Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Ken Micallef  |  May 18, 2017  |  14 comments
If, like me, you're a dues-paying audiophile who's circumnavigated the upgrade block a few times, you've seen a lot of gear and set up many systems. I've carried 80-lb line conditioners up the six knee-crunching flights to my bachelor's penthouse, managed 50-lb loudspeakers downstairs to a waiting van, and made more trips to FedEx than I can count. I've owned dozens of audio products and reviewed dozens more.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 27, 2017  |  22 comments
Having discontinued the MAXX3 loudspeaker ($68,000/pair in 2009, when I reviewed it), Wilson Audio needed to plug the resulting gaping hole between the Alexia ($48,500/pair) and the Alexandria XLF ($210,000/pair). Company founder Dave Wilson was busy with the limited-edition WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker ($685,000/pair), so son Darryl Wilson set about creating a speaker with a retail price of about $100,000/pair. The result, the Alexx, finally came in at $109,000/pair.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 11, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1990  |  6 comments
TDL is part of ELAC, one of the most successful OEM drive-unit manufacturers in the UK, particularly renowned for the 1" aluminum-dome tweeter that they make for Monitor Audio, Acoustic Energy, and British Fidelity. Perhaps of even more interest to readers of Stereophile is that the TDL system designer is one John Wright, who designed the classic series of IMF loudspeakers and who also was one of the leading equipment reviewers in the UK back in the 1960s. (For a while John was also a contributor to this magazine, his comprehensive reviews of tonearms appearing in Vol.2 Nos.10 & 12.)
John Atkinson  |  Apr 06, 2017  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1988  |  4 comments
It is almost ten years since I last heard a pair of DCM loudspeakers, the Time Windows made famous by writer Peter Aczel in the first incarnation of his magazine The Audio Critic. The "Time" nomenclature traditionally used by DCM in their models refers to the fact that for any hi-fi component, its performance in the frequency domain is related to, and implicit in, that in the time domain, the two being connected by the mathematics of the Fourier Transform. To put it in simplistic language, a speaker's impulse response can be translated directly into its frequency response: all the information needed to show how its response varies with frequency is contained in the shape of the impulse it produces.
Sam Tellig, Herb Reichert  |  Apr 04, 2017  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2014  |  16 comments
John DeVore names his speakers after primates—apes, to be specific. Something to do with a family member being a zoologist.

John once worked at a hi-fi retailer in lower Manhattan. Now, as president and chief designer of DeVore Fidelity, he manufactures loudspeakers across the bridge, in the former Brooklyn Navy Yard. I talked with John the other day about his new speaker, the Orangutan O/93.

John makes two Orangutans, both floorstanders: the O/96, with a sensitivity specified as 96dB, over which Art Dudley went ape, in the December 2012 issue. Artie has made the O/96 his reference loudspeaker. It goes for $12,000/pair, stands included.

Now there's the new, smaller Orangutan O/93, specified at 93dB. It retails for $8400/pair with a front baffle in fiddleback mahogany veneer (other veneers are available).

