Recommended Components: 2017 Edition 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.

A (Full-Range)

Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90: $84,990/pair
The three-way Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 contains 18 drivers, 18 class-D power amplifiers, 9 DACs, and, to rule them all, a pair of DSP-enabling Analog Devices chips. (Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3 Diamond: $22,000/pairBR> (Vol.39 No.6 WWW)

GamuT RS7: $39,900/pairBR> (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

KEF Blade Two: $25,000/pairBR> (Vol.38 No.6 WWW)

Magico S5 Mk.II: $38,000/pair–$42,750/pairBR> (Vol.40 No.2 WWW)

Marten Coltrane 3: $100,000/pairBR> (Vol.39 No.6 WWW)

MartinLogan Masterpiece Renaissance ESL 15A: $24,995/pairBR> (Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

mbl Radialstrahler 101 E Mk.II: $70,500/pair ★BR> (Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

Revel Ultima Studio2: $15,998/pair $$$ ★
FK's long-term reference. (Vol.31 No.3, Vol.32 No.12 WWW)BR>

Vandersteen Model Seven Mk.II: $62,000/pair
(Vol.33 No.3 original version, Vol.39 No.5 WWW)

Vivid G3 Giya: $39,990/pair ★BR> (Vol.37 No.4 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Alexandria XLF: $210,000/pair ★BR> MF's long-term reference. (Vol.36 No.1 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia: $52,000/pair ★BR> JVS's long-term reference. (Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3: $106,800/pair ★BR> (Vol.36 No.7 WWW)

A (Restricted Extreme LF)

Aerial Acoustics 5T: $3795/pair (stands necessary)
Representing a departure from the sealed-box loading, rectangular cabinet, and metal-dome tweeter of the original Model 5 and its first variant, the 5B, Aerial Acoustics' new 5T sports a slotted reflex port on the gently sloped front baffle of a gracefully curved enclosure, and trusts its trebles to the same model of ring-radiator tweeter used in Aerial's well-regarded 7T floorstander. A 6.7" woofer with a papyrus-blend cone and a crossover network comprising "high-order multi-element" filters complete the picture. With the 5Ts mounted atop 24"-tall, sand-and-lead-filled Celestion stands, JA noted "somewhat reticent" trebles coupled with "superb bass control," the latter characteristic allowing bass guitar to "[speak] with authority in its lower register." The 5T presented "near-holographic images," and was so successful at resolving spatial information from a recording of an Eric Whitacre choral work that JA remarked, "This is how a pair of speakers with superbly accurate and stable stereo imaging can serve the music." At his test bench, JA noted slightly lower-than-specified sensitivity (85.2 vs 87dB), and some small and apparently port-influenced midrange peaks; otherwise, he said, "Aerial's 5T demonstrates excellent speaker engineering." (Vol.40 No.3 WWW)

ATC SCM19 v.2: $3999/pair (stands necessary)
Designed around a sealed enclosure with curved side panels, a lute-shaped cross section, and a volume of 19 liters—hence the model number—ATC's SCM19 v.2 is a two-way loudspeaker with a 1" non-hemispherical soft-dome tweeter and a 6" woofer, the 3" dustcap of which is said to function as a midrange dome; both drivers are of ATC's own design and manufacture. The SCM19 v.2's cabinet is only 17.1" high, yet weighs a hefty 39 lbs; its frequency response is specified as 54Hz–22kHz, –6dB, its nominal impedance as 8 ohms, and its sensitivity as 85dB/W/m. Comparing the ATC to a similarly small, sealed-box loudspeaker of some renown, the classic BBC LS3/5a, JM found that the SCM19 v.2 "exhibited an arresting increase in resolving power." Similarly, he wrote that the SCM19 "decisively strode ahead of" ATC's less expensive SCM7 v.3 in resolution and bass extension, noting that while the SCM7 "had no distortion that I was aware of, the [low-frequency] driver in the SCM19 was so much more revealing that it was not funny." JM summed up: "The SCM19 might be all the speaker most people will ever need. Well done. Highly recommended." (Vol.37 No.6 WWW)

Auditorium 23 Hommage Cinema: $49,995/pair (plus power supply0
Auditorium 23's Keith Aschenbrenner dreamed of making a commercial product that could combine a vintage Western Electric 555 compression driver with a modestly sized horn, supplemented with similarly efficient treble and bass drivers. When the Chinese firm Line Magnetic began making faithful replicas of the 555, Aschenbrenner saw his chance, and with acoustician Uwe Meyer created the Hommage Cinema, which combines LM's 555 with a tidy midrange horn, coupled with LM's replica of the vintage WE 597A treble driver/horn and a bass cabinet with two powered paper-cone woofers: one 7", one 12". Like their WE forebears, the LM drivers are field-coil types, so a 7V DC power supply is also required; Auditorium 23 offers the NT1 supply ($5495), which they commissioned from AcousticPlan. Used with his low-power Shindo tube amplification, the Hommage Cinemas presented AD with coherence, physicality, and exceptional ease: "the force behind [music's] remaking was on a par with the force behind its making." The leading edges of bass notes were slightly rounded, and treble extension was "noticeably less than one associates with modern loudspeakers," yet, overall, AD found the Hommage Cinema to be "the most thoroughly competent" contemporary high-efficiency speakers he has had in his home. In a Follow-Up, JA wrote of determining that the Cinema has a sensitivity of 102dB—"This is heroic engineering!"—and a triode-tube-happy 15 ohm impedance. While confessing that he could not live with the Cinema's lack of top-end energy, JA advised, "you should give this speaker a listen, just to experience what's possible from a classic compression driver loaded with a horn." However, he feels that Class B is a more appropriate rating for what he feels is an old-fashioned–sounding speaker. (Vol.39 No.11, Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3: $6000/pair (stands necessary)
The smallest model in Bowers & Wilkins's Diamond line, the 805 D3 features a 1" diamond-dome tweeter carried over from earlier models (though B&W say they've improved its motor system) and a 6.5" woofer made of Continuum, a proprietary woven material that replaces the resolutely yellow Kevlar of the company's earlier speakers. The woofer is reflex loaded with a flared port on the front panel, and the tweeter is loaded with a transmission line inside an aluminum housing shaped like the head of the xenomorph from the Alien franchise. Placed atop 24"-tall, sand-and-lead-filled Celestion stands, the 805 D3s presented JA with "astonishing clarity in the midrange and treble," coupled with "impressive dynamic capability." He also noted that B&W's designers have "managed an optimal balance between bass power and control," evinced by the speaker's ability to reproduce double bass "with good weight, but also with the leading edges of notes well defined." Tape hiss in one recording and vocal sibilants in another were more audible than expected, leading JA to remark that "this is a speaker that will verge on the edge of excess with unsympathetic ancillary components, or in a room that itself emphasizes the highs"—an observation borne out during JA's test regimen, which revealed "a somewhat 'tailored' frequency response in the treble." (Vol.40 No.3 WWW)

Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo Diamond: $19,995/pair (stands included)
Unlike its larger stablemate, the Crystal Cable Arabesque—a floorstanding loudspeaker in a stunning glass enclosure—the two-way Arabesque Minissimo Diamond is built into a compact but radically shaped monocoque cabinet milled from a single piece of aluminum-loaded polymer. It features a laminated-paper 6" woofer and a diamond-dome 1" tweeter, the latter protected by a laser-cut grille. Its aluminum stand, atop which the speaker reaches a height of 38", is integral. With a nod to "the intellectual elegance of a speaker that is no bigger than it needs to be," JA described being impressed by the Arabesque Minissimo Diamond, praising in particular the speaker's consistently "excellent imaging and clarity." That said, he also noted the speaker's "slightly midrange-forward balance," and the fact that $19,995/pair is "very expensive for a small two-way loudspeaker." Writing from his test bench, JA discovered less than the specified sensitivity—81 instead of 83.5dB—and in-room behavior that supported his impression of a "midrange-dominant" sound; otherwise, he declared, the Arabesque Minissimo Diamond "offers respectable measured performance." (Vol.39 No.10 WWW)

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. AD originally considered this a very high Class B recommendation, bordering on Class A, but as of April 2015, the rating is upgraded. In a Follow-Up, AD noted: "I have refined my own O/96 installation, moving each speaker farther from its sidewall, and minimizing the influence of unfortunate room characteristics with some John DeVore–inspired asymmetry," with excellent results. AD also quoted John DeVore's observation that, in 2013, the O/96 was his best-selling model "by a clear margin. I wouldn't be surprised to see that it did that again in 2014." (Vol.35 No.12, Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

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; see HR's review in this issue.)

Dynaudio Focus 200 XD: $6999/pair (stands necessary)
The two-way, reflex-loaded Focus 200 XD is the smallest and least expensive of Dynaudio's three Focus XD models, all of which offer onboard amplification, a remote control, and a wireless transmitter that Dynaudio calls the Connect. In addition to analog inputs, the Focus 200 XD can be driven, by means of a coaxial cable, by a user's CD player or DAC, allowing 24-bit/192kHz digital throughput all the way up the drive-units, a 1.1" soft-dome tweeter and a 6.7" magnesium-silicate-polymer-cone woofer. When driven wirelessly by the Connect, the speaker's resolution is limited to 24/96 for a single listening zone—multiples of which can be accommodated, but with still-lower upper limits of resolution. JVS tried the Focus 200 XDs as part of his desktop system and in various rooms, using Dynaudio's Stand 6 speaker stands ($499/pair), and found that "while the Focus 200 XD yields its best sound in its wired, all-digital configuration, it can also wirelessly transmit impressive sound quality." Assessing the Focus 200 XD on his test bench, JA wrote, "Its measured performance is, in a word, superb." (Vol.39 No.10 WWW)

Dynaudio Contour 20: $5000/pair (stands necessary)
See HR's review in this issue.

ENIGMAcoustics Sopranino Electrostatic supertweeter: $3690/pair (stands optional)
Here's something you don't see every day: a horn-loaded, self-polarized, electrostatic supertweeter. The Sopranino is a 6-lb, 7.6"-tall enclosure intended for installation either atop the user's nominally full-range speakers or on their own height-adjustable stands ($600/pair). Its 12dB/octave high-pass filter can be set to one of three crossover frequencies—8, 10, or 12kHz—and connection via the Sopraninos' binding posts puts the supertweeters in parallel with their host speakers. A rear-mounted toggle switch offers the option of –3dB of attenuation. JA found that the Sopraninos, when used with the Joseph Audio Perspective loudspeakers, had a decidedly subtle influence on the sound of his system; on removing them after a week of listening, he declared his system still sounded good—"Just not quite as good." With JA's vintage Rogers LS3/5a loudspeakers, the Sopraninos allowed cymbals to sound "more like struck bronze than shaped and textured white noise," and stereo imaging was more palpable. Measurements revealed a clean cumulative spectral-decay plot and other distinctions, although JA was surprised that, by the end of the review, one of the Sopraninos had ceased performing above 15kHz: an enduring mystery. Writing in his Follow-Up review, AD also reported a spot of trouble: one of the Sopraninos in his loaner pair arrived in non-working condition. EnigmAcoustics replaced that well-traveled pair with a fresh one, and AD went on to enjoy "a greater improvement in spatial performance than any other aspect of playback" when using the Sopraninos—plus their optional stands—with his Quad ESL loudspeakers. As he wrote, "my assessment of the EnigmAcoustics supertweeter is precisely the same as JA's: 'An audition will be mandatory prior to purchase.'" (Vol.37 No.6, Vol.39 No.11 WWW)

Fujitsu Ten Eclipse TD-712z Mk.2: $10,600/pair (stands included)
RD reviewed the original version of this unique speaker—it uses a single 4.7" driver with a glass-fiber/cotton cone mounted in an egg-shaped ported enclosure—in January 2007 and was very impressed with its sound. Though the TD712z wouldn't play very loud and didn't go very deep, it had clarity, transparency, resolution, timbral accuracy, and image specificity that were "simply breathtaking," said RD. JA was impressed by the speaker's time-coincident presentation and freedom from cabinet resonances, though he was more bothered by its distinctly non-flat frequency response. The new version improves the original's power handling and extends its low-frequency response. "In a modestly sized room, with no help from subwoofers, the TD712zMk.2s delivered sound that was . . . well . . . extraordinary," he concluded. Matching sand-filled stands are included. (Vol.30 No.1, Vol.38 No.5 WWW)

