Stereophile's Products of 2006 Joint Loudspeakers

2006 Joint Loudspeakers

Quad ESL-2805 ($9000/pair; reviewed by Sam Tellig, Vol.29 No.7, July 2006)
Sonus Faber Amati anniversario ($27,500/pair; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.29 No.5, May 2006 review)
Vandersteen Quatro ($6995/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.29 No.7, July 2006 review)

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
B&W 802D ($12,000/pair; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.28 No.12, December 2005 review)
ESP Concert Grand SI ($40,000/pair; reviewed by John Marks, Vol.29 No.4, April 2006 review)
Lipinski Sound L-707 ($4590/pair; reviewed by Larry Greenhill, Vol.28 No.12, December 2005 review)
NHT Xd ($6000/system; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson & John Atkinson, Vol.28 No.11 & Vol.29 No.1, November 2005 & January 2006 review)
Revel Concerta F12 ($1498/pair; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.29 No.7, July 2006 review)

Back in April, when we were working on our July issue, I sent an e-mail to Sam Tellig, asking what he'd be covering in his column. He replied quickly with one exclamatory sentence: "The Quad 2805 electrostatic loudspeaker! " The man was excited. Elsewhere in this issue, Sam writes, "This being the month for awards, I wonder how the Quad ESL-2805 will do." It turned out to be Sam's personal Product of the Year. He'll be happy to know that it's also one of our Joint Loudspeakers of the Year.

When Quad moved production to China, ST contends, their ESL line finally reached its full potential. The ESL-2805 gives the classic ESL-63 a rounded, steel top plate finished in piano-black lacquer, a stainless-steel base, improved spikes and speaker terminals, and a brace that extends from top to bottom and can be adjusted to make the speaker absolutely rigid. Supremely transparent, absolutely free of coloration, phenomenally quick, and utterly nonfatiguing, the ESL-2805 may be "the world's greatest loudspeaker," raved ST.

I wonder, though, what John Atkinson has to say about that. He fell in love with our next winner, the absolutely gorgeous Sonus Faber Amati anniversario, which led all loudspeaker voting with four first-place nods. Indeed, we're getting used to seeing Sonus Faber atop this list; their Stradivari Homage stood tall in last year's poll.

An updated version of the Amati Homage, the anniversario celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of violin maker Andrea Amati. Whereas the original used a 28mm soft-dome tweeter and first-order crossover filters, the anniversario has a 25mm silk ring-radiator tweeter, and internal wiring that features pairs of silver-palladium ribbon conductors with electrical connections coming from a single pair of binding posts. JA noted impressively clean and grain-free treble, tight and well-extended bass, an uncolored midrange, and excellent stereo imaging, all resulting in first-rate reproduced sound. The anniversario provided a clear avenue to the music. "Simply superb," said JA. "For me, a loudspeaker doesn't get much better than this."

For $20,000 less, however, we have the Vandersteen Quatro, reviewed by Michael Fremer. It may not be as easy on the eyes as the exquisite Sonus Faber—the Quatro comes dressed in what is basically a black sweat sock—but it presents music with "exceptional clarity, transparency, and three-dimensionality." Its four-way design includes a subwoofer system of two 8", long-throw, carbon-loaded cellulose-cone units powered by a 250W amplifier, and produced an "extraordinarily detailed and musically convincing" sonic picture.

The Quatro's magic brought fresh life to old, familiar records. "Getting a 'wow' experience from a recording you've been enjoying for 35 years is one of the most pleasurable aspects of this hobby," said MF. Thank you, Richard Vandersteen.

Congrats should also go to B&W, whose 802D made a fine showing, and to relative newcomer Lipinski Sound, whose extremely revealing L-707 earned two first-place votes.