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.
Classé's Mike Viglas watched the audiophile skies, scratched his chin, and thought about his business. As he gazed, it occurred to him that if everyone in audio was moving downmarket to invade his territory, why not take his company and head upmarket? Thus was born Classé's much-lauded Omega series.
Sad news this week: We heard from Ken Kessler of the passing of legendary UK engineer Stanley Kelly, who died in his sleep on November 13, after suffering a stroke the previous week. Stan would have been 89 next month. While he was, of course, the "Kelly" of the classic Kelly Ribbon Tweeter, he was also one of the founders of Hi-Fi News and was the only person to have been listed on the English magazine's masthead since Vol.1 No.1, the June 1956 issue. In recent years, Stan had developed a series of high-sensitivity speakers for UK manufacturer Musical Fidelity.
Michael Fremer wraps his ears around the Westlake Audio Lc5.75F loudspeaker in an effort to figure out "what's a pro audio company doing at CES?" Fremer discovers why a brand that, until recently, was rarely heard outside of recording studios is now selling 70% of its products to consumers.
In the race to get satellite radio to market, XM Satellite Radio was the first to hit the air this past September. But competitor Sirius says they were saving the best for last, and has now announced that its official launch date will be as early next year as February 14, with initial broadcasts reaching Denver, Phoenix, and Houston.
They don't turn over quite as fast as computer equipment, but mass-market audio component product cycles typically last about a year, until the next Consumer Electronics Show comes around. High-end audio products, however, enjoy much longer life spans—sometimes stretching to several years.
"The long tradition of professional connoisseurship has resulted in the development of a bewildering universe of specialist terminology. In certain cases, it must be admitted, there was self-indulgent proliferation of words relating to some minute feature....In fact, no clear distinction can be made between one term and its closest neighbor in meaning."—from the Introduction to Kanzan Sato's The Japanese Sword, A Comprehensive Guide, translated and with an introduction by Joe Earle (New York: Kodansha America, Inc., 1983)
This episode of "Fine Tunes" is mainly about the care and feeding of speaker drivers. Before I launch into some of the tweaks—a few fairly wild and wacky—sent in by readers, here are two from my own experience.