2013 Recommended Components Loudspeakers

Loudspeaker Systems

Editor's Note: Class A "Loudspeakers" are sufficiently idiosyncratic and differ enough from one another that prospective customers should read Stereophile's original reviews in their entirety for descriptions of the sounds. I have therefore just listed every system or combination that at least one of Stereophile's reviewers feels, as a result of his or her experience, approaches the current state of the art in loudspeaker design. (Note that, to be eligible for inclusion in Class A, the system must be full-range—ie, feature bass extension to 20Hz. It must also be capable of reaching realistic sound-pressure levels without any feeling of strain.)

For those unconcerned about the last few hertz of low-bass extension, we have created "Classes A, B, and C (Restricted Extreme LF)" for those speakers that are state of the art in every other way. Candidates for inclusion in this class must still reach down to at least 40Hz, below the lowest notes of the four-string double-bass and bass guitar.

In addition, such has been the recent progress in loudspeaker design at a more affordable level that we have an extra class: E, for "Entry Level." Someone once asked us why Stereophile bothers to review inexpensive loudspeakers at all: In effect, aren't we insulting our readership by recommending that they buy inexpensive models? Remember: It's possible to put together a musically satisfying, truly high-end system around any of our Class D and E recommendations. That's why they're listed—and why you should consider buying them.

Class A—Full-Range

Aerial Acoustics Model 20T V2: $29,500/pair ✩
(Vol.32 No.11 Read Review Online)
B&W 800 Diamond: $24,000/pair
(Vol.34 No.5 Read Review Online)
KEF Reference 207/2: $19,999/pair ✩
(Vol.31 No.2 Read Review Online)
mbl Radialstrahler 101E Mk.II: $70,500/pair
(Vol.35 No.4 Read Review Online)
Revel Ultima Salon2: $21,998/pair ✩
One of Stereophile's "Joint Loudspeakers of the Year" for 2008. (Vol.31 No.6, Vol.32 No.3 Read Review Online)
Revel Ultima Studio2: $15,998/pair $$$ ✩
(Vol.31 No.3, Vol.32 No.12 Read Review Online)
Sonus Faber Amati Futura: $36,000/pair
(Vol.35 No.3 Read Review Online)
Sony SS-AR1: $27,000/pair
(Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Vandersteen Model Seven: $48,000/pair
(Vol.33 No.3 Read Review Online)
Vivid G1Giya: $65,000/pair
(Vol.33 No.7 Read Review Online)
Wilson Audio Specialties Alexandria XLF: $200,000/pair
(Vol.36 No.1 Read Review Online)
Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX Series 3: $69,500/pair ✩
(Vol.32 No.9 Read Review Online)

Class A (Restricted Extreme LF)

