Newport Ahoy: Sasha Matson's Day 1

My beat for Stereophile—to attempt to share with you my brief take on equipment and systems that might be described as "Medium Budget"; not too cheap, not too pricey—just right! A daunting task, given the sheer amount of fine gear here that could fit into that budget ballpark. My first stop was late in the afternoon of the Thursday Press Day. I sought out familiar friendly faces in the Positive Feedback Online Hospitality Room. (Here is a photo of Positive Feedback editors David Robinson, right, and Dave Clark, left.) This is fast becoming sort of the audio equivalent of the Grateful Dead's long strange trip.
Sat, 05/30/2015
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Tom Norton on Trade Day

When longtime TAD/Pioneer speaker designer Andrew Jones moved on to design new speakers for German manufacturer ELAC, we expected big things, though not quite immediately. Speaker design takes time. But Jones and ELAC made a big splash at the Newport show with the new line of Debut speakers. The first model ready for demo was the baby of the Debut family, the B5. It's shown here with proud papa Andrew, with its 5.25" aramid-fiber woofer and 1" cloth-dome tweeter, and is expected to retail for $230/pair in early fall when the entire lineup should be available...
Sat, 05/30/2015
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The Newport Beach Show: Set-Up Day

Six weeks before the start of THE Show Newport Beach, word got out that the show organizers were poised to add a last-minute "Trade and Press Day" for Thursday May 28. As it turned out, the actual announcement came later, less than a month before the show. The idea, if instituted correctly, could have been a good one. But done so last minute, it seemed, at best, half-cocked...Be that as it may, I was able to register with the lovely Lucette Nicoll (above center) and take in just a few rooms before dinnertime.
Fri, 05/29/2015
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THE Show Newport: Day Zero Musings

High-end audio is mostly about songs blaring from boxes. Occasionally, you can be sitting near some of these wailing boxes and think: Wow, these songs are sounding pretty darn good! If you’re an audiophile that means you’ve found a home. Today, on my first day in Newport Beach, California I am sitting in the lobby of the Irvine Hotel (home of The Home Entertainment Show Newport) getting myself psyched for room after room of blaring boxes and stacks of brochures, sproutin’ like cotton from every horizontal surface...
Fri, 05/29/2015
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The Jaki Byard Project

Sometimes a good album passes me by, unnoticed (so much music, so little time), but few turn out, upon discovery, to be as very, very good as the Jaki Byard Project's Inch By Inch, Yard Byard (on the GM Recordings label)...
Fri, 05/29/2015
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Soul Men

Perhaps the best attribute that older soul cats bring to a project like this is their knowledge of repertoire.
Fri, 05/29/2015
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KEF Blade Two loudspeaker Measurements

Thu, 05/28/2015
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COMMENTS
audiodoctornj's picture

As a Blade dealer who has both the LS 50 and the Blades and the Ref 1 and 3 and the R series, I feel I know the line really, really well.

I agree with many of the comments that were made, however, I was really taken back by the comparison to the LS 50 saying that other than increased bass, and dynamics, you seem to be implying that there is some similarity between the LS 50 and the Blade II.

We love the LS 50 and even with the matching KEF R400 sub woofer the sound is really great, and in fact will challenge a lot of $5k plus speakers, but the resulting sound doesn't come close to amazing resolution, and incredible holographic sound stage, which comes out of the Blades, so it is not just about the increased bass and dynamics, there is a wholeness and organic quality to the sound that you just don't get out of the LS 50 or many other speakers.

We had a setup at the New York High End Show in 2013 with the original Blades setup with state of the art electronics, a Merrill Williams Turntable, and an EMM Labs Digital setup and the system was amazing! Yes this system was over a $100k: $30k speakers, and 50k electronics, and $15k front end plus $20k plus on cables, so the system was up there in price but I did listen to the $107k Yg the $54k Wilson's plus some other very expensive speakers and I would say that a well setup pair of Blades offers the performance of speakers in the $50k-100k price range and that is an amazing value proposition that the Kef Blades and Blade II represent.

brian_pdx's picture

Would love to hear these speakers although esthetics will take time to get used to. Similar to TT dust covers are speaker grills going away? Dust covers serve a need, make total sense and a well designed speaker grill keeping your 5 year old from putting a PBJ through a woofer makes even more sense.

Venere 2's picture

Although this review is about the KEF Blade, I have to mention another KEF speaker that is highly recommended.
I had the chance to audition the KEF LS50 speakers. The hype and fanfare surrounding the LS50s is out of this world. The performance is anything but… They are very good, but they don't come anywhere close to what all the hype would have one believe. They are a good buy for their price, nothing more. They absolutely do not belong in Class A!