Joseph Audio Perspective: $12,999/pair
The 36"-tall, floorstanding Perspective combines the same SEAS 1" impregnated-fabric dome tweeter used in Joseph Audio's Pulsar with two SEAS 5.5" magnesium-cone woofers, all mounted on a baffle profiled to optimize high-frequency dispersion. The woofers are reflex-loaded with a rear-mounted resistive port—the resistive foam can be removed for certain applications—and, according to JA, with "an Asymmetrical Infinite Slope Crossover set at 2kHz, with about a 40dB/octave low-pass slope for the woofers." In his listening, JA noted slightly unforgiving trebles on recordings with ragged high frequencies, but with good recordings, the Perspectives delivered "a wide, rich sweep of full-range sound, with tangible stereo imaging." JA also noted midrange clarity and lack of coloration, and that the Perspective's bass performance required an amp with a firm hand lest it sound a bit phat. Summing up with praise for the Perspective's cosmetics and small footprint, he concluded: "It's a lot of high-performance loudspeaker in a beautiful, modest-sized, domestically appealing package." (Vol.37 No.7 WWW)

Joseph Audio Pulsar: $7700/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 WWW)

KEF LS50 Anniversary 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." ST found the LS50's tonality "spot-on, more neutral than sweet," adding that the diminutive KEFs could deliver "surprising bass: down to around 50Hz." ST's verdict: "I haven't had such great sound in my listening room since the departure of Quad's ESL-2805 electrostatics." As SM put it: "In 13 years of working at Stereophile, I have not seen another component that offers such a radical combination of value and performance." Late in 2014, after spending time with some new LS50 samples, JA wrote: "[Although] it had been two years since I'd last listened to the KEF LS50 at home, getting a new pair reminded me why I had so highly recommended them. The KEF LS50 gave a sound that was evenly balanced from the upper bass through the high treble, with superbly defined imaging." (Vol.35 No.12, Vol.37 Nos. 5 & 6, Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

Marten Django XL: $11,900/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 (adds $1500/pair). 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 WWW)

Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 II: $14,495/pair
A functional—but not cosmetic—update of their original PL300, Monitor Audio's latest speaker is a three-way, four-driver floorstander with two reflex-loaded 8" woofers, a 4" midrange cone, and a Heil-style air-motion tweeter bearing the Monitor Audio trademark MPD, for Micro-Pleated Diaphragm. The PL300 II's curved, multilayer cabinet is made of a mineral-loaded thermoset polymer. After extended listening, RD felt that the PL300 II deserved comparison with the legendarily non–boxy-sounding Quad ESL, ultimately finding that the Monitor "had less 'speaker sound' than any loudspeaker I've reviewed." According to RD, "Monitor Audio has managed to reduce distortion and nonmusical resonances to a degree that made it easier to imagine that I was listening to live singers," and concluded by naming the PL300 II "my new reference." Apart from uncovering a lower sensitivity than specified (87 vs 90dB), JA gave the PL300 II a clean bill of health: "I am not surprised that RD was impressed . . . so was I." (Vol.39 No.11 WWW)

PSB Imagine T3: $7498/pair
PSB's new flagship is a three-way, five-driver floorstander built into what JA described as "a gracefully curved, veneered enclosure, formed under pressure from MDF laminations" and adding up to "a gorgeous-looking piece of furniture." Each of the Imagine T3's three 7" woofers is loaded with its own reflex-ported (to the rear) subenclosure, while the 5.25" midrange driver—whose cone is formed from the same compressed-felt-and-fiberglass material as the woofers—has its own sealed enclosure. The tweeter is a 1" titanium dome, the operating range of which is extended to a lower-than-usual 1800Hz. JA achieved the best bass performance when the bottommost reflex port on each speaker was occluded by a rubber plug, supplied by PSB for such in-room tuning. According to him, the T3's obvious neutrality kept it from being impressive in a superficial, fleeting way; rather, as the review period continued, the Imagine T3s revealed "superb sound quality for what is still a relatively affordable price." Apart from noting a reflex-port resonant peak that made itself known in the midrange (650Hz) and a disparity between observed and specified crossover frequencies, JA declared that "PSB's T3 demonstrates excellent speaker engineering." (Vol.39 No.8 WWW)

Sony SS-NA2ES: $10,000/pair ★
Cosmetically similar to Sony's more expensive SS-AR2, the SS-NA2ES is a beautifully finished three-way tower, approximately 35" H by 10" W by 16" D, with drive-units custom made by Scan-Speak in collaboration with Sony: twin 6.5" aluminum-cone woofers and a 5" midrange unit; but while the SS-AR2 used a single conventional 1" tweeter, the SS-NA2ES vertically mounts its 1" silk-dome tweeter between two 0.75" fabric-dome "assist" tweeters. The straight-sided cabinet is made of Scandinavian birch ply and finished in a luxurious dark-brown gloss. With some overcooked recordings, the Sony's highs had too much sparkle, but overall the speaker offered low coloration, high sensitivity, accurate and stable stereo imaging, and satisfying lows, said JA, who also noted excellent measured performance. "The SS-NA2ES offers its owner 90% of the performance of the SS-AR2 for 50% of its price," he concluded. (Vol.36 No.9 WWW)

Spendor D7: $5995/pair $$$
The British-built D7 is a 2.5-way, 38"-tall floorstander, with a rated sensitivity of 90 dB/W/m and a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. Its driver complement includes a 7/8" soft-dome tweeter with a specially designed cover of stainless-steel mesh, a 7" plastic-cone mid/woofer, and a 7" Kevlar-cone woofer, the latter two both made by Spendor and loaded by the same rear-mounted reflex port. Used with ST's 80Wpc Quicksilver Silver 88 tubed monoblocks—"a superb combination"—and giving their best about 3' from the wall behind them, the D7s played with "authority, weight, and speed." ST praised the speaker's fine trebles—"a crystalline clarity that put the Spendor D7 among the finest speakers I have heard at any price"—and noted that, "40 years on, Spendor is still known for getting the midrange right." Although ST's 3.5Wpc 2A3 amplifier failed to coax from the D7 sufficient bottom-end authority, the sound of that combination was "glorious"—and the Spendor was otherwise easy to drive with tubes or transistors, ultimately coaxing from the floorstander-phobic ST the highest praise: "one of the finest loudspeakers I have had in my listening room." JA confirmed its distinction as a 2.5-way (not a 3-way) design, and praised its overall "excellent measured performance." (Vol.37 No.9, Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

