Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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Art Dudley Posted: Jul 19, 2016 8 comments
Your little car gets in and out of traffic better than minivans or monster trucks. Your little dog runs rings around the other dogs at the park. Maybe it's time to get a couple of little loudspeakers, too?

The reasons for doing so are pretty much the same: little speakers deserve consideration not because they sell for little prices—although some of them do—but because they're nimble, they're fast, and they get out of the way of the music they play.

Herb Reichert Posted: Mar 31, 2016 11 comments
The first I heard about Elac's new Debut line of speakers was from two 12-year-olds at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2015. "Elac's room is making the best sound at the show," they said.

Elac? I thought. I have an Elac Miracord 40A turntable. Hmmmm...

So I walked to Elac's room and listened to the Debut B5 bookshelf speakers ($229.99/pair). I was impressed—but maybe not as impressed as everyone else in the room seemed to be. In the halls, people were raving: "Did you hear Andrew Jones's new speaker?" Show bloggers went crazy. People kept asking me, "Herb—what'd you think of the Elacs?" My polite response was always, "I'm glad I'm not in the business of making $1000/pair speakers."

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!

Herb Reichert Posted: Dec 22, 2015 17 comments
I listen carefully as Michiko Ogawa—former Technics engineer, renowned classical and jazz pianist, and current director of Panasonic's Technics division—speaks these words: "In honor of our 50th anniversary, we at Technics are determined to blaze a new audio path and deliver new and emotionally engaging musical experiences for another 50 years." (my emphasis)
John Marks Posted: Aug 21, 2015 3 comments
For many years, I've been a fan of the loudspeakers made by the British audio company Wilson Benesch. Their speakers definitely have their own personality. I first reviewed a Wilson Benesch loudspeaker while a columnist and reviewer for The Abso!ute Sound, and how that came about was amusing. As WB's then US importer was packing up his exhibit at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show, by mistake he put labels with my address on them on the boxes containing the show samples of WB's revolutionary A.C.T. One, the first loudspeaker to have a curved carbon-fiber enclosure, a sloping top, and a baffle of cut steel. And a very nice late Christmas present they were, too.
Herb Reichert Posted: Jul 23, 2015 17 comments
When all you've ever heard are wooden boxes that shout, it's difficult to recognize their highly accented "voice." Few of us actually notice how miserably distorted all loudspeakers are. Don't believe me? Try listening to a recording of your child's voice, the sounds of rattling keys, or an audience applauding.
Art Dudley Posted: May 28, 2015 29 comments
To some, the measure of a company has less to do with the amount of money it makes than with the honesty of the things it sells: the assurance that every product in its line is designed not as a marketing exercise but as a straightforward and presumably unique answer to a real consumer need.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Mar 24, 2015 7 comments
"I'm intrigued how Emotiva can offer an active speaker for so little."

This was John Atkinson's response to my request to review Emotiva's Pro Airmotiv 4s ($299/pair). My colleague Steve Guttenberg had been discussing this speaker with me at a recent industry event, and I'd realized that it had been some time since I'd reviewed an entry-level loudspeaker. I'd reviewed Emotiva's X-Ref XRT-5.2 floorstanding speaker in the August 2012 issue and had been impressed with its combination of sound quality and price. I requested samples for review.

Art Dudley Posted: Mar 05, 2015 2 comments
I've seen how most manufacturers work. They start out by making products they believe in—products consumers are likely to love. But after a while they begin listening to their dealers and distributors and marketing consultants, most of whom are inclined to say things like: "You need to make a six-figure turntable, to compete with all the other six-figure turntables." "You need to make a $1500 amplifier, to fill that price gap in your product line." "You need to make a small, stand-mounted loudspeaker."
Robert J. Reina Posted: Dec 30, 2014 6 comments
The $1500/pair price point for loudspeakers is now very hot. Many manufacturers offer interesting models at or near this price, which gives the most creative designers an opportunity to show off: they can come up with interesting speakers that attempt to deliver a level of performance an order of magnitude beyond their entry-level wares by trickling down technology from their costlier floorstanding models. For the buyer, a $1500/pair speaker is a great way to start building a complete system for $4000–$5000 that can deliver extremely high sound quality for the dollar.
Herb Reichert Posted: Dec 30, 2014 10 comments
I was sitting in my high chair, eating strained peas. My father was walking around the kitchen with a wooden box in one hand and a cord with a plug in the other. The box and the cord were attached to each other. I was inspired to utter my first actual sentence: "Plug it in over there!" Moments later, a man with a disturbing voice began squawking from inside the wooden box. It was a radio. Schnapps, our dachshund, barked angrily. I started to cry. Ever since, I've been charmed, fascinated, and mostly annoyed by wooden boxes that talk to me.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Sep 26, 2014 4 comments
In the March 2010 issue I reviewed Dynaudio's Excite X12 bookshelf speaker ($1200/pair), then the least expensive speaker in Dynaudio's line. It mightily impressed me, and I wrote that it had "become my new benchmark for speakers costing under $2000/pair." Despite the many newer, competing bookshelf speakers costing somewhere between $1000 and $2000/pair that have visited my listening room since then, my enthusiasm for the Excite X12 has not waned—I've used it as a reference against which to compare all of those of those models. So when Dynaudio USA's Michael Manousselis contacted Stereophile to tell us that the entire Excite line had been redesigned, and offered review samples of the Excite X12's successor, the Excite X14 ($1500/pair), I jumped at the opportunity.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Aug 27, 2014 0 comments
"Kevin Voecks is a genius, no ifs, ands, or buts." I wrote those words nearly 30 years ago, in a review of the Mirage 750, where I had also recommended Mirage's 350 bookshelf model. The 350, which costs $300/pair, was the first affordable bookshelf loudspeaker whose sound actually excited me. When I think now of how that speaker sounded back then, I chuckle. By today's standards, the Mirage 350 had some shortcomings.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Jun 25, 2014 Published: Jul 01, 2014 4 comments
Phase Technology, a speaker-making division of MSE Audio based in Jacksonville, Florida, celebrated their 30th anniversary last September, at the 2013 CEDIA Expo, by reissuing of one of their first products, the PC-60 bookshelf loudspeaker, now updated with new drivers and crossovers. Dick Olsher reviewed the PC-60 for Stereophile in 1984 (footnote 1), and three decades later, John Atkinson thought it time to revisit this classic design, especially as the company's founder, the late Bill Hecht, was the inventor, in 1967, of the soft-dome tweeter. The PC60 CA (the CA stands for Classic Audiophile) intrigued me as well—despite having reviewed audio gear for 30 years and attended audio shows for even longer, I'd never heard a Phase Technology speaker. And with the PC60 CA costing $1400/pair—currently the hottest price point for high-performance bookshelf models—I couldn't wait to hear it.
John Marks Posted: Jun 06, 2014 10 comments
Were one in a whimsical mood, one could divide the history of hi-fi into the eras before and after Edgar Villchur (1917–2011), inventor of the sealed-box, air suspension (or acoustic suspension) bass-loading principle. It was Villchur's invention of the acoustic-suspension woofer that made possible affordable loudspeakers with deeper bass from a smaller cabinet (see Sidebar: "Sealed Boxes").

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