Stereophile's 1999 Products of the Year Loudspeakers
B&W Nautilus 801
($11,000/pair; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.22 Nos.1 & 5 (footnote 1) January & May 1999)
Revel Ultimate Salon (review)
($14,400-$15,500/pair, depending on finish; reviewed by Larry Greenhill, Vol.22 No.3, March 1999)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Alón Circe ($12,000/pair; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.22 No.5, May 1999)
Audio Physic Virgo (review) ($5395/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.22 No.6, June 1999)
B&W Nautilus 805 (review) ($2600/pair with stands; reviewed by Larry Greenhill, Vol.22 No.10, October 1999)
Dunlavy SC-IV/A (review) ($7995-$8495/pair, depending on finish; reviewed by Robert Deutsch, Vol.21 No.11, November 1998)
JMlab Mezzo Utopia ($13,000/pair; reviewed by Paul Messenger, Vol.22 No.7, July 1999)
Joseph Audio RM22si ($2299-$2699/pair, depending on finish; reviewed by Chip Stern, Vol.21 No.11, November 1998)
Magnepan MG1.6/QR ($1475/pair; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.22 No.1, January 1999)
Soliloquy 5.3 ($1895/pair; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.22 No.9, September 1999)
Sonus Faber Amati Homage (review) ($20,000/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.22 No.6, June 1999)
Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX ($38,900/pair; reviewed by Martin Colloms, Vol.22 No.5, May 1999)
Two edge-of-the-art speaker systems share the honors this year. First, something new from old: B&W's 20 years' experience churning out the seminal 801, mated with advances gleaned from building the escargot-on-steroids Nautilus speaker system, resulted in another no doubt long-lived redefinition of the genre. The jauntily Bauhaus Nautilus 801 makes a strong visual statement—Walter Gropius would understand the beautiful finish and purposefully radiused rear cabinetry. Philip Johnson would nod approvingly at the scalloped, tapered-tube midrange and tweeter assemblies—very Modernist in aspect atop the slant-roof bass module. The "surroundless" Kevlar midrange driver conjures up images of Michael Rennie and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Fortunately for all concerned, everyone is simply awestruck by the sonics. The Nautilus 801 requires a well-built and capacious room or studio to contain its prodigious bass, along with lots of clean power to be driven to its considerable best. Happily fed, it will "illuminate the inner truth of the recording," according to WP.
And now for something completely different. Honors for Loudspeaker of the Year are shared with the rad-looking Revel Salon. (The company's smaller Ultima Gem was one of last year's Joint Loudspeakers of the Year.) The Salon was built from scratch to be a groundbreaker. Its strikingly modern design shrouds seven drivers in a four-way configuration with a rear-facing reflex port and tweeter. LG reported that the speaker's fit'n'finish were the best he'd come across, and pointed to its big bass, timbral accuracy, low distortion, dynamics, and lack of compression, among other strengths.
Each of these speaker systems, in its own way, redefines the state of the art of high-end performance.
Footnote 1: All back issues mentioned in this article are available for $5 each (prior to 1994) or $7 each (1994 onward), plus S&H. To order, call (800) 446-3563, (505) 992-6555, or visit www.stereophile.com's back issues order page. (MasterCard and Visa only.)