Technics Premium Class SB-C700: $1699/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
In 2015, Technics re-entered the perfectionist audio market with four Premium Class products, none more interesting than the compact and decidedly high-tech SB-C700 loudspeaker. Standing 13" high, the speaker's MDF cabinet is designed with a wider-in-the-middle profile when viewed from the front, and has walls of varying thickness to help tame internal resonances. The two-way SB-C700 has a reflex-loaded 6.5" woofer, the flat diaphragm of which is a sandwich of carbon cloth and honeycombed aluminum, plus a coaxial 0.75" tweeter with an aluminum dome and a neodymium magnet. HR put the SB-C700E through its paces with a variety of amplifiers, discovering such consistent traits as very good forward momentum with briskly paced music and laudable clarity and transparency, and noting that the Technics produced "not the biggest but perhaps the most properly scaled soundstage" among the small speakers he'd recently auditioned. HR added that the Technics speaker reached lower in the bass and "presented a wider spectrum of bass detail" than the KEF LS50 and lacked the "treble exaggerations" of the Falcon LS3/5a, although, with some recordings, it missed a bit of texture and force. Pointing to its higher-than-specified sensitivity, well-designed reflex tuning, and "impressively clean" cumulative spectral-delay plot—among other qualities that became apparent on his test bench—JA lauded the SB-C700E's "excellent audio engineering." (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

Trenner & Friedl Sun: $3450/pair (stands necessary)
Imagine a SEAS coaxial driver—a 1" silk-dome tweeter set into the throat of a 4.7" black-anodized aluminum mid/woofer—in a ported cabinet only 8.5" high by 6.25" wide by 5.5" deep. That is the Tenner & Friedl Sun, an 82dB-sensitive loudspeaker that nevertheless impressed the heck out of KM, who likes his loudspeakers—not to mention his women, his coffee, and his hairstyle—au naturel. Newcomers Trenner & Friedl, who build the Sun in the forested countryside of Styria, Austria, claim that the Sun's solid-birch cabinet adheres to the oft-mentioned (especially in sales literature) golden ratio. JA dismissed that claim as incorrect, but otherwise—and apart from noting the presence on all cabinet surfaces of a 605Hz mode—declared that the Sun "offers excellent measured performance." KM praised the Sun for its "ample bass reproduction" in his New York City apartment, its "terrific drive [and] clarity," and its "astounding rhythmic drive" when partnered with the right amplifier. Ken's conclusion: "a modern classic." (Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

Triangle Signature Delta: $8000/pair
Triangle's Signature Delta is a three-way floorstander whose drivers and enclosure are all designed and manufactured in-house, said house being in France. Its two 7.3" fiberglass-cone woofers are loaded by a bifurcated reflex port on the front, while a 7.3" paper-cone midrange driver handles most of the audioband. That midrange is of notably limited excursion, in which vintage context the Signature Delta's horn-loaded titanium-dome tweeter, mounted atop the 4'-tall, curved-sidewall cabinet, fits well. Triangle specifies the Signature Delta's sensitivity as 92dB/W/m and its impedance as 8 ohms nominal, 3.2 ohms minimum (but see below). JA praised the Triangle's bass, observing that "a pipe-organ recording . . . had tremendous weight through the Deltas when the bass pedals descended to 32Hz," while noting that the Delta's low frequencies had "excellent pace and force" and "[a] propulsive way with well-recorded rock." JA praised as equally important the speaker's resolution and clarity, and noted a superior "jump factor" that did not compromise neutrality: "Unless you like your music tame and uninvolving, this is a speaker well worth an audition." In his measurements, JA described the Signature Delta as "a well-engineered, well-optimized loudspeaker," although he uncovered an unkind impedance-phase angle at 82Hz that would seem to require a well-muscled amp. (Vol.37 No.9 WWW)

Volti Audio Vittora: $25,750/system with one ELF cabinet ★
Handmade in the US, the Vittora is a three-way, fully horn-loaded loudspeaker in two enclosures per channel, both made entirely of Baltic birch plywood. The lower bass cabinet is a single-fold bifurcated horn with a 15" rear-facing woofer; the upper enclosure houses a rectangular midrange horn and an elliptical treble horn. Build quality was excellent. The Vittora had a beautifully balanced, nuanced, and compelling sound, with smooth highs, forceful bass, and a remarkable sense of drive, said AD. "Volti Audio's Vittora is a great loudspeaker and a seriously great value," AD decided, though he adds "Not for the squeamish!". Price without ELF cabinet is $22,250. (Vol.36 No.9 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Duette Series 2: $22,500/pair (stands included)
In the words of company founder/chief designer Dave Wilson, the Duette Series 2 loudspeaker was created for a "hostile environment," the definition of which includes limited floor space and the need to keep loudspeakers close to room boundaries. Codesigner Daryl Wilson made for the Series 2 a new stand, to which the crossover and connecting cables are integral. Other refinements include a more sculpted shape, and a new treble driver derived from the Convergent Synergy tweeter Dave Wilson designed for his top-of-the-line Alexandria XLF. Driven by low-power tube amps, the Series 2 Duettes impressed AD with how they "nailed the timbral colors of instruments and voice alike, with generous and very realistic saturation." And although the Duettes didn't have quite the scale or impact of his large Altec horns, AD observed that the Wilsons' "deep-bass power and extension were surprisingly good for their size. Cellos sounded subjectively undiminished down to their lowest tones, as did timpani and most double-bass notes, while nearly full weight was given to the orchestral bass drum." JA's measurements confirmed the high (91.6dB) sensitivity of the Duette Series 2, and he confirmed that, "Overall, the Wilson Duette's measured performance suggests that it is a well-engineered design optimized for use close to the wall behind it." (Vol.38 No.3 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Sabrina: $15,900/pair
Approximately the size of the original WATT/Puppy combo, the single-box, three-way Sabrina enters the Wilson line just below the Sophia 3—which was, until now, the company's entry-level floorstander. The Sabrina has an 8" paper-composite woofer, a 5.7" paper-composite midrange driver, and a 1" doped-silk dome tweeter based on the Convergent Synergy tweeter first used in Wilson's Alexandria XLF, all built into a sleekly sculpted MDF cabinet with a baffle made of Wilson's proprietary X-material. Driven with a Theta Digital Prometheus amplifier, a pair of Sabrinas treated RD to a level of dynamic-contrast reproduction that "came closer to [my Avantgarde horns] than any other speaker I've reviewed." RD also raved about the Wilsons' lack of cabinet colorations, their "wide and deep" soundstage with "precisely defined" imaging, and their "first-rate" resolution. In his measurements, JA uncovered slightly higher-than-specified sensitivity (88.2 vs 87dB) and praised the overall design as "carefully optimized." Extra points for being the first Wilson floorstander to ship via UPS rather than common carrier, thus contributing to its affordability. (Vol.39 No.5 WWW)

