EgglestonWorks Andra II loudspeaker Page 4

As is the case with most of today's best speakers, the midrange that came out of the Andra II was nothing more or less than what was put into it. My weakness for sexy-sounding female singers is of long standing, and the Andra proved a perfect conduit for my fix. Chrissie Hynde's achingly lovely vocal on Moodswings' "State of Independence," from Moodfood (CD, Arista 18619-2), was as luscious and succulent as a ripe peach. Patricia Barber's ultra-cool huskiness on "Ode to Billy Joe," from Café Blue (SACD, Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2002), was completely intoxicating and spooky-real.

The male voice fared just as well. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's creamy baritone solos in Carmina Burana (LP, Deutsche Grammophon SLPM 139 362) had a richness and solidity that was dreamily addictive. It's a rare speaker that can present the timbres of woodwinds with the same kind of individualized character one hears in the concert hall, especially when the context is orchestral. The Andra got the differing tones of oboes, English horns, bassoons, and the various members of the clarinet family juuust right. The deservedly renowned Maag/LSO performance of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream (CD, Decca 466-990-2) was filled with subtly glinting woodwind colors and shimmering, fairytale strings that perfectly suited the music's subject.

Treble-wise, the Andra stood, again, at the head of the class. The Dynaudio Esotar tweeter gave the speaker tremendous extension and smoothness, with no grain structure I could detect—in the II, this fabric dome had the minimal sonic character I'd previously associated only with ribbon tweeters, but a dynamic power and responsiveness that fragile ribbons seldom manage. The air and space around Martin Drew's drum kit on A Tribute to My Friends was to marvel over. Every tiny variation in the way Drew struck the cymbals was superbly shaded and inflected. Stage height, often a function of a tweeter's dispersion and evenness of response, was exemplary. And in terms of timbre, looking for things to criticize about the Andra was like searching for penguins in the Sahara.

Few speakers disappear into the soundfield as well as did the Andras. In his review in August of the Rockport Technologies Antares, Mike Fremer observed that he could not "stare down" the speakers. Likewise, the Andras proved exceedingly difficult to identify as a source of sound. With any good CD or LP, the music existed as something like a living, breathing plasma field wholly independent of the boxes at the far end of my listening room. With a sonic showcase such as Rhapsody in Blue, the stage was wall-to-wall and treetop-tall, very deep, and utterly disconnected from the speakers.

As for imaging, the IIs ranked with the best to be found. Each voice, each instrument had a full-fledged three-dimensionality and distinctiveness as singular as a fingerprint. They were particularly impressive for their ability to faithfully capture the distinct way that each instrument launches sound into space, while simultaneously describing the sound of the recording site. Their sound was so integrated and continuous that it was possible to suspend disbelief at will and wallow in the sound of the recording venue.

Andra Verdict Is?
I suppose that if you have a listening room of kingly dimensions or an unquenchable thirst for the very biggest sound and bass down to 12Hz, you might need more speaker than the Andra II. After all, EgglestonWorks doesn't make the Savoy and Ivy Reference for the sheer fun of it. But the Andra offered everything (and then some) that I, for one, could ask of any speaker costing less than a mid-sized Mercedes: enormous dynamic range, superb deep bass, impeccable transparency, and a timbral balance as uncolored and harmonically true as the state of the art permits. It spoke to head and heart in equal measure, and did absolutely anything asked of it with no hint of strain or complaint.

For most of my audio life I have lived with large planar speakers, convinced that no dynamic design could offer the coherence and continuousness of panels. The Andra II has at last convinced me that cones and domes in a box, albeit very special cones and domes in a most extraordinary box, can hold the higher cards. While $19,000 is a hell of a lot of money for a pair of speakers, the Andras have to be considered an eminently fair deal given their superb build quality and extraordinary sound.

Pure Class A in every respect, and a more than worthy successor to the storied original Andra, the Andra II is one of the world's great loudspeakers. It proves that, like love, a speaker, too, can be lovelier the second time around.

435 S. Front St.
Memphis, TN 38103
(800) 290-5331