Pylon Audio Diamond 25 mkII
Although Poland's most famous loudspeaker manufacturer started with budget speakers, its current catalog is dominated by mid- and high-end designs. The top position is occupied by the beautiful Jaspers, available in both passive and active versions. Then we have three series consisting of a single model - Amber, Jade, and Emerald. The bottom four is made up of the Ruby, Sapphire, Opal, and Pearl series. Right in the middle there's a series that has become a real market hit, combining minimalist design, high-quality workmanship, a rich color palette, and natural, balanced, and universal sound. The Diamonds were Pylon's flagships at the time of their launch. I remember how the bosses of the Jarocin-based manufacturer, still unsure of the rightness of their decision, wondered whether such loudspeakers would appeal to customers. Today, the company could probably produce only this series and would easily balance the books (especially considering that Pylon Audio is not only a manufacturer of equipment sold under its own brand but also a supplier of cabinets for leading foreign brands). However, since there was an opportunity to improve them, it was a shame not to take it. This is how the Diamonds mkII were born. To see what's what, I decided to review my favorite model from this series - the "twenty-fives".
Why favorite? It's simple - in my opinion, these relatively compact floorstanders are best suited to most typical living rooms. They are just right for the discerning but not extremely wealthy music lovers. When the Polish company introduced the Diamonds 28 at the end of July 2015, everyone raved about them, while pointing out that for optimum effect they should work in a very large room. The manufacturer declares a range of 25-42 m² on its website, but frankly speaking, I would treat this rather as a minimum, considering an attempt to place such loudspeakers in a 25-square-meter room to be at least brave, if not crazy.
This is where the Diamonds 25 come into play. They are slightly smaller, but - this is my subjective opinion - in many respects better. Their bass is not as powerful, but the sound is faster, tighter, and consequently more natural. The "twenty-fives", although they require a reasonable distance from the wall due to the rear-mounted bass-reflex ports, are also easier to position and do not require such a powerful amplifier. Add to that simple shapes (despite the entire cabinet being tilted backward), lack of unnecessary embellishments, SEAS drivers, typical for this brand attention to detail and woodwork, which I would not hesitate to call outstanding in this price range, and the mystery of why the Diamond 25s became such a bestseller is solved right away.
The CEO of JRC, the company that owns the Pylon Audio brand, Mateusz Jujka, admitted that in its current form, the Diamonds could be produced for a few more years, as they haven't really aged one bit. From the customers' point of view, it's just a very good, proven piece of equipment. Nor have there been any defects that show up after a long time or problems with parts availability. Most companies would probably consider the subject closed and happily continue shipping speakers that are so popular. But that would be too easy.
Design and functionality
Where did the idea of upgrading the Diamonds come from if customers didn't really need it? There were at least several reasons. Firstly, after less than nine years, Pylon Audio is a completely different company than when the Diamond 28s were launched. The factory has moved to a new location (probably even several times, eventually landing in a hall that should last it for many years), increased employment, acquired new industry customers (unfortunately I cannot give a full list, but all insiders know, that Audio Physic is just one of the leading European loudspeaker manufacturers for whom Pylon Audio supplies cabinets), appointed foreign distributors, procured a whole lot of instrumentation used both at the production stage and in the design of new models, and even built its own anechoic chamber. All this gives Polish designers opportunities they did not have before, - a technological edge over their competitors. Basic tools or software is something everyone can buy, but industrial vibrometers or an anechoic chamber? For many loudspeaker designers, it's a dream that will probably never come true.