YG Acoustics Carmel 2: $24,300/pair
The entry-level loudspeaker from Colorado-based YG Acoustics, the Carmel—now revised as the Carmel 2, with curved rather than straight sides and baffle—is a two-way design in a sealed enclosure of CNC-machined aluminum. Its 7" aluminum-cone woofer is made in-house, as is the aluminum frame for its 1" soft-dome tweeter; even the air-core inductors for the Carmel 2's crossover network are wound on the premises. Perhaps counterintuitively, setting up the Carmel 2s in JA's room proved trickier than with YGA's larger, more complex Sonja 1.3, the best results in terms of bass smoothness being achieved with an asymmetrical installation relative to the side walls, and the best tonal coherence achieved with a PrimaLuna tubed integrated amplifier. JA described the Carmel 2's midrange as "superbly natural," and said that "its clean highs gave the cymbals and triangle a superbly real quality" on a DSD file of a Lyn Stanley album of vocal standards. Notwithstanding the Carmel 2's "ungenerous" bass, JA concluded that, "properly set up in a sympathetic acoustic and matched with appropriate electronics, it will sing." JA noted that, in its bass alignment, the Carmel 2 does indeed maximize low-frequency articulation at the expense of "body," and praised the speaker's quasi-anechoic response curve as "one of the flattest I have ever measured." (Vol.38 No.12 WWW)

B (Full-Range)

Bowers & Wilkins 683 S2: $1650/pair $$$
The numbers tell an unusual story: The three-way, floorstanding 683 S2 would seem almost identical to Bowers & Wilkins' well-reviewed 804 Diamond (Vol.36 No.9) in every way—save for the $6000 difference in price per pair. As KR found, the Chinese-built, medium-sensitivity 683 S2 provided satisfying bass response, with "clean and full" organ notes and, in orchestral music, timpani that had "heft and impact." Spatially, the B&W's center-fill so impressed KR that he left his seat "to make sure that, somehow, my disconnected center speaker hadn't gotten magically reconnected." KR's verdict: The five-times-as-expensive 804 Diamond "scores over the 683 S2 only with some singing voices and in extension/enhancement at the extremes of the audioband." Test results, generally unremarkable, follow in what JA describes as a B&W tradition: speakers that don't measure quite as well as they could, but whose performance on the test bench reveals a product whose sound "has been carefully managed and [is] better than one might expect" for the price. (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

Bryston Middle T: $5675/pair
A floorstanding tower just under 40" tall, the Bryston Middle T—the name is a reference to designer and Bryston cofounder James Tanner—is a three-way, reflex-loaded loudspeaker with a complex, well-braced, and ultimately heavy (over 80 lbs) enclosure. The Middle T has a 1" metal-dome tweeter, a 5.25" polypropylene-cone midrange driver, and two 8" polypropylene-cone woofers, the last loaded by twin rear-firing reflex ports. With the Brystons in place of his usual B&W 800 Diamonds, KR reported "such integrity that it might have been generated by a single driver . . . large, holographic soundstages that approached what I enjoy with my multichannel system . . . thrilling new detail" from old, familiar recordings, and bass that was "outstanding for a speaker of this size." On the downside, KR noted that "male voices sounded natural, but somewhat richer" than he's used to, and was disappointed by the appearance of the wood veneer and the "ungainly" grilles. JA found lower sensitivity than claimed (85 vs 88dB/W/m), and an impedance curve that, in his words, "starts to resemble a short circuit at ultrasonic frequencies," indicating the need for care in the selection of a partnering amp. Rosewood veneer adds $800/pair. Vinyl available at special order for $4680/pair. (Vol.38 No.2 WWW)

DALI Rubicon 8: $7995/pair
Neither a two-way nor even a three-way loudspeaker, the Rubicon 8 is referred to by its manufacturer, DALI, as a "2-1/2+1/2+1/2-way" loudspeaker: None of its three 6.5" woofers covers the same range as the others, and only the one at the loudspeaker's (physical) top extends as high as 2.5kHz, whence the music is given over to a 1.15" soft-dome tweeter, which itself hands off to a ribbon supertweeter at 14kHz. Although each is operated over a different frequency range, all three woofers are, in JA's words, "technically sophisticated," and benefit from a proprietary material said to reduce hysteresis distortion. They and the higher-frequency drivers are all made by DALI, and are installed on the front baffle of a 43.5"-tall MDF enclosure, the rear panel being taken up by two pairs of binding posts and three reflex ports. JA reported hearing good bass weight—although some lower-pitched instruments sounded "overripe" and "a little on the rich side"—and noted that "the Rubicon 8's reproduction of the top octaves was superb." JA also noted that, "With all recordings I played, the Rubicon 8s threw a solid, well-defined, impressively stable soundstage, with precise layering of image depth." Writing from his lab, JA suggested that the DALI's measured performance "indicates a careful balance of its design parameters to produce a seductive yet clean full-range sound." (Vol.38 No.3 WWW)

Focal Sopra No.3: $19,999/pair
Borderline Class A feels JA; KR demurs. See KR's review in this issue.

