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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Source Digital: Sony XA-5ES as transport; Bel Canto Design DAC 2
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Sylvania tubes
Amplifier: Pass Labs X 250.5; NuForce Reference 9.02; NuForce Reference 9 Special Edition mono-blocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties WATT/Puppy System 6
Cables: Cerious Technologies Digital; Harmonic Technology Magic Digital; Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory interconnect cable; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon [on loan]; Cerious Technologies and Harmonic Technology PRO-9+ loudspeaker cables; Cerious Technologies AC; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; Shunyata Research Diamondback, Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; PSC Gold Power MKII AC cable [on loan]
Stands: Lush 4-tier, partly sand filled
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only), dedicated 20 amp circuit
Sundry accessories: Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions around DAC, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 10'/11' h [stepped ceiling] in short wall setup, opens to adjoining office room
Review component retail: $6,500/pr, includes Solid Tech stands
This is WAR
WAR Audio is a specialist Western Australian company involved in the importation, country-wide distribution and retailing of high quality audio equipment. Quite independently of its import division, WAR Audio manufactures its own line of high quality speakers using carefully chosen drivers from some of the best makers in the world.
Although never having owned a pair (unless you count my WATT sans Puppy), I've always had great admiration for two-way stand-mounted monitors. Potentially, a well designed stand-mount should image realistically, soundstage generously and be capable of resolving copious detail within a coherent sound field. Such a design normally uses a simpler crossover topology that results -- all things being equal -- in a more transparent and accurate reproduction from the midrange on up. In addition, a monitor's panel sizes guarantees a stoutly solid structure for uncoloured sound. And so it is with the WAR Audio Dianne stand-mount loudspeaker system.
Like many designers who embark on a manufacturing journey, WAR Audio principal Pat O'Brien is primarily a passionate music lover with a healthy enterprise dedicated to inducing doses of HiFi equipment lust - in others as well as himself. Sounds like lots of audiophiles, no?...
I became interested in HiFi as a kid in the 60s when my brother was given a record player that he would not let me touch. I remember telling him one day I will have the best HiFi system, something he would only dream about. I guess that was the motivation for my audio journey.
When we immigrated to Perth, Australia I commenced an apprenticeship in an electrical engineering firm specializing in motors and generators. I was always into electronics and did 18 years of night school learning electronics and digital systems. At the time I was building speakers for myself and friends. It was then that I discovered a company called Orca Design who advertised high quality raw drivers. After many discussions with Kimon Bellas, I convinced him to supply drivers direct to us and he has since become a very good friend.
I'm a believer in the design principles of Joe d'Appolito and in 1992 made my first commercial speaker, the Reference 1 which apart from the drivers is still a current design. Along with Orca, we showed at CES numerous times and have received compliments from some of the great names in the business.
It was Kimon who first told me about Accuton drivers, the name given by Kimon to Theil and Partner. I was utterly convinced by the sheer purity of the midrange (my Ref1 uses this C2-79 driver). Back then, some audiophiles thought Accuton drivers lacked harmonics, nowadays some of those very people are using Accuton drivers in their flagship speakers. Another driver I use in my designs is the Raven ribbon tweeter. I recognised their qualities from day one having seen them first-hand as prototypes. As far as Ravens, I've yet to hear a better ribbon than the R1 and even though there are many copies, none have the magic of the Raven.
About 6 years ago my wife asked me to make a nice stand mount for use in our home. For me it was a no-brainer. It was to use Accuton and Raven to have decent bass for a small two way, a great midrange and a classy top end. It also had to look like something that my wife would like, hence the name Dianne.
The first series used the Accuton tweeter which is a great unit but the Raven is something else again and was used from then on. Cabinets are constructed with MDF and heavily braced. The enclosure uses six panels which are less resonant than conventional four panel units. One of the crucial issues in using ribbon tweeters in conjunction with conventional drivers is the crossover. You need to spend great deal of time experimenting, measuring and listening to prototypes. This is probably the most critical part in the design. Integration is the key.
The Diannes are around a 7-ohm load dipping down to a 5-ohm minimum. The crossover is a flat delay with a gentle slope around the crossover and steeper slopes lower down so as to achieve the best compromise in phase and group delay. One of the key features of the Dianne is user changeover of crossovers, with options to go either active or passive. WAR Audio can also tailor crossovers to match a customer's listening environment. For a much bigger sound and thunderous bass, the Diannes are available with an active DEQX digital crossover for the best of both worlds.
Assistants in the listening and fine-tuning panel included the principal flutist with a major European orchestra who now runs the Darwin Orchestra and a bunch of other experienced ears. I'm also proud to say that several musicians are Dianne owners, including the Dean of the School of Music at Darwin University and a great classical guitarist who has played with and is highly admired by none other than John Williams.
All speakers are a compromise and we hope we have come up with a speaker that will appeal to most and will suit small to medium sized rooms.
Well, that we shall see...
|All is fair in love and WAR
The Dianne is a beautifully finished, medium sized monitor. The review sample's 'speckled' gloss finish is exquisite and as far as this writer's experience, he ain't seen nuttin' like it yet! As Pat said, the d'Appolito configuration uses two 5-inch Accuton ceramic drivers on either side of a Raven 3 ribbon tweeter. Many ribbonites consider the Raven range the bee's knees of ribbon designs. Frequency response for the Dianne is quoted as a healthy and quite surprising in-room 35Hz to 35kHz with a 1dB window between 200 and 20,000Hz. Crossover point is 2.8kHz. Internal wiring is either Oyaide high purity copper or Stealth MLT as requested. Efficiency is an average 86dB.
