Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Sam Tellig Posted: Nov 19, 2014 14 comments
Hi-fi firms have begun in garages. The English Spendor company was started in a bathtub. Or was it a kitchen sink?

By days in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Spencer Hughes worked as part of the BBC's loudspeaker research team. Among other accomplishments, he helped develop the 5" midrange/woofer for the fabled LS3/5A loudspeaker.

Robert Deutsch Posted: Nov 07, 2014 5 comments
Founded in 1979 by Jacques Mahul, Focal—formerly known as JMlab and as Focal-JMlab—is one of audio's success stories. Beginning with a single speaker model produced in a small workshop in Saint Etienne, France, the company is still headquartered there, but has expanded to employ over 250 workers, making products exported to over 160 countries. All Focal products are engineered in France; only a few lower-priced multimedia models and headphones are assembled in the Far East.
John Atkinson Posted: Oct 30, 2014 7 comments
For a reviewer, deciding which products to write about is a tricky business. You want to do a professional job of evaluation, but you also want to be able to wrest maximum enjoyment from your music while you do so. Attending audio shows is where reviewers perform sonic triage, weeding out the products that aren't ready for prime time, and making a note of those they wish to invite home after the show.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 17, 2014 Published: Jan 01, 1984 10 comments
We wrote a long, rather unkind report on the HQD, pointing out that, if that was typical of the way it was supposed to sound (And why not, after Mr. Levinson had installed and tweaked it?), then it had to be the most expensive bomb ever to be made available for civilian use. Mr. Levinson responded with a phone call during which he:

1) Told us we had not heard it at its best, but refused to address himself to our specific criticisms;

2) Claimed that many practicing professional musicians felt the HQD to be "extremely realistic";

3) Informed us that, since he sold very few HQD systems and would soon be discontinuing them anyway because Quad had ceased making those speakers, the "sensible" thing to do would be to kill the report; and

4) Mentioned, just in passing of course, that he was currently writing a feature article for Time on the subject of "underground" audio magazines.

Guy Lemcoe Posted: Sep 12, 2014 Published: Aug 01, 1991 0 comments
666acoustat1100.jpgAcoustat Model Twos have been my reference loudspeakers for almost five years. I remember, on first hearing them in a high-end store in Illinois, how they let the music through in a way new and important to me. I knew I must own them! They seemed, despite their imposing appearance, to step aside when the music came on. The effect was akin to having a door opened onto the performance. One became privy to intimate details captured in recordings which are rarely heard outside the concert hall. Not veils, but flannel sheets were lifted from the sound! If one fussed around enough with placement, the Twos truly disappeared into the soundfield—music came from in front of, to the sides of, between, and behind them as if they weren't there. Focusing them like a fine camera lens on the listening chair created a "sweet spot" which, when I sat therein, raised within me a sense of awe usually associated with things magical. You knew when you entered this space, for it was different from that surrounding it. The musical presentation assumed an almost holographic palpability.
Larry Archibald Posted: Sep 10, 2014 Published: Aug 01, 1983 2 comments
No, we made no typos in the specifications sidebar. The weight of the Wilson Audio Modular Monitor (WAMM) speaker system is enough to make you consult a structural engineer before dropping it on your living room floor—fragile, 300-year old New England frame houses are probably out. And the recent price increase from $32,000 to $35,000 is enough by itself to buy a pair of Quad ESL-63s—which is not a bad speaker system. The WAMM represents an all-out assault on both the state of the art in speaker systems and on the limits to which wealthy audiophiles will go in order to have the best.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 28, 2014 6 comments
In the late 1980s, KEF, then as now a leader in bringing new technology to loudspeaker design, developed a unique coincident driver that positioned the tweeter in the throat of the midrange/woofer cone. In a flash of inspiration, they dubbed it the Uni-Q, and the driver immediately not only found its way into the company's more upscale speaker designs, but also became a key element in a major European research project on room acoustics. That study's results appear to have been inconclusive, but the Uni-Q lives on as the defining element of KEF loudspeakers.
John Atkinson Posted: Aug 22, 2014 0 comments
The French do things differently. I first heard Triangle loudspeakers at the 1981 Festival du Son, in Paris. That was, of course, after I had obtained admission to the show, in a nonintuitive process in which members of the press obtained their credentials at a booth inside the show. But my experience of the Triangle speaker, a small, three-way floorstander, was positive: It sounded clean and uncolored, and nothing like the BBC-inspired speakers I preferred at that time. The Triangle wasn't as neutral as the English norm, but there was something appealing about its sound—something that, I later learned, Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, referred to as jump factor.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 13, 2014 Published: Feb 01, 1991 0 comments
jbl160.250.jpgA visiting manufacturer recently told us here at Stereophile of an ongoing informal "survey" he was conducting. He would ask strangers to name three brands of loudspeakers. Their responses were not what I would have expected. They almost invariably named Japanese companies—two of the most commonly mentioned were Hitachi and Panasonic. Other than my spell-checker insisting that I change "Hitachi" to "hibachi," I have nothing in particular against these two manufacturers; they are well-recognized in many product categories. But loudspeakers? I can only guess that the respondents were dredging up the only consumer electronics companies that came readily to mind.

