Budget Component Reviews

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John Atkinson Posted: Dec 01, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1989 2 comments
If speakers were cars, the Infinity IRS Beta and B&W 801 Matrix would represent the luxury end of the mass market, with perhaps the Celestion SL700, Quad ESL-63, and MartinLogan Sequel II analogous to rather hairy, temperamental sports cars—the Porsche 911, for example. But most people don't buy Porsches, or even Lincoln Town Cars; they buy Hyundai Excels and Ford Escorts. In the same way, when the car is garaged for the night, they don't sit down in front of IRS Betas; in all likelihood they listen to their records with a compact two-way design. If competently designed, a small two-way can give a great deal of musical satisfaction, and, to take a current hobbyhorse of mine out for a trot, if a designer can't produce an at least competent two-way loudspeaker, he or she has no business trying to design larger, more ambitious models—there's nowhere to hide your lack of talent if all you have to play with is a tweeter, a woofer, a rectangular enclosure, and a handful of crossover components.
Sam Tellig Anthony H. Cordesman Posted: Sep 08, 2016 Published: Mar 01, 1985 2 comments
Superphon's Revelation Basic preamplifier is made by Stan Warren, formerly the "S" of PS Audio, so it should come as no surprise that the Revelation Basic and the PS Audio Source sound much alike. The Revelation Basic sells for $399, assembled (no kit available). Like the Source, the Revelation has an outboard AC power transformer to minimize hum problems. But unlike the Source, the Revelation has dual volume controls (a pain) and lacks moving-coil capability.
Art Dudley Posted: Aug 25, 2016 5 comments
Approximately 331/3 years after AudioQuest's first phono cartridge, the company announced two new USB D/A headphone amplifiers: the DragonFly Black ($99) and the DragonFly Red ($199). Both have circuits designed by the engineer responsible for the original DragonFly—Gordon Rankin, of Wavelength Audio—and both have the novel distinction of requiring considerably less operating power than their predecessors, so much less that the new DragonFlys can be used with iPhones, iPads, and various other mobile devices.
Jim Austin Posted: May 19, 2016 3 comments
I was lying on a mattress on the floor of an empty apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Not as grim as it sounds—it's a nice apartment, and the mattress was new, and had just been delivered—but it was hot (no air-conditioning), and my family and my furniture were still in my condo up in Maine, and I was lonely. I needed some cheering up. Which is how I rationalized the decision to buy an Explorer2, Meridian Audio's tiny, inexpensive ($299) digital-to-analog converter.
Robert Harley Posted: May 14, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1990 4 comments
The philosophy promoted by many mainstream stereo magazines (and thus often the belief of the general public) is that one should spend a minimum amount of one's hi-fi budget on electronics and front ends, and a maximum amount on loudspeakers. Since all electronics sound alike and it's the loudspeaker that really produces the sound, the highest overall performance is obtained by putting expensive loudspeakers at the end of a chain of inexpensive electronics. Cables? Don't waste your money.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 13, 2016 Published: Oct 01, 1990 1 comments
Audio journalists tend to wander the corridors of a CES in a minor state of shell-shock. There are no carnival-barkers outside the rooms enticing one to enter (not yet, at any rate), but the sounds and reputations oozing from the open doorways yield little to the "hurry, hurry, hurry" crowd. The Signet room has always, it seems, been one of the quieter oases, often eschewing sound altogether while contentedly displaying their phono cartridges, cables, and various accessories. On a recent CES hunt, I was therefore intrigued to find them demonstrating two new loudspeakers, of all things, to the milling throngs.
Dick Olsher Posted: Apr 12, 2016 Published: Oct 01, 1990 0 comments
You don't have to be a seasoned speaker builder to recognize the Focal name. For years they've offered the home constructor a full assortment of quality drivers and kits. The kits were designed in-house—mostly by Focal in France—and, according to Focal, they represent fully engineered and tested systems. The Aria kits (the 5 and the 7), depart from Focal's past policy, in that the project was a collaborative design effort between Dr. Joe D'Appolito and Focal America. Focal's main contribution was in the area of cabinet development, while D'Appolito was responsible for the system integration and crossover design.
Herb Reichert Posted: Mar 31, 2016 13 comments
The first I heard about Elac's new Debut line of speakers was from two 12-year-olds at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2015. "Elac's room is making the best sound at the show," they said.

Elac? I thought. I have an Elac Miracord 40A turntable. Hmmmm...

