Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 23, 2016 15 comments
Thiel Audio's CS3.7 loudspeaker was launched, to much fanfare, in 2006. Like most of Jim Thiel's designs, the CS3.7 received universal praise, but it was Jim's swan song. No one could predict that he would pass away in 2009, undoubtedly leaving on his desk many future designs.

But more was in the cards for—and from—Thiel Audio. The company was sold in 2012 to a private equity company based in Nashville; soon thereafter Thiel Audio moved to that city from Lexington, Kentucky, where Jim had co-founded it in 1977. Thiel's longtime president, Kathy Gornik, left, and for a while the company's directors came and went as if through a revolving door.

John Atkinson Posted: Jul 21, 2016 8 comments
I am a big believer in supporting events promoted by specialty audio retailers. They reinforce the idea that audiophiles and manufacturers—even reviewers—are parts of a vibrant community that believes that listening to music with the highest possible quality is one of the more important things in life. The "Music Matters" evenings arranged by Audio Advice in North Carolina, Definitive Audio in Seattle, and Listen Up in Colorado exemplify that idea, and it was in April 2015, at Listen Up's Denver store, that I used a pair of PSB's new Imagine T3 tower speakers to play the audience some of my own recordings. The T3 superficially resembles PSB's Synchrony One, a speaker I very favorably reviewed in April 2008, and I was equally impressed by the new flagship—impressed enough to request a pair for review.
Herb Reichert Posted: Jun 16, 2016 12 comments
My lifestyle consultant warned me not to review Zu Audio's Soul Supreme loudspeaker ($4500/pair).

"Why not?" I asked. "They're exciting and super-enjoyable."

"Zu speakers are not mainstream," he explained. "People either love them or hate them. They're for music lovers, not audiophiles."

"That's not true!" I whined like a disappointed child. "They play Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin with spooky soul and natural tone! They play big classical orchestras—especially with trumpets and timpani—with radical ease and full-tilt momentum! And . . . and . . . they project large soundstages! Isn't that what audiophiles like?"

Kalman Rubinson Posted: May 26, 2016 23 comments
"This is getting to be a habit."

That's how I ended the first paragraph of my review of Bowers & Wilkins' 800 Diamond speaker, in the May 2011 issue; apparently, Stereophile's habit of reviewing models from B&W's 800 series remains unbroken.

Later in that review, I said that "The 800 Diamond doesn't look radically different from its predecessors." That doesn't apply to the 802 D3 Diamond ($22,000/pair). It's still a three-way system with tapered-tube high-frequency and midrange enclosures, stacked and nestled into a generous bass enclosure that's vented on the bottom into the space between it and its plinth.

Michael Fremer Posted: May 25, 2016 1 comments
Marten is a small Swedish loudspeaker manufacturer with great aspirations, some of which the company has largely met. Leif Mårten Olofsson founded Marten and designs the speakers, while brother Jörgen Olofsson runs the business as CEO—a division of creative and administrative labors similar to the working relationship between David and Norman Chesky, the founders of Chesky Records and HDtracks.
John Atkinson Posted: Apr 22, 2016 4 comments
Driving the Model Sevens at the 2014 CES were Vandersteen's then-new M7-HPA monoblocks, which provide a high-pass–filtered output (above 100Hz) to the upper-frequency drive-units of the Model Seven. At the time, I made a note to myself that I would like one day to try these amplifiers with the Sevens in my own room. That opportunity came later rather than sooner, after Vandersteen had updated the Model Seven to Mk.II status.
Robert Deutsch Posted: Apr 21, 2016 12 comments
I first encountered the work of Dave Wilson in the late 1970s. He was then a recording engineer responsible for some great-sounding records, including pianist Mark P. Wetch's Ragtime Razzmatazz (LP, Wilson Audio W-808), which quickly became one of my favorite system-demo records.

Then Wilson turned his attention to designing loudspeakers. His first model was the Wilson Audio Modular Monitor, reviewed for Stereophile by its then-publisher, Larry Archibald, in August 1983, who described it as "the most enjoyable speaker system I've listened to, and significantly valuable as a diagnostic tool." At $35,000/pair ($83,577 in today's dollars), the WAMM may have been the most expensive speaker then on the market.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 22, 2015 12 comments
Déjà vu all over again?

Apart from being reminded of this Yogi-ism by the death, in September 2015, of its originator, I was all set to begin by commenting that this would be my first review for Stereophile of a Paradigm loudspeaker. But—the recent online posting of my June 1992 review of Paradigm's Studio Monitor took me back.

