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Freshly sprung from the pen of Alessandro Schiavi, the inspiration behind Diapason of Brescia in Northern Italy, these speakers inaugurate the new Ellise Series. They take the audio reproduction qualities and requirements of Home Theatre into account. They are distinguished somewhat from the currently produced Video Series by their superior aesthetic and elegant finish, being targeted at audio-video without compromise.
These two speakers present original novel elements, besides certain characteristics common also to the Reference, Classic and Video series. Not to forget the classic sensation you get when you pull a Diapason product out of its packaging: the careful construction, aesthetic taste, and research into innovation. This is achieved without subverting what gave positive results in the past, but rather projecting it into the future like a precious inheritance. Thus making it possible to retrace a common DNA in all the products of this manufacturer from Brescia.
I should begin by saying, that given that TNT takes no interest in Home Theatre, and seeing that HT products as such already get plenty of attention, I have conducted the test according to our usual strictly audiophile stereophonic listening criteria, putting them in the arena as though they were objects born and bread only for audio.
I have listened to both pairs of speakers one by one and subsequently in direct comparison. One test is missing - but it is not our task - that which would presumably be the main one for this quartet of speakers, namely that of Home Theatre, with the Nuxes used as front channels and the Emeras in the rear.
The name of the new (Ellisse) series derives from the chosen cabinet shape and method of construction. In the Nux and Emera this is elegantly realised in one piece of plywood shaped into a semi-ellipse by bending it under steam ("Ellisse" means ellipse in Italian). The external finish is in an exquisitely polished natural walnut veneer or, on request, in black or silver gloss paint. The front baffle, however, in true Diapason tradition, is in solid walnut of over 3 cm thickness. With its facets the baffle recalls the well-known diamond form that has made the Adamantes famous..
The black metallic grills that protect the drivers - complete with anti resonance treatment and rubber packing - are also common to all the models. These grills are kept in place by torx screws.
The top surface of the cabinet slants backwards, which contributes a lot towards discouraging the placing of flower arrangements on top of the speakers. ;-)
Up to this point the Nux and Emera are matched step for step. However, differences appear in the respective support bases. The Nux is bolted onto a thick wooden base. Finished in matt black paint, it sports four holes on the under side into which you can screw rubber or spike supports according to preference - those under test had pods.
The Emera, on the other hand, is supported on stands by two small rubber points placed under the front portion along with a spike - of which I shall tell you more later - at the rear.
In both models the speaker cables are connected by way of a single pair of very high quality 24k gold plated binding posts - so no bi-wiring. They accept banana plugs as well as large cross-section stripped cable. In the Emera they are located on the rear panel, fixed directly to the wood without the traditional mounting plate. In the Nux the binding posts are set into the bottom of the speaker, which helps to keep the speaker cables as unobtrusive as possible - even if this proved to be a nuisance when it came to frequent cable changes. Of course I am only speaking of my inconvenience while performing the various tests, given that the typical user will not be swapping cables three times a day.
The drivers used for the two models are the same and work according to the by now familiar Diapason technology: the bass driver is a 170mm polymethylpentene-coned unit operating in Diapason Direct Drive, while the tweeter is a 20mm diameter kapton isodynamic design crossed over at 4800Hz using a single capacitor - this configuration is also found in Diapason's more high-end series. Internal wiring is done - as in all Diapason's production - with top class Van den Hul CS cable. The comb-edged reflex port is found on the front baffle of the Nux, while the "small" Emera has a rear-firing port. The efficiency of both speakers is stated as 89dB/w/m. The nominal impedance is 8 Ohms. For the other published data please refer to the recently updated
Aesthetically, they are beautiful and they will continue to keep Diapason amongst the flag bearers of Italian style and the Italian sound around the world. Thanks to their shape and choice of colours they can, with discretion, be integrated into either classical or modern decors.
The "multilayer frame" method of construction and the solid wood front baffle give rise to a reassuring sense of monolithic solidity, even if the total weight of the products (13 kg for the Nux and 5.3 kg for the Emera) is less than what appearances would suggest.
I have trialled both pairs with two different amplifier setups, both tube: an integrated amp of low-mid power (Copland CTA 401) and a more powerful and refined pairing (Audio Research SP9 mkIII + Audio Research D-125) of approximately 115 watts per channel. The Emera were placed on 60 cm supports, the Nux on the rubber supports provided.
It must be stated immediately that both pairs of speakers revealed a far superior sonic performance with the second configuration (ARC) than with the first (Copland); in part due to the objective merits of the electronics, and partly because both the Nux and Emera prefer a generous current supply behind them in order to express themselves at their best. Naturally, they played very well also with the Copland, but you get the impression that they need to be driven by a really powerful amplifier (solid state or tube).
Since they were brand new, I had to give them a substantial break-in time (the manufacturer suggests 150 hours at least) that made the classic initial "roughness" disappear. After about 50 hours the sound had already begun to "loosen up", and so I was able to begin to identify the main characteristics.