If the 1500$ KEF LS50 belongs in class A, then what Class for the 25 000$ blades? The first Class A++++ ever for Stereophile?

makarisma's picture

I think they are great as desktop speakers.

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KEF Blade Two loudspeaker Associated Equipment

Thu, 05/28/2015
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COMMENTS
audiodoctornj's picture

As a Blade dealer who has both the LS 50 and the Blades and the Ref 1 and 3 and the R series, I feel I know the line really, really well.

I agree with many of the comments that were made, however, I was really taken back by the comparison to the LS 50 saying that other than increased bass, and dynamics, you seem to be implying that there is some similarity between the LS 50 and the Blade II.

We love the LS 50 and even with the matching KEF R400 sub woofer the sound is really great, and in fact will challenge a lot of $5k plus speakers, but the resulting sound doesn't come close to amazing resolution, and incredible holographic sound stage, which comes out of the Blades, so it is not just about the increased bass and dynamics, there is a wholeness and organic quality to the sound that you just don't get out of the LS 50 or many other speakers.

We had a setup at the New York High End Show in 2013 with the original Blades setup with state of the art electronics, a Merrill Williams Turntable, and an EMM Labs Digital setup and the system was amazing! Yes this system was over a $100k: $30k speakers, and 50k electronics, and $15k front end plus $20k plus on cables, so the system was up there in price but I did listen to the $107k Yg the $54k Wilson's plus some other very expensive speakers and I would say that a well setup pair of Blades offers the performance of speakers in the $50k-100k price range and that is an amazing value proposition that the Kef Blades and Blade II represent.

brian_pdx's picture

Would love to hear these speakers although esthetics will take time to get used to. Similar to TT dust covers are speaker grills going away? Dust covers serve a need, make total sense and a well designed speaker grill keeping your 5 year old from putting a PBJ through a woofer makes even more sense.

Venere 2's picture

Although this review is about the KEF Blade, I have to mention another KEF speaker that is highly recommended.
I had the chance to audition the KEF LS50 speakers. The hype and fanfare surrounding the LS50s is out of this world. The performance is anything but… They are very good, but they don't come anywhere close to what all the hype would have one believe. They are a good buy for their price, nothing more. They absolutely do not belong in Class A!

If the 1500$ KEF LS50 belongs in class A, then what Class for the 25 000$ blades? The first Class A++++ ever for Stereophile?

makarisma's picture

I think they are great as desktop speakers.

Pages

Harbeth Super HL5plus loudspeaker Measurements

Thu, 05/28/2015
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COMMENTS
jporter's picture

when this review goes up on our website, a few members of the "I prefer to think of my mother's basement as an apartment with a shared entrance" crowd will write in to tell us how much smarter they are than the manufacturers who design and build classic British boxes, and how stupid Stereophile is to write about such things...

Harbeth is obviously an extremely "smart company". The profit margin on this design must be truly remarkable. I commend them for getting reviewers like you to call them a bargain at $6600...I commend them even further for getting people to buy them. Feel free to dismiss me, but I do own a home and I obviously have a much better grasp of budgets and bargains than you do.

ppgr's picture

Canadian suggested retail price is $6299 which is roughly equivalent to $5000usd given today's exchange rate. My advice to smart US buyers is to drive north, have a nice meal (hell! stay for a weekend at the Ritz-Carlton!) and bring the Harbeths back with some spare change.
http://audioallianceinc.com/product-category/harbeth-speakers/

william.meredith's picture

The construction of this speaker looks like it came from the local five and dime.

remlab's picture

without the destructive interference.

jmsent's picture

for studio monitors from more than 40 years ago. The tweeter they used back then was the Celestion HF1300, which died very quickly above 13kHz. So an STC (Coles) "super tweeter" was added to fill in. Modern tweeters are for more capable and can easily make it well beyond 20kHz with little problem. I don't really see why Harbeth continues this practice, other than to stay faithful to the old design. But the extended frequency response of the modern tweeters seems to work against this arrangement as evidenced by the horribly choppy response above 10kHz; caused by the interaction of the 2 tweeters both operating over much of the same range. I don't recall the older BBC designs with tweeter/super tweeter configurations exhibiting this behavior...at least not to this extent.

avanti1960's picture

I heard these at AXPONA. The super tweeter sounded incredible. Added a significant amount of smooth "air" and breathy presence, especially with female vocals. A highlight of the design IMHO.