Focal Aria 936: $3999/pair $$$
This three-way, five-driver, French-made floorstander is among the first products to use Focal's new driver-cone material: a sandwich of flax and fiberglass that's said to offer low mass, high rigidity, and good self-damping properties. That material finds its way into the Aria 936's three 6.5" woofers and single 6.5" midrange driver, while its 1" dome tweeter is made of an aluminum-magnesium alloy, also new. The 936 also has three reflex ports—two on the front, one on the bottom—and a spiked plinth, the design of which contributed to easy setup work for RD, who also praised the 45"-tall Aria 936 for its "big, spacious sound" and for being "tonally neutral, with impressive dynamics, and powerful bass for the size of the speaker." RD also singled out for praise the Focal's treble range, for sounding "clean and extended but not overly bright, with no emphasis added to sibilants." At the other end, "double basses, bowed or plucked, were firm, not weak or exaggerated." RD added that, although "the Aria 936 couldn't match the startling dynamics of the horn-hybrid Avantgarde Uno Nano, it came surprisingly close." JA's measurements confirmed the 936's good sensitivity but found a wider low-impedance range than implied by its 8-ohm rating, thus indicating the need for a non-wimpy amplifier. Otherwise, his test results confirmed the Focal's standing as "an extraordinary value." (Vol.37 No.11 WWW)

GoldenEar Technology Triton One: $4999.98/pair $$$
Preceded in the GoldenEar line by a number of less-expensive loudspeakers, the Triton One is their new flagship: a 54"-tall tower whose cloth wrap conceals a powered, passive-radiator–loaded subwoofer system, two 5.25" midrange drivers, and, as RD describes it, "GoldenEar's version of the famed Heil Air-Motion Transformer, called a High-Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter." Other distinctions include a fully balanced crossover, the use of DSP in the active portions of said crossover, and a 1600W internal subwoofer amp. According to RD, the Triton One performed with little strain on music played at "impress-your-friends levels," but that was far from this pony's only trick: "I could play the speakers at a low level and all the music was still there." He added, "the bass always tuneful and firm. In music that didn't reach down into the deep bass, there was no midbass emphasis to give a false impression that there was deep bass." JA's measurements confirmed the Triton One's high sensitivity, but noted an impedance-phase angle sufficiently challenging that the user "will require a good 4 ohm–rated amplifier to drive the speaker to acceptably high levels." In all, JA declared this latest GoldenEar to be "another finely engineered loudspeaker." Borderline Class A. (Vol.38 No.2 WWW)

GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+: $3499.98/pair $$$
Designed by a team led by industry veteran Sandy Gross and made in China, the original Triton Two was a three-way floorstander with a unique array of drive-units: a High-Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter, two 4.5" midrange cones, two 10" by 7" passive radiators, and two 9" by 5" 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 in 2012. In 2016, GoldenEar released the Triton Two+, with improved midrange/upper-bass drivers that feature new cones, surrounds, spiders, and voice-coils. (The other drivers remain the same.) Other improvements, including a revision to one leg of the crossover network and fine-tuning of the DSP that manages the handoff to the powered woofers, are also reported by the manufacturer. With the revised speakers in his system, RD heard "clarity and transparency that exceeded" what he remembered of the original Triton Twos, and suggested that the Two+ had less of a "speaker sound" than its predecessor. (Vol.35 Nos. 2 & 10, Vol.39 No.12 WWW)

KEF R700: $3599.99/pair
The middle model of KEF's R series of British-designed, Chinese-made loudspeakers, the R700 is a 44.1"-tall floorstander in which a 5" coaxial Uni-Q driver is joined by a pair of 6.5" concave-cone woofers, all drive-units made of aluminum. The Uni-Q handles everything from 500Hz up, while the two woofers—which physically straddle the Uni-Q driver, D'Appolito-style, and are reflex-loaded with twin ports—are specified as 6dB down at 37Hz. TJN found it more daunting than usual to get the R700s to perform as specified in terms of bottom-end extension and smoothness, but eventually was rewarded with "full-bodied and boom-free" bass, the extension of which surprised him—although the very deepest tones and sound effects went missing. A "slight forwardness to voices" in most music characterized the R700s, coupled with a top-end "reticence" in which not every recording retained its natural sparkle: "The KEF R700s . . . leaned more to the forgiving than to the aggressive side, but were by no means dull." Stereo imaging was "excellent." In his measurements, JA discovered the R700 to be less sensitive than claimed—87 rather than 89dB/W/m—but described the load as benign; beyond that, he found that the R700 "demonstrates some excellent engineering expertise." (Vol.37 No.9 WWW)

Monitor Audio Silver 8: $2000/pair $$$
The British-designed, Chinese-made Monitor Silver 8 is three-way floorstander using a 1" vented-diaphragm dome tweeter, a 4" midrange driver, and two 6" woofers—all with diaphragms made of C-CAM, Monitor Audio's ceramic-coated aluminum-magnesium material. The MDF cabinet has separate chambers for the woofers, which are reflex-loaded. KR lauded the Silver 8 for having a "fit and finish that are probably impossible to achieve at the price without production in the Far East." He also commented on its midrange clarity, and a bottom end that, if not stygian, "was in good balance" and "remarkably solid and satisfying." And as for spatial performance, multichannel enthusiast KR wrote, "I can't say that listening in stereo via the Silver 8s was anything less than delightful." According to JA's measurements, "other than [a] slight excess of energy in the tweeter's passband, the response is impressively even and flat." He praised the Silver 8's "superb measured performance at a very competitive price." "The midrange is of reference quality," adds KR. Black or White gloss finish adds $200/pair. (Vol.38 Nos.1 & 11 WWW)

