EgglestonWorks Andra II loudspeaker Page 2
After more than a year of developmental work, the EW team was satisfied with the fruits of their labors, but Sabre feared that tunnel vision may have set in. As a check on their work, speaker-design guru Albert von Schweikert was called in as an objective ear to offer his thoughts on the new Andra. Von Schweikert wound up working with EW in finalizing the II's crossover designs and tonal voicing.
I have to mention the grille, which is the slickest I've seen: one thickness of the material used in ballet tutus stretched over a steel frame. The grilles are entirely acoustically transparent and attach magnetically, obviating the need for visible fasteners. They look great, too. Very nice, and elegant as all get-out.
After hearing the spanking-new Andra at CES in January 2002, I suggested to John Atkinson that a review was in order. On a fine Saturday afternoon in early June, Michael Sabre and Jim Thompson showed up with a pair of uncrated IIs in the back of Mike's wife's SUV (footnote 2). The manpower was necessary—each Andra weighs 215 lbs. Sabre and Thompson schlepped the hefty critters downstairs into my listening room and 40 minutes later pronounced themselves satisfied with the setup. After a few hours, I toed them in about 3/8" more than Sabre and Thompson had, to firm up the imaging at the listening position, and that was that (footnote 3). If only every speaker installation went so easily!
After Sabre and Thompson left, I promptly gave in to my sadistic streak and put the Andra II to the test. The Halcro dm58 monoblocks were warmed up and ready to play, so why not? Out came the Gladiator soundtrack (CD, Decca 289 467 094-2) and up ramped the volume control of the Jeff Rowland Design Group Synergy IIi line stage. Had I a handlebar moustache, I would have been twirling it àa la Snidely Whiplash as I cued up "The Battle" and "The Might of Rome."
But not for long. Any questions about the Andra's ability to handle massive forces at insane volume levels were obliterated in the space of those 16 minutes. Even at peaks that popped well over 100dB, the II remained undaunted, as cool and composed in confronting this full-scale assault as it would later prove with the Bill Evans Trio. About the time you think "The Battle" can't possibly get louder or more intense, it does—but the Andras seemed thoroughly unimpressed with my apparently meager efforts to make them misbehave. There was no strain, no compression of the size of the soundstage—and, miracle of miracles, there was every bit as much grace and finesse in the low-level passages, such as the acoustic guitar and Lisa Gerrard's haunting voice, as in the sheer horsepower and unflappability of the earth-shattering segments.
Later attempts to overtax the Andra with system-busting 12" 45rpm discs like the German pressing of David Bowie's "Putting Out Fires" (Backstreet/MCA 259 5740) and the gargantuan Townhouse-mastered "annihilation mix" of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes" (UK, ZTT 12 ZTAS 3) proved equally ineffective. Dynamically, the Andra II was a behemoth power lifter that could dance like Baryshnikov.
Many dynamic speakers are claimed to have transparency and immediacy approaching that of electrostatics, but few deliver those goods. The Andra actually managed to do it. Its cabinet is so nonresonant and its drivers so well isolated that the speaker could respond to the most minuscule of musical signals free of the distortions caused by excessive energy stored in the cabinet structure. The upshot was that retrieval of low-level detail was superb. Reverb trails on orchestral recordings could be amazingly lifelike. The Wild/Fiedler/Boston Pops Rhapsody in Blue ("shaded dog" LP, RCA Victor LSC-2367) had incredible transient snap and suddenness in the orchestra's forceful entrances, and the immediacy of hammers on piano strings commanded my attention in a way not at all unlike the real thing. Through the Andra II, things happened now from top to bottom.
Footnote 2: That Mike Sabre lives only a few miles from me in suburban Minneapolis proved most fortuitous. EW was able to ship the speakers to Mike's home, where they were uncrated and loaded into the SUV for the short trip to the Paul Bolin Institute of Advanced Audio Mania in the adjoining 'burb.
Footnote 3: The tweeter axes still crossed well behind my head, and a large slice of the speaker's side panel was visible from my chair.