Secondly, growing sales mean more orders from sub-suppliers, the most important of which are Scan-Speak and SEAS. Danish and Norwegian transducers are invariably held in high regard by audiophiles, but loudspeaker manufacturers are increasingly opting for more exotic units or developing them themselves to make their equipment unique. The Polish factory has also made such attempts. The most successful one, in my opinion, are the bass/midrange speakers used in the Ruby series, with a diaphragm made of Endumax. It would be much simpler and cheaper to modify the ready-made drivers, but in order to get the subcontractor to agree to this, the speakers have to be ordered in bulk. Pylon Audio has long since entered this level, so when SEAS was asked about the possibility of making some significant changes to the speakers used in the Diamond series, the Norwegians agreed without hesitation. The biggest change visible to the naked eye is the fixed phase corrector in the midrange driver, but in fact both 15-cm units have been extensively redesigned. They received larger voice coils, a stronger magnetic system, and improved suspension. The tweeter is a new version of the Scan-Speak used in the first generation of Diamonds. It doesn't stop there, of course. Although the new Diamonds appear very similar to their predecessors, virtually everything has been changed - the tilt of the cabinets, the plinths, the damping, and, of course, the crossovers. Of all the modifications, however, the biggest step forward has to be the drivers.
Thirdly, even with such a large fan base in its home country, the Polish manufacturer has spread its sails on foreign markets so much that around 60% of its production is now exported. This trend is likely to continue, and this means that Pylon's new speakers need to be tailored for a global audience. Two countries are key here - China and India (although the company is also looking hopefully at Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and South Korea). If you would like to have some idea of the scale of the phenomenon, let me just say that within two months, the Polish brand's products were presented at nine major audio equipment exhibitions in China. Imagine a show like the High End in Munich taking place every week in different cities, and you will immediately understand the scale of the phenomenon. There is a lot to fight for. After the first deliveries, Indian and Chinese distributors came back to Pylon with interesting feedback - the build quality is great, the sound is also great, but the speakers, maybe apart from the massive Ambers mkII, sound, uhm... quiet. And customers, especially in India, like to turn up the volume to the max. What we call concert levels, for them is ordinary listening that could go on for hours. The ideal loudspeakers for the Indian market should have high efficiency and be designed to work with a powerful amplifier, whose volume knob rarely goes below 12 o'clock (by then it's already playing so quietly that you might as well turn the whole thing off...). Pylon Audio claims that the changes introduced with the customers from there in mind will also be positively received by Europeans, as they have made it possible to obtain a more dynamic and tangible, but still even, natural and well-arranged sound.
The Diamond 25 mkIIs arrived at our editorial office in two really large cardboard boxes. Many manufacturers would fit not one, but two compact floorstanders into one such box, but all the sets in this series are larger than the pictures suggest, or, to be more precise, deeper. The reviewed model appears slender, as the enclosures are only slightly wider than the woofers' baskets, and they are less than a meter high, but this third, key dimension is best illustrated by the length of the stabilizing plinth - 41 cm (in one of the photos we placed the Sennheisers HD 600 at the back as an "object for scale"). This is still not a world record, as the Jaspers seem even deeper, but the key word is "seem". This is because it is a direct result of the dimensions of the boxes, and here it is also a result of the slope of the boxes. So we have a space above the last 11-12 centimeters of the plinth, which by the way is very clever. I have mentioned more than once that users of Polish loudspeakers like to push them closer to the wall. Sometimes as much as possible. The presence of one or even, as in this case, two bass-reflex ports either doesn't make them think if what they're doing is right, or they consciously opt for an inferior sound, boomy bass, flattened soundstage and attempts to control the resonance tunnels with plugs so that the hi-fi equipment doesn't interfere with their living space. I therefore treated the extended plinths with a wink, as a double safety measure. On the one hand, they prevent the speakers from tipping over, while on the other hand, they guarantee that at least a minimum distance is kept between the bass-reflex ports and the wall of the listening room. If the user keeps a minimum of sense and leaves 20-30 cm between the plinths and the wall, the drivers will be at a distance of 50-60 cm from it, which allows obtaining not only a big, firm sound built on solid bass but also a very nice soundstage.
