I have always had an affection for speakers designed and manufactured by the Canadian conglomerate Audio Products International Corp. (API), which markets speaker designs under the names Mirage, Energy, Sound Dynamics, and Athena. In fact, it was 20 years ago that API created the first budget speaker that caught my attention, the Mirage 350. At the time, the 350 was the only speaker I'd heard that cost less than $300/pair. It sounded open, musical, and detailed without seeming bass-shy. (A larger successor, the 460, was for many years my reference home-theater speaker.) Although I've been impressed with many other API designs I've heard over the years at friends' houses, press events, and hi-fi shows, it had been more than a decade since I'd formally reviewed an API product.
Antares is a giant red star in the constellation Scorpio. According to Rockport Technologies' Andy Payor, the $41,500/pair Antares loudspeaker is the "ultimate" reasonably sized, full-range loudspeaker, and is built to a standard "unequaled in the industry." Rockport's $73,750 System III Sirius turntable came with equally boastful claims that turned out to be anything but hyperbole. Has Rockport done it again with the Antares?
It was almost five years ago that I first spent some serious auditioning time with an omnidirectional two-piece speaker from German manufacturer MBL: the four-way MBL 111. When I reviewed the 111 in the April 1998 Stereophile, I had been extremely impressed with the speaker's stereo imaging, which was superbly stable and well-defined, with images that floated completely free of the speaker positions. The tonal balance was also excellent, with a rich midrange, superbly clean highs, and extended lows. "This Radialstrahler is one of the best tweeters I have experienced," I wrote. In fact, the 111 was let down only by bass frequencies that tended to lag behind the music slightly.
Of the small number of times I have been totally swept away by listening to recorded music, a significant proportion have involved loudspeakers from Wilson Audio Specialties. It was my experience of their X-1/Grand SLAMM in the listening rooms of reviewer Martin Colloms, then-retailer Peter McGrath, designer Dan D'Agostino of Krell, and manufacturer Madrigal Audio Labs, that led me to name it my "Editor's Choice" for 1995 and join my vote with those of the Stereophile scribes to make it the magazine's "Loudspeaker of the Year." I wrote in my December 2001 "As We See It" about how a cross-country road trip had begun with a listen to the Cantus CD on the Wilson WAMMs in their designer's Utah listening room. And, as I wrote in my April column, auditioning Peter McGrath's 24-bit Nagra-D master tapes on Wilson MAXXes in the Halcro room was, for me, the highlight of the 2002 CES.
I once got a fortune cookie that read, "Ask and ye shall receive. This includes trouble." A few years back, shopping for speakers, I inquired about reviewing the B&W Nautilus 802, but it was too soon after Wes Phillips had reviewed the Nautilus 801 for Stereophile. So, other auditioning and reviewing (and buying) other speakers, I asked again, and again was met with deferral. Recently, out of the blue, B&W offered the Nautilus 802—then, in the next breath, asked if I'd rather have the Signature 800s.
Sometimes it all comes down to the shape of the side panels. I was smitten by the gentle curves of the Burmester B99 loudspeaker's aluminum side grilles, which have uncommon grace. A love affair with an enclosure? Well, yes. After all, beauty is an intensely personal matter. In the words of Burmester's motto: "Art for the ear."
Say "Type A" to a group of psychologists and they immediately think "hard-driving, workaholic executive." Speak the same phrase among audiophiles, and the late Peter Snell's (1946-1984) flagship loudspeaker comes to mind. The model reviewed here is the seventh iteration of Snell Acoustics' Type A, and this is the 12th published review of the product in American audio magazines. (The last one published in Stereophile was in March 1996, Vol.19 No.3, of the Type A Reference.)
No doubt about it—Linn's top-of-the-line Komri loudspeaker is a queer-lookin' duck. It's a large, boxy thing, fairly deep, and weighing a hefty 176 lbs, including the base. Whew. I'll put it this way: rap your knuckles, break your hand.
Film sequels are a mixed blessing. If an action movie holds my attention, I can't wait to see the sequel: same characters, same actors, new adventures. And if the first film was successful, studios are more than willing to oblige. So Jurassic Park begat The Lost World, which begat Jurassic Park III. But the results are often unsatisfying.
Nestled south of the North Downs in England's southeast, the Kentish dormitory town of Sevenoaks is about as sleepy a place as you can imagine. Yet 20 years ago, in the unlikely circumstances of the back room of a Sevenoaks pub, I witnessed the world of consumer loudspeakers changing. Meridian's Steve Hopkins was showing a pair of the company's active M2 loudspeakers connected directly to a 101 preamplifier.
People come to high-end audio with different needs and expectations—some fairly reasoned, some slightly more highfalutin. Some listeners want to get as close as possible to an immersion experience, be it of a live performance or of some more idealized studio ecstasy. Others are enraptured by the status and sex appeal of big, hot-rod components, and simply dig gear—much as they might dig the visceral rush of a high-performance car. Still others compulsively upgrade their equipment in search of some unattainable perfection. But no matter the initial motivation, all roads eventually lead back to a love of music.
I'll never forget my first encounter with the Krell LAT-1 loudspeaker. Late one Friday night last fall, on City Island in the Bronx, it was time for the monthly meeting of the Westchester Audiophile Society and I was late. I rushed through the door past a group of audiophiles and headed straight for the two new black loudspeakers already set up and ready to play. Music writer and society member Sid Marks made a sound. I turned to him and he pointed across the room: "Go tap on that enclosure." I walked over to one of the black speakers and did so. There was no sound—no give, no nothing. It was as if I'd knocked on a granite boulder. "See what I mean?" said Sid. I nodded. There was nothing to add.
Success can be a two-edged sword. With the Virgo (reviewed in September 1995), Audio Physic created a $5000/pair benchmark product at the midpoint of the company's speaker lineup. While an upgraded, $5800 Virgo is due out soon, the original version will remain in production, its price dropping to $4495/pair—less than it cost six years ago.