John Atkinson Posted: Nov 25, 2015 6 comments
For me, one of the highlights of 2013 was being able to live with the Sonja 1.3, the flagship loudspeaker model from Colorado-based YG Acoustics. I reviewed this tall, massive, three-enclosure tour de force of a design, which costs $106,800/pair, in July 2013, and was not surprised when, for the December 2013 issue, Stereophile's writers voted it one of the magazine's two Loudspeakers of the Year. So when I was asked last spring if I wanted to review the new version of the smallest and least-expensive model in YGA's lineup, the request fell on receptive ears.
Herb Reichert Posted: Nov 24, 2015 7 comments
With each review I've written for Stereophile, I've redoubled my efforts to choose my adjectives prudently—to curb my penchant for overstatement. I've been feeling a need to speak more concisely and maturely about what my ears, mind, and heart experience while listening to music through a component that's new to me. So today, at the start of this review, I ask myself: What adjectives must I use to describe the character of GoldenEar Technology's new Triton Five tower loudspeaker ($1999.98/pair)? Which words will best use our shared audiophile lexicon to give you a working vision of what I experienced?
John Atkinson Posted: Aug 27, 2015 2 comments
Danish manufacturer GamuT Audio's patchy history in the US includes a succession of distributors that failed to establish the brand here. But in 2014 GamuT tapped Michael Vamos to spearhead their own US-based distribution company, which is now energetically promoting the company's products. That change coincided with my auditioning, at the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, of GamuT's two-and-a-half-way RS5 tower loudspeaker ($31,900/pair). I was sufficiently impressed that I asked to review it—but then, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, I experienced the RS7. This was the GamuT speaker I wanted to spend some time with, and at the end of March, GamuT's R&D manager, Benno Meldgaard, joined Michael Vamos in setting up a pair of RS7s in my listening room.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Aug 27, 2015 23 comments
For some time now I've wanted to upgrade my weekend system in Connecticut, and have been surveying three-way floorstanding speakers priced below about $2500/pair. I've focused on the stereo performance of each pair with music because, despite my interest in surround sound, the great majority of recordings are available only in two-channel stereo. Not wanting to look like a Bowers & Wilkins fanboy—my main system has long included their 800-series speakers—I put off auditioning B&W's 683 S2. But my goal was to get the best bang for my buck and with the 683 S2 costing $1650/pair, it would foolish to be influenced by such extraneous considerations. Besides, the 683 S2's three-way design and physical proportions were precisely what I was looking for.
John Atkinson Posted: May 28, 2015 9 comments
The story's been often told: 30 years ago, British speaker manufacturer KEF was asked to design a small, spherical loudspeaker that could be used in a European project to research room acoustics. The speaker had to have wide, even dispersion, so KEF's solution was to mount the tweeter coaxially, on what would have been the woofer's dustcap. That "point source" drive-unit, called the Uni-Q, began appearing in KEF's commercial speaker models in 1989, starting with the Reference 105/3—but it wasn't until the appearance of KEF's 50th-anniversary loudspeaker, the LS50, which I reviewed in December 2012, that I felt that the Uni-Q drive-unit had fully fulfilled its promise, at least in a speaker I had auditioned in my own room.
Herb Reichert Posted: Mar 24, 2015 23 comments
The CD era was well underway. Rudy Giuliani was about to sweep the crack hoes and squeegee humans off New York's garbage-filled streets. Disney was conquering Times Square. It seemed the perfect time for artists and audio weirdos like myself to go underground. Seeking economic sustainability, I hunkered down in my Seaport bunker and started a little business called Eddie Electric. I found a 23-year-old Japanese business partner named Ryochi who was dealing in big-E Levi's, bubble-back Rolexes, and antique Abarth cars. He was my Seaport, New York–Akihabara, Tokyo connection.
John Atkinson Posted: Feb 27, 2015 2 comments
Looking back at our September 2014 issue, I think my review of the Triangle Signature Delta loudspeaker marked something of a watershed in the evolution of my taste in loudspeaker sound quality. For decades I have been a devotee of what might be called "British" sound: low coloration and, overall, a rather polite presentation, coupled with low sensitivity. The Triangle speaker opened my ears to what could be achieved with a very different approach: still-low coloration but high sensitivity, impressive clarity, and a hefty dose of what the late J. Gordon Holt called "jump factor," in which the leading edges of transients are neither smeared nor tamed. So when, last September, on a visit to Dallas and The Sound Organisation, the US distributor of Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI), I encountered DALI's Rubicon 8 speaker (footnote 1), which had benefited from a low-loss design philosophy similar to the Triangle's, I asked for a pair for review.

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