Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Tom Fine  |  Feb 16, 2024  |  14 comments
Back in August, I received an email from Editor Jim Austin. Subject line: "Want to do a big review?" He had my attention. Jim wrote that he had visited Bowers & Wilkins parent company Masimo Consumer in Carlsbad, California, for a demo of the brand-new B&W 801 D4 Signature and 805 D4 Signature loudspeakers. (That visit was chronicled by Jim in the September 2023 Industry Update section.) B&W had offered Stereophile the first US review of both products—look for John Atkinson's review of the 805 D4 Signature in the coming months—and Jim thought the big 801s would be "right up my alley."

Indeed! The voice of my full-range system in the living room is a pair of B&W 808 speakers, ca late 1980s. The smaller-scale system at our house upstate features a pair of B&W 805 D2s. So, outside of my mastering studio, most of the music I listen to is through Bowers & Wilkins speakers. I am accustomed to and enjoy B&W sound and styling.

Sasha Matson  |  Jan 25, 2024  |  20 comments
Wilson Audio's new Sasha V loudspeaker (that's "V" as in victory, not "five") extends the line that began in 2009 with the debut of the Sasha 1 model. The installation manual includes a page titled "Sasha Evolution," with elegant line drawings of the various versions of the Sasha loudspeaker—now four—which were preceded by the two-box WATT/Puppy combo, which dates from 1989. The Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha V ($48,900/pair) replaces the prior Sasha model, the Sasha DAW, in the Wilson lineup.

The hefty, floorstanding Sasha V maintains a close family resemblance. The new Sasha's width and height are almost identical, logging 14½" and 45 1/16", respectively. The cabinets gain an inch in depth and now measure 23 15/16". The cabinets' subtle beveling is slightly different; probably only recent Sasha owners would notice. Extra thickness in the cabinets adds 9lb for a total of 245lb per speaker.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 10, 2024  |  13 comments
Three products were recently subjected to second opinions: I reviewed the revised RS250A version of HiFi Rose's RS250 streaming D/A preamplifier and the optional DC1 DAC module for Audio Research's I/50 integrated amplifier; Ken Micallef wrote about his time with the Volti Razz loudspeaker.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 29, 2023  |  126 comments
When I reviewed the Concept 50 loudspeaker from the UK's Q Acoustics in August 2022, I concluded that the Concept 50 lowers the sweet price spot for affordable tower speakers to $3000/pair. Now I have another pair of Q Acoustics loudspeakers in the house for review. Like the earlier speaker, the 5040 is a slim, elegant-looking tower with a vertical D'Appolito drive-unit array comprising a 0.9" fabric-dome tweeter positioned between the two 5" plastic-cone woofers. But the price is half that of the Concept 50: $1499/pair. Will this be a new sweet spot? We shall see.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 24, 2023  |  6 comments
I've been watching Estelon since they came on the market in the US. Their striking appearance grabs the eye, but, preoccupied with other brands and reviews, I was able to deny them serious attention until now.

I had my reasons—especially price. The prices of those earlier Estelons were a poor fit for my budget. I was also troubled by the fact that, despite rhetoric about driver and component choice, advanced cabinet materials and construction, and fastidious engineering, Estelon has been stingy with details and specifications—not a complete disqualifier but rather a missed opportunity to appeal to objectivist proclivities.

What changed my mind? First, while Estelon is deservedly known for the elegance of its designs, the AURA is, to me, the cleanest design the company has yet achieved . . . Second, at $19,900/pair, the AURA is much less expensive than the earlier models, including the Forza reviewed by Michael Fremer and the XB Diamond Mk.2 reviewed by Jim Austin.

Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 10, 2023  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1994  |  0 comments
Few products elicited as much excitement, disappointment, and debate among the Stereophile staff as did the Snell Type B dynamic loudspeaker (footnote 1). Both Peter Mitchell and I praised the Type B for its low-frequency extension, smooth treble, high power handling, and excellent dynamics. Corey Greenberg and Robert Harley faulted the speaker's sluggish and fat bass response, which they felt precluded a recommendation in Stereophile's "Recommended Components." Kickdrum recordings in pop and rock excited the Type B's bass character, a characteristic which was not so noticeable if one only listens to classical music. This bass peak was so prominent in RH's listening room that it colored the rest of the loudspeaker's range. As a result, he found that this otherwise fine loudspeaker was not as transparent as other high-quality dynamic systems in the same price range.

Help was on the way. Within six months of RH's review, Snell Acoustics introduced a smaller version, the B minor, at the 1992 Summer CES.

John Atkinson  |  Oct 19, 2023  |  15 comments
Loudspeakers from British manufacturer Monitor Audio have consistently received favorable reviews in Stereophile over the past decades. From the R952MD I reviewed in January 1988 to the Silver 500 7G reviewed by Rob Schryer in February 2022, Monitor Audio speakers have offered excellent sound quality and high-quality engineering. So when I was offered the company's Platinum 300 3G for review, I readily agreed. Having lived with standmounts and minimonitors for the past year, I felt it would be good to spend some time with a pair of large, full-range, three-way floorstanders.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Oct 13, 2023  |  30 comments
How do you know you're beyond help as a card-carrying audiophile? For me, it happened during a recent trip to Italy. Several times a day, my thoughts drifted to the Focal Maestro Utopia Evo speakers that had been delivered two days before I left for Europe. At one point, I considered FaceTiming the housesitter to request a live view of the listening room, where the Maestros were playing music, breaking in.