james alan's picture

At best this looks like a $200 DIY kit from Parts Express! Opening that 1980's looking speaker box is to peer behind the Wizard of Oz curtain. And who needs shielded magnets on woofers these days, especially on $7000.00 speakers?

jmsent's picture

is probably not for shielding. What would be the point, given that the tweeters aren't shielded? 2nd magnets are often used to get a little extra flux into the magnet system. Sometimes manufacturers use this method to "trim" their woofers; i.e., to compensate for variations in magnet strength from batch to batch. So you may find the 2nd magnet only on some woofers and not on others.

avanti1960's picture

why no comments about the quality of sound stage imaging and precision of location queues? weak spot in the design given the wide profile and rectangular box shape?

Nellomilanese's picture

I can't see where 6700 $ have gone into building one of these...it really looks horrible...more like 300$.
Look I took apart a Dali Zensor 3 ( 450$ pair ) and it looks MUCH MUCH better constructed than these...including the cables and the foam used inside...not to mention the actual walls of the speaker !!
I'm sure they sound great..but for God's sake these are off the shelf drives from ScanSpeak...look on their website. What i'm see in' here is a 2k TOPS speaker and i'm being generous.
Cudos to them if they manage to actually make a living by selling at these inflated prices !

lo fi's picture

I find it telling how the comments disparaging this speaker are in no way based on how it actually sounds. Also, Harbeth isn't the only speaker company that uses OEM drivers (from SEAS, not Scan-Speak). I was under the impression that it's rare for speaker companies to manufacturer their drivers in-house these days, particularly relatively small enterprises such as Harbeth. Having said that, it's notable that Harbeth does produce its proprietary RADIAL2 bass/mid driver in-house. But with all hi fi, the true test of a component's merit is in the listening and Art Dudley clearly liked what he heard from the unprepossessing Super HL5 plus.

bounce177's picture

the prices of Harbeth speakers in the USA are determined by Fidelis AV. The prices are higher than the prices in the UK and Canada. I have seen claims on the internet that Fidelis has higher quality wiring in the USA versions. Many people resent the high USA prices. Sterling Broadcast's LS3/6 started out with a price of $4,000 and now is $5,ooo. If anyone knows whether USA Harbeths have upgraded wiring please tell. Harbeth has come out with a new 40.2.

Pages

KEF Blade Two loudspeaker Specifications

Thu, 05/28/2015
Share | |
COMMENTS
audiodoctornj's picture

As a Blade dealer who has both the LS 50 and the Blades and the Ref 1 and 3 and the R series, I feel I know the line really, really well.

I agree with many of the comments that were made, however, I was really taken back by the comparison to the LS 50 saying that other than increased bass, and dynamics, you seem to be implying that there is some similarity between the LS 50 and the Blade II.

We love the LS 50 and even with the matching KEF R400 sub woofer the sound is really great, and in fact will challenge a lot of $5k plus speakers, but the resulting sound doesn't come close to amazing resolution, and incredible holographic sound stage, which comes out of the Blades, so it is not just about the increased bass and dynamics, there is a wholeness and organic quality to the sound that you just don't get out of the LS 50 or many other speakers.

We had a setup at the New York High End Show in 2013 with the original Blades setup with state of the art electronics, a Merrill Williams Turntable, and an EMM Labs Digital setup and the system was amazing! Yes this system was over a $100k: $30k speakers, and 50k electronics, and $15k front end plus $20k plus on cables, so the system was up there in price but I did listen to the $107k Yg the $54k Wilson's plus some other very expensive speakers and I would say that a well setup pair of Blades offers the performance of speakers in the $50k-100k price range and that is an amazing value proposition that the Kef Blades and Blade II represent.

brian_pdx's picture

Would love to hear these speakers although esthetics will take time to get used to. Similar to TT dust covers are speaker grills going away? Dust covers serve a need, make total sense and a well designed speaker grill keeping your 5 year old from putting a PBJ through a woofer makes even more sense.

Venere 2's picture

Although this review is about the KEF Blade, I have to mention another KEF speaker that is highly recommended.
I had the chance to audition the KEF LS50 speakers. The hype and fanfare surrounding the LS50s is out of this world. The performance is anything but… They are very good, but they don't come anywhere close to what all the hype would have one believe. They are a good buy for their price, nothing more. They absolutely do not belong in Class A!

If the 1500$ KEF LS50 belongs in class A, then what Class for the 25 000$ blades? The first Class A++++ ever for Stereophile?

makarisma's picture

I think they are great as desktop speakers.

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