Nola Metro Grand Reference Gold: $33,000/pair
The floorstanding Metro Grand Reference Gold uses a pair of 6.5" SEAS magnesium-alloy woofers, each performing in its own rear-ported subchamber and sporting phase plugs in place of dustcaps. (The model name derives from the plugs' gold plating, claimed to damp parasitic vibrations.) The midrange and treble drivers—a 4" laminated cone and a Serbian-made aluminum-diaphragm ribbon, respectively—are fastened to an unenclosed extension of the front baffle. Copper-ribbon chokes and proprietary oil capacitors feature in the crossover, and the loudspeaker rests on a double-platform, ball-bearing isolation base, the bottom layer of which is spiked to the floor. JA noted a "generally polite, rather mellow balance" that "favored jazz and orchestral music over rock," although "well-recorded drums generally sounded excellent through the Nolas, with impressive impact and weight." On the minus side, JA described a lack of midrange clarity with some recordings, and noted that cymbals and other instruments often lacked air—an observation confirmed with dual-mono pink-noise tests. And: "At exactly 34Hz, the speaker shook—the rattle was due to the top part of the base sliding on the bearings and hitting the end stops." JA's measurements revealed uneven high-frequency performance at various listening heights and axes, and resonances in various elements of the cabinetry. His tests also suggested that the Metro Grand Reference Gold has lower sensitivity than specified, although it should otherwise be "a relatively easy load for an amplifier to drive." (Vol.37 No.11 WWW)

Paradigm Prestige 95F: $4998/pair
The top model in Paradigm's midprice Prestige series, the Canada-made 95F is a 2.5-way bass-reflex floorstander with a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter and no fewer than three 8" aluminum-cone woofers, one of which goes all the way up to 2kHz. (The other two venture no higher than 400Hz.) All drivers are proprietary, the tweeter being distinguished by a Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) lens that appears, at first glance, to be a simple protective screen. The hefty (98 lbs) MDF enclosure rests on aluminum outriggers with adjustable feet; two pairs of binding posts are provided, to enable biwiring where desired. Notwithstanding his initial concern over handing off a highish range of frequencies to an 8" driver, TJN "heard no consistent problems in the speaker's upper midrange and low treble," and went on to praise the 95F's "tightly and consistently focused" imaging—though he added that "the 95F wasn't particularly forgiving of overbright source material." The speaker's bass performance, TJN noted, may be best suited to larger-than-average rooms. JA's tests uncovered some lively cabinet panels, slightly elevated tweeter output, wiggy response on the part of the highest-reaching woofer, and measurable differences between the left and right speakers. (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

PSB Imagine T2: $3498/pair
The Imagine T2 Tower is a slim (ca 41" H by 8" W by 13" D), five-way floorstander with a 1" ferrofluid-cooled, titanium-done tweeter, a 4" clay/ceramic-filled polypropylene-cone midrange driver, and three 5.25" clay/ceramic-filled polypropylene-cone woofers, each with its own internal chamber and rear-firing port. Handsomely finished in black ash, cherry, or walnut—High Gloss Black or High Gloss White add $352/pair—the MDF cabinet is teardrop-shaped in cross section to minimize internal reflections. The Imagine T2's well-balanced, coherent overall sound included a sweet treble, a clean midrange, excellent bass, and satisfying dynamics, said RD. "An excellent speaker that offers outstanding value," he summed up. JA noted "a clean bill of measured health." (Vol.36 No.11 WWW)

Revel Performa3 F208: $5000/pair $$$
The new F208, from Revel's Performa3 line, is a floorstanding three-way speaker with all aluminum drivers: a 1" dome tweeter, 5.25" cone midrange, and two 8" cone woofers. The woofers are reflex-loaded through a front-mounted port with a removable resistive plug, while the tweeter fires through a newly designed, dispersion-enhancing waveguide. Sensitivity and impedance are 88.5dB/W/m and 8 ohms, respectively. The biwirable F208 includes two user controls: a tweeter-level control that works in 0.5dB increments, and a bass-contour switch with settings for Normal—for speakers positioned away from walls—and Boundary. EL was impressed with the fit and finish of the F208s, which are made in Indonesia, and had no trouble optimizing them for his small room, in which they sounded seamlessly coherent, with note fundamentals "in perfect balance with the formants and overtones" of choral music. EL welcomed the effectiveness of the treble control, without which "the tweeter did very little to hide the flaws of bad recordings," praised the untubby and well-extended bass, described the stereo imaging as "superb," and lauded the Revel's lack of compression and apparent strain, pronouncing the F208 "my new benchmark for loudspeakers at this price." Summing up his measurements, JA wrote, "In every way, this is textbook loudspeaker design." (Vol.37 No.7 WWW)

Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand-SE: $6000/pair
The drivers in this three-way floorstander comprise a 1.1" hand-coated silk-dome tweeter, a 6" midrange driver made of the company's proprietary X3P polymer, and two 6" woofers made of the same transparent material, stiffened with the radial ribs that have become a Vienna Acoustics trademark. The crossover uses first- and second-order filters at 150Hz and 2.3kHz, and at the rear of the enclosure, next to the reflex port, is a single pair of binding posts. In TJN's generously sized listening room, the Beethoven Baby Grand Symphony Editions sounded "'open and airy' . . . but not at all hard." At the other end of the audioband, "bass seemed more subdued than smash-mouthed, but I never found it lacking." Overall, listening to a variety of recordings through two different front ends, TJN found that the speaker's "lively but always natural-sounding balance kept me listening to recordings long after I'd planned to move on to others." In measuring the Viennas, JA found considerably lower sensitivity than the specified 91dB, and, despite a benign electrical phase-angle curve, recommended use of a good 4-ohm–rated amp. He also found some wrinkles in the performance of the midrange driver, but observed that in this speaker's "carefully balanced design," the effects of those flaws are reduced by other factors. (Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

B (Restricted LF)

DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93: $8400/pair $$$
Made in Brooklyn, New York, the Orangutan O/93 is a two-way floorstanding loudspeaker with a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 10" paper-cone bass/midrange driver. It measures 35.5" H by 15" W by 10" D, and has a claimed sensitivity of 93dB and a nominal impedance of 10 ohms. The beautifully finished cabinet is made from a combination of Baltic birch plywood and MDF; the front baffle has a distinctive fiddleback mahogany veneer, while the sides, back, and rear are veneered in maple and finished in high-gloss piano-black lacquer. Driven by ST's Unison Research Simply Italy, the DeVores delivered a lively, immediate sound, with a sweet and extended treble, punchy bass, and a deep, wide soundstage with excellent center fill. (Vol.37 No.1, Vol.38 No.12, Vol.39 No.6 WWW)