Kalman Rubinson  |  Mar 24, 2017  |  12 comments
When it comes to Focal loudspeakers, I've been a lurker. For decades now, their demonstrations at audio shows have been memorable—a highlight was when, several years ago, I got Focal to play a powerful percussion track through a pair of their Grande Utopias at very high volume on a show's last day. Just to hear and feel how this mammoth system could deliver clarity and impact was awe-inspiring, and it was underscored by seeing folks from all the neighboring rooms quickly entering to enjoy it with me. It has also been a continuing pleasure to relax and listen to music with Stereophile's former Senior Editor, Jonathan Scull through his Focal Utopias, which he purchased in 1998. Alas, the years have turned, speakers have come and gone, and I had not yet had any Focal speakers in my own system. (Bob Deutsch seemed always to get the jump on me!)
John Atkinson  |  Mar 09, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1990  |  0 comments
RSL is the house brand of a California chain of retail stores, Rogersound Labs, that is part-owned by the leader of the RSL loudspeaker-design team, one Howard Rodgers. (Rogersound Labs also owns the Upscale Audio high-end store in north Los Angeles.) The range offered by RSL is unbelievably wide, with models addressing just about every market niche and price category. The Speedscreen II, however, is Howard's attempt to produce a true high-end loudspeaker at an affordable price. To the casual observer, the Speedscreen ($898/pair) appears to be a planar design; however, its shallow, braced enclosure houses moving-coil drive-units, and is a result of Howard's attempts to minimize the effect of cabinet resonances. "I always thought deep, narrow enclosures sound 'boxy'," said Howard when he visited Santa Fe last September, "and the wide but shallow cabinet seemed to be the best way to get a large internal volume without 'boxiness'."
Robert Deutsch  |  Mar 09, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 1993  |  0 comments
90unity.promo250.jpgFor anyone who wants to be up to date on all the audio products available in North America, Audio's Annual Equipment Directory is an indispensable source of information. (So is the publication you're reading now, of course.) The 1992 Directory (aka Audio's October issue) arrived when I was finishing up the review of the Acarian Alón IV (see February 1993, Vol.16 No.2) and about to start seriously listening to the Unity Audio Signature 1s. As I leafed through the issue, I wondered how fledgling loudspeaker manufacturers feel reading the section on loudspeakers. According to the Directory, there are 329 makers of speakers (17 more than in 1991) producing no fewer than 2286 different models. How can a new loudspeaker manufacturer compete with the established makes and their marketing clout, brandname recognition, and economics of scale? You'd better have a really good product—or be a genius at promotion.
Dick Olsher  |  Mar 02, 2017  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1992  |  1 comments
666near50m.jpgNew England Audio Resource's NEAR-50M is a cyborg: metal innards in a wooden body. It represents NEAR's top statement in the firm's Metal Diaphragm Technology speaker line, which features the "NEAR-Perfect" driver cone. Metal—in this case an anodized aluminum alloy—is much more rigid than paper or plastic. Hence, a driver with a metal cone acts more nearly as a true piston. When it comes to loudspeaker cones, breaking up is not hard to do. When that happens, the cone flexes in a complex pattern, generating harmonic distortion. A typical plastic or paper 8" woofer may experience its first breakup mode at a frequency as low as 500Hz. The NEAR 8" metal-cone woofer's first breakup mode is said to be well above 2kHz, and their 4" metal-cone midrange does much better than that.
Art Dudley  |  Feb 23, 2017  |  7 comments
I wouldn't normally begin a review of an imported product with generalities about the culture from which it sprang, but this isn't just any imported product. It's a Scandinavian loudspeaker, and Scandinavian speakers are subject to a different and altogether more liberal set of rules.

For one thing, because they tend to be healthy and well educated, and because their governments are at peace and, for the most part, economically and politically sound, Scandinavians can take a joke. For another, Scandinavians are famous for not only having a loudspeaker industry—something that has thus far eluded Spaniards, Corsicans, Ethiopians, and the Maltese, among others—but also for the distinctiveness of the speakers they make. Like the Scandinavian people themselves, their speakers are intelligent, serene, uncompromising, outwardly serious and inwardly whimsical, outwardly tidy and inwardly complex, and a bit quirky.

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 02, 2017  |  16 comments
Reviewers of high-fidelity gear are a trend-sniffing, topology-bandying bunch. When four of our kin gathered last November over lunch, during the 2016 New York Audio Show, the high-end chatter flew fast and furious. "Did you hear those mother-rocking big horns on the seventh floor?" "Nah, man, the Bruno Putzeys speakers on nine were best in show." "What about those li'l Lowthers on eight? Great sweet spot, but small as peanuts."
John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2017  |  8 comments
"Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the October issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 02, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1995  |  0 comments
When I requested the Snell Music and Cinema Reference System for review, plus the new Snell Type A Music Reference System for evaluation, little did I know what I was letting myself in for. I lost count of the number of large shipping cartons delivered to my garage—though I'm sure the delivery man didn't. Except for the subwoofers, all the individual pieces are relatively small. But together they form a system that definitely demands both attention and a large room to sound its best and to keep it from visually overpowering the space.
Jon Iverson  |  Dec 22, 2016  |  6 comments
I prefer and have owned electrostatic speakers for most of my audiophile life. Depending on your point of view, this makes me either the most qualified or the least appropriate writer to review MartinLogan's new electrostatic loudspeaker, the Masterpiece Renaissance ESL 15A.

Oh, I've flirted with dynamic speakers. I've owned and loved—and ultimately, when I was an audio retailer, sold—models from Revel, Thiel, Vandersteen, and many others, while my long-term choice has been electrostats. And while I've spent plenty of time with electrostatic speakers from Acoustat and Quad, I've ended up owning MartinLogans: Sequels, Quests, ReQuests, and, currently, Prodigys.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Dec 20, 2016  |  21 comments
Bang & Olufsen's BeoLab 90 is not a loudspeaker to take on lightly. Though its size—49.33" high by 28.9" wide by 29.4" deep—and weight (302 lbs each) meant a major disruption of my listening room, which is also our living room, my wife assented. Its price of $84,990/pair puts it far beyond anything I might consider buying—and the complexity of the BeoLab 90, which has its own dedicated amplifiers and DACs, makes it impossible for a reviewer—or consumer—to directly compare it with any other loudspeaker. So be it.

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