Predictably, the listening impressions gained from the two pairs overlap entirely - at least in the section of the audio spectrum that the Emera (stand-mounted mini monitor) can cover. We will talk later about the bass range of the Nux.
Their ease and fluidity of emission are evident from the start, especially in portraying acoustic ensembles - at least those that are not too harmonically or dynamically complex. The top end is never biting or sharp, but smooth and lustrous. The midrange is exemplary, clean, correct and substantial, which makes the rendering of voices really enjoyable - they attain a sculpted dimension, carved and defined in space. The rendition of microdetails in the musical trace is optimal without being "radiographic", while the grain of the reproduced image is fine and homogeneous enough.
The soundstage is wide, rather realistic and well spread out in the air, even beyond the space bounded by the speakers. There is a slight deficiency in the vertical development of the soundstage, specifically towards the centre of the imaginary stage. With the Emeras I resolved this simply by playing around with the rear spike, and in the end eliminating it entirely, so that the base rested directly on the stand support. Most probably, a higher stand (70 cm) would have been more appropriate, but I didn't have one at hand.
The same goes for the Nux when resting only on its front pods it tilts back about ten degrees. Another improvement (even if very slight and notably in the localisation of instruments) was obtained by removing the speaker grills. It is advisable - indeed necessary - for both models to be toed inwards towards the listener's head; twenty degrees would be enough.
Something that makes these two products truly attractive, in my opinion, is their ability to create a wide sweet-spot that does not require a micrometric and rigid listening position, but allows a latitude of nearly a metre from the listening point without too much loss of coherence in the beam. This is not a small advantage if we consider the principal use of these speakers; viewing a beautiful DVD with friends and family seated on a sofa where all can enjoy a correct sonic image.
Dynamics are totally satisfactory and do not suffer from compression at high volume. Speed in responding to transients is reasonable, certainly not comparable to that of the ProAc Response 2.5 that I had in my system before the Diapason pairs arrived, but we're talking about products from very different market segments. However, the power handling of both was very good.
As I indicated earlier, I did not care much for the bass range of the Nux. It was extended but lacking in precision, with a lack of "body", almost as if it wanted to remain in the background. Also there was a weakness in articulating more difficult or complex musical passages. At times the reflex port became distinctly audible, as if the harmony had been "pulled by the neck" in the planning phase. The Emeras, however, as is easy to imagine, did not suffer in this department given their configuration as monitors which "eliminated" the problem.
I have repeatedly listened to my reference discs and from every test the same general feeling emerged: optimal voicing in these speakers for acoustic music, excellent in the reproduction of voices whether male or female, slightly stressed by orchestras playing fortissimo and with high impact energy music.
In brief: if it were necessary to choose between the two for "audio only" listening, perhaps in the building of a minimalist (CD-amp-speakers) intermediate system, I would choose the Emera. Even with a musical reproduction that is "less complete" compared to the Nux's, given their physical limitations, these are able to express themselves with exemplary coherence without becoming exasperatingly analytic - really like most acclaimed mini monitors, maintaining their character in all situations. With the Nux I would get a more complete listening result, but I'm convinced that in the long run I could tire of them. I would surely go for them if I had the aim of building a quality "mixed" audio-video system in one shot - without having to go crazy about speaker positioning and over restrictive listening positions, or having to turn the sitting room upside down.
The Ellisse Series has been created to battle it out in a market sector in which competition is very fierce (I'm thinking mainly about Sonus Faber and B&W). They are products that will probably win favour with those who, while attracted to the new social game of HT, are still not prepared to sacrifice too much quality in music-only listening through the same system, giving priority to day-to-day living comfort and an enjoyable non-fatiguing listening experience.
I have had the chance to pass my first listening impressions on to Alessandro Schiavi and here follows a quote from an e-mail that we exchanged and which contains a clarification of the philosophy of the project. Anyway, I take the opportunity to thank him for his usual helpfulness, as well as for the fact of reserving the first audition of the Emera for us at TNT.
The Nux enters the A/V market in a segment that differentiates it from every other loud speaker. I'm sure you will have found strange characteristics as well as extremely positive effects. Basically, the Nux lends itself to being put into non-treated listening environments and with absolutely non-standard placement (with respect to the dictates of correct listening) but without thereby degrading into dangerous affectations. The "disconnection" you perceive is due to the supervolume in which the woofer of the Nux works. This characteristic gives the speaker a very delicate mid-bass range, which adapts very easily to medium-sized environments that are typically resonant or muddled at those frequencies. So many times I have noticed that it is impossible for listeners to position their speakers the right way, other times I've suffered the sight of fantastic products neglected in terrible acoustic environments or driven by inadequate systems: hence the Nux is born.
© Copyright 2002 Mimmo Cacciapaglia - http://www.tnt-audio.com
HTML editing by Paolo Saggese - Translation: Andrea Nicolai & Peter Janssen
The images are provided by Diapason.