Chrissakes! Couldn't I just enjoy la dolce vita? Savor the belly-busting meals in Treviso and Civitavecchia, surrender to Tuscany's soul-soothing landscapes, thrill to Rome's old-world charms? Ninety-nine percent of the time, I did. The trip was a delight, and I wouldn't have missed it. But yes, I thought of those Maestros several times a day. The heart wants what the heart wants.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 11, 2023  |  12 comments
Four products were subjected to second opinions in recent issues: Herb Reichert reviewed the Mk.II version of Klipsch's Reference Premiere RP-600M loudspeaker (above left); Ken Micallef wrote about his time with the MoFi Electronics SourcePoint 10 loudspeaker (above right); John Atkinson lived with the CH Precision I1 Universal integrated amplifier (above); and Julie Mullins auditioned Triangle's Antal 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeaker.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Jul 21, 2023  |  69 comments
In my high-school days, I visited a friend whose well-to-do dad proudly demonstrated his new Quad ESL system for us. First up was a recording of a man with heavy footsteps traversing the space from left to right. Next came a speeding police car, siren engaged, complete with Doppler tail. I found it impressive, and a little lame at the same time. My friend and I, in love with our own artsiness, preferred Fear of Music by Talking Heads and Drums and Wires by XTC, or (in a pinch) U2's Boy.

It wouldn't have occurred to me that I'd ultimately derive frequent joy from listening to sound effects (though in my case they're usually integral to the music, not apart from it). When I hear Yosi Horikawa's bouncing marbles on Wandering, I prick up my ears and smile. A panting dog on Holly Cole's Temptation, an overhead hovercar on the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack ... bring it on. A babbling river on Andrew Bird's Echolocations; seed pods on Tom Waits's Blood Money; liquid splashes and crinkling paper on Felix Laband's Dark Days Exit ... yes, please. I don't care if it's a little gimmicky. It's also sensual in the original meaning of the word, an aural pleasure.

The Raidho TD3.8 speakers that, after three months, just departed my home, do the trick of conjuring points in space with great acuity.

Alex Halberstadt  |  Mar 17, 2023  |  52 comments
There's a good case to be made that the world's greatest—and strangest—audiophile culture resides in Japan. Probably the most important notion the Japanese have introduced to our hobby is that home audio isn't merely a way of heightening the musical art of others but can be an art in itself. This idea's most flamboyant embodiment was the poet, journalist, chef, and amplifier builder Susumu Sakuma, better known as Sakuma-san.

In the articles on hi-fi that he contributed to the Japanese magazine MJ, Sakuma-san also wrote about film, fishing, karaoke, and pachinko machines, and he usually began and ended his contributions with a poem. He considered himself an evangelist for emotional sound and demonstrated his audio systems in homes, at conferences, and on concert stages around the world. Though he passed in 2018, his fan club, called Direct Heating, remains a happening concern. Sakuma-san was fond of coining mottos—one was "farewell to theory"—but what has stuck with me most is his description of an ideal sound: "endless energy with sorrow."

This phrase came to mind often during the months I spent living with the Klipsch La Scala speakers, which imbued my musical life with unprecedented amounts of sound and emotion, and which I believe Sakuma-san would have enjoyed.

Rogier van Bakel  |  Feb 24, 2023  |  7 comments
Last year, on the hunt for high-quality espresso beans, I visited some specialty coffee websites. On one forum, I came across this description of a particular roast: "I tasted mild acidity and bitters with hazelnut, bourbon, and a hint of dark cherry. As it began to cool, there was a hint of black raspberry syrup or cordial. Then a dominant note emerged of nuts with mild distillates, walnut bitters, cacao nib and something between 82% dark chocolate and baker's chocolate. ... Further cooling offered the surprise of dark piecrust and a bitter cherry liqueur. The piecrust then rounded to a slightly sweet dark rye. There was a lingering aftertaste of single malt scotch that eventually faded to baker's chocolate with a hint of ashiness."

I had enough self-awareness to realize that in the hi-fi world we sometimes prattle on about hi-fi in ways that, to outsiders at least, must seem just as fustian and florid.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Feb 16, 2023  |  25 comments
Planned for KEF's 60th anniversary, much as the LS50 was planned for the company's 50th, the LS60 Wireless is a statement product that encompasses the premise of company founder Raymond Cooke that loudspeaker performance could be improved through the application of new materials and new technologies. Improvements in recent KEF designs include the refinement of the Uni-Q coaxial driver, Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), force-canceling Uni-Core woofers with P-Flex surrounds, cabinets shaped to reduce diffraction, and the configuration and arrangement of drivers to create what KEF calls a Single Apparent Source.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 22, 2022  |  19 comments
In the very first copy of Stereophile I encountered, back when issues were digest size, one review infuriated me. The writer went on at inordinate length about the fine wines he'd consumed during the review period. On and on he went, gushing about the costly drinks, until I exclaimed (in a sentence laced with expletives), "What in the world does any of this have to do with audio?!"
Rogier van Bakel  |  Nov 23, 2022  |  29 comments
As a native European, I don't particularly love bubbly people: Too much sugar makes my teeth hurt. I'm sympathetic to my friend Nick, a Brit who reliably bristles when he hears Americans use the word "awesome" for the most mundane things. A slight drop in gas prices? Awesome! How was the meatloaf? Awesome!

It irks him that the words awe and awesome are now nearly divorced. But I like to remind Nick that this hyperpleasant, optimistic American attitude is surely preferable to the alternative.

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