Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 03, 1995 Published: Mar 03, 1994 0 comments
Back in the summer of 1968, I bought a secondhand pre-CBS Fender Precision Bass guitar for the grand sum of £35 (then about $75) (footnote 1). It was so cheap because the previous owner had pretty much scratched the sunburst finish to ribbons. The P-Bass may have looked like roadkill but it played like a dream, so I decided to refinish its body. Paint stripper removed the remains of the original nitrocelloluse lacquer, leaving me with a white wood body—ash, I understand—which I carefully sanded and stained. Contrary to what you might expect, the finish of an electric guitar does have an effect on the sound, so I thought long and hard about how I was going to varnish the body. I ended up applying thinned gloss-finish polyurethane, which I then sanded, repeating this process some five or six times, using finer and finer sandpaper, until the application of a final coat of varnish gave as close to a mirror-smooth finish as I could get...which wasn't anything near as perfect as the piano-lacquer rosewood finish on the samples of the Monitor Audio Studio 6 loudspeaker that Monitor Audio USA sent for review!
Herb Reichert Posted: Feb 04, 2016 24 comments
My first girlfriend was a hopeless kleptomaniac. Once, just before sunrise, as I helped her bury a few hot items in the woods, she asked from which direction the sun would rise. Always the smart-aleck, I told her: "It rarely fails to rise in the east."

She frowned and stared quizzically into the darkness. After a long moment, she said, in a low, sad voice, "Really . . . ?"

September 23, 2015: In his response to and defense of Elizabeth Newton's wildly insightful essay "The Lossless Self" (footnote 1), Michael Lavorgna wrote, on Stereophile's sibling website AudioStream.com: "My idea of hi-fi is to make the possibility of losing oneself in the music happen as often as I choose with the least amount of brain processing as possible." He continued: "Here's my preachy dogma in a nutshell (something I've been saying for years): the best hi-fi is the one that's used to discover and enjoy music most often." (footnote 2) When I read this, I thought, Right on, brother Mike!

John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2003 Published: Oct 01, 2003 0 comments
I first became familiar with Israeli speaker manufacturer Morel, founded in 1975, back in the late 1970s, when they had a drive-unit plant in the UK. Their drivers have always been well-respected—I was mightily impressed with a sample of their T33 1" soft-dome tweeter when I had the opportunity to measure it a decade or so ago—so when I heard their Octwin 5.2 dual-speaker system at the 2002 CEDIA conference, I asked for a pair for review.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jul 02, 2013 1 comments
Late last year, when I first heard of the Music Hall Marimba, I was happily surprised: One of my favorite hi-fi manufacturers had finally introduced its first and (so far) only loudspeaker—and it was seriously affordable at $349/pair. I wanted to review the Marimbas right away, but grumpy old Sam Tellig beat me to them.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Mar 25, 2008 0 comments
For years, I have espoused the use of the same speakers (except subwoofer) in all positions for multichannel music. To have no speaker in the system contributing a different voice to the choir seems as intuitive as having the room acoustics not color the sound. Of course, this still doesn't guarantee perfect timbral match—positioning and room acoustics usually impose some unique characteristics under all but the most perfect and symmetrical conditions. You can hear tonal imbalances even between the left and right speakers of most two-channel systems simply by switching pink noise between them. On the other hand, there's no reason to superimpose on these unavoidable differences the additional imbalances inevitable with using different speakers in a multichannel array.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Nov 19, 2006 0 comments
When reviewing affordable speakers, it's critical to have benchmarks and comparisons for various price points. Inexpensive speaker designs are exercises in tradeoffs and compromises, especially for the least costly products. In all of my reviews, I try to compare the speaker in question with other designs close to the review sample's price, chosen from my list of previously reviewed speakers. From time to time, if a speaker particularly impresses me, I ask the manufacturer if I can keep the speakers around a while longer, so that it can serve as a comparison reference for a certain price point. That's not to say that any speaker I don't keep around is less desirable—there's just not enough room in my house to keep a sample of every speaker I like. An audio reviewer's wife puts up with enough as it is.
Robert Harley Posted: Jan 25, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1990 4 comments
Now Hear This (NHT) was founded to produce low-cost loudspeakers a breed apart from the mass-market variety often found at the lower price points. Co-founder Ken Kantor has a long history in the hi-fi business as a designer at Acoustic Research, NAD, and as a design consultant to some large Japanese manufacturers. NHT's line ranges from the $180/pair Model Zero to the $1200 Model 100.

