The third of its generation, the Nico EVOlution bookshelf speaker, presented for the first time in Europe at the High-End Munich 2019, is the new entry-level model from EgglestonWorks. Consisting of a large, highly rigid cabinet and supported by an optional but highly recommended sanded stand, the smallest piece from the Memphis-based brand benefits from all the know-how of its creators. It competes with much larger and more expensive loudspeakers, without ever playing the big sound card or going overboard, for the benefit of passionate and fatigue-free listening for hours on end.
Born in 1997 in the United States with the Andra loudspeakers, the EgglestonWorks manufacturer has since become global, without yet reaching in Europe the notoriety of its older or better marketed competitors. However, the brand benefits from very serious advantages to make the greatest recordings speak with a naturalness and an ease drawn from the unalterable mass of its resonance boxes, above all developed to annihilate any vibration and any parasitic noise. The third generation of the Nico range, the Nico EVO or EVOlution replaces Nico SE, a monitor speaker that was already very promising, but much less than its younger sibling in the low register. For its latest evolution, the brand from Memphis, an American city famous for its musical bands and Gibson guitars, has increased the dimensions of its speaker, taking it out of the compact format, since it measures now 47.6 cm in height and especially 40.6 cm in depth, for a more conventional width of 21 cm. Resulting from the developments that first appeared on the Viginti Limited Edition and then on the imposing Kiva, Nico EVO is a two-way speaker weighing 12.7 kg, of a rigidity that is further reinforced by its stand, filled with sand to reach more than 20 kg each on the scale. The stand are also designed to fit perfectly and deeply under the speaker, without to be screwed down to ensure stability.
The cabinet is a combination of medium (MDF) to high (HDF) density fiberboard manufactured on-site at the Memphis factory, ranging from 19 to 32 mm, which look a bit like some Wilson Audio loudspeakers in their strength and coating. Two drivers, appeared on the Emma EVO series, still come from the Israeli manufacturer Morel, but are now made specifically to EgglestonWorks’ specifications. The 25 mm silk dome tweeter is crossed with a 152 mm polypropylene mid-bass at 2.3 kHz, the latter being reinforced at the rear by a large laminar bass-reflex port that advantageously replaces the older, smaller and round on the Nico SE, and contributes amply to the gain in low-frequency. The front is reinforced by a wonderful screwed aluminum plate and a metal tripod to protect the tweeter. At the back are only two copper cardas terminals, that will make you forget about the possibility of bi-amping. Both are perfectly adjusted to an unpolished carbon panel, also with visible screws. Available in Piano Black, Silver Gray and White Gloss, Nico EVO can be customized with the lacquer color you want (900 €) thanks to the use of methods applied in automotive design. In addition to the extensive palette available for the body, it is also possible to order the aluminum plate in dark rather than gray, for a particularly refined result on the full black version. Grilles made of very thin acoustic fabric and with magnetic fastenings (neodymium magnets) are also available, very easy to handle and not very restrictive for the sound, even if we preferred to not use them for our tests.
THE SET UP
Well placed on their stands, an essential option (900 €) to take full advantage of their potential, the Nico EVO need some space around them to breathe, but are perfectly adapted to a very close listening. We therefore adjusted them in several places in an 18 m² room, without feeling the need to place them at a precise distance from the wall to benefit from full bass. Far from imposing an oversized amplification, they express themselves fully when they are no longer limited by the energy deployed upstream, and can then take on very high levels of power and volume. Listened to on an Accuphase E-600 class A amplifier, the Nico EVO were then, thanks to Laurent’s help, tested again at Concert Home auditorium, in Paris, close to Alma-Marceau. Luxman L-590 AXII and Accuphase E-650 amplifiers, each with 2 x 30 W in class A, were compared with the oversized E-800 (2 x 50 W in class A) and a very powerful E-480 (2 x 180 W under 8 ohms in class AB), with surprising results as far as the reactivity of the loudspeakers is concerned. Esprit cables from Beta to Lumina ranges for power, network, speakers and interconnect were then able to alternate with a listening first realized with Nordost power cables, while the high definition sources allowed us to check the capacity to transcribe all the details. First, by freely enjoying the new Mark Levinson 5101 SACD player and network in situ, then at Concert Home with the B.Audio DAC and the magnificent Clearaudio Innovation vinyl turntable, associated with a Stradivari cell and multiplied tenfold by the luxurious Luxman EQ-500 tube phono preamp. To verify agilities and tonalities of the Nico EVO on the whole bandwidth and to push the dynamics, the roundness and the extreme highs and lows, the listening were carried out on all types of music, on vinyl with MoFi or Music Matters mastering, on CD, Japanese SHM-CD, SACD and Qobuz Hi-Res dematerialized files streamed, thanks to the Audirvana software; a necessary quality to highlight all the capacities of our two big toys.
