Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Mar 24, 2017 5 comments
When it comes to Focal loudspeakers, I've been a lurker. For decades now, their demonstrations at audio shows have been memorable—a highlight was when, several years ago, I got Focal to play a powerful percussion track through a pair of their Grande Utopias at very high volume on a show's last day. Just to hear and feel how this mammoth system could deliver clarity and impact was awe-inspiring, and it was underscored by seeing folks from all the neighboring rooms quickly entering to enjoy it with me. It has also been a continuing pleasure to relax and listen to music with Stereophile's former Senior Editor, Jonathan Scull through his Focal Utopias, which he purchased in 1998. Alas, the years have turned, speakers have come and gone, and I had not yet had any Focal speakers in my own system. (Bob Deutsch seemed always to get the jump on me!)
John Atkinson Posted: Mar 09, 2017 Published: Feb 01, 1990 0 comments
RSL is the house brand of a California chain of retail stores, Rogersound Labs, that is part-owned by the leader of the RSL loudspeaker-design team, one Howard Rodgers. (Rogersound Labs also owns the Upscale Audio high-end store in north Los Angeles.) The range offered by RSL is unbelievably wide, with models addressing just about every market niche and price category. The Speedscreen II, however, is Howard's attempt to produce a true high-end loudspeaker at an affordable price. To the casual observer, the Speedscreen ($898/pair) appears to be a planar design; however, its shallow, braced enclosure houses moving-coil drive-units, and is a result of Howard's attempts to minimize the effect of cabinet resonances. "I always thought deep, narrow enclosures sound 'boxy'," said Howard when he visited Santa Fe last September, "and the wide but shallow cabinet seemed to be the best way to get a large internal volume without 'boxiness'."
Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 09, 2017 Published: May 01, 1993 0 comments
90unity.promo250.jpgFor anyone who wants to be up to date on all the audio products available in North America, Audio's Annual Equipment Directory is an indispensable source of information. (So is the publication you're reading now, of course.) The 1992 Directory (aka Audio's October issue) arrived when I was finishing up the review of the Acarian Alón IV (see February 1993, Vol.16 No.2) and about to start seriously listening to the Unity Audio Signature 1s. As I leafed through the issue, I wondered how fledgling loudspeaker manufacturers feel reading the section on loudspeakers. According to the Directory, there are 329 makers of speakers (17 more than in 1991) producing no fewer than 2286 different models. How can a new loudspeaker manufacturer compete with the established makes and their marketing clout, brandname recognition, and economics of scale? You'd better have a really good product—or be a genius at promotion.
Dick Olsher Posted: Mar 02, 2017 Published: Dec 01, 1992 1 comments
666near50m.jpgNew England Audio Resource's NEAR-50M is a cyborg: metal innards in a wooden body. It represents NEAR's top statement in the firm's Metal Diaphragm Technology speaker line, which features the "NEAR-Perfect" driver cone. Metal—in this case an anodized aluminum alloy—is much more rigid than paper or plastic. Hence, a driver with a metal cone acts more nearly as a true piston. When it comes to loudspeaker cones, breaking up is not hard to do. When that happens, the cone flexes in a complex pattern, generating harmonic distortion. A typical plastic or paper 8" woofer may experience its first breakup mode at a frequency as low as 500Hz. The NEAR 8" metal-cone woofer's first breakup mode is said to be well above 2kHz, and their 4" metal-cone midrange does much better than that.
Art Dudley Posted: Feb 23, 2017 7 comments
I wouldn't normally begin a review of an imported product with generalities about the culture from which it sprang, but this isn't just any imported product. It's a Scandinavian loudspeaker, and Scandinavian speakers are subject to a different and altogether more liberal set of rules.

For one thing, because they tend to be healthy and well educated, and because their governments are at peace and, for the most part, economically and politically sound, Scandinavians can take a joke. For another, Scandinavians are famous for not only having a loudspeaker industry—something that has thus far eluded Spaniards, Corsicans, Ethiopians, and the Maltese, among others—but also for the distinctiveness of the speakers they make. Like the Scandinavian people themselves, their speakers are intelligent, serene, uncompromising, outwardly serious and inwardly whimsical, outwardly tidy and inwardly complex, and a bit quirky.

Ken Micallef Posted: Feb 02, 2017 16 comments
Reviewers of high-fidelity gear are a trend-sniffing, topology-bandying bunch. When four of our kin gathered last November over lunch, during the 2016 New York Audio Show, the high-end chatter flew fast and furious. "Did you hear those mother-rocking big horns on the seventh floor?" "Nah, man, the Bruno Putzeys speakers on nine were best in show." "What about those li'l Lowthers on eight? Great sweet spot, but small as peanuts."
John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2017 7 comments
"Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the October issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 02, 2017 Published: Jul 01, 1995 0 comments
When I requested the Snell Music and Cinema Reference System for review, plus the new Snell Type A Music Reference System for evaluation, little did I know what I was letting myself in for. I lost count of the number of large shipping cartons delivered to my garage—though I'm sure the delivery man didn't. Except for the subwoofers, all the individual pieces are relatively small. But together they form a system that definitely demands both attention and a large room to sound its best and to keep it from visually overpowering the space.
Jon Iverson Posted: Dec 22, 2016 6 comments
I prefer and have owned electrostatic speakers for most of my audiophile life. Depending on your point of view, this makes me either the most qualified or the least appropriate writer to review MartinLogan's new electrostatic loudspeaker, the Masterpiece Renaissance ESL 15A.