The Dianne's enclosure is an 8-sided construction with a tapering baffle to optimize diffraction. It is extensively braced, substantially weighty and extraordinarily solid. The old knuckle test is a bruising experience, lemme tell you. Available in several options, the aforementioned classy finish features on all the faces of the enclosure. The rear panel's beauty is only marred by the dual reflex ports and the twin sets of WBT style, clear plastic-covered terminals. To the WBT terminals you attach the external crossover output hardwired cable extensions. The circuit is completed by finally attaching your preferred speaker cables to the crossover's input via the installed Eichmann speaker terminals.
WAR Audio's price for the Diannes includes the mandatory Swedish Solid Tech sand-fillable stands which place the tweeters at suitable height. Pat also recommends using Stillpoint cones under the stands for increased transparency and bass quality. Good old blue tack is adequate for the speaker-to-top-of-stand interface.
As Pat mentioned above, the Diannes are available in various versions: as passives (as per this review), active with DEQX crossovers and NuForce amplification and with optional external crossovers to suit different listening environments.
Pat had been using the review units for many months prior to dispatch but I still ran them for another few dozen hours just for the heck of it before formal listening sessions commenced.
|Experimenting and fine-tuning led me to discover that the Cerious Technologies speaker cable was absolutely superb with the Diannes. Some unexpected synergy, that. There might be other cables that work just as well but amongst the cables on hand in my arsenal, the Cerious Technologies speaker cables were by far the most superior match for this speaker. Such is the mateship between these two that I would go as far as confidently suggesting that Pat may have used this cable at the tuning/voicing stage. 'Tis a beautiful thing.
Given the inherent limitations imposed by its enclosure and driver size and the size of my listening room, the Diannes fared well when contending with bass-heavy music. Bass notes had a spring to their step and a wealth of detail that carried the music along with an enjoyable and involving sense of pace and rhythm. What the Diannes lack in bass weight and extension they make up for with punch and speed without superficially enhancing the mid-bass with a trick peak. Patricia Barber's kick drum theme on "Pieces" from her Verse album had an enjoyable punch that propelled the track along, albeit without the wall-flexing weight or heart-stopping authority of my reference. Similarly, Patricia's voice was lushly fleshed out as an image with body and soul within the large soundscape.
|Pat's admiration of the Raven tweeter is well founded in this application. The Diannes have a finessed light touch on micro detail that makes subtle and skilled guitar playing a very life-like listening experience. French duo Luc and Lagrene's virtuoso licks were beautifully reproduced with crispness and shimmer that enhanced the verisimilitude of the event. This is a very fast and clean reproducer. However, the very highest top end was in this case not quite as extended into the airy nether regions. Recorded room reverberation seemed a little shut in, the last nth degree of air not quite as evident as in the case of the unfairly maligned Wilson tweeter. This effect however was subtle and mainly noticeable in orchestral or acoustic productions that were recorded live and in large venues. Studio recordings posed no problem, proof enough of the subtlety of this issue.
For a speaker of this size, dynamics were well handled at all frequency ranges. Xavier Rudd's remarkable didgeridoo playing on the introduction to his To Let release spans a wide range of the audio spectrum and the Diannes were not shy in their dynamic expression. Xavier lets it rip and once again the transient speed and accuracy of all drivers involved helped to translate the required dynamic shading into a satisfactory experience.
Early in my listening sessions, the most outstanding feature I noticed the Diannes excelling at was a disappearing act that would have made Houdini proud. Positioned correctly as I eventually did, the speakers were hard to pinpoint as the sound source of the music being played. The narrow front baffle plays a part in this I'm sure, as does the Raven. All recordings displayed a massive soundstage via the Diannes without sacrificing either accurate imaging or that wonderful disappearing act. In this area they lost nothing to my references.
In Ani Di Franco's Living in Clip, the Diannes placed her dead centre, locked-in, focused and ready to rock. As I mentioned above, the last degree of live-concert air was a little suppressed but all other aspects of this CD's reproduction were world class, from Ani's stage presence to her slamming guitar strums to her delicate and sometimes potent vocals. And all of this within a sound field totally free of the enclosures. Awesome.
Nigel Kennedy's East meets East -- a combined effort with Bulgarian gypsy quartet Kroke Band -- showed the great Raven's power of harmonic resolution. Nigel's control of his instrument and his agile bowing and stroking in "Lost in Time" is quite outstanding. The densely textured and velvety harmonic content the Raven can resolve allows an easier connection with the emotional content Nigel is trying to communicate in this touching Eastern European instrumental ballad. This recording can sound brash, teetering on the bright side of town, yet the Diannes' forgiving nature make it not only listenable but enjoyable without loss of detail or resolution.
|"Ruthlessly revealing" the Diannes ain't. Pleasantly truthful they certainly are. Track after track was enjoyed immensely via the superb Diannes. From Tool's massively visceral attack to the senses in Aenema's "Stinkfist" to the subtlety and heart wrenching poetry of Jeff Buckley's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to the grandeur and power of Zubin Mehta's Bruckner, the Dianne's delivered the music in a way that allowed a connection to it and suspended analytical processes.
|WAR, what is it good for?
Absolutely a lot! The Diannes' time chez Kramer's was enjoyed not just by this writer but by several a Sydney audiophile as well. It was difficult for one not to comment on the distinctive finish and look of the speaker and as far as the sound the Diannes made in my room? ... all praises! Such accolades from hard-nosed, battle-weary Sydneyites means a lot.
If you are looking for a compact speaker that is beautifully built, using very high quality components and is visually attractive and lovingly tuned, the WAR Audio Dianne loudspeakers will comfortably fit the bill.
|I liked them. They are ribbolicious.
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