"A piano-lacquer finish…so well
executed…with sensuously rounded edges and corners."
"…the Pinnacles shone with a versatile, snappy, powerful presentation."
"The Black Diamonds are jewels."
"I warmly recommend these speakers to anyone…"
"Pinnacle has once again delivered a sub that kills."
PINNACLE OF SUCCESS
The Black Diamonds are jewels.
by Mark Fleischmann, Home Theater 2003
When I first got to know Pinnacle, I was a
consumer, not a reviewer. I wanted to invest in a small, good-sounding
subwoofer that I could easily shove out of the way when borrowed gear displaced
it. Like any consumer, I asked around, narrowing down the search to a pair of
possible picks, including the Pinnacle
Baby Boomer. That ferocious little 8-inch/600-Watt sucker has been keeping
me entertained ever since.
The second chapter in my relationship with Pinnacle began when my
editor asked me to review the
Quantum/SubSonic. Guests would ask me about the speakers, unprompted,
remarking on how small they were and how good they sounded. The eyebrow-raising
review I handed in concluded that this sub/sat set was the best compact
5.1-channel speaker system I’d ever heard. At $1,699 the
Quantum/SubSonic remains a
prodigious achievement as well as one of the sub/sat sets I recommend when I
correspond with readers.
Pinnacle has stepped up to the plate again with the
Black Diamond Series. My review rig
included the floorstanding BD1000
($1000/pair), bookshelf-sized BD500
($450/pair), BD300 center speaker ($400),
and SuperSonic Sub ($1500). The dual
12-inch SuperSonic is actually a new
version of the Digital Sub 600. Pinnacle
also offers the bipole 8-inch Baby Boomer
Plus ($1050). Both subs’ amps have been upgraded from 600 to 800 Watts peak
(not RMS) power.
All of the speakers in the
Black Diamond Series
come in a black-lacquer finish, and the
is also available in white lacquer for $500/pair. The finish, which takes a
week to produce, is the product of nine stages of coating and polishing. A
piano-lacquer finish isn’t exactly an original touch, but I’ve rarely seen it so
well executed, with sensuously rounded edges and corners.
Let’s cut to the
chase. Pinnacle has once again delivered a sub that kills. The rest of the
system images like a champion and delivers an incredible amount of detail.
These were my first impressions, and they never wavered. The plot thickened in
the midrange, which evolved from having a somewhat forward presentation in the
first hours to having a spatially enriched and well-layered complexity that made
me pillage the Latin corner of my music library. While I had the Pinnacles I
established diplomatic relations with Scarlatti and my love for the Argentinean
composers Ginastera and Piazzolla deepened. Oh, and they rocked, too.
The specs? You’ll probably want to know that the
BD1000 is 40.75 inches tall with a slim
6.5 by 10.5 inch footprint. It swings three ways with four elements, including
a one-inch liquid-cooled silk dome tweeter, a 5.25-inch polycone midrange, and
two woofers of the same size and material. Each of the drivers has a rubber
surround. The midrange driver sits at the top of the baffle, mounted in its own
concealed sub-enclosure, surrounding a bullet-like phase plug that’s die-cast
from silver-plated zinc-magnesium. Every driver has its own resonance (or
breakup) mode: Every fundamental tone triggers false vibrations at a higher
frequency. The phase plug suppresses the midrange driver’s upper harmonic
modes, so whatever upper mid-harmonics you hear come from the signal source, not
from the driver.
The same drivers reappear in the smaller two-way
BD500 (with phase plug) and
BD300 center (without phase plug), a
16.5-inch-wide horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer design. Pinnacle squeezes two
12-inch polycone woofers, one directly behind the other, into the
SuperSonic sub’s sealed enclosure –
which measures just 14.5 inches wide by 15 tall and deep. Each driver has a
2-inch voice coil, a 40-ounce magnet, and rubber surround.
With a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms and a fairly average sensitivity rating of 88
decibels (87 dB for the center), these speakers performed fine with my Rotel
RSX-1065, which musters 100 high-current Watts times five. I wouldn’t mate these
speakers with any receiver that delivers less rated power, has a stingy power
supply, or sells for less than $700 on the street. I found myself reaching for
slightly higher-than-average volume settings with some program material. My
speaker cable was Monster 1.2s and my main signal source was an Integra DPS-8.3
combi player connected with six Silver Serpents from www.bettercables.com.