As already mentioned above, the first impression given by the Nico EVO is their impressive solidity, immediately put to the test by large symphonic masses, from which a superb spatialization immediately stands out. Thus, despite a large orchestra, it is possible to identify the location of the instruments, especially the woodwinds, which are particularly crystal clear thanks to the precision of the tweeter. As the music progresses, it flows without ever causing the slightest fatigue; on the contrary, it creates numerous moments of surprise in recordings that are nevertheless perfectly familiar. Thus, we can sometimes guess the gestures or the intentions of the conductor on a counterpoint or a secondary phrase. In the Finale of the 9th of Beethoven (Karajan 63) with voices, the level of detail is again surprising: the notes drag and choir is both integrated and identified on a plane above that of the orchestra, just like the singers, almost possible to place thanks to the amplitude of the sound stage. Gundula Janowitz’s identifiable treble displays a splendid brilliance, perhaps slightly too timbred in the extremes. The live effects sought after, as much on rock concerts of the great years as on reduced formations in classical music, reinforce the impression of naturalness of the loudspeakers, putting just forward a light over-timbre of the high-medium then of the very high treble, as well as a very light imbalance on the dynamics at the time of the passage of the medium to the tweeter, perhaps due to our model of test, already largely used and potentially a little abused before arriving to us. On complicated, medium-quality recordings, such as Nirvana’s Live at Reading, the speakers manage to integrate the stage perfectly and draw the audience into the background, without detracting from its importance; they surprisingly enhance the concert rather than make it less audible. When tested with other complicated recordings, the Nico EVO confirmed the feeling that they almost always improve a recording, good or bad, without ever accentuating its flaws, unlike other speakers that require you to listen only to the best recordings.
Thanks to the extreme quality of details, every instrument of the great orchestras stands out, for example on jazz or blues albums the slightest spatula, the slightest noise of the tongue or mouth of the singers, and therefore obviously also in quiet public recordings, the slightest crumpled paper or tilted seat. However, the feeling of realism created by this level of accuracy only accentuates the listening pleasure, except when the sound engineer wanted to play with the balance, and placed too much on one side such artist or such instrument. Listening to R&B and electro music at a volume that is outrageous for the neighborhood, the Nico EVO, already perfectly balanced over the entire midrange and treble spectrum, impresses even more by bringing out the big game in the bass. They could then be compared to several columns of the same price, or even much more expensive, like the American Magico and Wilson Audio at twice the price, except that the EgglestonWorks avoid in addition any overrated effect of big sound. Bass and sub-bass, available up to 38 Hz, that is to say at a level very close to what the human ear can perceive, are perfectly integrated and prove with what quality the MDF body is prepared to take without ever creating parasitic noises, even on the most inflamed organs, by the dynamics of our test turntable.
As you can see, the Nico EVO deserve to be heard and are among the most interesting speakers in their category. At €5 890 or $5,345 to which you must add €900 for stands and €900 if you want a specific color, the smallest pair of EgglestonWorks requires an already substantial budget, which it nevertheless returns a hundredfold, with a quality-price ratio far superior to that of some competitors. Perfectly balanced and superbly neutral, yet agile across the entire bandwidth and on all types of music, Nico EVO easily fits into a small to medium-sized room, yet are not at all difficult to use in a larger listening room. Capable of handling a lot of power, they can be perfectly integrated into very high-end systems, especially for those who need to limit the sound volume of their listening.
€ 5 980 / $ 5,345
210 x 476 x 406 mm
38 Hz-24 kHz
Stands (900 €) & specific colors (900 €)