At this point, however, I will point out a drawback - the plinths are exactly the same width as the enclosures. Tall, slender loudspeakers can topple over to the side. Theoretically, this is not a big drawback, but if I were the manufacturer, I would think twice about turning on the TV one day and seeing the presenter of one of the news channels talking about how in one of the flats in a normal, quiet housing estate, a crawling child grabbed an opening in a loudspeaker and the box, weighing 19 kg, collapsed on it with full momentum. At this point there would have been a series of questions from the studio - what kind of loudspeakers were they, why did they have such holes and were they protected in any way? No, because the manufacturer had not anticipated anything of this sort. Ah, okay... It's not the first time I've pointed this out, and then again, aesthetic considerations take precedence over functionality and stability. Fortunately, the company has noticed this problem and has a solution ready. As with the older Diamonds, the entire plinths can be unscrewed, and larger ones will appear in Pylon Audio's catalog. Replacing them will be very easy. In the standard version, the speakers will still be as shown in the pictures, as not everyone needs such extra protection. If you have a separate listening room, live alone, or are one hundred percent sure that the household members will not test the stability of the speakers, there's no story here, but if you would like to prevent a potential mishap, the wider platforms will certainly come in handy and I am glad that they will soon be available.
The Diamond 25 mkIIs will certainly delight customers with the same thing as the first series model - unbelievably high build quality, especially for their price. Polish carpenters have achieved true mastery and I am not surprised that companies from all over the world are queuing up to order their cabinets. We used to marvel at the casings of British, Scandinavian, German, or Austrian loudspeakers. Nowadays, the factories where they were made either no longer exist or have switched to the production of furniture, and loudspeaker manufacturers are looking for subcontractors willing to do all the dirty work while maintaining attractive prices. Bowers & Wilkins only makes top-of-the-line models in Worthing, the cabinets for Falcon Acoustics M10 monitors are made in Italy, and quite a lot of the industry is sourcing from China, but if you want a great product made by people who take into account not only looks but also acoustic considerations, Pylon Audio has only a few worthy rivals in Europe.
The multitude of color options available is also impressive. Many manufacturers now offer three finish options - walnut veneer and white and black lacquer. Hardly anyone plays around with other colors, as this generates additional costs and logistical problems. Pylon Audio is not afraid of this, and in fact, has made it one of its trademarks. The Diamond series' range of finishes includes 11 colors of natural oak veneer (the different shades are obtained using oil/wax), five variants of veneer covered with clear varnish, four lacquered versions (black and white, glossy, or matt) and an Individual version - any RAL lacquer, available in high gloss or matt, of course. The Polish manufactory loves to boast about unusual, bold orders. Although I like classic veneers, when I see a picture of red, green, blue, or purple loudspeakers, I involuntarily pause for a moment. The surcharge for the lacquer is not striking. In its cheapest version, the Diamonds 25 mkII cost €2550. A pair in matt lacquer (black or white) will cost us €2765, in glossy one - €2900, and if you'd like to order a pair in a color of your own choice, you will pay just €3100. It's also worth mentioning that the Diamond series is also bigger than it used to be. In addition to the 'twenty-fives', there's the larger Diamond 28 mkII and the really big, three-way Diamond 30 mkII to choose from, the Diamond Monitor mkII stand model is due to go on sale very soon, and the Diamond Sub active subwoofer will be out in March. I think that the introduction of the center channel speaker is only a matter of time, so in addition to a stereo system, it will be possible to build a full home cinema system on the basis of the refurbished Diamonds. However, now I am most interested in how the Diamonds 25 mkII handles music.
The first generation of Diamond 25s became a market hit and this was due to a number of factors, of which an extremely important, although in my opinion not at all decisive, was the natural, well-balanced, versatile, easily digestible, by all means, "safe" sound. Unlike their bigger sisters, the "twenty-fives" did not try to impress the listener with low bass, offering slightly faster, but pleasant and relatively warm music reproduction. They were also characterised by a coherence, and great sensitivity rarely encountered in this price range. It was simply difficult to complain about these speakers, as nothing in their sound was glaring or out of the ordinary. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that in this respect the Diamonds were ideal representatives of the company's sound, because the Polish engineers, both before and after, followed the same scheme - the speakers should play evenly, coherently, pleasantly, and musically, conveying a sufficient dose of detail, but under no circumstances and in no aspect of the presentation should they cross the boundary beyond which we could complain that the bass is too hard, the midrange too forward, and the treble too bright, aggressive or metallic.