Oh, I've flirted with dynamic speakers. I've owned and loved—and ultimately, when I was an audio retailer, sold—models from Revel, Thiel, Vandersteen, and many others, while my long-term choice has been electrostats. And while I've spent plenty of time with electrostatic speakers from Acoustat and Quad, I've ended up owning MartinLogans: Sequels, Quests, ReQuests, and, currently, Prodigys.

Kalman Rubinson Posted: Dec 20, 2016 21 comments
Bang & Olufsen's BeoLab 90 is not a loudspeaker to take on lightly. Though its size—49.33" high by 28.9" wide by 29.4" deep—and weight (302 lbs each) meant a major disruption of my listening room, which is also our living room, my wife assented. Its price of $84,990/pair puts it far beyond anything I might consider buying—and the complexity of the BeoLab 90, which has its own dedicated amplifiers and DACs, makes it impossible for a reviewer—or consumer—to directly compare it with any other loudspeaker. So be it.
John Atkinson Posted: Dec 13, 2016 9 comments
It's no secret that deputy editor Art Dudley is an anachrophile (footnote 1). After expounding on the virtues of vintage audio gear in his October 2016 Listening" column, he spent no fewer than seven pages of our November issue raving about the sound quality of Auditorium 23's expensive Hommage Cinema loudspeaker, from Germany. (The Hommage Cinema costs $49,995/pair, plus $5495 for the necessary AcousticPlan NT-1 field-coil power supply.)
J. Gordon Holt John Atkinson Posted: Dec 07, 2016 Published: Jun 01, 1988 1 comments
888maggie.promo300.jpgNow there's a Magneplanar speaker to fill the price gap between the $2000 MGIIIa and the $1225 MGIIc. The '2.5/R is priced almost exactly midway between them, which explains the unusual model number.

Like all the other single-panel Magneplanars, these are attractive enough in appearance to be surprisingly unobtrusive in the room, despite their imposing 6' height. Apart from the wooden endcheeks, they are covered with fabric grille all the way around, which could be a cosmetic liability as well as an asset: Domestic cats love to climb up fabric stretched tightly over wood (as at the bases of these) and, given the opportunity, will have these speakers in shreds in no time. Magnepan recommends spray-on cat repellent; I have to tell them that some cats don't seem to mind its odor as much as most people do.

Art Dudley Posted: Oct 28, 2016 21 comments
Keith Aschenbrenner, proprietor of Auditorium 23, based in Frankfurt, Germany, has long been associated with the people and products of Shindo Laboratory: From the early 1990s until the EU's 2006 implementation of the RoHS 1 regulation, which banned the sale of various old-style electrolytic materials—and thus most of Shindo's products—Auditorium 23 was the brand's European distributor and, arguably, one of its most empathetic and enthusiastic retailers worldwide. Throughout that time, and continuing through to today, Aschenbrenner has also worked as a designer and manufacturer of Shindo-friendly ancillaries and loudspeakers.
Robert Deutsch Posted: Oct 27, 2016 12 comments
Monitor Audio's Platinum PL300 II loudspeakers weigh 120 lbs each, and my listening room is on the second floor, but I was spared the heavy lifting. The speakers were delivered by Sheldon Ginn, Jeffrey Ginn, and Jamie Arseneau—respectively, the VP of Sales and Marketing, Account Manager, and Service Manager of Kevro International, Monitor Audio's North American distributor. We set up the PL300 IIs, ensuring that the distance from each speaker to my listening seat was the same, then optimized the toe-in: the speakers ended up almost directly facing the listener position, close to where I'd had Wilson Audio's Sabrinas.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 23, 2016 21 comments
Thiel Audio's CS3.7 loudspeaker was launched, to much fanfare, in 2006. Like most of Jim Thiel's designs, the CS3.7 received universal praise, but it was Jim's swan song. No one could predict that he would pass away in 2009, undoubtedly leaving on his desk many future designs.

But more was in the cards for—and from—Thiel Audio. The company was sold in 2012 to a private equity company based in Nashville; soon thereafter Thiel Audio moved to that city from Lexington, Kentucky, where Jim had co-founded it in 1977. Thiel's longtime president, Kathy Gornik, left, and for a while the company's directors came and went as if through a revolving door.

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