Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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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 3 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!

Robert Harley Posted: Jan 25, 2016 Published: Sep 01, 1990 3 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.
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 28 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."

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