Pylons were usually built and tuned with long-distance listeners and music lovers in mind, who prefer a gentle belly massage with low descending bass, a somewhat British-style midrange, and a well-bred treble that knows the limit of good taste. A rocking, crushing sound, a no-holds-barred concert experience? These things had no right to happen with this brand's products. A large group of customers liked it very much, while the rest began to point out that after a while this sound became boring. Listening to favorite artists, including recordings where not everything sounds perfect, then feels like the equipment has a built-in parental control system. Some people tried to fight it by matching the Diamonds with electronics and cabling of a firm, transistor-like, sometimes even cool disposition, but persuading the Polish speakers to step out of their comfort zone and change their polite, calm, friendly character, even for a moment, worked only to some extent. Later, we collided with an insurmountable barrier. What to do about it? There's still nothing to complain about, certainly considering the price, but sometimes you'd like to go wild, to get something more out of the speakers, and with the first generation of Diamonds this was quite difficult. I don't know why, but when I was thinking of a comparison, a scene from the TV series "Euphoria" came to mind, in which bored Kat is lying on the bed with her boyfriend, he goes to the bathroom and then dies in a rather spectacular way, and a muscular barbarian styled on Khal Drogo from "Game of Thrones" comes out from behind him. The facial expression of Barbie Ferreira, who plays Kat, when that man approached her with a bloody sword and announced what he was going to do to her, perfectly captures the mixture of shock and excitement I felt during the first audition of the new Diamonds.
What we are dealing with here is something more than a revised version of popular and still much-loved floorstanders. Okay, maybe it's not so much that the good boy from the neighborhood hasn't turned into a bloodthirsty, uncouth savage, but the second generation of the "twenty-fives" has something that the first one lacked - temperament. This may be just my impression, resulting from experience with the older Diamonds and many other sets from this brand, but in the sound of mkIIs, attention is drawn by completely different qualities - dynamics, speed, tangibility, transparency, and fantastic soundstage. In a way, I felt as if I had met a good friend and seen how, after many years of more or less successful attempts, he had finally managed to overcome some of his limitations, do something he had always dreamed of, ascend to a level that seemed unattainable for him, which, apart from the obvious joy of success, gave him a lot of self-confidence. So the satisfaction was twofold - firstly, I got an excellent sound, and secondly, I felt not even so much joy and pride that a Polish manufacturer had succeeded but hoped that this direction would be maintained. I have no doubt that the new Diamond mkII series is no small step forward in relation to the original. It's a completely new, vastly superior design that should mark a new direction for Pylon. I'll go even further - if you own first-generation Diamonds and have been searching for floorstands that will be similar in size but will sound noticeably better, you don't have to look any further. Simply swap to the mkIIs. Visually, not much will change. If you order the same finish, you will even be able to do a little experiment and see if anyone notices it. When listening, however, the difference will be obvious.
When I heard that the modifications made to the second generation of Diamonds were largely dictated by the requirements of foreign customers, I was a little scared. Wrongly so. Knowing how it worked out in practice, I'm glad that the market forced some changes, because it prompted Pylon's designers to act, and gave them the boost they needed. The best thing, however, is that the qualitative progress motivated by the desire to satisfy music lovers from India and China firstly did not eliminate the features we appreciated in the first generation of Diamonds, and secondly extended the list of their assets, which will also please existing fans of the Polish brand. "Twenty-fives" still boast an even, consistent, natural, and universal sound. This pedigree can still be heard well here. Maybe a lot has changed in the magnets and coils, but the woofer diaphragms are the same or very similar, so the timbre is great. To my ear, the new Diamonds are a little more unbiased, but they still have a lot of pleasant warmth. They can handle vocals masterfully, without turning artists into soulless robots, wood into stone, or cellos into chainsaws. There is a great deal of so-called human element in this sound, but who wouldn't want to add better dynamics and resolution to it? After all, it's like having astigmatism and refusing to wear glasses. Audiophiles, by definition, want to get more out of music, to delve into the richness of its detail, and to achieve this, the equipment has to work at full speed. The previous Diamonds did not fit into this scheme. They were mellow, soft, sometimes even sluggish. The new generation shows more. The tweeter is also fantastic and I feel that its full potential has been realised. Compared to the first generation of Diamonds, you can even talk about an effect that audiophiles compare to taking a blanket off the speakers.