Aerial Model 7T: $9850/pair
This compact (44.5" H by 9.7" W by 15.3" D), three-way floorstander uses a 1" soft ring-radiator tweeter with dual magnets and a machined waveguide; a 5.9" papyrus-blend midrange cone with a 1.25" voice-coil, dual magnets, and cast magnesium frame; and two 7.1" bilaminate-cone woofers with 1.5" voice-coils and cast magnesium frames. The 7T provided a well-balanced sound overall, with a stable soundstage, pinpoint imaging, detailed and transparent highs, a gorgeous midrange, and neutrally balanced bass. "The 7T is so good that it should provide any listener with joyful musical communication," KR concluded. JA found excellent measured performance. (Vol.35 No.3 Read Review Online)
Canton Reference 3.2: $12,000/pair
Strikingly beautiful in construction and finish, the three-way, reflex-loaded, floorstanding Reference 3.2 is built using monocoque construction: each of its five layers of high-density fiberboard is carefully preformed, then bonded to the other layers to maximize rigidity and stiffness. It has a 1" metal-dome tweeter with an overhung voice-coil in a flared waveguide, a 7" aluminum-cone midrange driver, and two 9" aluminum-cone woofers. Removing the speaker's substantial grille panels alleviated a reticence in the upper midrange and revealed an expansive soundstage, well-extended and detailed bass, and sparkling treble. "The Canton Reference 3.2 DC deserves the highest accolades," decided KR. (Vol.33 No.6 Read Review Online)
DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3XL: $3700/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
Hand-built in Brooklyn, New York, the Gibbon 3XL has a beautifully finished cabinet made mostly of solid bamboo, and uses an unusual 0.75" tweeter and a 5" midrange/woofer custom-designed for DeVore by SEAS. The speaker has a claimed sensitivity of 90dB and a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, never dropping below 7.4 ohms. While the comparably priced Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3 offered a slightly richer, fuller sound, the Gibbon 3XL produced excellent low-level resolution, reasonably wide dynamics, and stable, pinpoint imaging, said ST. The almost obligatory matching bamboo stands add $595/pair. (Vol.33 No.6)
Focal Maestro Utopia: $50,000/pair
Although a large speaker at almost 58" tall and 256 lbs, the Maestro Utopia has an elegant, unimposing appearance with a beautifully finished, gracefully curved, dark-gloss body comprising three subenclosures: one for the 6.5" midrange unit, one for the 1.1" inverted beryllium-dome tweeter, and a large bass cabinet for the two 11" woofers. Though the Maestro Utopia could sound a little reserved with its warm upper bass and mellow top octave, it proved to be "an intensely musical-sounding loudspeaker," with uncolored mids, controlled lows, well-defined soundstaging, and superb dynamic-range capability, said JA. Due to its demanding load impedance in the upper bass, the Focal should be used with a powerful amplifier, such as the 600W Classé CTM-600 monoblock, to reach its full dynamic capabilities. (Vol.33 No.7 Read Review Online)
Harbeth Monitor 30.1: $5990–$6790/pair, depending on finish (stands necessary)
The Monitor 30.1 is a two-way, front-ported design with a 1" soft-dome SEAS tweeter and Harbeth's 7.8" Radial2 mid/woofer. Fit and finish were superb. Though too demanding a load for ST's 3.5Wpc Sun Audio SV2A3 amplifier, the Monitor 30.1 produced "ravishing" midrange texture, tonality, and resolution when partnered with higher-powered solid-state amplification. Compared to the Triangle Comete Anniversaire, the Harbeth sacrificed speed and agility for richness and warmth. "If you"re into classical and jazz, there is no other loudspeaker I can recommend so highly for $6500/pair," concluded Sam. Standard finish is Cherry. Add $500/pair for Eucalyptus or Rosewood finishes. Add $800/pair for Tiger Ebony finish. (Vol.35 Nos.11 & 12)
JBL Synthesis 1400 Array BG: $12,000/pair
The 1400 Array BG is a three-way, 115-lb speaker that stands 46" tall, 15" wide, and 19" deep. Each of its three drivers—a 1" titanium-diaphragm compression tweeter and 3" Aquaplas-coated dome midrange, both mounted in constant-directivity biradial horns, and a 14" doped pulp-cone woofer loaded with a 4" port—was developed in-house and is manufactured by JBL. Build quality was top-notch. Though it lacked the soundstage depth and resolution of LG's Quad ESL-989s, the JBL produced room-shaking low bass, a natural midrange, well-extended highs, and impressive imaging and transparency. "An audiophile bargain," concluded LG. JA was delighted by the speaker's remarkably flat and even in-room response. (Vol.33 No.5 Read Review Online)
Joseph Audio Pulsar: $7000/pair (stands necessary)
The compact (15" H by 9" W by 13" D), rear-ported Pulsar uses a 1" Sonatex-dome tweeter and a 5.5" cast-magnesium cone woofer, both built to Joseph Audio's specifications by SEAS. The MDF cabinet has an attractively beveled, piano-black front baffle; side panels are available in a choice of four high-gloss veneers as well as piano black. The Pulsar produced sweet treble, a neutral midrange, solid bass, and superbly focused images for a natural, involving overall sound, said MF. JA was impressed by the Pulsar's superbly flat on-axis response and well-damped enclosure. (Vol.35 No.6 Read Review Online)
KEF LS50 Annversary Model: $1499.99/pair (stands necessary)
This tribute to the famed LS3/5a monitor was made to celebrate KEF's 50th anniversary. Measuring just 11.9" H by 7.9" W by 10.9" D, the two-way, reflex-loaded design combines, in KEF's Uni-Q driver array, a 1" vented aluminum-dome tweeter and a 5.25" woofer cone of magnesium-aluminum alloy. The beautifully finished, computer-modeled MDF cabinet incorporates a convex front baffle, offset port, and damped internal cross-bracing for optimal suppression of external sound radiation and internal standing waves. The LS50 produced a surprisingly large, clean, transparent sound, with natural tone color and precise, stable stereo imaging, said JA, who also noted superb measured performance. "Recommended. Highly." (Vol.35 No.12 Read Review Online)
Klipsch Palladium P-17B: $4000/pair (stands necessary)
The smallest speaker in Klipsch's Palladium line, the P-17B is a three-way, reflex-loaded, standmounted design using a 0.75" titanium-diaphragm compression tweeter and 4.5" aluminum-diaphragm midrange unit, both with a 90° by 60° Tractrix horn, and a 7" cone woofer. Sensitivity is specified as 94dB, but JA's estimate was 90.7dB, which is still higher than average. Fit’n’finish were beyond reproach. Though it couldn’t reach the lowest octave of bass and failed to throw a truly deep soundstage, the P-17B provided taut, speedy bass, lively and airy (sometimes too airy) treble, and an extremely clean midrange free from any horn coloration. "A world-class bookshelf loudspeaker," decided EL. "A genuinely 21st-century horn design," declared JA. (Vol.33 No.5 Read Review Online)
Lansche Audio 5.1: $41,000/pair
Made in Germany, the Lansche Audio 5.1 is a three-way, floorstanding, reflex-loaded design with a horn-loaded Corona plasma tweeter, a 4" polypropylene-cone midrange unit, and two 8.7" glass-fiber/fabric cone woofers. It measures 40.9" H by 10.1" W by 19.3" D, weighs 167.5 lbs, and is available in a variety of exotic satin veneers. The Lansche's sophisticated, revealing highs and lean, articulate bass were unforgiving of thin-sounding recordings, but the pair of them had a wonderful sense of space and superb stereo imaging, said JA. Very difficult to drive. To get the best from the Lansches, careful consideration should be taken in placement and partnering amplification, the tubed Audio Research Reference 150 working much better than good solid-state amplification. High Gloss adds $5000/pair; Piano Black adds $3000/pair; Macassar Ebony, price on enquiry. (Vol. 35 No.7 Read Review Online)
Magico Q5: $65,000/pair
The massive Q5 (47" H by 12" W by 21" D, 387 lbs) is a four-way, sealed-box floorstander using a 1" beryllium-dome tweeter, 6" Nano-Tec midrange driver, 9" Nano-Tec midbass cone, and two 9" Nano-Tec woofers. Made entirely of aluminum and brass, the Q5's complex frame system is assembled from more than 50 machined parts with more than 350 fasteners of various types. Though it lacked some bottom-end weight and drive, which keeps this speaker from being rated Class A (Full-range), the Q5's transparency, resolution, and freedom from boxy colorations made it the smoothest, most detailed, least mechanical-sounding loudspeaker MF had ever heard. JA was equally impressed. (Vol.33 No.11 Read Review Online)
Marten Django XL: $15,000/pair
Made in Sweden, the Django is a three-way, reflex-loaded floorstander with a 1" ceramic-diaphragm tweeter, 6" ceramic-diaphragm midrange unit, and three 8" aluminum-cone woofers. The cabinet is made of 25mm-thick MDF, has nicely rounded edges to reduce diffraction, and comes available in high-gloss Piano Black or Silver Grey. Fit and finish were superb. The Django had an open, uncolored, well-balanced overall sound, with outstanding soundstaging, warm and full-bodied bass, a superb midrange, and a treble that was both revealing and forgiving, said EL. "Marten's Django XLs gave me the best sound I have ever heard in my room. Highly recommended," he concluded. (Vol.35 No.9 Read Review Online)
MartinLogan Montis: $9995/pair
Made in Canada, the elegant Montis combines a 44" H by 11.3" W Curvilinear Line Source (CLS) electrostatic high-frequency panel with a 10" high-excursion, aluminum-cone woofer, the latter powered by a 200W amplifier. The bass cabinet is available in glossy finishes of hand-rubbed black ash, dark cherry, or black cherrywood. Though it lacked pinpoint imaging, the Montis had a scintillating treble, fast and weighty bass, and a natural midrange, said RD. Though he found respectable measured performance, JA cautioned that the Montis will sound rolled off on top when driven by a tube amplifier with a high source impedance. (Vol.35 No.9 Read Review Online)
