Review: Pinnacle Black Diamond 1200 Cherry Speaker

Category: Speakers

There comes a time when you have either upgraded your componets beyond your speaker's abilities, or you decide to upgrade your speakers in order to justify making other upgrades in your system (I am often guilty of the latter). Perhaps the speakers being replaced are fine by most folks' standards, or maybe they have become old--either technologically, or physically. If you are anything like me, your speakers are upgraded or swapped often enough that they're never given a chance to become outdated, much less old and worn-out.

I had no plans to upgrade my speakers, as my Polk Rta600i setup sounded marvelous enough for what I'd invested (around $800 for the pair). I was in my local stereo shop, and the owner had just had a falling-out with the Pinnacle representitive. He decided to cut ties with them, and liquidate his inventory of Pinnacle goods at half retail. Now, admittedly, I can buy things a tad quickly, and sometimes regret doing so later, but the initial audition of the Pinnacle Black Diamond 1200 setup was enough for me to jump at the chance to have a pair for 50% off ($600!). Six clams is a lot to most folks, myself included, but I was mighty sure that the next guy to sit in the listening seat might find the price too hard to pass-up. Long story short, I bought the pair, and had them boxed back up, and brought them home (which required two trips, as the double-boxed 1200s are simply too darn big to fit in my coupe.

First Impressions

The packaging alone alerts you that the BD 1200s are no dorm room speakers. Shrink-fit foam, and rugged double-boxes that Shaquille Oneal could hide in assure the purchaser that the magnificently finished speakers arrive home unscathed.

The cabinets are of premium fit and finish, even for their regular price of $1200 USD. For $600, I stole them. Cherry grain sides are topped with a beautiful six-layer piano black, which also makes-up the baffles and the stands. There are, of course, a set of brass spikes, which I let pop through my berber carpet, and then smashed-down as best I could. These speakers are NARROW, and one of them actually fell over sideways as I was attempting to move it. I was lucky to catch the forty-plus pound speaker before it put a hole in my wall or ruined the fine piano laquer. Pinnacle should provide a pair of side extensions to mount the spikes to, allowing for an extra few inches at the base. On hardwood floors, I would never even let my kid in the same room with them, for fear that they'd domino-over into my floor, wall, or worse, my CJ amp! Other than that, and a screw which was not fully inserted through the baffle (apparently to prevent it from chipping the piano finish), I found no real flaws in the Pinnacle's build or physical design. The bi-ampable gold posts around back are of fine quality, and accept spades or bananas, etc. They come shorted together with gold-plated (brass?) rods, which, after fidgeting with , I managed to tighten enough to prevent rattling (not a build issue, but with vibration added to the equation, better safe).

The handsome towers stand a bit taller than my Polks did, with the top midranges about three inches above an average listener's ear, and the tweeters at ear level. The five drivers, from top to botom, are arranged Mid,Tweet,Mid-Woofer-Woofer. Pinnacle says that two are woofers, and two are mids, but they are, as best I can tell without removing them, identical aside from their crossover frequency. Four 4" woofers? I had never seen this done before, but, as I'd find out, there was a method to Pinnacle's madness.

Though they had been set-up for two or three weeks at the dealer, I let the Pinnacles break-in anyway, with a good treatment of non-critical listening for a two or three day period, as well as a few dynamic tracks left on repeat while I was away from home (my apologies to the folks who live below my apartment).

So, how about the sound?

I could go on for a page about the midrange on these gems. I could spend a few days talking about the rather impressive bass extension offered by such modestly sized drivers. I could even spend an hour or two rambling about the simple, yet smooth silk dome tweeter's ability to handle all but the sharpest sounds with ease. I'll spare you all, except to say that I am impressed with these speakers.

44Hz is not exactly sub-bass, but it's still deep as heck for four inch drivers! Even on tunes which delve much lower than this (Bela Fleck's "Cosmic Hippo," off the same-named album, for instance), the 1200s don't burp with audible port flapping or vibrations as do most speakers below their useable range. They would blend AWESOMELY with a sub set to a low-pass of 44-50Hz. I am holding-out until I can afford TWO subs, a pair of fifteen-inchers, and a dedicated bass amp to push them. I have heard systems with a summed-mono sub sound pretty convincing, but stereo subwoofers add a whole new level of "Whooopie!" to the system that a single sub just can not provide. If you dig any type of Jazz, or alternative music with two bass sources, etc., you must hear a stereo pair of subs to appreciate it. Anyway, back to the 1200s.