My list for most recognized loudspeaker brands would most certainly have included JBL. How could it not? They have been involved in home high-fidelity since 1954. And for years before that in professional audio—primarily motion picture theater sound, a field in which they are still active. In short, they were around before there was such a thing as "hi-fi."

Sam Tellig Posted: Aug 09, 2014 Published: Jan 01, 1990 0 comments
666acoustat11.jpgI wish I could be enthusiastic about the Acoustat Spectra 11—an electrostatic/dynamic hybrid selling for $999/pair. At first glance, the Acoustat Spectra 11 looks like a good deal. They could almost be called knock-offs of the Martin-Logan Sequels—they're about the same size. As with the Sequels, there are moving-coil bass cabinets below, electrostatic panels on top. The Spectra 11 cannot be bi-wired and does not come with spikes. Tiptoes are recommended, and I used them. I let the speakers run in for about 24 hours before doing any serious listening.
Erick Lichte Posted: Jul 03, 2014 20 comments
The year: 1999. The city: Minneapolis. While taking a break from partying with Prince like it was, well . . . that year, I wandered into a local audio emporium to see what new and exciting goodies were on display. Set up in a large listening room, attached to the latest Mark Levinson gear, were Revel's original Ultima Studio loudspeakers. I sat down, gave them a listen, and heard the best sound I had yet heard. For the first time, it seemed to me that I was listening to an audio system that played with low distortion and little coloration. Also, the system's wide dispersion threw a huge soundstage, engrossing me in the music in ways other speakers couldn't. I was hooked.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 25, 2014 Published: Jul 01, 2014 5 comments
For exhibitors, showing off their products at audio shows is a crap shoot. The vagaries of arbitrarily assigned hotel rooms with unpredictable acoustics can play havoc with the sound of even the best-sounding systems. But over the years I've been attending shows, Joseph Audio's dems have always impressed me with how Jeff Joseph manages to set up his speakers so that they work with instead of against a hotel room's acoustics. Yes, Joseph's setup skills, going back to his days in audio retail, play an important role here. But his speakers, too, need to be of sufficiently high quality to benefit from those skills. And if they can be made to sing in a hotel room, they will also stand a better-than-usual chance of doing so in audiophiles' homes.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 09, 2014 Published: Apr 01, 1980 18 comments
Dr. Alan Hill, president of Plasmatronics Inc., was previously employed by the US Government in laser research. His assignment: To increase the efficiency of lasers so that they could do something more impressive than produce holograms, mend leaky retinal blood vessels, and punch pinholes in steel blocks. Dr. Hill earned his keep, thus advancing laser technology a giant step closer to Star Wars, and then retired from government service to design. . . a loudspeaker?!!!?
Jack English Posted: Apr 15, 2014 Published: Aug 01, 1993 2 comments
893count.250.jpgWhile Clearfield Audio may be a new name to many of you, it represents the marriage of two well-established members of the high-end community: Counterpoint and designer Albert Von Schweikert. Counterpoint had been working to add speakers to its product lineup for some time. The partnership with Von Schweikert, whom Stereophile readers will remember as the designer of the Vortex Screen favorably reviewed by Robert Harley in July 1989, fills out Counterpoint's high-end product line from source—the company showed a CD transport at the June 1993 CES—to speaker.

The Metropolitan
The developmental history of Vortex speakers provides a meaningful framework for the design of the Clearfield offerings, especially the Metropolitans, or Mets. Like the Vortex designs, the Mets are three-ways with transmission-loaded bass. Like the Kevlar Reference Screen (reviewed by Robert Greene in The Abso!ute Sound's "double-issue" 83/84, December '92), the Mets use Kevlar-coned midrange units from Focal that cover a broad range from 125Hz to 2kHz. What's dramatically different is the overall driver layout.

John Atkinson Posted: Mar 28, 2014 3 comments
In February 2013, I was taking part in a "Music Matters" evening at Seattle retailer Definitive Audio, playing some of my recordings and talking about my audio philosophy. I love taking part in these events—in addition to Definitive's, in recent years I've participated in evenings organized by North Carolina's Audio Advice, Colorado's Listen-Up, and Atlanta's Audio Alternatives—but, as might be obvious, at each one I use a system provided by the retailer. The February 2013 system comprised Classé electronics and, to my surprise, Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus loudspeakers.

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