So I walked to Elac's room and listened to the Debut B5 bookshelf speakers ($229.99/pair). I was impressed—but maybe not as impressed as everyone else in the room seemed to be. In the halls, people were raving: "Did you hear Andrew Jones's new speaker?" Show bloggers went crazy. People kept asking me, "Herb—what'd you think of the Elacs?" My polite response was always, "I'm glad I'm not in the business of making $1000/pair speakers."

Larry Greenhill Posted: Feb 02, 2016 1 comments
Ten years ago, our family was joined by my son-in-law, who was raised in Dublin, and spent his university years in London. I was editing this review during a recent visit with our daughter and grandchildren, and Justin became interested in the fact that I was reviewing a subwoofer made by Tannoy. He reminded me that, in the UK and Ireland, Tannoy had long been a generic term for public-address systems, just as Hoover had come to describe any vacuum cleaner, regardless of manufacturer. Although Justin admitted that this usage was probably "old school," he teased me that I was reviewing a PA speaker for an audiophile magazine!
John Atkinson Posted: Jan 27, 2016 29 comments
Like all men, I learned at an early age to resist the allure of a pretty face.

Okay—I learned that I should try to resist the allure of a pretty face.

Okay, I confess: I have never been able to resist the allure of a pretty face. Which is why, when I first clapped eyes on the Mojo D/A headphone amplifier from English company Chord Electronics, at an event hosted by Manhattan retailer Stereo Exchange, I had to borrow a sample for review.

Robert Harley Posted: Jan 25, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1990 4 comments
Now Hear This (NHT) was founded to produce low-cost loudspeakers a breed apart from the mass-market variety often found at the lower price points. Co-founder Ken Kantor has a long history in the hi-fi business as a designer at Acoustic Research, NAD, and as a design consultant to some large Japanese manufacturers. NHT's line ranges from the $180/pair Model Zero to the $1200 Model 100.

At $480/pair, the Model 1.3 is midway in NHT's product line. Finished in a gloss-black high-pressure laminate, the 1.3 is elegant, even beautiful, and is distinguished by its unusual angled front baffle. This design means that the rear baffle is nonparallel to the driver, thus reducing the amount of internal cabinet energy reflected back toward the woofer. This is said to improve imaging and midrange purity by reducing comb filtering. In addition, the angled baffle puts the listener directly on-axis with the loudspeakers pointing straight ahead. This increases the ratio of direct-to-reflected sound reaching the listener and further improves imaging.

Jon Iverson Posted: Dec 22, 2015 0 comments
Apogee Electronics Corp. has been in business for 30 years, and I've always thought of them as one of the pro-audio companies responsible for moving digital in the right direction. They've made their mark in recording studios around the planet with digital-audio interfaces and master clocks that have long been considered some of the most technically and sonically advanced, and that were probably used in a high percentage of the recordings in your collection. So when I saw Apogee pop up at the consumer end of the market with a technically unique product, budget-priced at $295, it got my attention.
Robert Harley Posted: Dec 18, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1990 0 comments
The Tannoy E11 ($349/pair) is the company's least-expensive model in a wide range of consumer loudspeakers. Tannoy is most often known for its professional models, especially their nearfield, dual-concentric monitors that have become de rigueur on the top of recording consoles. The E11 is a two-way, ported design with a 6.5" woofer and 1" dome tweeter. Both drivers are manufactured by Tannoy, instead of being sourced from a driver manufacturer. The woofer is made from a polyolefin co-polymer, a plastic material with high rigidity and good self-damping properties. To improve power handling and increase sensitivity, the voice-coil is edge-wound on a Kapton former. The surround appears to be made of butyl rubber.
Herb Reichert Posted: Nov 24, 2015 7 comments
With each review I've written for Stereophile, I've redoubled my efforts to choose my adjectives prudently—to curb my penchant for overstatement. I've been feeling a need to speak more concisely and maturely about what my ears, mind, and heart experience while listening to music through a component that's new to me. So today, at the start of this review, I ask myself: What adjectives must I use to describe the character of GoldenEar Technology's new Triton Five tower loudspeaker ($1999.98/pair)? Which words will best use our shared audiophile lexicon to give you a working vision of what I experienced?
Lonnie Brownell Posted: Nov 13, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1995 0 comments
Tricker tweets? I know, Halloween has already come and gone, but I just had to use that because this little speaker has a trick about its tweeter. The Spectrum Audio 108cd is constructed of ¾" MDF for the baffle and ½" MDF for the sides, with a very–high-quality black ash vinyl covering all the way around. (A brown ash finish is also available.) Rapping on the cabinet results in a hollow bonk, rather than a solid thud.

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