Monitor Audio Platinum PL200: $9000/pair ✩
The PL200 is a three-way, reflex-loaded floorstanding loudspeaker using a long-throw magnesium ribbon tweeter, 4" ceramic-coated-cone midrange driver, and two 6.5" ceramic-coated woofer cones. Boasting a gracefully curved cabinet made of multiple layers of bonded MDF and an antiresonant front baffle cloaked in Strathspey leather, the PL200 represents outstanding build quality. Though it tended toward "a slight brightness," the PL200 offered an overall "balanced performance from top to bottom," with superb soundstaging and high levels of transparency and resolution, said RD. "This is an impressively engineered, beautiful-looking loudspeaker," JA concluded. (Vol.33 No.4 Read Review Online)
Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution: $22,000/pair (stands necessary)
The beautiful Guarneri Evolution is a two-way, port-loaded, stand-mounted loudspeaker with a 1" fabric-dome tweeter and 7" pulp-cone woofer. It measures 16.5" H by 9.25" W by 16.2" D, weighs 40 lbs, and uses an intricate mass-damping system trickled down from SF's flagship, The Sonus Faber. Though it sounded somewhat congested when used with AD's 25W Shindo Corton-Charlemagne monoblocks, the Guarneri Evolution produced richly textured, natural tone and delivered detail without edge or glare. "For the listener who delights in the rich, saturated, velvety tones of real instruments and voices, I can think of no more appropriate loudspeaker," said AD. JA found superb measured performance. Price includes stands; "stand-delete" option saves $2000/pair. (Vol.35 No.1 Read Review Online)
Sony SS-AR2: $20,000/pair
This three-way, reflex-loaded, floorstander looks very similar to Sony's more expensive SS-AR1, but is 4" shorter, has twin 6.5" aluminum-cone woofers instead of the SS-AR1's 8" units, and has less extended low frequencies. The SS-AR2's 1" soft-dome tweeter and its Scan-Speak 5" sliced-paper"cone midrange unit are the same as in the SS-AR1, as is the strategically braced cabinet construction: panels of Scandinavian birch with a 2"-thick front baffle of laminated Japanese maple. The SS-AR2 combined sweet highs, well-extended lows, and a slight excess of midrange energy for an overall sound that was both pleasantly warm and superbly detailed, said JA, who was similarly impressed by the speaker's measured performance. (Vol.35 No.10 Read Review Online)
TAD Compact Reference CR1: $42,000/pair (stands necessary)
Designed by Andrew Jones, this three-way, reflex-loaded, stand-mounted loudspeaker measures 24.7" H by 13.4" W by 17.5" D and weighs just over 100 lbs. It uses an 8" sandwich-cone woofer and a 1.375" beryllium-dome tweeter concentrically mounted with a 6.5" beryllium-cone midrange driver, all made by TAD. Finished in a gorgeous piano-gloss wood veneer, the speaker's enclosure includes a strong internal framework formed by 0.9"-thick, CNC-machined birch plywood clad with laminated MDF panels. JA: "It lacks the very lowest octave and is balanced a tad forward, but in all other respects it represents the state of the art of loudspeaker design and sound." Matching stands add $3600/pair. (Vol.35 No.1 Read Review Online)
Thiel CS3.7: $13,900/pair ✩
The three-way CS3.7 has a sloped baffle and a curved body constructed of 15 layers of laminated hardwood capped by a cast-aluminum nacelle meant to reinforce the cabinet's strength and optimize diffraction. A coincidentally arranged midrange-tweeter assembly is mounted above a 10" woofer and a 10" passive radiator; the midrange driver's aluminum diaphragm is flattened and corrugated for exceptional strength and resistance to voice-coil forces. The CS3.7 "was a wizard at conveying subtle rhythmic information" and was "hyperarticulate" while never sounding bright, said Wes. Compared to the far more expensive Vivid G1Giya, the Thiel CS3.7 delivered a smaller soundstage and had limited bass extension and timbral richness, said WP. Compared to the Vienna Acoustics Klimt The Kiss, the CS3.7 had slightly more bass slam and propulsion, but lacked The Kiss's seamless and relaxed mid-to-high-frequency response, said WP. This Thiel requires at least 150Wpc to sound its best and lacked some impact in the bottom octave, but, WP concluded, "I loved, loved, loved the Thiel CS3.7." (Vol.31 No.12, Vol.33 Nos.2 & 7 Read Review Online)
Vienna Acoustics Klimt The Kiss: $15,000/pair (stands included)
Exquisitely constructed and beautifully finished in Piano Black or Sapele, The Kiss is a three-way loudspeaker with an integral stand and two separate enclosures, complete with micrometer adjustment of both vertical and horizontal axes. A 1" center-vented silk-dome tweeter coincident with a 7" proprietary Flat-Spider-Cone midrange is mounted in the top enclosure, while a 9" proprietary Spider-Cone woofer resides below. With its seamless presentation, astonishing physicality, and well-extended bottom end, The Kiss was "exquisitely capable of revealing the emotional core" of music, said WP. While there was "much to admire" in the speaker's measured behavior, JA was bothered by a peak in the low treble. (Vol.33 No.2 Read Review Online)
Vivid Oval K1: $24,990/pair
The K1 is similar in appearance to Vivid's less expensive B1, but whereas the B1 uses single woofers on its front and rear panels, the K1 has two woofers each fore and aft, and its cabinet extends lower to accommodate them. In addition, the K1's higher minimal impedance of 4.8 ohms (vs 2.8 ohms for the B1) makes it an easier load for the partnering amplifier. Compared to the B1, the K1 offered greater bass extension and had the more tactile and inviting lower midrange and treble, said JM. "Vivid's Oval K1 is one of the best loudspeakers I have ever heard," he concluded. (Vol.35 No.10 Read Review Online)
Vivid B1: $15,000/pair
Big brother to Vivid's V-1.5 and also designed by Laurence Dickie, the B1 is a three-way floorstander using Vivid's D26 metal-dome tweeter, D50 metal-dome midrange unit, and two C125 metal-cone woofers. It measures 43" H by 10.4" W by 14.75", weighs 84 lbs, and has an internal volume of 44 liters—exactly twice that of the V-1.5. Just as coherent as the V-1.5 but with greater bass extension, wider dynamic range, and a larger soundstage, the B1 had a relaxed, smooth, and effortless overall sound. "The B1 is so much more capable a speaker than the V-1.5 that, if you can afford it, the B1 actually represents better value for money," said JM. Though the B1's clean, grain-free treble could be "a little too revealing" of brighter recordings, JA appreciated the speaker's generous bass, natural midrange, superb imaging, and explosive dynamics. (Vol.34 Nos.2 & 10 Read Review Online)
Voxativ Schimmel Ampeggio: $33,000/pair
Made in Germany and now imported by Highend-Electronics in CA, the beautiful Ampeggio uses a single proprietary 7" dual-cone driver with a large, convex surround, designed to accommodate a much greater excursion than the typical Lowther driver. The complex cabinet, designed and voiced in collaboration with Schimmel Pianos, incorporates a series of faceted internal boards for optimal radiation resistance, and houses a twice-folded horn nearly 9' long. The Ampeggio offered the usual Lowther traits of transient speed, spatial presence, dramatic ease, and physical impact, but added deep, well-controlled bass and excellent soundstaging. "A high-efficiency, single-driver loudspeaker for which no excuses need be made," said AD. JA was impressed by the Voxativ's superbly flat in-room response and genuine 98dB sensitivity. (Vol.34 No.8 Read Review Online)
Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha W/P: $27,900/pair
Though outwardly similar to the WATT/Puppy 8, the three-way Sasha W/P is very slightly larger overall, for increased bass extension and freedom from upper-bass congestion. All four drivers are proprietary Wilson designs, including a 1" inverted titanium-dome tweeter, sourced from Focal and developed for the MAXX 3, and two 8" woofers, made by ScanSpeak and based on those used in the WATT/Puppy 8. The Sasha W/P has a voltage sensitivity of 91dB and is nominally a 4-ohm load. It distinguished itself as "an open-sounding and exceptionally wide-bandwidth loudspeaker," with greater clarity and resolving power than Wilson's Sophia 2, felt AD. The Sasha's outstanding spatial performance was inextricably tied to its excellent musical flow, good sense of scale, and humanness, Art concluded. With the Sasha, Wilson has finally eliminated the upper-bass "blump" endemic to earlier generations of the WATT/Puppy, confirmed JA. (Vol.33 No.7 Read Review Online)
Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia Series 3: $17,900/pair
The latest Sophia is a three-way, reflex-loaded floorstander with a 1" inverted titanium-dome tweeter, a 7" pulp/composite-cone midrange driver, and a 10" aluminum-cone woofer. Mild creases and angles have been added to the Sophia's cabinet to increase rigidity and diminish standing waves, and thicker panels of Wilson's dense phenolic X material are used for the main walls. Like the Sophia 2, the new model was spatially stunning, sonically explicit, and musically expressive, with good drama and scale, high transparency, and low coloration, but with greater openness and resolution of detail. AD: "The Sophia 3 is a new and fine example of Wilson's modern thinking: a true high-fidelity device that's also capable of sounding beautiful." (Vol.34 No.2 Read Review Online)