At $480/pair, the Model 1.3 is midway in NHT's product line. Finished in a gloss-black high-pressure laminate, the 1.3 is elegant, even beautiful, and is distinguished by its unusual angled front baffle. This design means that the rear baffle is nonparallel to the driver, thus reducing the amount of internal cabinet energy reflected back toward the woofer. This is said to improve imaging and midrange purity by reducing comb filtering. In addition, the angled baffle puts the listener directly on-axis with the loudspeakers pointing straight ahead. This increases the ratio of direct-to-reflected sound reaching the listener and further improves imaging.

Robert J. Reina Posted: Nov 30, 2002 0 comments
I first met NHT co-founder Ken Kantor in 1975 when we were both undergraduates at MIT. Kantor was sponsoring an extracurricular class entitled "Musical Ideas." The concept was to stick a dozen or so musicians in a classroom for free improvisation and hope to create music à la Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. The result was a mess; although talented guitarist Kantor meant well, there was no common vision or consistency of musical talent. Nevertheless, I had a blast trying to simulate a tamboura drone with a Hohner Clavinet, phase shifter, and volume pedal.
Corey Greenberg Posted: Jan 30, 1995 Published: Jan 30, 1994 0 comments
What makes someone a good hi-fi reviewer? A fine critical sensibility? A good technical background? Ears? Eyes? Nose? Throat? So many different people are reviewing audio gear these days that it's downright impossible to characterize a good reviewer. But I do know that Beavis and Butt-head would make killer hi-fi reviewers!
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 19, 2005 0 comments
NHT's Xd system is what audiophiles have been saying they want: a matched loudspeaker system that optimizes the performance of its components for a real-world domestic listening environment. But with their dollars they've voted against just such systems for years. If we put our money where our mouths are, active speaker systems such as Meridian's DSP or those used in recording studios would dominate the High End.
John Marks Posted: Oct 30, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2013 10 comments
Colleen Cardas strongly urged me to try the Callas loudspeaker from Opera Loudspeakers (whose products she also distributes in the US), which she claimed was an ideal match for the Unison S6 amplifier I reviewed last August. In my experience, the stand-mounted Callas ($5000/pair) is unique among loudspeakers in being the logical contrapositive (inverted and flipped, so to speak) of the usual D'Appolito driver array of midrange-tweeter-midrange (MTM).
Wes Phillips Posted: Sep 22, 2007 0 comments
When folks visit from out of town, they frequently remark that my Brooklyn neighborhood reminds them of "a real neighborhood" from their neck of the woods. "Except that we know all our neighbors and talk to them when we're cutting the grass, watering the lawn, and walking the dog. You probably don't even know the names of any of yours."
Robert J. Reina Posted: Sep 15, 2002 0 comments
I had mixed feelings about reviewing the $189/pair Paradigm Atom loudspeaker. Although in the past I've been favorably impressed with Paradigm's speakers—the $600/pair Reference Studio/20 remains one of my favorite affordables—Budget Bob tends to get a bit nervous when a speaker's price drops below $250/pair. In my experience, even when the most talented speaker designers attempt to make a speaker to sell at such a low price, the result is often a very small cabinet with limited bass extension and inferior high-level dynamics.
John Atkinson Posted: Dec 01, 2016 Published: Dec 01, 1989 4 comments
If speakers were cars, the Infinity IRS Beta and B&W 801 Matrix would represent the luxury end of the mass market, with perhaps the Celestion SL700, Quad ESL-63, and MartinLogan Sequel II analogous to rather hairy, temperamental sports cars—the Porsche 911, for example. But most people don't buy Porsches, or even Lincoln Town Cars; they buy Hyundai Excels and Ford Escorts. In the same way, when the car is garaged for the night, they don't sit down in front of IRS Betas; in all likelihood they listen to their records with a compact two-way design. If competently designed, a small two-way can give a great deal of musical satisfaction, and, to take a current hobbyhorse of mine out for a trot, if a designer can't produce an at least competent two-way loudspeaker, he or she has no business trying to design larger, more ambitious models—there's nowhere to hide your lack of talent if all you have to play with is a tweeter, a woofer, a rectangular enclosure, and a handful of crossover components.
John Atkinson Posted: Nov 09, 1997 0 comments
There are many benefits accruing to a loudspeaker when its designer goes the active or powered route. The usual losses and distortions associated with passive crossovers can be circumvented, while the fact that the amplifiers and drive-units can be designed as a package enables the designer to squeeze more performance from each than would otherwise be the case. And the savings gained from the absence of a separate amplifier chassis can be passed on to the consumer.

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