A more "sporty" sound also means greater differences between recordings and other components in the stereo system. To put it bluntly, the new Diamonds will make you want to invest in a better streaming service subscription, buy high-resolution files, reach for well-executed albums more often, and an amplifier that has seemed cool so far will, after a while, start to be looked at as a limiting link to the speakers' potential. For example, the Octavio AMP, with which the Diamond 25s would be quite happy, turned out to be an average partner for the mkIIs. The Unison Research Triode 25 with the Silent Angel M1T transport was a much better choice. For the older Diamonds, I would have considered such a set a slight exaggeration, but here it was just right. However, the Pylons completely surprised me during the last listening session, for which I used the Auralic Vega G1 streamer and the Hegel H20 power amplifier. I thought that after Unison not much would improve, but the "twenty-fives" spread their wings even more. They showed a lot of class and proved that they have a lot of potential. Will someone really use it and get 110% out of them? I don't know, but it is a real possibility.
The icing on the cake is the soundstage. The Diamond 25 mkIIs do not need any encouragement to present a three-dimensional stereo image with clear contours and a lot of air between the instruments. This is not yet the level of realism we know, for example, from Audio Physic speakers, but the comparable Classic 8s are more expensive than the Diamonds in individual finish and still don't deliver a bass as deep as the new "25s", which can conjure up a sound based on an extremely solid low-frequency range, with an unquestionably "floorstanding" scale (which is probably due to the use of a deep enclosure with two rear-firing bass-reflex ports). Their bass is really deep, meaty, substantial, pleasantly bouncy, and swinging, but it doesn't rumble or buzz unless you try hard to get these unpleasant effects out of it. As an experiment, I placed the speakers 15 cm from the wall and nothing terrible happened. If you're looking for a full, powerful sound, you'll get more of it here than you'd expect from most loudspeakers of this size. And yet we are dealing with the smallest floorstanders in the series. If you'd like to get an even bigger sound with deeper bass, the 28 mkIIs and 30 mkIIs are there for you.
The "twenty-fives" are, however, a proposal tailored to suit average listening rooms. The manufacturer quotes a range of 15-30 m² and I completely agree with this recommendation. Of course, everything depends on the setup and other elements of your stereo system, but if I imagine a typical situation - an average-sized living room, a TV hanging on the wall, a decent amplifier, maybe even a turntable - then everything should be fine, of course with a reasonable distance from the wall. And when you decide to go wild, the Polish loudspeakers will repay you beautifully, because, as the manufacturer announced, they can roar. For the sake of balance, I should now point out a few flaws to them. Wait, let me think... Well, unfortunately, I can't think of anything else apart from too-narrow plinths. If you think there is something wrong with the sound of the Diamond 25 mkIIs, please drop me an email because I am really curious to know what it could be. And the best is yet to come anyway.