Class B—Full-Range

ADAM Audio Classic Column Mk3: $7000/pair
Made in Berlin, the Classic Column MK3 is a 3.5-way, reflex-loaded floorstander with smartly chamfered edges and a stiff, heavy base. It uses ADAM's eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology (X-ART) tweeter, a larger X-ART ribbon midrange unit, and two 7.5" HexaCone woofers. The Column produced an extremely detailed, extended bottom end, a clean midrange, and a marvelously transparent and delicate treble, said KR. Though dynamic contrasts could be both subtle and staggering, the broad, deep soundstage was too forward and imposing for KR's tastes. Compared to the B&W 800 Diamond, the Classic Column MK3 was "a splash of cool water in the face and a kick in the butt," KR concluded, adding that "This is an impressive sub-$10k speaker that should be considered by anyone willing to spend much more." JA noted "sensible and effective audio engineering." (Vol.35 No.8 Read Review Online)
Atlantic Technology AT-1: $3000/pair $$$
Designed in the US and made in China, the two-way, floorstanding AT-1 is finished in an attractive metallic black-gloss and exhibits levels of fit, finish, and build quality far beyond its modest price. It uses a 1.1" silk-dome tweeter nestled between two 5.25" graphite-loaded homopolymer-cone woofers, as well as Atlantic's new Hybrid-Pressure Acceleration System (H-PAS) bass-venting technology, which combines aspects of horn, transmission-line, and reflex designs for taut, extended bass. Though it lacked top-end air and extension, the AT-1 matched its powerful low end with a colorful, open midrange and immersive soundstage, said EL. JA was impressed by the speaker's superbly flat frequency response and surprisingly extended low frequencies. (Vol.34 No.9 Read Review Online)
Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE: $9600/pair (stands necessary) ✩
This latest revision of Audio Note's AN-E design uses the same 1" tweeter found in earlier models, but a new 8" hemp-cone woofer. Its intentionally thin-walled, minimally damped cabinet is made of Russian birch plywood and veneered on all surfaces. Despite a "mild darkness" in the midrange, the AN-E/SPe HE was "a remarkably good retriever of detail," said Art. Compared to the more expensive Lexus Signature, the SPe HE was less colored and had a better sense of musical flow. "It does a better job than most of really connecting the listener with the dramatic, intellectual, and emotional intensities captured in every groove," AD concluded. "Class A!!!" he recommends, with all three exclamation points. Close placement to the wall behind them is recommended to extend the low frequencies and increase the midbass level, though this may sacrifice lower-midrange smoothness. JA felt the Audio Note sounded cleaner and better defined in the bass than the Harbeth M40.1, but was bothered by a 'slight cupped-hands coloration" and a "rather lean lower midrange," hence a Class B rating. Matching 10" stands cost $660/pair. (Vol.31 Nos.8 & 11 Read Review Online)
DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96: $12,000/pair (stands included)
Handmade in Brooklyn, New York, the O/96 is a two-way, reflex-loaded, stand-mounted speaker with a rated sensitivity of 96dB/W/m and an unusually high nominal impedance of 10 ohms. The wide-baffle design measures 28.25" H by 18" W by 12" D and has a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 10" paper-cone woofer. The O/96 exhibited a superb overall tonal balance with impressive clarity, color, impact, drama, and scale, said AD. "The O/96 is distinctly easy to drive with low-power amplifiers, yet it's clearer, wider of bandwidth, and more spatially accomplished than most other high-sensitivity loudspeakers," he summed up. JA's measurements uncovered a low-treble resonance and a lively enclosure, but these problems were considerably less audible than he was expecting. (Vol.35 No.12 Read Review Online)
Focal Chorus 826W Prestige Edition: $3699/pair $$$
Originally called the 30th Anniversary edition, the Chorus 826W is a floorstanding three-way design featuring a 1" aluminum-magnesium inverted-dome tweeter, a 6.5" cone midrange, and two 6.5" cone bass drivers. For bass impact it uses two ports, one down- and one front-firing. The main upgrade over the standard 826V is the use of Focal's W-sandwich driver construction, trickled down from Focal's more expensive models. Though it lacked the imaging precision of more expensive speakers, the 826W produced a spacious sound with impressive dynamics and powerful bass, said RD. Removing the tweeter grilles resulted in greater clarity and image specificity. (Vol.33 No.11 Read Review Online)
GoldenEar Technology Triton Two: $2999.98/pair $$$
Designed by industry veteran Sandy Gross and made in China, the Triton Two is a three-way floorstander with a unique array of drive-units: a High-Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter, two 4.5" midrange cones, two 7" by 10" passive radiators, and two 5" by 9" cone woofers powered by a 1200W class-D amplifier. The speaker's slim cabinet is made of high-density Medite, features a separate subenclosure for the midrange drivers, and is covered in black cloth. Though it exhibited some box colorations when pushed too loud, the Triton Two offered sweet, detailed highs, an uncolored midrange, well-extended lows, and excellent dynamics, said RD. JA is working on a Follow-Up. (Vol.35 Nos.2 & 10 Read Review Online)
KEF Q900: $1799.99/pair
The largest model in KEF's affordably priced Q series stands 3.5' H by 14.1" W by 12.7" D, weighs almost 50 lbs, and rests on a sturdy, spiked plinth. In addition to KEF's 8" Uni-Q coaxial driver, which includes a large (1.5") tweeter with a Tangerine waveguide, the 2.5-way Q900 uses an 8" woofer and two 8" passive radiators. Though the Q900 lacked the bass impact of the larger B&W 800 Diamond, it matched a clean, detailed treble with deep, taut bass and a stable, spacious soundstage, said KR. JA noted superb measured performance, and was impressed by the Uni-Q driver's uniform dispersion. (Vol.34 No.9 Read Review Online)
Line Magnetic 755 I: $9000/system
Made in China, the floorstanding 755 I uses a full-range, field-coil drive-unit and comes bundled with a pair of Line Magnetic PR-3 power supplies, each of which uses a 300B direct-heated triode tube as a voltage regulator. The 755 I's decidedly old-fashioned enclosure is made entirely of lightly damped plywood; stranded copper wire is used for both the interior signal leads and the two field-coil leads, the latter soldered to a separate connector on the speaker's removable rear panel. Though it lacked treble extension, bass extension, and bass impact, the 755 I was "full of touch, impact, nuance, detail, and humanness," said AD, but cautions "for special tastes only." Placing the 755 I on a 6"-tall stand resulted in increased bass extension and improved presence and tactility, said AD. (Vol.35 Nos.9 & 11 Read Review Online)
Linn Majik 140: $2995/pair
The four-way Majik 140 uses a 0.75" fabric-dome supertweeter, a 1.17" polyurethane elastomer-dome tweeter, and two 6.5" doped-paper-cone mid/woofers. Four pairs of binding posts allow for quad-wiring or -amping, while a pair of foam bungs can be inserted in the speaker's rear ports for setups where the speakers must be placed flush against walls. BJR was impressed by the Majik 140's extended highs, uncolored midrange, superb reproduction of transients, and forceful bass. "It doesn’t get much better than this for the money," he concluded. JA, however, was bothered by the speaker's lively cabinet and suboptimal integration of the drive-units" outputs. High-gloss custom finishes are available for an extra $950/pair; optional bases add $580/pair. (Vol.34 No.6 Read Review Online)
Monitor Audio Silver RX6: $1250/pair $$$
The 2.5-way, ported, floorstanding Silver RX6 has a 1" Ceramic-Coated Aluminum/Magnesium (C-CAM) gold dome tweeter, a 6" mid/woofer, and a 6" woofer, each in a separate ported chamber within the enclosure, to provide differential tuning. The RX6 produced pristine highs, a neutral midrange, well-extended bass, and pinpoint imaging, said BJR. "Monitor Audio's Silver RX6 demonstrated a broad range of strengths and no weaknesses," he concluded. JA noted superb measured performance. Price is for real-wood veneers of Black Oak, Natural Oak, Walnut, or Rosenut; high-gloss black or white lacquer adds $250/pair. (Vol.35 No.6 Read Review Online)
Nola Contender: $3600/pair
The Contender is a three-way, reflex-loaded, floorstanding loudspeaker with a 1" silk-dome tweeter and two 6.5" polymer-cone woofers. It measures 44" H by 8" W by 12" D, weighs 50 lbs, and is available in a Piano Black or Piano Cherry finish. Though it lacked some bass impact and sounded compressed when pushed too hard, the Contender impressed BJR with its rich, luscious midrange and smooth, extended treble. JA found good measured performance, but was puzzled by the complex arrangement of the speaker's bass drivers and their ports. "I can't help wondering if a more orthodox design using the same drive-units would produce greater low-frequency extension," he said. (Vol.35 No.1 Read Review Online)
PSB Imagine T: $2198/pair $$$ ✩
The Imagine T is a slim, compact floorstander (37.2" tall) that uses two 5.25" woofers and a 1" titanium-dome tweeter. Its gracefully curved cabinet is built up of seven layers of 3mm-thick MDF topped with real-wood veneer. Bass response can be customized by plugging one or both of the speaker's rear ports. ST noted a deep soundstage, excellent imaging, and electrostatic-like top-to-bottom coherence. KR also commented on the Imagine T's overall "smoothness and neutrality" and "deep, detailed" soundstage. "I can think of no other speaker in the $2000/pair price range that I'd rate higher," said Kal. Though the Imagine T couldn’t match the bass performance of the slightly larger Paradigm Reference Studio 60 v.5, the PSB offered greater midrange clarity. JA was similarly impressed, noting "superb measured performance." (Vol.32 Nos.4, 6, & 11 Read Review Online)
Spendor SP100R2: $11,495 (stands necessary)
The flagship of Spendor's Classic line is a three-way, stand-mounted, reflex-ported design with a 0.8" fabric-dome tweeter, 7" polymer-cone midrange, and 11.8" Bextrene-cone woofer. Its thin-walled, mildly resonant MDF cabinet has minimal internal bracing and damping. Careful placement was required to achieve optimal bass response. Though it lacked some bottom-end tightness and impact, the Spendor matched a warm tonal balance with excellent midrange detail and articulation, good transparency and presence, and stable soundstaging, said AD. JA's measurements uncovered a number of high-level resonances. (Vol.36 No.1 Read Review Online)
Vandersteen Treo: $5995/pair $$$
The compact (43" H by 10" W by 15" D) Treo is a four-way, reflex-loaded floorstander with a 1" ceramic-coated alloy-dome tweeter, 4.5" tri-woven composite midrange cone, 6.5" tri-woven fiber-cone woofer, and 8" carbon-loaded cellulose-cone subwoofer. Like previous Vandersteen designs, the Treo uses a combination of sloped-back driver array and first-order crossover to produce a time-coincident wavefront launch. A black cloth grille optimizes diffraction and minimizes reflections of the high frequencies from the baffle edges. Though they could be ruthlessly revealing of overcooked modern recordings, the Treos offered excellent transparency, well-extended lows, and a clean, natural midrange, said JA, who noted respectable measured performance. (Vol.36 No.3 Read Review Online)
Wilson Audio Specialties Duette: $13,900/pair (stands necessary)
The Duette is a relatively large (18.4" H by 9.4" W by 13.75" D), stand-mounted, rear-ported, two-way design. It uses a 1" silk-dome tweeter and an 8" woofer, has an external crossover housed in a handsome metal enclosure, and comes in various spray-painted automotive finishes. Slightly cool on top, the Duette had a present, detailed sound with "basketsful of dynamics" and clean, robust bass, said JM. JA heard "a slight nasality" in female vocals, but was impressed by the Duette's bass extension and resolution. Matching stands add $1795/pair. (Vol.35 No.6 Read Review Online)