I got a big surprise when I
setup the sub. As I do with most sat/sub sets, I set an 80 Hz crossover in the
Rotel receiver. I was happy to find a crossover bypass switch on the sub’s back
panel, so the LFE signal didn’t have to pass through two crossovers. What
surprised me was the sub’s sheer volume output. When I dialed in the surround
processor and sub volume controls to the default settings I usually start with,
a hormone-infused roar pinned my ears back. I began with the surround
processor’s sub-out volume at the usual -4 dB mark (my room has a bit of a
midbass hump) and the sub volume one-third up. Using the Infinity R.A.B.O.S.
test CD and a volume meter as a reference, I cut the processor level to -10 dB,
the lowest setting that the Rotel receiver allows, and sub’s volume to 25
percent of its potential. I also ran the main speakers small – at least for
awhile – which seemed to be a waste of four perfectly good woofers.
Has someone at Pinnacle
developed a sudden interest in reggae or rap? Is it a midlife crisis? That
cheap Viagra on the Internet? Whatever meds they’re on, I want to try some. By
the way, if you need to fill a bass-starved room with action-movie-worthy
sound-pressure levels, I do believe we may have a winner.
Having just made a $73 contribution to the Survival of Tower Records Fund, I had
a lot of new CDs to audition. The store’s paltry selection of SACDs and
DVD-Audios didn’t attract me. Besides, I was on a mission: I wanted to explore
a handful of new composers (new to me) and wanted to keep the per-disc cost to
$8 or less.
Mikhail Pletnev’s piano
performances of Domenico Scarlatti’s Keyboard Sonatas – originally
written for harpsichord, an instrument I loathe – brought a healthy respect for
the composer’s distinctive melodic sparkle, Pletnev’s skillful navigation of his
octave-leaping style, and Virgin Classics’ vivid recording. The piano’s lower
registers rumbled tunefully, and its harmonic signature, which the phase plug
presumably controlled, was penned with a flourish.
I was also happy to add
Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 to my collection. The
recording by pianist Dora De Marinis, Julio Malaval, and the Slovak Radio
Symphony Orchestra did full justice to Ginastera’s turbulent rhythms and ominous
harmonies. The Pinnacles had no trouble delivering some extreme dynamic
contrasts, the piano’s percussive virtuosity, and the orchestra’s haunting
sonorities. Low-level resolution was palpable enough to lend menace to
Ginastera’s quiet moments and drama to his sudden outbursts. When the piano and
orchestra blasted off together the Pinnacles shone with a versatile, snappy,
Astor Piazzolla has done for
the tango what Bach did for the fugue. His Complete Music for Flute and
Guitar, recorded at the Martin Luther Church in Detmold, Germany, is more
chamber than dance music. The speakers captured the subtle stone-wall and
wooden-fixture reverb of Irmgard Toepper’s flute as well as the delicate touch
and texture of Hugo Germŕn Gaido’s guitar.
Woodwinds figure prominently
in Vivaldi’s Complete Recorder Concertos with László Kecskeméti and the
Nicolaus Esterhŕzy Sinfonia. It surprised me that the first three of the six
works featured the peeping sopranino recorder. Kecskeméti ennobled the
potentially annoying instrument by lovingly shaping each phrase, and the
tweeters caught the nuances of his intonation, so much like a tiny human voice.
These last three discs came
from Naxos. The audiophile press love Naxos for its high-quality recordings,
musical smarts, and modest pricing. It’s the thinking person’s budget label. I
love Naxos for its packaging. The shrink-wrap is easy to remove; and, beneath
it, you won’t find any of those blasted sticky labels that come off in slivers.
The oddest of my acquisitions
was Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. No less than three separate releases of
the same 1962 Karajan/Berlin recording confronted me at Tower/NYC. I picked the
most recent one which was processed in Ambient Surround Imaging (AMSI).