Build quality and technical parameters
The Diamond 25 mkII is the smallest representative of the Diamond series floorstanding speakers in a new, refreshed version, with an unusual design differentiation of the woofer-midrange drivers. Like its bigger brethren, the loudspeaker is equipped with upgraded drivers, redesigned by Pylon Audio's engineers, in cooperation with SEAS and Scan-Speak. The treble is reproduced by an improved version of the D2010/852100 tweeter, with a neodymium magnetic system, a cellular rubber front, and a dual resonance chamber. The upper woofer is a SEAS design modified by Pylon Audio. This driver is equipped with a fixed phase plug instead of a dust cover, to ensure more faithful reproduction of the midrange, while eliminating coloration of its upper range caused by resonances under the protective dome. The bass has been entrusted to a 15-cm woofer equipped with a long and lightweight aluminum-copper voice coil, providing an adequate supply of dynamics, speed, and versatility in reproducing the lowest frequencies. Both woofers have been made with Spider Ring technology, and they have been brought closer together, which is one of the details that distinguish the new version from the previous one. The cabinets have also undergone a gentle facelift. Their body is characterized by an increased tilt (from 4 to 7⁰). The stabilizing plinths have also been completely redesigned. In addition to precisely placed reinforcements, the manufacturer has used two soundproofing materials - foam and natural sheep's wool. When you unscrew the speakers, you can see that they were not placed haphazardly. Patches of foam were trimmed and placed in the recesses between the internal reinforcements. The crossover has been mounted on an MDF base glued to the rear panel, using the point-to-point technique. At first glance, it looks a bit "prototypical," but Pylon engineers claim that such mounting is the best from the point of view of sound quality. Apparently, dozens of listening tests have been conducted here, and a crossover built this way won every time over a "prettier" one, mounted on a sleek PCB. The quality of the components used also deserves praise. Jantzen Audio Cross-Cap capacitors in speakers offered for less than €3000 are a rare sight. An element that strongly enhanced the sound quality was reportedly an air coil wound with 1.4 mm wire. The whole thing was tested with a laser vibrometer and its own anechoic chamber. As for the parameters, the Diamond 25 mkIIs have an efficiency of 87 dB, and their rated impedance is 4 Ω. It would seem that such speakers will require a relatively powerful amplifier, but rest assured - it really doesn't take long to encourage them to play loud and expressive.
Audiovector QR5, Equilibrium Nano, Unison Research Triode 25, Hegel H20, Auralic Aries G1, Auralic Vega G1, Marantz HD-DAC1, Clearaudio Concept, Cambridge Audio CP2, Cardas Clear Reflection, Tellurium Q Ultra Blue II, Albedo Geo, KBL Sound Red Corona, Enerr One 6S DCB, Enerr Tablette 6S, Enerr Transcenda Ultimate, Fidata HFU2, Melodika Purple Rain, Sennheiser HD 600, Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO, Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, Meze 99 Classics, Bowers & Wilkins PX5, Pro-Ject Wallmount It 1, Custom Design RS 202, Silent Angel N8, Vicoustic VicWallpaper VMT, Vicoustic ViCloud VMT.
A life cycle of nearly nine years is not yet a record for loudspeakers, but certainly a very good result. The story of the original Diamonds could be continued, but since the capabilities of the Polish company are now completely different, it was a shame not to take advantage of them. From the outside, the new Diamonds differ only slightly from their predecessors, but in their internal design and sound quality there has been progress I can only call groundbreaking. It's not just a qualitative change, but also a big step in dynamics, transparency, speed, clarity, soundstage, and a bolder approach to music. It's as if someone took the older "twenty-fives" and unlocked their full potential. The Diamonds still sound natural, pleasantly, with a clear dose of warmth and pulsating bass, but at the same time, even during quiet listening, they let us know that much more fun is waiting, and when you give them a whack, they take it and start singing with full voice, presenting a scale of sound that no one would expect from floorstanders of this size. Best of all, however, is the price. If you see these speakers, listen to them, and compare them with the competition, at first, you will probably think that €2550 is the price per unit. But no. That's the price per pair. Moreover, in recent years, many hi-fi manufacturers have raised prices by at least 50% for the same products, whereas here, compared to the previous generation of Diamonds, the price has increased by 25-30%, but the speakers have been improved, so the new version is more expensive, but also a lot better. Such situations do not happen often in the world of audiophile equipment, so I'm happy to give the Diamond 25 mkIIs a well-deserved recommendation.
Speakers type: Floorstanding, dynamic, ported
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Impedance: 4 Ω
Frequency response: 36 Hz - 20 kHz
Dimensions (H/W/D): 98/16,5/41 cm
Weight: 19 kg (piece)
Manufacturer: Pylon Audio