Class B (Restricted LF)

Aerial Acoustics Model 5B: $2500/pair ✩ (stands necessary)
The 5B is a stand-mounted two-way model with a 1" titanium-dome tweeter and a 7.1" woofer-midrange. Mated to the Luxman combo of DU-50 disc player and L-505u integrated amplifier, the 5B's sound was "smooth and natural, with first-class coherence," said JM. Compared to the Harbeth HL-3P-ES2, the Aerial had more bass and a more neutral midrange and treble. JM: "Aerial Acoustics" 5B is probably a more sensible choice as a location monitoring speaker than any descendant of the BBC LS3/5A I've heard." JA was impressed by the 5B's grain-free high-frequencies, stable stereo imaging, and fine measured performance. "The Aerial Acoustics Model 5B is an overlooked gem," he said. Compared to the ATC SCM 11, the Model 5B offered a more natural upper midrange, but couldn’t match the ATC's impressive dynamics and wide soundstage, said JM. Dedicated stands add $700/pair. Rosewood finish adds $200/pair. (Vol.32 Nos.6, 11, & 12 Read Review Online)
ATC SCM 11: $1825/pair–$1925/pair, depending on finish (stands necessary)
The SCM 11 is a stand-mounted two-way design with a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 6" mid/woofer. Compared to the Aerial Acoustics Model 5B, the SCM 11 provided similarly well-controlled bass, but had a more articulate upper midrange, slightly wider soundstage, and better dynamics. "The ATC SCM 11 is a fully-ready-for-prime-time loudspeaker," praised JM. JA's measurements indicated that the speaker will sound best when listened to in the nearfield. (Vol.32 No.12 Read Review Online)
Audience ClairAudient 2+2: $5000/pair (stands necessary)
Made in the USA, the ClairAudient 2+2 is a one-way, crossoverless, stand-mounted loudspeaker. It uses four proprietary, 3", aluminum-alloy cone units (two front-firing, two rear-firing) and a 6" side-mounted passive radiator. The attractive cabinet is constructed of 13-layer Baltic birch ply and sports CNC-machined aluminum front and rear plinths. While the 2+2 lacked high-frequency extension and bass weight, it offered an unusually relaxed overall sound with a purity, a freedom from distortion, and an organic sense of ease that were addictive, said BD. JA, however, was bothered by the resonant behaviors of the speaker's drive-unit and enclosure and its midrange-forward tonal balance. "A careful audition before purchase will be essential," he decided. (Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
B&W CM5: $1500/pair (stands necessary)
The CM5 is a two-way, stand-mounted, reflex-loaded speaker with a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter and a 6.5" woven-Kevlar woofer. Despite the speaker's conventional shape, with flat front baffle and sharp edges, the review sample was drop-dead gorgeous in rosenut; wenge and gloss-black finishes are also available. Although it exhibited some thickness in the upper midrange, the CM5's combination of detail resolution, transient speed, and dynamic range created a listening experience that was consistently compelling and emotionally involving, said BJR. Compared to the KEF LS50, the CM5 had a lighter, airier tonal balance with a more laid-back treble and more extended bass, said JA. Stands available for $400/pair. (Vol.35 No.12 Read Review Online)
Canalis Anima: $3250/pair (stands necessary) ✩
Designed by Joachim Gerhard, the Anima is a stand-mounted, rear-ported, two-way speaker with an attractive enclosure of bamboo plywood. It has a 0.75" metal-dome tweeter and a 5" anodized aluminum-cone woofer. Driven by AVM's Evolution C8 CD receiver, the Anima produced clean, clear sound with a natural sense of space, sophisticated tonal color, and good momentum and flow, said JM. Placing the Animas on their matching stands ($1500/pair) produced greater bass extension, a bigger soundstage, and better integration of the woofer and tweeter outputs. The Anima's slightly hot tweeter will make it a better match for mellow-sounding electronics, JA advised. Anima stands are $1500/pair. (Original version, Vol.30 No.7 Read Review Online; Vol.36 Nos.2 & 3; also see MF's Marantz review in Vol.33 No.4)
Dynaudio Excite X12: $1200/pair (stands necessary) $$$ ✩
The entry-level speaker of Dynaudio's Excite series is a rear-ported, two-way design with a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 5.7" magnesium-silicate polymer-cone woofer. Its attractive cabinet is available in real-wood veneers of Maple, Cherry, Rosewood, or Black Ash; high-gloss white or black add $75/pair. The X12 combined an airy treble, rich midrange, and realistic bass with a top-to-bottom rightness of timbral reproduction for a seductive overall sound. "With the Dynaudio Excite X12, there are no tradeoffs. It sets a high standard of excellence in every meaningful sonic parameter, whether in absolute terms or with respect to its price and size," raved BJR. JA agreed: "A well-engineered speaker like this makes it hard to justify spending more on a bookshelf speaker unless you can afford one of the cost-no-object models." "Oh man, is this speaker ever good!" exclaims ST. "Far better resolution and way better tonal quality than you have any right to expect for the money." (Vol.33 No.3 Read Review Online)
Gradient Helsinki 1.5: $6500/pair
Central to the unusual-looking Helsinki 1.5 is its flat, multi-ply frame, which is carved into a graceful shape that tapers from bottom to top. A sheet of glass bolted to the rear of this frame forms a dorsal fin that mitigates dipole cancellation from the output of the side-firing 12" woofer. A 5" midrange driver and 0.75" tweeter are mounted to the face of the frame and complete the three-way design. Signal connections are made through a Neutrik Speakon socket. Tremendous care in positioning was required to achieve optimal performance in AD's room, but once properly positioned, the Helsinkis had a textured and substantial sound with a remarkable sense of spaciousness and a fine sense of melodic flow, though they lacked bass, body, and presence. "A must-hear for anyone with a taste for hi-fi adventure," decided Art. Properly positioned in JA's listening room, the Helsinki 1.5 sounded a little dark on top and a little bright in the low treble, but with a natural-sounding midrange, well-focused imaging, and fairly good low-frequency extension and weight. (Vol.33 Nos.8 & 11 Read Review Online)
Harbeth C7ES-3: $3690/pair (stands necessary) ✩
Bigger than a minimonitor but smaller than a floorstander, the third iteration of the C7 is 20.3" H by 10.6" W by 12.3" D. It uses the traditional BBC-style thin-walled cabinet, and is tuned to deliver a rich, full-bodied sound at the lowest frequencies. Refinements over previous Compact models include improved cabinet wall damping and a completely redesigned crossover. With "phenomenally precise" focusing and "crazy" imaging, the Compact 7 was "one of the most musically satisfying loudspeakers" in ST's experience. "A treat for sore ears and one of Sam's favorite speakers ever," he tells us. "Damn those audiophiles. This Harbeth is for music lovers!" "Something of a spiritual bond can arise between a Harbeth owner and the Harbeth owned," claimed Sam. He should know; he bought a pair of C7ES-3s. "The classic BBC sound." Add $300/pair for Rosewood and Eucalyptus finishes. Add $400/pair for Tiger Ebony finish. (Vol.30 No.6, Vol.31 No.6, Vol.32 No.4)
Harbeth P3ESR: $2090/pair (stands necessary)
The two-way, sealed-cabinet P3ESR stands just 12" tall and partners a 0.75" tweeter with a 5" woofer, the latter using Harbeth's proprietary, patented Radial2 material for improved clarity and low-level resolution. Though restricted in loudness and bass extension, the P3ESR had a slightly warm overall balance characterized by smooth highs, an uncolored midrange, and stable and accurate stereo imaging. "The Harbeth P3ESR is the best iteration yet from any manufacturer of the BBC LS3/5A minimonitor concept," concluded JA. Further evaluation by JA confirmed this speaker's uncolored midrange, smooth highs, well-defined if somewhat lightweight lows, and coherent overall sound, even when driven to high levels. The littlest Harbeth also gets the strongest recommendation from JM. While its lack of low and midbass disqualified it for most rock and large-scale orchestral performances, felt BD, the Harbeth's incredible midrange clarity and detail made it an outstanding choice for small, intimate works. Rosewood, Black Ash, and Eucalyptus finishes add $100/pair. (Vol.33 Nos.8 & 10, Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.5: $1498/pair (stands necessary) $$$
The fifth generation of Paradigm's successful Reference Studio 20 uses a 1", ferrofluid-damped and -cooled dome tweeter and a 7" cone woofer with an elliptically profiled surround of Santoprene, designed for low distortion and deep, loud bass. The curved cabinet, intended to minimize internal reflections and edge diffraction, is available in Cherry, Rosenut, and Piano Black. With its superb resolution of inner detail, exceptional integration of the midrange and high frequencies, and outstanding dynamic realism, the Studio 20 consistently created a revealing and involving listening experience, said BJR. JA noted a "fairly clean bill of health." Piano black finish adds $100. J29 stands: $498/pair; M-30 stands: $158/pair (Vol.35 No.5 Read Review Online)
Penaudio Cenya: $3995/pair (stands necessary)
Made in Finland, the Cenya is a two-way, rear-ported minimonitor with a 0.75" tweeter and a 6" mid/woofer, both sourced from SEAS. The beautiful cabinet measures 11.2" H by 6.4" W by 12.6" D and is made of laminated birch plywood and MDF. ST achieved best results when placing the Cenyas in the nearfield, noting an especially wide, deep soundstage with pinpoint imaging. The tonal balance was "refreshingly cool" and well suited to classical and jazz, he said. (Vol.35 No.6)
PMC DB1i: $2199/pair (stands necessary) ✩
The PMC DB1i is a two-way, biwirable, transmission-line loudspeaker with a 1.1" Sonolex-dome tweeter and a 5.5" cone woofer of doped paper. It measures just 11.4" H by 6.1" W by 9.2" D and weighs 9.9 lbs, but its smooth response belied its small size. Though Mikey noted a presence-region boost that "added a delicate glisten" to the high frequencies, the DB1i's treble was otherwise "clean, fast, and delicately expressed"; and while the speaker could sound "strained and uncomfortable" when played too loud, it offered "satisfying bass," a "subjectively smooth and coherent" midrange, and "a spacious, three-dimensional picture with transparency and depth." MF: "The PMC DB1i is a cannily designed, musically satisfying minimonitor." BJR appreciated the DB1i's uncolored midrange bloom and its lifelike bass reproduction, but felt it couldn’t match the frequency extension or inner detail of the Dynaudio Excite X12. (Vol.32 No.12, Vol.33 No.4 Read Review Online)
Polk LSiM703: $1499.90/pair (stands necessary) $$$
This three-way, bass-reflex, bookshelf loudspeaker measures 16.75" H by 8" W by 14.5" D, weighs 29.6 lbs, and uses a 1" ring-radiator tweeter, 3.25" foamed polypropylene-cone midrange, and a 6.5" foamed polypropylene-cone woofer. The midrange driver is mounted above the tweeter in a system that Polk calls a Dynamic Sonic Engine, said to produce wide dispersion and clean transient response. The gorgeous MDF cabinets are available in real-wood cherry and mahogany veneers. Though its treble could sometimes sound a bit forward and loose, the LSiM703 had a lively, engaging sound with a detailed, uncolored midrange and a clean, authoritative bass, said BJR. JA noted superb measured performance. (Vol.35 No.9 Read Review Online)
ProAc Response D Two: $3500/pair (stands necessary)
ProAc's Response D Two is a standmounted, two-way, front-ported design using a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a woofer with a 6.5" glass-fiber cone and copper phase plug; both drivers are proprietary. Its thin-walled cabinet is made of birch plywood and rigidly damped; the woodwork and build quality were excellent. The ProAc's truthful, revealing sound was marked by great clarity and speed, said JM. Compared to the Harbeth P3ESR, the ProAc offered greater frequency extension and detail, and a taller, wider soundstage, but had a thinner midrange. "A tough call deciding on a rating," says JM, but he recommends Class C. JA feels the speaker has greater potential than that, hence the Class B rating. JA's measurements uncovered a well-engineered design with "a touch of the British-monitor bump in the upper bass." (Vol.33 Nos. 6 & 7 Read Review Online)
ProAc Tablette Anniversary: $2200/pair (stands necessary)
The ninth iteration of the two-way, reflex-loaded Tablette measures 10.6" H by 5.8" W by 9.25" D, weighs 11 lbs, and is available in a wide range of real-wood veneers. It uses proprietary drivers: a 5.8" bass/midrange unit with a polymer-impregnated Kevlar cone and a 0.75" silk-dome tweeter. More refined than previous models but with a similarly "gutsy" overall sound, the extremely room-friendly Tablette lacked bass weight, but provided pinpoint imaging and outstanding transparency, said ST. "The Tablette Anniversary is one of the world's great loudspeakers: a classic, an icon, a small miracle," he concluded. (Vol.34 No.12)
Spendor S3/5R2: $1595/pair (stands necessary)
This updated version of Spendor's Classic S3/5se is a small (11.9" H by 6.4" W by 7.4" D), two-way, sealed-box design with a 5.5" polymer-cone woofer crossed over to a 0.9" soft-dome tweeter at a very high 4.2kHz. The S3/5R2 lacked low-bass extension and had limited high-level dynamics, but offered an exceptionally clear and coherent sound, with delicate highs, well-articulated transients, and musical bass, said BJR. Although it didn’t perform appreciably better than the S3/5se, the S3/5R2 nevertheless offered respectable measured performance, said JA. (Vol.36 No.3 Read Review Online)
Stenheim Alumine: $12,795/pair (stands necessary)
Made in Switzerland, the two-way, reflex-loaded Alumine uses a 1" fabric-dome tweeter and a 5" fiber-cone mid/woofer, measures 13" H by 9.1" W by 10.8" D, and weighs 37.4 lbs. The Alumine's aluminum-alloy enclosure panels are machined to a thickness of 0.6" and are specified perfect to within 0.01mm. Though the Alumine lacked some low-end extension and displayed a slight departure from neutrality with piano music, AD was impressed by the speaker's combination of scale, drama, color, texture, and balance. "Notwithstanding its high price, the Alumine is one of the most recommendable small speakers I have heard," he concluded. Dedicated stands add $2275/pair. (Vol.35 No.4 Read Review Online)
Teresonic Magus: $4985/pair (stands necessary)
The Magus is a single-driver, bottom-ported, stand-mounted loudspeaker with three choices of Lowther driver: the DX55 ($3985/pair), A55 ($4985/pair), or DX65 ($5985/pair). The handmade, acoustically active cabinets feature a brushed, seven-layer, high-gloss varnish, and carefully curved front and side panels to avoid standing waves and comb-filtering effects. The speaker has a rated sensitivity of 98dB with the DX55 and A55 drivers, 100dB with the DX65. ST noted a detail, delicacy, definition, speed, and coherence that made the Magnus a perfect match for his flea-watt Sun SV-2A3 amplifier. "The sound was so alive that ordinary audio terms became irrelevant," he said. "Few speakers get Sam closer to the live event, assuming that the recording allows." Sold direct with a 30-day home trial. Matching stands add $295/pair. Matching Clarison Silver speaker cables cost $985/6ft and $1,485/10ft. (Vol.35 No.9)
Triangle 30th Anniversary Comète: $1599/pair (stands necessary)
Developed to celebrate Triangle's 30th anniversary in 2010, the limited-edition Comète is a simple two-way, bass-reflex design with two front-firing ports. Like the speakers in Triangle's flagship Magellan series, the Comète 30th Anniversary is finished in a beautiful piano-black lacquer and includes Triangle's titanium-dome TZ2500 tweeter. The Comète retained the speed, resolution, and immediacy of other Triangle speakers, while adding a more refined and relaxed upper midrange and treble. Partnered with ST's 3.5Wpc Sun Audio SV-2A3 tube amp, the Comète exhibited outstanding dynamics and superb tonality. "It's a great speaker. Period," said Sam. "Hurry up and buy a pair before they"re gone." (Vol.34 No.2)
Vivid V-1.5: $7650/pair
The V-1.5 is a two-way design with an integral stand and an unusual tapered oblong cabinet for minimizing resonances. It uses the same proprietary tweeter and 6" mid/woofer as the much more expensive Vivid G1 Giya. The V-1.5 combined excellent coherence, low distortion, fast dynamics, and outstanding clarity and resolution for an overall sound that was both neutral and beautiful, said JM. "The best two-way speaker I have heard," he decided, though JA feels a slight touch of coloration in the upper midrange keeps this otherwise superb floorstander from Class A. (Vol.33 No.10, Vol.34 No.2 Read Review Online)

