September 7, 2009
The Great North American
Loudspeaker Tour: EgglestonWorks
The EgglestonWorks facility in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, with the companys
co-owners, Jim Thompson (right) and John Callery.
Main designer: Jim Thompson
Product auditioned: Ivy Signature loudspeaker
($110,000 USD per pair)
- Amplifier: Krell FPB-600
- Preamplifier: Bel Canto S300i integrated amplifier
(preamp section only)
- Sources: Marantz DV8400 DVD player, Bel Canto S300i
integrated amplifier (DAC section only)
- Cables: Transparent Audio
- Racks: Grand Prix Audio
Setup details: The Ivy Signature was single-wired
and toed-in to point almost directly at the listening position. I listened to the
loudspeakers both seated and standing, the latter because the Ivy was originally designed
to be used in Bob Ludwigs Gateway Mastering facility, with Ludwig standing in front
of the speakers at his mixing board; I wanted to replicate that experience.
Listening room: EgglestonWorks factory
listening room is 34L x 18W x 10H, with Echo Busters wall treatments
used throughout. The walls are built of 2" x 6" studs with double layers of
Sheetrock on both the interior and exterior, for a total of four layers per wall. The
floor is suspended on rubber gaskets to decouple the room from the surrounding
manufacturing and busy city environments.
The Ivy Signature set up in EgglestonWorks factory listening room.
Jim Thompsons vision for the Ivy Signature:
The Ivy was originally designed to serve "dual roles": first, as a mastering
tool for Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering, for whom it was conceived as the "ultimate
mastering monitor"; and second, as EgglestonWorks "flagship product that
would get people interested in high-end audio." The Signature is an upgrade of the
original Ivy, which was introduced over 12 years ago. The main changes incorporated into
the Signature include new 6" carbon-fiber Morel midrange drivers and a new crossover
network. There are also new cosmetics: aluminum front and side panels are now bolted over
the finish of automotive-grade paint.
According to Jim Thompson, the Ivy Signature is best
suited to: "Music lovers with large spaces and good equipment." In fact, the
listening spaces size and construction must be seriously considered, because the Ivy
Signature is not modular: its one-piece, 800-pound mass will be quite a challenge to move
into many rooms.
Jim Thompson (left) explains to Jeff that all EgglestonWorks speakers are
manufactured in-house using CNC machinery.
I listened to multiple rock cuts, including from groups
such as Radiohead, as well as many large-scale orchestral and symphonic works, and to
singers such as Alison Krauss. The larger pieces showcased the systems ability to
play back grand performances with great physical impact and room-filling crescendos. I
could get a real physical sense of instruments such as drum kits and horns -- the Ivy
Signature could go from soft to loud instantly; I could hear no dynamic compression at
all. Scale was something these speakers did with ease -- the Ivy Signatures could play
loud, with nary a hint of distortion. They cleanly rendered soundstages, and the
images within those stages were of proper size. In fact, I found it easy to map the
soundstage from right to left and from front to back.
Singers had a warmish character that lent them an
outstanding sense of presence, and made them sound as if they were in the room; the
outlines of performers were never thin or void of character -- the fact that the tracks I
listened to were all generally well recorded came easily through this system, which was
big and bold in physical presence. Nor were the Ivy Signatures ever fatiguing. I could
settle back in my seat and listen to them at length, enjoying a sound that was high in
drama while low in apparent distortion and cabinet-related artifacts.
Jim Thompson shows off the companys well-known Andra III speaker. Jeff
Fritz, a stickler for the details of fitnfinish, feels that EgglestonWorks
speakers are well-made.
EgglestonWorks puts considerable resources into building
robust cabinets that contribute to the speakers sound very little character of their
own. They also put great value on service, with a six-year, transferable warranty. In
fact, I was told that theyd just finished servicing the woofers on serial numbers 1
and 2 of their very first product, the Andra. Thats very impressive to me,
and should be strongly considered a strength if youre considering purchasing an
EgglestonWorks product, whether new or used. According to Jim Thompson, the "company
cares about delivering music and a quality product," and the atmosphere of the
factory is "laid-back" and friendly. I was also impressed that EgglestonWorks
measures their speakers in the anechoic chamber of Ole Miss Universitys Center for
This side shot of an Ivy Signature in mid-production shows the cabinets
complex internal construction.
Somewhat quietly, EgglestonWorks has been producing
high-end loudspeakers for many years. Although their recent low profile has led some to
wonder just what the company is up to these days, I can happily report that I saw lots of
cabinets under construction, and speakers in all stages of assembly. Their newest
iteration of the Ivy, the Signature, is an impressive statement loudspeaker, and its
fitting that its made in Memphis, a city with such a rich musical heritage. After
all, the Ivy itself has quite a history -- one that looks as if it will continue for many
years to come.
The Ivy Signature is EgglestonWorks largest speaker; their smallest model,
the two-way Isabel, is seen here in production.
. . . Jeff Fritz