Imaging is solid as heck, with no drag to one side or another on detailed vocals or passages. The soundstage comes from well to the sides of my speakers, even though they are set-up quite far apart already. (There is not a hole in the center, either, even with zero toe-in.) Eric Clapton's "Blues before sunrise" sounded great, and his trademark guitar was centered perfectly. His vocals seemed forward, but not "in your face."

At times, I could pick details out of albums which were almost eerie. On Bela Fleck's "Perpetual Motion," Fleck's fingers make distinct zipping sounds as his hands move about the neck of the banjo. Now, we have all heard "finger sweeps" before, and any decent speaker can portray them to some extent, but these had a sense of realism I'd not experienced on speakers costing less than $3000 a pair. Even then, I rarely hear details this detailed.The speed, hardness, and direction of the sweeps had me mesmerized. By "hardness," I mean the pressure with which his fingers ran along the neck, not hardness in a bad sense. By direction, I mean just that. Left to right, top to bottom. Even the body of the banjo, and the accompanying classical guitar had their own true-to-life signatures which never lost their own identities, no matter how complex things got. It was as if I could SEE the instruments, and their specific points in space. Pretty good stuff for a $1200 set of speakers, and, he-he-he, even better for $600. In fact, ProAc speakers are the only ones I've heard which carry a similar, perhaps 5% better trait on string sounds, but alas, I can not afford ProAcs at 500% the Pinnacle's pricetag. For the difference, I'll take 95% of the ProAc's sound any day of the week. Now, that's not to say that the Pinnacles hold a birthday cake candle to the ProAcs in terms of bass extension or fullness.

I have listened to Bela Fleck, some Stones ("Stripped", "Exile on Main Street," and "Sucking in the Seventies"), and lots of Clapton, Allman Brothers, and Pink Floyd ("Dark Side" MFSL Gold CD) on these Pinnacles. If you like Pina Coldas, classic rock, Steely Dan, Floyd, etc., go audition the Pinnacle line. Their smaller Black Diamond 1000 is solid piano black and has larger woofers, plus retails for a bit less. The 1200 is a bit nicer in the high end, due to a completely different tweeter (Vifa? Scan Speak?) than the rest of the Black Diamond line. Also, the 1200's tweeters are crossed-over at 5000Hz, which is fairly high when compared with most home loudspeaker designs.

Overall Impression

These speakers shone new light on all of my classic rock faves, including a tricky piano key strike on Pink Floyd's "Meddle" cd, which drives 99% of all domes I've heard (except the ProAcs, Focus Audios, and Polk Tri-Laminates) into eye-watering distortion. I attribute this lack of treble distortion to the 5kHz crossover point. Even better, they handle the entire frequency range, including the very limits of their freq. response, with ease. For what I paid, these babies are AWESOME.

To Conclude

At their $1199.00 USD retail, I can assure you the Pinnacle BD 1200C Towers are a great value. Not a bargain, simply due to the lack of true sub-bass, but quite a great value, nonetheless. They are dynamic enough for any music you throw at them, and they sound great with DVDs like "The Matrix," too. What's more, they blew an already wonderful set of Polk Audio towers out of the water. Just don't buy them if you have a dog or kid who's prone to knocking stuff over! Stop at your local Pinnacle dealer if you are in the market for a new set of moderately-priced towers. Bring a favorite CD. Chances are, you'll be hearing things you missed on your old setup!


  • Fit and Finish second only to megabuck speakers.
  • Strong, even imaging throughout the spectrum.
  • Uncanny treble reproduction atop a lifelike midrange.
  • Unusual driver array sounds superb.

  • So narrow and tall, it's dangerous. Watch the kids!
  • Why use two sets of binding posts on a pair of speakers which only hit 44Hz? Instead, drop one set, and lower the price a few bucks...

    -Joe M.

Associated gear
Conrad Johnson Sonographe Sc-26 Preamp.

Conrad Johnson Sonographe Sa-250 Amplifier.

Cambridge Audio Azur 640a Integrated Amp.*

Rotel RDC 980 CD Transport.
Rotel RDP 980 DAC.

Monster Cable and home-made interconnect, speaker wire, and terminations.

*See my review of the 640a; it's worth a listen!

Similar products
Monitor Audio, RBH, Definitive Tech.