Class C (Full-Range)

Direct Acoustics Silent Speaker II: $748/pair
Designed by Winslow Burhoe and available by mail-order only, the two-way, floorstanding Silent Speaker II is a wide, rectangular box whose top panel is raked at an angle of about 22° and holds a 6.5" woofer and a 1" soft-dome tweeter. Available in modest black ash and with a dated, DIY appearance, the Silent Speaker II measures 22" H (front) by 25" H (rear) by 13.5" W by 9" D. Although particularly sensitive to associated electronics, the Silent Speaker II had outstanding bass and a coherent overall sound. "I could live with these speakers," decided JM. For optimal performance, they must be used with their grilles in place, he advised. "A very well-balanced design at an affordable price, with a totality of performance that exceeds the sum of its parts," praised JA. (Vol.34 Nos.6 & 7 Read Review Online)
PSB Image T6: $1298/pair $$$ ✩
Using technology trickled down from PSB's Synchrony and Imagine lines, the Image T6 is a compact three-way floorstander with a 1" titanium-dome tweeter, 5.25" midrange unit, and two 6.5" woofers housed in an attractive, well-finished cabinet. Though careful placement was necessary to offset their slightly tipped-up treble, the T6s offered generous bass extension, thrilling impact, and a spacious soundstage with remarkably solid center images, said Kal. "This is an absolutely wonderful full-range speaker," he concluded. JA was also impressed: "Its measured performance is almost without peer in this price region. This is a speaker you must hear." (Vol.33 Nos.3 & 7 Read Review Online)

Class C (Restricted LF)

Audioengine 5+: $399/pair (stands necessary) $$$
The Audioengine 5 powered speakers come packed in attractive cloth drawstring bags, and include several convenient accessories: an AC power cable, miniplug interconnects in length of 2m, an RCA cable (2m), a 3.75m length of simple speaker cable, and a remote control. Each A5 cabinet is made of 25mm-thick MDF, measures 10" H by 7" W by 7.75" D, and houses a 20mm silk-dome tweeter and a 5" Kevlar-cone woofer. The left speaker enclosure contains a 50Wpc dual class-AB monolithic amplifier, as well as the power button, volume knob, iPod charging port, and IR window for the remote. Compared to the PSB Alpha B1, the Audioengine lacked some high-frequency detail and delicacy, but offered outstanding bass control, transparency, and drama, said SM. Price is for satin black and high-gloss white finishes; bamboo adds $70. (Vol.34 No.5 Read Review Online)
DALI Zensor 1: $475/pair (stands necessary) $$$
The Zensor 1 is a very small (10.7" H by 6.3" W by 8.6" D), two-way, rear-ported bookshelf design with a 25mm fabric-dome tweeter and a 5.25" pulp-cone woofer. Its MDF cabinet is available in light-walnut or black-ash vinyl; the front baffle is finished in high-gloss black or white lacquer. Though the Zensor 1's upper bass was sometimes "a bit thumpy," the speaker's overall sound was surprisingly detailed and natural, with sophisticated highs, a rich, warm midrange, and a remarkable sense of pacing, said BJR. "This attractive little baby sets a new benchmark in its class," he concluded. JA noted impressive measured performance. (Vol.35 No.7 Read Review Online)
Epos Epic 2: $799/pair (stands necessary) $$$
This two-way monitor measures 16.4" H by 8" W by 11" D and comes in a choice of Cherry or Black Ash vinyl veneer over 18mm-thick MDF. It uses a 1" soft-dome tweeter with a neodymium magnet and a 7" polypropylene mid/woofer. Sensitivity is rated as 90dB and nominal impedance as 4 ohms. Though it lacked the resolution and transparency of the much more expensive DeVore Gibbon 3XL, the Epos Epic 2 produced a lively, nonfatiguing sound with a wide, deep soundstage and precise imaging, said ST. BJR was most impressed by the Epic 2's bass extension and high-level dynamics. JA noted good measured performance. (Vol.34 Nos.11 & 12 Read Review Online)
NHT Classic Absolute Tower: $1099/pair $$$
The Classic Absolute Tower is a compact (36" H by 5.7" W by 7.25" D), three-way, acoustic-suspension floorstander. It uses a 1" fluid-cooled, aluminum-dome tweeter, a 5.25" polypropylene-cone midrange unit, and two 5.25" polypropylene-cone woofers. The braced MDF cabinet is finished in an attractive piano-black lacquer. The Absolute Tower had a balanced, coherent overall sound with airy highs, a neutral midrange, forceful bass, and outstanding dynamic range, said BJR. Measured performance was also very good, especially considering the speaker's price, confirmed JA. (Vol.33 No.12 Read Review Online)
PSB Imagine B: $1099/pair (stands necessary) $$$ ✩
PSB's Imagine B two-way bookshelf model uses a 1" titanium-dome tweeter and a 5.25" polypropylene-cone mid-woofer. With its real-cherrywood veneer and gracefully curved cabinet, the Imagine B offers appearance and fit’n’finish "leagues ahead of its price." It offered "clarity and listenability in spades" and had "remarkable bass extension and volume," said JM. Compared to the much more expensive Harbeth HL3P-ES2, the PSB lacked some definition in the bass and treble. Nevertheless, JM concluded, "PSB's Imagine B is an important loudspeaker." JA's measurements indicated that the Imagine B is tuned to be maximally flat, giving no indication of why JM thought the bass a bit plump. "PSB's Imagine B offers excellent measured performance that is commendable at any price," said JA. Compared to the Spendor SA1, the PSB had a more colored, less natural midrange, but offered more top-end air and low-bass extension. Though the Imagine B had low-frequency extension and upper-bass clarity to rival the Acoustic Energy AE1 Mk.III, it lacked the British speaker's natural midrange and vast soundstage, found JA. ST also likes the "B. "PSB rules," he sums up. (Vol.32 Nos.2, 4, 6, 8, & 10 Read Review Online)
PSB Imagine Mini: $759/pair (stands necessary)
Measuring just 9.25" H by 5.75" W by 8.3" D and weighing 6.5 lbs, the Mini is PSB's smallest, least expensive Imagine model. It marries the 1" ferrofluid-cooled, titanium-dome tweeter used in other Imagine models to a 4" clay/ceramic-filled polypropylene-cone woofer. The tiny cabinet, available in satin-finish wood veneer or high-gloss black or white (add $70/pair), has a curved top panel and sidewalls; the baffle is finished in matte black. The Mini sacrificed ultimate loudness and low-frequency extension for high-frequency purity, a clean midrange, and a wide, stable soundstage, said JA. The Mini's measured performance was "almost beyond reproach." The matching PFS-27 stands cost $300/pair. Price is for Walnut, Dark Cherry, and Ash Black Veneers. High Gloss Black or High Gloss White adds $70/pair. PWB-1 Wall Bracket is $100. (Vol.35 No.8 Read Review Online)
PSB Image B6: $549/pair (stands necessary)
Designed using the facilities at Canada's National Research Council and manufactured under close scrutiny in China, the B6 is the most expensive model in PSB's Image series. The two-way, port-loaded, biwirable design has a curved and attractively finished cabinet, and uses a ferrofluid-cooled 1" titanium-dome tweeter trickled down from the more expensive Imagine series. Though it lacked extreme low bass and could sound compressed during complex passages of large-scale orchestral works, the B6 produced a revealing and colorless midrange, fairly detailed highs, and fast, forceful transients. The PSB B6 "performs at a level well beyond its price," said BJR. (Vol.33 No.6 Read Review Online)
Rethm Trishna: $4950/pair
Made in India and designed by architect Jacob George, the crossoverless Trishna has a rated sensitivity of 96dB, a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, and measures 39" H by 6.6" W by 14.4" D. A top-mounted horizontal cylinder accommodates the speaker's 5" paper-cone driver and rear-wave horn, while a sealed isobaric bass chamber holds two 6.5" paper-cone woofers, these powered by a solid-state FET amplifier at the speaker's base. Despite its elevated upper midrange and inability to play loud, the Trishna had a compelling and immediate sound, with lots of low-level detail, exceptional resolution, and clean, tight bass, said ST, adding "Amazing how Rethm can "wrest" (heh, heh) such smooth and relatively uncolored sound from a single full-range driver." The appeal here is coherence, a purity of sound that ST ascribes to a full-range driver. Best for smaller rooms and moderate listening levels, he cautions. (Vol.34 No.7)
Swissonor B.A.C.H. 8e: $4995–$5495/pair, depending on finish (stands necessary)
Made in Switzerland, the B.A.C.H. 8e is a high-sensitivity (94dB/W/m), bass-reflex design with a single 8" coaxial driver. The integral stands can be adjusted to fine-tune the reflex port. The B.A.C.H. 8e lacked deep bass, sounded a bit lively in the upper midrange, and was a bit rolled off in the treble, but nevertheless preserved the music's dynamics and impact, said ST, noting that the Swissonor has an appealing coherence due to the lack of a crossover. For special tastes, decided JA. (Vol.36 No.2)
Thiel SCS4T: $3690/pair
Like Thiel's SCS4 monitor, the SCS4T floorstander uses a coaxially mounted tweeter and woofer designed in conjunction with a first-order crossover to maintain coherence in the time domain. The SCS4T's internal volume is exactly the same as that of the much smaller SCS4 monitor, the bottom third of the tower's attractive enclosure functioning as a hollow, integrated stand. Though it had a nicely extended treble and was able to throw a large soundstage, the SCS4T lacked body in the upper bass, and clarity and articulation from the bass through the midrange, said EL. JA's tests revealed a lively enclosure and an excess of in-room energy between 500Hz and 1kHz. Some disagreement among the reviewing team, with BD recommending Class B for the Thiel, EL a lower rating. Price is for Black Ash and Dark Cherry finishes; Natural Cherry costs $3890/pair. (Vol.34 No.7 Read Review Online)
Totem Dreamcatcher: $625/pair (stands necessary)
Designed and manufactured in Canada, the Dreamcatcher is a small (11.3" H by 5.1" W by 7.1" D, 5.5 lbs), two-way, rear-ported minimonitor with a 1" titanium-dome tweeter and a 4" long-throw woofer. Though its bass extension and high-level dynamic slam were limited, the Totem produced a clean, detailed midrange; pristine, extended highs; and lightning-fast transients, for a startling level of realism, said BJR. "Of all the speakers I've reviewed in the past 28 years, I have never enjoyed music more through anything else, regardless of price," he gushed. JA, however, was disappointed by the Dreamcatcher's measured performance, citing strong port resonances and elevated top octaves. Price is for Black Ash and Mahogany finishes; Cherry adds $50/pair, White $75/pair. (Vol.34 No.5 Read Review Online)
Triangle Bookshelf Color: $799/pair (stands necessary) $$$
Available in stunning finishes of white, black, or red lacquer, the Bookshelf Color is a simple two-way design with a rear-firing port, a 1" titanium-dome tweeter, and a 6" doped-paper-cone low-frequency driver. Though it lacked the low-level resolution, bass extension, and overall refinement of the more expensive Dynaudio Excite X12, the Bookshelf Color had an easy, almost laid-back overall sound, with excellent imaging and a deep, wide soundstage, said ST, though he warns that the Bookshelf is "Slightly pricey for the performance offered." (Vol.34 No.6)

