Thomas J. Norton

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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.
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 Thomas J. Norton 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.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 08, 2014 Published: Sep 01, 1988 1 comments
666sumopre.jpgSumo is one of a handful of American audio manufacturers dedicated to producing moderately priced products aiming for high-end sound; their most expensive product is the Nine Plus, at $1199 (although a more expensive Andromeda II is imminent). When I heard I was scheduled to review the Sumo Athena, I looked forward to the opportunity. A Sumo Nine (not a Nine Plus, which I haven't auditioned) had been my front-line power amplifier a few years ago. It was an excellent budget amplifier whose only serious shortcoming was its limited 60Wpc power output.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 06, 2014 Published: Sep 01, 1988 1 comments
666ps46.1.jpgChoosing a moderately priced preamp has traditionally presented the audiophile with a host of serious problems. Most attempt to be all things to all listeners, expending resources on bells and whistles which would have been better expended on basic performance. Few have anything resembling a decent moving-coil stage. But there have always been a few designers (and companies) willing to expend much of their effort at the "low end of the high end." PS Audio has been such a company. Their new 4.6 preamp, an update and cosmetic clone of the earlier, well-received 4.5, is not at the top of their preamp range—that honor belongs to the 5.5—but it is clearly designed to be more than a price-point product.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 11, 2014 Published: Mar 01, 1992 0 comments
The letter we received was innocent enough. It asked for our recommendations on laserdisc combination players. You know, the ones that play all of your optical, laser-read entertainment, from CDs to videodiscs. Had the question been a verbal one, our answer would have begun with a long silence. As it was, we could only jot down a few generic references to features, followed by an admission that we had, collectively, no firsthand experience with these all-purpose devices. Only a few members of our staff have any interest in video stuff—monitors, surround-sound, and the like—among them J. Gordon Holt and yours truly.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 14, 2014 0 comments
Aerial's new 6T loudspeaker ($6000/pair) is a 4-driver, 3-way and will be available in February. It sounded very promising: tight bass (the material didn't challenge the extreme bass, but what I did hear—bass drum—suggested more extension than you might expect from two 150mm woofers); open top end, uncolored mids; fine imaging. Typically fine sound from Aerial Acoustics.
J. Gordon Holt Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 18, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 1985 0 comments
While it is not quite accurate to say that $500/pair loudspeakers are a dime a dozen, they are by no means unusual. And since this is a price area where major design compromises are mandatory (footnote 1), the sound of such loudspeakers tends to vary all over the map, from pretty good to godawful—depending on what performance areas the designer chose to compromise and by how much.

I approached this latest half-grander with little enthusiasm, despite Siefert's persuasive literature, I have, after all, been reading such self-congratulatory hype abiout new products for longer than most Stereophile readers have been counting birthdays. This, I must admit, was ho-humsville.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 29, 2012 Published: Nov 01, 1993 0 comments
When a manufacturer sets out to design and build a product, be it in high-end audio or any other field, the final retail price is usually a prime consideration. Parts and assembly are only part of the equation; there also must be enough buyers to amortize the design and development costs. If the product is to be a flagship model—something a company hopes will give a lift to its entire line—engineers will sometimes throw caution to the winds, designing a product without thought to its ultimate price, which is only set after the design is complete. When Madrigal Audio Laboratories set out to design their No.30 Reference Digital Processor, they appear to have chosen exactly this approach.
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Robert Harley Corey Greenberg Larry Greenhill Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 02, 2011 Published: Jul 01, 1991 0 comments
I should begin this review by confessing that I've never been a fan of subwoofers. Most subwoofer systems I've heard have been plagued by a familiar litany of sonic horrors: poor integration between subwoofer and main speakers, boom, bloat, tubbiness, slowness, excessive LF output, and an overall presentation that constantly reminds the listener he is hearing a big cone moving. To me, subwoofers often sound detached from the music, providing an accompanying thump that bears little relationship to the sound from the main speakers. Rather than revealing the music's harmonic underpinnings, subwoofers often obscure them in a thick morass of featureless boom. In addition, adding a subwoofer often destroys the qualities of the main speakers that made you buy them in the first place—just to name a few of my observations (footnote 1).

Other than that, I like subwoofers.

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