September 1997 saw the 35th anniversary of Stereophile magazine, founded by J. Gordon Holt back in 1962. If any interview needs no introduction, this is it. My interview with Gordon was conducted around the kitchen table in Gordon's Boulder, Colorado home over a couple of cold beers. It seemed appropriate to start at the very beginning... J. Gordon Holt: I don't remember when that was.
"Crossovers? We don't need no stinkin' crossovers!" Most Stereophile readers probably feel this way when it comes to third-party electronic crossovers. In this day of proprietary "soup-to-nuts" speaker systems, nearly all manufacturers supply complete systems. Nevertheless, some brave (or foolish) souls still choose to sail in uncharted crossover waters. Most do so because they're insanely in love with their current speakers, and have an irrational desire for that last bottom octave. Others have "orphaned" speakers that are not readily upgradeable to the next level of performance. I fall into the second category.
In this age of $70,000-plus "flagship" designs, perhaps $25k is no longer an obscene amount to pay for a pair of loudspeakers. Still, it's mucho dinero. What makes a speaker worth this kind of bread? Does the product's intrinsic value really warrant such a lofty cost, or is it merely a matter of pricing at what the market will bear? The answers to these questions requires careful examination of not only the speaker, but also of the buyer's own soul, priorities, and pocketbook.
The official designation for FM is Frequency Modulation, but I think FM stands for Fresh Music. Since before the age of recorded time, FM has been where you go to hear new music, be it the latest Jimi Hendrix album or a recent release from the Kronos Quartet.
There are two kinds of audiophiles: those who own original Quad ESL speakers and those who don't (footnote 1). This review is for the former, although the latter may find it of some interest. The Gradient SW-57 subwoofer attempts to do for the original Quad (footnote 2) what Gradient's SW-63 (footnote 3) does for the Quad ESL-63: supply the bottom octave while relieving the ESLs of the strain of reproducing low bass.
I live in a house that has a pyramid-shaped roof, so I guess you could say that I have a thing for pyramids (footnote 1). That's probably why I was immediately drawn to the Green Mountain Audio Diamante. I'm also attracted to floorstanding speakers with small footprints, since my listening/video room is only 13' by 16'. My Holy Grail of loudspeakers is a small speaker that's flat between 20Hz and 20kHz, can do 110dB sound-pressure–levels without straining, and costs less than $1000/pair.
In the name of journalistic ethics (footnote 1) I have to come clean. David Manley once gave me a gift. He presented me with a large, rather heavy, Russian-made watch at the 1995 Las Vegas WCES. A very manly watch: In fact, it said "Manley" right on the dial. The watch worked fine for about six months. Then it developed a very subjective approach to timekeeping. Time stood still, and my life wasn't even passing before my eyes. The watch has become a nice, albeit slightly ugly, miniboat anchor; now my rubber ducky stays where I put it in my bathtub.
We all have biases. The trick is knowing your biases so they don't get in your way. Mine are pretty obvious. I don't like "fussy" gear that demands special care and feeding. I'm lazy—I want to just turn stuff on and begin listening. Perhaps that's why I have a positive bias toward Nelson Pass's designs. They're reliable, untweaky, and usually sound good.
Threshold is one of the longest-surviving high-end audio companies. Founded in the 1970s by Nelson Pass and René Besne, it was acquired by a large, publicly traded corporation in 1988. This had both positive and negative results in that Threshold was then able to expand its activities, adding the cost-effective Forté line of products, but energies were drained away from cutting-edge design. Besne left the company in 1991, while Pass resigned in 1992 to pursue other interests. (These blossomed into the Pass Aleph 0 amplifier reviewed by DO in March '95, Vol.18 No.3.)