Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 29, 2016 17 comments
I have been an advocate of small speakers since I began using BBC LS3/5a's in the late 1970s, continuing through Celestion SL6es in 1981, Celestion SL600s and SL700s in the late '80s, and B&W Silver Signatures in the mid-'90s. Yes, I do like accurate and extended bass reproduction—but you need a big speaker to be able to provide that, and, as the late Spencer Hughes, founder of Spendor, once remarked, "big speakers have big problems." I don't see the point of extending a speaker's low-frequency performance if the result is compromised soundstaging and midrange reproduction. And there is also the intellectual elegance of a speaker that is no bigger than it need be.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Sep 27, 2016 19 comments
The second I encountered Dynaudio's Focus 200 XD powered loudspeaker at the High End 2015 show in Munich, Germany, it called to me. I wasn't so much drawn to its unique functions—which I describe below—as by the fact that it could help fill the black hole left by the dismantling of my reference system for my move from big, badass Oakland, California to the small, magical town of Port Townsend, Washington.
Wes Phillips Posted: Sep 08, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1994 1 comments
994ProAcR1S.jpgHere's the deal: If you're the kind of listener who must listen to your stereo at levels that change the barometric pressure of your listening room, or if you can't enjoy reggae concerts because they don't have enough bass, then the ProAc Response 1S (revised) is definitely not the speaker for you. Read no further. Move on. Scoot.

Anybody left? Good. Now we can talk about a very special little speaker. In a way, I didn't even want to review the 1S. I mentioned to John Atkinson that I'd heard them at my buddy Ruben's house and enjoyed them immensely, but I'd been using a pair of $13,000 speakers to review an exotic amplifier and had, sad to say, become quite spoiled: bass down to 28Hz, 93dB sensitivity, and some of the most accurate soundstaging I'd ever heard—we're talking about some serious suffering for my art, here.

So when the ProAcs arrived at my house, I thought it unfair: unfair to me (I was gonna miss them big dogs), and unfair to the Response 1S. After all, does anyone remember who played after the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show?

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.

Robert Harley Posted: May 14, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1990 3 comments
The philosophy promoted by many mainstream stereo magazines (and thus often the belief of the general public) is that one should spend a minimum amount of one's hi-fi budget on electronics and front ends, and a maximum amount on loudspeakers. Since all electronics sound alike and it's the loudspeaker that really produces the sound, the highest overall performance is obtained by putting expensive loudspeakers at the end of a chain of inexpensive electronics. Cables? Don't waste your money.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 13, 2016 Published: Oct 01, 1990 1 comments
Audio journalists tend to wander the corridors of a CES in a minor state of shell-shock. There are no carnival-barkers outside the rooms enticing one to enter (not yet, at any rate), but the sounds and reputations oozing from the open doorways yield little to the "hurry, hurry, hurry" crowd. The Signet room has always, it seems, been one of the quieter oases, often eschewing sound altogether while contentedly displaying their phono cartridges, cables, and various accessories. On a recent CES hunt, I was therefore intrigued to find them demonstrating two new loudspeakers, of all things, to the milling throngs.
Dick Olsher Posted: Apr 12, 2016 Published: Oct 01, 1990 0 comments
You don't have to be a seasoned speaker builder to recognize the Focal name. For years they've offered the home constructor a full assortment of quality drivers and kits. The kits were designed in-house—mostly by Focal in France—and, according to Focal, they represent fully engineered and tested systems. The Aria kits (the 5 and the 7), depart from Focal's past policy, in that the project was a collaborative design effort between Dr. Joe D'Appolito and Focal America. Focal's main contribution was in the area of cabinet development, while D'Appolito was responsible for the system integration and crossover design.
Herb Reichert Posted: Mar 31, 2016 12 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 "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!

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.

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)
Robert Harley Posted: Dec 18, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1990 0 comments
The Tannoy E11 ($349/pair) is the company's least-expensive model in a wide range of consumer loudspeakers. Tannoy is most often known for its professional models, especially their nearfield, dual-concentric monitors that have become de rigueur on the top of recording consoles. The E11 is a two-way, ported design with a 6.5" woofer and 1" dome tweeter. Both drivers are manufactured by Tannoy, instead of being sourced from a driver manufacturer. The woofer is made from a polyolefin co-polymer, a plastic material with high rigidity and good self-damping properties. To improve power handling and increase sensitivity, the voice-coil is edge-wound on a Kapton former. The surround appears to be made of butyl rubber.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 11, 2015 Published: Jul 01, 1990 12 comments
In their seminal work on the subject of audio "Bluff your Way in Hi-Fi" (1987), Sue Hudson and John Crabbe stated that "the perfect speaker would have no mass and no dimensions. The perfect speaker does not exist, and if it did, it still wouldn't." One might add, as a corollary, that a speaker with zero dimensions would also have infinite cost. At least there seems to be a trend in that direction. The Wilson WATT and Celestion SL700—to use today's two most visible examples—may have attracted considerable attention because of their exceptional performance, but they have also attracted at least as much because of their price/size ratio. Even in a considerably "lower" price bracket, a "simple" two-way loudspeaker with a 6" or 7" woofer costing $1000–$2000/pair would, at one time, have had most audiophiles laughing themselves silly.
Lonnie Brownell Posted: Nov 13, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1995 0 comments
Tricker tweets? I know, Halloween has already come and gone, but I just had to use that because this little speaker has a trick about its tweeter. The Spectrum Audio 108cd is constructed of ¾" MDF for the baffle and ½" MDF for the sides, with a very–high-quality black ash vinyl covering all the way around. (A brown ash finish is also available.) Rapping on the cabinet results in a hollow bonk, rather than a solid thud.
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.