Class D

Aperion Verus Grand Bookshelf: $699/pair (stands necessary)
The Verus Grand Bookshelf is a two-way, bass-reflex, stand-mounted design with a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 5" woven-Kevlar woofer with an aluminum phase plug. The beautifully finished cabinet features curved side panels and internal bracing to minimize standing waves. Fit and finish were outstanding. Though it lacked some high-level dynamic slam, the Aperion offered a well-balanced overall sound with airy highs, a detailed midrange, clean bass, and good sense of space, said BJR. JA noted superb measured performance. All Aperion products are offered with a 30-day money-back guarantee, free shipping, a 10-year warranty, and a trade-in program. (Vol.36 No.1 Read Review Online)
Audioengine 2: $199/pair (stands optional) $$$ ✩
The powered, reflex-loaded Audioengine 2, designed for use on desktops and in offices and bedrooms, can fit in the palm of one hand. It uses a 20mm silk-dome tweeter and a 2.75" Kevlar-cone woofer in a black or white gloss cabinet measuring just 6" H by 4" W by 5.25" D. Its small size made it extremely versatile, portable, and fun. At reasonable volume levels, both indoors and out, the Audioengines provided a wide, deep soundstage with impressive image specificity and drama. BJR raved: "The level of sound quality produced by this uncolored, detailed, articulate, and dynamic speaker, in all situations, was beyond reproach." Though JA noted some distortion on high-level tones at low frequencies, due to the built-in equalization causing the woofer to work hard, he was impressed by the Audioengine's level of engineering and the quality of its fit’n’finish and bought a pair for his TV system. (Vol.30 No.12 Read Review Online)
Boston Acoustics A 25: $299.98/pair (stands necessary)
The two-way A 25 measures 10.7" H by 7.25" W by 8.9" D, weighs 10 lbs, and uses Boston's 1" Kortec soft-dome tweeter and a 5.25" mid/woofer with a cone of ceramic and glass-fiber polymer. It has scratch-resistant, high-gloss side panels; all other surfaces are covered in a textured veneer reminiscent of faux leather, giving the A 25 a purposeful, no-nonsense look. Though it lacked the PSB Alpha B1's drama and scale, the A 25 offered a balanced, coherent sound with impressive top-to-bottom control and stable stereo imaging. "The A 25 had a fine way of balancing accuracy and musicality for an enriching and fatigue-free listening experience," said SM. JA noted excellent measured performance. (Vol.34 No.11, Vol.35 No.3 Read Review Online)
Definitive Technology Studio Monitor 55: $598/pair (stands necessary)
This two-way, biwirable, stand-mounted design uses a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter, a 6.5" BDSS cast-basket mid/woofer, and, instead of a reflex port, an unusual top-firing, 6" by 10" passive radiator. Fit and finish were superb. The SM55 lacked high-frequency delicacy and sophistication but produced a clean midrange, well-defined midbass, and outstanding high-level dynamics, said BJR. Though its test-bench results indicated weighty low frequencies for a bookshelf model, the SM55 was not as well balanced overall as the smaller and more affordable SM45, felt JA. (Vol.35 No.11 Read Review Online)
Definitive Technology Studio Monitor 45: $398/pair (stands necessary)
Made in China, the two-way, rear-ported 45 is the smallest and least expensive model in DefTech's revamped StudioMonitor series. It measures 11.7" H by 6.75" W by 11.7" D and has a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter and a 5.25" mid/woofer, the latter utilizing DefTech's new Linear Response Waveguide for wide dispersion and smooth off-axis frequency response. The matte-black wood-grain enclosure has tapered side panels and a contoured, high-gloss baffle to minimize diffraction. Fit and finish were outstanding. Though they lacked some bass weight and impact, the DefTechs combined natural transient articulation, well-controlled lows, impressive dynamics, and stable stereo imaging for a compelling listening experience, said SM. High Class D, bordering on Class C. Other than its lively enclosure and two very strong port resonances, at 700 and 910Hz, the SM 45 measured very well for an inexpensive speaker, said JA. (Vol.35 Nos.8 & 10 Read Review Online)
Emotiva XRT-5.2 X-Ref: $559/pair
This slim floorstander measures 38.5" H by 8.5" W by 9.5" D, weighs 31 lbs, and has a 1" silk-dome tweeter and two 5.25" blended-cone woofers. The front-ported cabinet, available in a single black-satin finish, is bolted to a stabilizing metal base. Though it lacked delicacy and inner detail, the X-REF XRT-5.2 had a punchy, lively, dynamic sound, said BJR. "I can think of no other affordable speaker that comes close to what the XRT-5.2 can reproduce in terms of high-level dynamic slam with rock and orchestral recordings," he concluded. JA noted good measured performance. Sold direct with a 30-day money-back guarantee. (Vol.35 No.8 Read Review Online)
Epoz AktiMate Micro: $499/pair (stands necessary)
Designed in Australia and manufactured in China, the two-way, rear-ported Aktimate Micro powered speaker measures just 9.45" H by 5.7" W by 7.87" D; it uses a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 3.9" Kevlar mid/woofer. The beautifully finished MDF cabinet is available in high-gloss finishes of black, white, or red. The 40W class-D amplifier and Texas Instruments 16-bit PCM2704 DAC are housed in the left-channel speaker, which also holds the 3.5mm stereo minijack, USB input for connection to a PC, and AC inlet for the included power cord. Though they sounded smaller and had less bass extension than the PSB Alpha B1s, the Micros nevertheless offered better scale, presence, and bass impact than SM expected from so small a speaker. Compared to the Audioengine A2, the Micros traded some midrange clarity and richness for transient speed and high-end sparkle, said SM. (Vol.35 No.12 Read Review Online)
Music Hall Marimba: $349/pair (stands necessary)
Music Hall's only loudspeaker is a small (11" H by 6.5" W by 8.75" D), two-way, reflex-loaded design with a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 5.25" polypropylene-cone mid/woofer. The MDF cabinet is internally braced to minimize vibrations, has curved edges to reduce diffraction, and is finished in modest black vinyl. Though dynamically limited, the Marimbas were extremely room-friendly, with outstanding imaging and soundstaging abilities, said ST. "The Marimba is an astonishing little speaker," he concluded, "as long as you don’t expect it to do too much." SM is working on a Follow-Up. (Vol.35 No.12)
Polk Audio RTi A3: $399.95/pair (stands necessary)
The two-way, stand-mounted RTi A3 measures 14.75" H by 8.58" W by 14" D, has a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 6.5" polymer-composite woofer, and is available in real-wood veneers of black ash or cherry. It employs Polk's Power Port, a system in which two ports work together to reduce noise and distortion for clean, powerful bass. Though the RTi A3's fast, detailed highs could be unforgiving of poorly recorded material, the speaker's muscularity, weight, and solidity complemented well-recorded rock music. Compared to the DefTech SM 45, the Polk produced a bigger, more aggressive overall sound, but lacked the DefTechs" transient articulation, detail, and delicate touch, said SM. Despite the Polk's lively cabinet, JA noted "excellent audio engineering at an affordable price." (Vol.35 Nos.7 & 8 Read Review Online)
PSB Alpha B1: $299/pair (stands necessary) $$$ ✩
The unassuming B1, the latest version of PSB's best-selling Alpha speaker, has molded plastic front and rear baffles connected by an MDF sleeve, and combines a 51/4", injection-molded, polypropylene-cone woofer with a 3/4" ferrofluid-cooled, aluminum-dome tweeter, both sourced from India. Low-bass extension was limited, and the speaker's otherwise clean, clear bass tone became muddied at very high volumes. Though high frequencies were slightly veiled, the B1's midrange was superb. JA was most impressed by the Alpha's talent for orchestral music: "If you are a classical-music lover with a small room and an equally small budget, a pair of PSB's Alpha B1s is just what you need—Extraordinary value." Though the B1s lent more drama to bass and drums, they couldn’t quite match the Paradigm Atom v.5's treble performance, felt WP. JA feels the PSB's treble to be more naturally balanced, however. One of SM's long-term references. Compared to the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1, the PSBs exhibited a more forward balance, occasional brightness in the mid-treble, grittier brass textures, and a slight lack of overall clarity, found SM. (Vol.30 Nos.5 & 9, Vol.34 No.4 Read Review Online)
Tannoy Mercury V1: $320/pair (stands necessary)
Designed in the UK and made in China, the two-way, front-ported Mercury V1 measures 11.8" H by 6.7" W by 10" D, weighs 9.9 lbs, and has a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 5.1" pulped paper-cone mid/woofer. The cabinet is available in handsome Dark Walnut and Sugar Maple finishes. Build quality was excellent. Lacking some bass weight and impact, the Mercury V1 had a slightly polite overall sound with an especially sweet, sophisticated treble; a detailed, uncolored midrange; and nicely balanced, well-controlled bass, said SM. Other than an upper-midrange peak in its on-axis farfield response, the Mercury V1's measured performance was commendable, said JA. "I still miss these speakers," bemoans SM. (Vol.35 Nos.9, 10, & 11 Read Review Online)
Wharfedale Diamond 10.1: $349/pair (stands necessary)
The Diamond 10.1 is a simple, two-way, stand-mounted design with a 1" soft-dome tweeter, a 5" Kevlar-cone mid/bass driver, and two rear-firing ports. Its gorgeous cabinet is gracefully curved, widening at the center and tapering toward the rear to both minimize internal standing waves and enhance the speaker's fine appearance. The Diamond 10.1 had a relaxed, coherent overall sound, with a wide, deep soundstage, airy highs, a liquid midrange, and excellent low-level resolution. Compared to the PSB Alpha B1, the Wharfedale lacked transient speed but offered greater clarity and resolution, said SM. BJR was impressed by the Wharfedale's extended highs, detailed midrange, and clean bass. "The 10.1 presents extraordinary value for money," he concluded. JA noted superb measured performance. (Vol.34 Nos.2 & 4 Read Review Online)

