Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 28, 2014 2 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 4 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.
Muse Kastanovich Posted: Feb 21, 2014 Published: Nov 01, 1995 1 comments
666unity3.jpgWhen I saw the Unity Audio Signature 3 speakers ($1895/pair) arrive in one box, I was happy. Not just because it meant there would be that much more space left in my basement. No, because it means that Unity is saving money on packaging costs. That means they can spend more money on things like super-nice crossover components. That means...well, I think you know what that means. After all, any piece of audio gear is only as good as the parts it's made from.

To get these overgrown bookends to stand up, you slide little black boards into the slots in their bottoms. Each board is held in place by two set screws, and sticks out to support the speaker with two of the four spikes. The board also tilts the speaker back a little. How do they get sufficient bass out of such slim cabinets?

Barry Willis Posted: Dec 19, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 1998 0 comments
666systemau.1.pngDenmark has probably contributed more to loudspeaker technology than any other country in the world. Vifa, Dynaudio, ScanSpeak, and Peerless drivers—used in a huge variety of speakers—are all Danish. Products from companies such as JBL, Spendor, Linn, B&W, Celestion, KEF, Audio Physic, ProAc, and others are partially or wholly made in the little Scandinavian nation.

System Audio originated in 1984, when guitarist and electronics technician Ole Witthoft grew dissatisfied with the lack of realism he heard from most home audio systems and figured he could do better. He built some speakers for himself and for a few friends, with encouraging results. It's a familiar story: we all know competent hobbyist speaker builders. A few of them gain a bit of local notoriety, but most never venture further than making a few units for friends and relatives.

But Witthoft's reputation grew rapidly, and so did his business. Fourteen years later, his little startup has become a serious player in the loudspeaker market, with annual production in excess of 18,000 units.

John Atkinson Posted: Dec 02, 2013 9 comments
With the help of 20:20 hindsight, it looks as if I made a decision when I joined Stereophile: to review a loudspeaker from Wilson Audio Specialties every 11 years. In June 1991, I reported on Wilson's WATT 3/Puppy 2 combination, which cost $12,740/pair in an automotive gloss-paint finish. This was followed in July 2002 by my review of the Wilson Sophia ($11,700/pair). And now, in December 2013, I am writing about the Wilson Alexia, which costs a not-inconsiderable $48,500/pair.
Muse Kastanovich Posted: Nov 22, 2013 Published: Nov 01, 1995 0 comments
666swans.100.jpgAs a privileged reviewer-type person, I was sent the souped-up, all-rosewood, bi-wirable version that sells for $2905/pair. They're quite handsome and very solidly built, weighing in at a respectable 50 lbs each. At $2275–$2905/pair, the Baton is Swans' most affordable speaker, and reportedly employs many of the technical refinements of their larger, more costly models.

The Baton uses the tried-and-true two-way dynamic design, with a 7" coated-paper woofer and a 1" fabric-dome tweeter. The tweeter comes with a little Marigo dot stuck to its center to shape its response. It's not a physically easy task for a woofer to reproduce (well) all the frequencies from about 60Hz up to about 2 or 3kHz. One that succeeds is a nice find, though, because the sound has a nice coherence to it when most of the music is coming from the same driver. But don't take my word for it—just look how many zillions of two-way speakers there are out there.

Robert Deutsch Posted: Nov 08, 2013 3 comments
What can you tell about the intrinsic sound quality of a loudspeaker if you've heard it only at an audio show? Arguably, not much. If it sounds bad, there may be a number of reasons for that, only one being the speaker itself. It may be the acoustics of the room, problems with speaker setup, poorly matched associated equipment, insufficient break-in/warm-up, or poor choice of demo recordings.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 01, 2013 5 comments
Sonus Faber is an iconic Italian high-end company whose loudspeakers have always evinced innovative technical design, superb construction, spectacular appearance, and great sound. I was intrigued with the design and performance of their stand-mounted Extrema (reviewed by Martin Colloms in the June 1992 Stereophile, Vol.15 No.6), which combined a proprietary soft-dome tweeter and a mineral-loaded polypropylene-cone woofer with an electrodynamically damped but passive KEF B139 driver that occupied the entire rear panel.

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