According to Emil Berliner Studios’ Website, AMSI adds “a surround feel to
stereo material. During a proprietary surround remastering process, stereo
material is enhanced with additional ambience information and converted to a
surround-decoder-compatible signal.” Played back in Dolby Pro Logic II’s music
mode, the one in which I play most stereo recordings nowadays, the AMSI-enhanced
CD conjured a floodlit soundstage with glowing instrumental textures. I was
surprised that a CD could depict space so vibrantly (within DPLII’s pattern
limits), and the Pinnacles deserved their share of the credit.
It had been a long time since
I’d rocked and rolled, but a spot check of Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature
(DVD-Audio) and a full audition of Led Zeppelin’s fourth LP gave me full
confidence in the sub’s ability to handle a rhythm section. I wanted to hear
more of John Paul Jones’ Fender bass, so I gave the towers a full-range signal.
Jimmy Page’s spooky church-bell mandolins and Sandy Denny’s co-wailing on “The
Battle of Evermore” also spoke well of the midrange. Robert Plant seemed more
adenoidal than usual, and I thought I detected a slight bustle in my hedgerow,
but it was just a spring clean for the May Queen.
The Dolby Digital
5.1 track of Spike Lee’s 25 Hours hit the speakers with a lush orchestral
score, and they delivered it like a bouquet of roses. There were some distinct
ping-pong surround effects in the socioeconomic denunciation scene (don’t ask)
and the nightclub-seduction scene. I loved the way the sub delivered the
low growl of the club’s dance music when characters retreated behind closed
doors. But the dramatic highlight was the beating that Edward Norton’s
drug-dealing protagonist took from a buddy. Shouts, barks, and blows suddenly
cut out of the mix leaving only the park setting’s twitter of birds and a quiet
breeze. Pinnacle’s textile tweeter’s low-level definition helped make the scene
traumatic and indelible.
vehicle 8 Mile traced the path of another downwardly mobile character in
a scenario laced with rap interludes ranging from playful to confrontational.
The DTS track’s dynamic contrasts stayed within a limited range, which I
attributed to the movie’s mainstream pop ethos and noisy Detroit milieu. Even
so there were several moments when the music burst out like an avenging fury.
revised my initial judgment of the initially forward midrange. Once they were
broken in, the speakers moved back several rows in the concert hall, albeit
still a few rows ahead of center. The Black Diamonds are revealing but not
ruthless. They don’t allow a one-size-fits-all volume adjustment, yet they
manage to make a large percentage of recordings (at least the sort I buy) sound
acceptable. A small percentage sound brilliant, reflecting reality just about
Before I conclude, let’s run few a variations. The 5.1-channel
system that I reviewed costs $3,350. Replace the floorstanding
BD1000 with two more of the smaller
BD500 (an easy choice given the sub’s
almost anarchic power), and you’re suddenly down to $2,800. Continue with the
small satellites and get the Baby Boomer Plus
in lieu of the SuperSonic sub, a
viable option in a small or bass-heavy room, and the price is an affordable
$2,350. A 6.1-channel system with six BD500s, bringing in the benefit of a
fully matched center, is $2,400 with the Baby Boomer Plus or $2,850 with the
SuperSonic. Want to go 7.1? Add the BD300
center with your sub of choice, and the range is $2,800 to $3,250. No matter
how you juggle them, these numbers add up to a highly desirable value rating,
especially considering the agreeable cosmetics and sterling sound.
I remain an undaunted Pinnacle fan. The
Black Diamond Series left no tone
unturned and performed well in every way imaginable. Not that there isn’t room
for future growth. As a purveyor of wildly powerful subs, Pinnacle should
consider going the Infinity route and get into low-frequency EQ. That one-item
wish list aside, I warmly recommend these speakers to anyone who wants to get
inside music and movies.
Black Diamond Speaker System $3,350
Unbelievably powerful 800-Watt sub
* The silk/neodymium tweeter
provides strong detail and imaging
* Lustrous, black piano-gloss
finish and small footprint
Build Quality: 95
* Mark Fleischmann is the
Practical Home Theater,
www.practicalhometheater.com (or 800/839-8640).