Class E

Dayton Audio B652: $39.80/pair (stands necessary)
The least expensive loudspeaker Stereophile has ever reviewed, Dayton Audio's B652 is a very small (11.8" H by 7" W by 6.5" D), very light (5.8 lbs), two-way, sealed-cabinet design with a 0.6" ferrofluid-cooled polycarbonate-dome tweeter and a 6.5" polypropylene-cone mid/woofer. The simple MDF cabinet is clad in black vinyl and has a removable grille of black cloth. Though it lacked overall clarity, extension, and control, the B652 offered a surprisingly large soundstage, good image separation, and a very fine sense of momentum and flow, with no hint of temporal distortions, said SM. Given its low price, the B652's measured performance was "quite remarkable," said JA. (Vol.36 No.1 Read Review Online)
Energy CB-10: $269.99/pair (stands necessary)
The small (11.4" H by 7.1" W by 8.5" D), two-way CB-10 has a high-gloss black baffle, a modest cabinet veneered in Black Ash, and gold-plated five-way binding posts. It uses a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter and 5.5" woofer with a ribbed elliptical surround; a large rear-firing port has an internal diameter of 2" and flares out to 2.75". Though the CB-10 performed well with loud rock music, the speaker lacked precision, control, and clarity, especially in the bass and treble, said SM. The Energy's measured performance was dominated by a port resonance in the upper midrange and an adjacent peak in its on-axis response, said JA. (Vol.34 No.11, Vol.35 No.3 Read Review Online)
Klipsch Synergy B-20: $280/pair (stands necessary)
The two-way, bass-reflex Synergy B-20 uses a 5.25" magnetically shielded mid/woofer with a cone of injection-molded graphite and a 0.75" aluminum-diaphragm compression driver mated to one of Klipsch's 90° by 60° Tractrix horns. While it lacked the bass weight and control of the Audioengine 5 and the midrange clarity of the PSB Alpha B1, the Synergy B-20 had a vibrant overall sound, with fast attacks, fine detail, and precisely placed images. Its blend of high-frequency clarity and extension was initially impressive, but over time proved unforgiving to poorly recorded material, decided SM. (Vol.34 No.6 Read Review Online)
NHT SuperZero 2.0: $198/pair (stands necessary)
The room-friendly SuperZero 2.0 measures 9" H by 5" W by 5.5" D, weighs just six lbs, and comes in an attractive, black-gloss laminate. It uses a 4.5" long-throw pulp-cone woofer and a 1" silk-dome tweeter in a sealed enclosure. At both extremely high and low levels, the SuperZero 2.0 offered impressive speed and clarity, outstanding stereo imaging, and excellent resolution of low-level detail, but produced almost no bass whatsoever, said SM. For best results, the SuperZero must be used with a subwoofer, such as NHT's Super 8 ($349). Package price of SuperZero 2.0 and Super 8 sub is $500. (Vol.34 No.10 Read Review Online)

Class K

Wharfedale Jade 7, Joseph Audio Perspective, Opera Callas, Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia, PSB PS1, Pioneer SP-BS22-LR, Sonus Faber Venere 2.5, TAD Evolution 1, YG Sonja.

Class Deletions

DeVore Fidelity Gibbon Nine discontinued; Klipsch Palladium P-39, PSB Synchrony One, Verity Audio Leonore, Paradigm Reference Studio 60 v.5, Totem Acoustic Forest, Model 1 Signature, & Mani-2 Signature, Linn Majik 109, Spendor SA1, ATC SCM 40, all not auditioned in a long time; Chario Premium 1000, Quad Reference ESL-2805 not currently available in US.

guitarist9273's picture

The Beats Solo HD is now a Stereophile reccomended component... That sounds like a (funny) joke. They're certainly attractive looking & very stylish, but they sound very...well, bad. They're Class D...but I'm genuinely curious as to why they'd be included at all.

There are a lot of decent choices when it comes to headphones in the portable/sealed-on-ear-headphones-under-$300 category, now, that it's hard to see the B&W P3 and the Beats Solo HD making it onto the list. (Anyone interested in heaphones should check out Stereophile' sister online publication on personal-audio/headphones---InnerFidelity.)

Thanks for this awesome compilation, by the way! I sincerely enjoyed reading through such a wide sampling of great loudspeakers, amps & such. The balanced objectivity is always refreshing, considering other publication's purely subjective approach.

RobertSlavin's picture

Being able to see the photos of the components next to their descriptions, as found in this online version of recommended components, is nice.

However, Stereophile used to charge for this section online. Why is it giving it away for free now?

There's not a tremendous amount of money in magazine publishing. I'd prefer that the magazine make a reasonable amount of money from this section.

John Atkinson's picture

RobertSlavin wrote:
Stereophile used to charge for this section online. Why is it giving it away for free now?

Unless I am having a senior moment, we never used to charge for on-line access to Recommended Components. In fact, we have only been making it available in its entirety on-line since 2012, which is when we launched our free iPad app.

And regarding charging for it, my bottom-line policy is that the magazine's content should be available free on-line.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Poor Audiophile's picture

Thanks for that JA!

EU-USA Stereophile Fan's picture

Maybe some other EU makers could have been included such as Phonar (Germany) or PMC (UK)

John Atkinson's picture

Maybe some other EU makers could have been included such as Phonar (Germany) or PMC (UK)

"Recommended Components" exclusively concerns products that have been reviewed in the magazine. In turn, to be reviewed in Stereophile, a product needs to be available in the US; see  www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/307awsi/index.html.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Glotz's picture

WOW, I love it!  

I think I have memorized the entire RC over the years, and seeing each component again (some for the first time) is wonderful!  

I wonder who went through the trouble of procuring all of those photos for RC online.  

I won't even pretend there will be photos (for the next RC) in the magazine.  I imagine it would be 500 pages long... 

Ariel Bitran's picture

photos were gathered by myself and reformatted by Jon Iverson.

Downforce's picture

Has the excellent Emotiva ERC-2 been discontinued?  And for JA, the link you posted isn't working.  Thanks for the lists.

John Atkinson's picture

Downforce wrote:
Has the excellent Emotiva ERC-2 been discontinued?

Not according to Emotiva. It's there in Class C of Disc Players.

Downforce wrote:
And for JA, the link you posted isn't working.

Fixed. Thanks.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

stereomag's picture

Wow! Here they (Stereophile) go again. Still no review of any Accuphase preamps. Why is that, Stereophile?

weitn's picture

M30.1 got impressive reviews from Stereophile and Absolute Sound and recommended by both. I have auditioned it and ordered a pair the other day. Out of curiosity, what happened to the M40.1? It was listed in the 2012 recommended list.

destroysall76's picture

Great recommendations, but I'm curious in the LS50 from KEF. Is it really that much better of a speaker to be a part of the Class A (Restricted LF) over the Harbeth P3ESR and the Proac Tablette?

Also, is the Rega RP1 the better table buy this year over the Project Debut Carbon?

mkrzych's picture

I've read here that Dali Zensor 1 are in class C (Exteme Restricted LF), so according to your judge those are considered not entry level speakers, am I right?
If so, do you have any suggestions for the speaker cable matching or positioning for these little babies to sound the best? Currently I have Marantz CD5004/PM6004 connected to them over the QED Strand 79 speaker cable. They are on Soundstage Z22 stands.
Is it anything I can do to improve this gear in your opinion?

Thanks for any suggestions.

MykhailoM's picture

Good audio cables are surely essential part to any serous audiophile as they deliver a very sensitive signal between your audio gear as it has been said in this page. I have listened to quite a few well known brands such as Russ Andrews cables QED Signature etc. and more often than not the price reflects its qualities. As anything else in audio gear, cables need auditioning on your system. If possible grub 4 or 5 pares from your local dealer in a price range £300 to £600 from different brands and at your own comfort have them checked, I'm pretty sure you will get different results and the better components you have the more evident it will be. In my auditioning experience I prefer small exotic brands, to me they deliver a very good sonic result. I can change components etc. but cable will stay as they are so revealing. Keep your options open and DO audition on your system or at your local Hi-Fi dealer.

MykhailoM's picture

Everything must be auditioned either interconnects cables or audio components, your ears will be your best judge.