EgglestonWorks Andra II loudspeaker Page 3

As much fun as mega-music was through the Andra, the speaker was just as wonderful with more intimate fare. Never had my wonderful old green-label first pressing of Van Morrison's Moondance (LP, Warner Bros. WS 1835) sounded so involving as through the Halcro dm58/Andra II combo. The lithe, mellow flute and sax, the warm, brown-toned throb of the bass guitar, and Morrison's ur-soulful voice ascended to the sublime. Paired with the Lamm ML2.1 amps, Oscar Peterson's A Tribute to My Friends (LP, Pablo 2310-902) simply sang. The Andra not only articulated Peterson's dizzying fingerwork and brilliant piano sound flawlessly, it simultaneously delivered the commanding, woody tone of Niels-Henning Orsted-Pederson's bass and the laid-back sound of Joe Pass's electric guitar in exactly the right contrasting shades.

The longer I listened to the Andra, the more I appreciated its supremely easy and unforced sound with all types of music. Like a great improvising band, it was "tightly loose." Its ability to respond instantaneously to attacks and to hold decays until the last smidgen of sound had dissipated did not step over that line where supreme control becomes a tight, buttoned-down, almost constipated sound. For whenever there was timbral and spatial bloom on a recording, the Andra set it free as do too few speakers. The Andra always let music breathe and flow, which was perhaps its greatest strength. It excelled at communicating the essences of music as much as at reproducing the sound.

Given their ability to let the music through, it wasn't surprising that the Andras carved out a soundstage the dimensions of which were limited only by what was on the recording. I've long had a thing for Henry Mancini's soundtrack score for Breakfast at Tiffany's (LP, RCA LSP-2362), and not just because of the lovely shot of Audrey Hepburn on the cover, though that never hurt. Tiffany's is a record with impossibly plush and gorgeous sound, a cavernous soundstage, and music that is the essence of early-1960s Hefneresque cool (footnote 4). The singers on "Moon River" are closely grouped in the center of the stage—have I mentioned that the Andras had the most spectacularly solid center-fill I'd ever heard?—and each voice was so precisely focused and timbrally distinct that it transcended the merely hi-fi. The seemingly massive recording venue was not merely suggested by the Andras—they forcibly imposed it on my listening room. Just a few years ago, only the most huge, complex, and costly speakers could manage such a feat. The Andras did it with almost offhanded ease.

The EWs transported me from venue to venue. It didn't matter whether it was the Bal Masque nightclub site of Ellington's Dance with Duke (LP, Columbia Special Products CSR 8098), the richly textured acoustic of Boston's Symphony Hall, or the electronically created alternate realities of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Air—the worlds of these recordings came to sparkling and touchable life in my room.

The Andra IIs' soundstaging excellence followed in no small part from their tremendous bass performance. The lowest frequencies a speaker can reproduce serve to set the limits of its ability to describe the size of the space in which a recording was made. EW specs the Andra's bass as extending to 17Hz, and nothing my pair did suggested that this is anything but an accurate figure. Plumbing the depths of bass was once a task for monstrous boxes or servo-controlled subwoofers. The Andra proved that neither is any longer necessary. The belly-rumbling lows of Trey Gunn's contrabass touch guitar in King Crimson's The ConstruKction of Light (CD, Virgin 493612), the organ and bass voice from Philip Glass's complete Koyaanisqatsi music (CD, Nonesuch 79506-2), and the immense synthesizer bass on "Two Tribes" had smack-you-upside-the-head authority.

And the definition! The Andra never sounded sloppy, woolly, or indistinct. Each bass note was dead-bang on a precisely defined pitch. The Andra's bass simply appeared, like a genie out of a bottle, but only when called for. There was nothing heavy or ponderous about its presentation whatsoever, as is sometimes the case when dealing with speakers of prodigious LF capabilities. On his eponymous debut album (CD, Castle/Transatlantic ESM CD407), Bert Jansch's solo acoustic guitar was sumptuous, speedy, and detailed—dare I say electrostatic-like?—in its transparency and verisimilitude. But throw on Kruder and Dorfmeister's dub remix of Bomb the Bass's "Bug Powder Dust" (EU CD, The K&D Sessions, CD K7 K7073), or track 9 of Vangelis' El Greco (CD, Atlantic 83161-2), and kaboom!! Through the Andra, big bass was not just loud and low but profound, compelling, and, above all, musically correct.

Footnote 4: Al Schmitt, best known today as Diana Krall's engineer, was responsible for getting Mancini's luscious sounds down on tape.
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