the music I listened to. Male singers such as the Fairfield Four sounded deep and resonant, as they should, with enough texture and body to each voice to create a believable sense of the person in the room.

The midrange wasn't just good with vocals. Jim Brickman’s “Generations,” from Songs Without Words: A Windham Hill Collection (CD, Windham Hill 11212), was smooth and continuous -- his acoustic piano was reproduced with excellent clarity and tonal neutrality. It wasn’t ultradetailed or spotlit at any particular frequency that I could detect, but it was simply beautiful in the naturalness of its sound.

The upper frequencies were mildly subdued in my room, lacking that last iota of energy and crispness that many of today’s speakers possess. I didn’t consider this a liability in my listening, as the effect was just a slight bit of warmth in the highs. The Andra III reproduced most of the high-frequency detail in recordings, blatantly omitting nothing, but from about 8kHz up the highs were recessed by just a couple of dB. This voicing was a conscious choice, I think, made to create a loudspeaker that will sound good with most recordings -- especially those balanced to be a bit hot on the top end. My listening notes indicate that the Andra III allowed me to enjoy a number of albums that would be less listenable through many other speakers I’ve heard. Pop and rock recordings from the likes of Audioslave to country from Lee Ann Womack sounded fuller and less grating than they have through speakers with more energy higher in the audioband.

To sum up the Andra III in a phrase, it was wholly listenable. The Andra III didn’t sound like a product designed to win awards for technical precision; it sounded like a speaker that music lovers can kick back with and enjoy over the long haul. I found I could listen to my best recordings and get a healthy dose of overall high fidelity, along with extension at the frequency extremes, but that I could also enjoy most any album, regardless of engineering pedigree. The midrange was the most neutral aspect of the Andra III’s sound, and with good recordings, that’s where it shone. When I put on something recorded by David Chesky or the folks at 2L, I heard a palpable, richly figured midband that delivered the magic we all want to experience from our audio systems.

What also set the Andra III apart from other systems I’ve recently heard in my room was its ability to throw a magnificent soundstage. Some folks over the years have dismissed this trait when compared with such significant areas of sound reproduction as tonality and dynamic range, but when I heard the Andra IIIs cast a soundstage that gave me the breadth and scale of a live performance in my listening room, I just couldn’t ignore how simply enjoyable that experience is. I’m not really sure what in the speaker’s design accounts for this ability, but I sure did appreciate it in the listening.

Should you buy them?

Investing in a pair of EgglestonWorks Andra III loudspeakers is no inconsiderable proposition: $23,500 is a lot of money, and in any economic environment, let alone the current one, the plunking down of such a sum on a luxury item should be carefully considered. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you of what I wrote in March, in “How Close Can I Get for Half the Price or Less?”: You can get truly stupendous sound for a lot less money than you’d spend on a pair of Andra IIIs -- sound that, in many areas, will easily compete with them.

What you won’t get is precisely the sound that EgglestonWorks has designed into the Andra III: that massive soundstage, or the neutral midband bookended by sweet highs and extended, well-integrated lows, or what it’s all housed in -- a dense cabinet that’s relatively compact and beautifully built. The Andra has been so successful for so many years not because of what it doesn’t do, but because of what it does so well, and the third iteration of this classic design brought me tons of enjoyment in the two months I spent with it. Putting a price on that isn’t so easy, but I figure it amounts to . . . oh, about $23,500/pair.

. . . Jeff Fritz

EgglestonWorks Andra III Loudspeakers
Price: $23,500 USD per pair.
Warranty: Six years parts and labor.

540 Cumberland Street

, TN 38112

Phone: (901) 525-1100
Fax: (901) 525-1050

E-mail: jthompson@egglestonworks.com
Website: www.eggl


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