Dynaudio Excite X14: $1299/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
Descended from Dynaudio's Excite X12, itself a "Recommended Components" stalwart, the Excite X14 is a smallish (11.2" tall) two-way stand-mounter with a reflex port at the rear. Compared with its predecessor, the X14 boasts a redesigned 5.7" woofer, a more advanced coating for its 1" fabric-dome tweeter, a new crossover, and a refinement of its port tuning. The late BJR praised the X14 for a treble range that was "cleaner and more articulate in high-level passages" than its predecessor's, and noted that he was "very impressed with the Excite X14's bass performance throughout a wide range of recordings." The verdict: "Dynaudio has taken all of the aspects of the Excite X12 that I liked and improved them across the board," creating in the process BJR's "new favorite bookshelf loudspeaker for under $2000." In his measurements, JA confirmed that the X14 is easier to drive than the X12, and pronounced the new model "a well-engineered design." For his part, HR described the speaker's sound as "sober precision," noting that, through the X14s, "the bass is taut, fast, and detailed; the midrange lacks a bit of color and plushness; high frequencies are beautifully articulated, and never too wet or too dry." The Dynaudio Excite X14 is also available in active form as the Excite X14A ($2000/pair), wherein each driver gets its own internal 50W class-D amplifier. On its rear panel are EQ switches for adjusting bass, midrange, and, you guessed it, treble, plus a switchable high-pass filter for those who want to use the X14A with a subwoofer. With a Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC as his source component, ML found the self-powered Dynaudios "excellent all around, throwing out an all-encompassingly rich and physical sound." (Vol.37 No.10, Vol.38 No.9, Vol.39 No.2 WWW)

Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a: $2995/pair (stands necessary)
In contrast to a typical ultradamped, ultraheavy, ultrabig speaker—which, according to HR, can sound an awful lot like "a moaning, wheezing pile of wood"—Falcon Acoustics' BBC-licensed LS3/5a loudspeaker proved capable of delivering "expression, transparency, [and] tonal purity." This true vintage reissue, created in part by the man who oversaw production of the KEF 127mm Bextrene-cone mid/woofer of the 1974 original, went so far as to make HR's own ca 1985 Rogers LS3/5as "sound a tad drowsy and fuzzy" by comparison. In HR's room, the Falcons loved low-powered amps—especially low-powered tube amps such as the 22Wpc Line Magnetic LM518IA—but turned up their noses at class-D amplification. In measuring the Falcons, JA went to the well and compared his findings with measurements, made throughout his 30+ years at Stereophile's helm, of earlier LS3/5a iterations. His verdict: Falcon Acoustics "has resisted the temptation to 'improve' the sound quality, but has also managed to re-create what made the speaker great in the first place." (Vol.38 No.8 WWW)

Harbeth Super HL5plus: $6399/pair (stands necessary)
"Like the sturgeon, the hellbender, and the woodlouse, the Super HL5plus bears an unusually strong resemblance to its prehistoric ancestor." Thus did AD put into context this most recent Harbeth: an update of the classic British box designed around two tweeters—a 1" aluminum dome and a 0.78" titanium dome—and a 7.8" mid/woofer whose cone is made from RADIAL2, the very latest version of Harbeth's proprietary polymeric composite (and the reason for the nominal plus). AD praised the stand-mounted Harbeth's "easy clarity" and the good degree of touch and force with which it reproduced notes in the bass range. The Super HL5plus was, he said, "somewhat more modern sounding" than its immediate predecessors. JA noted the Harbeth's intentionally lively enclosure, yet described the speaker's measured performance as otherwise "beyond reproach." (Vol.38 No.6 WWW)

Revel Performa3 M106: $2000/pair (stands necessary)
A two-way, reflex-loaded speaker intended to be bolted to a matching M stand ($500/pair), the M106 is from Revel's Performa3 line of US-designed, Indonesian-made speakers. Its drive-units are a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter fitted with a waveguide said to improve dispersion above 8kHz—thus smoothing its frequency response and adding to the M106's detail resolution and spaciousness—and a reflex-loaded, 6.5" aluminum-cone mid/woofer. BJR: "The M106's stiff enclosure has its curved side panels formed from contiguous wood layers and is stiffened with strategically oriented bracing," and "the speaker's rear-firing port has identical flares at both ends"—to minimize compression and noise, of course. BJR said of the M106, "Its strengths impressed me across the board, especially for a speaker of its size and price," noting in particular the Revel's superb ability to articulate transients, its fine upper-bass clarity, and its low-bass forcefulness: "I found the speaker's bottom end impressive for a bookshelf model of its size." In addition to observing that "an amplifier or receiver rated at 4 ohms would probably work best with this speaker," JA noted "excellent measured performance that in turn reveals inspired audio engineering." Later in 2014, JA brought home the review pair, and compared them with a pair of the well-regarded KEF LS50: "[The] M106es did a little better when it came to separating the strands in [a] dense mix . . . [but] as much as I appreciated the Revel's transparency to recorded detail, its treble was a little unforgiving." But JA, whose room is not at all overdamped, then added: "In rooms that are larger than mine and/or more damped in the treble . . . the Revel M106's treble would tend to sound in better balance with the midrange." (Vol.37 No.9, Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

Sonus Faber Venere 2.5: $2499/pair
Beautifully finished in black or white lacquer, the Venere 2.5 is a compact (43.2" H by 13.3" W by 17" D), 2.5-way, reflex-loaded design with a 1.1" fabric-dome tweeter, a 7" Curv-cone mid/woofer, and a 7" Curv-cone woofer. The cabinet's sidewalls curve around to meet a very narrow rear panel just wide enough to accommodate a staggered array of four multiway terminals; the cabinet sits on a thick glass base plate that accepts four substantial spikes, the front pair nearly an inch longer than the rear, so that the entire cabinet tilts back to align the tweeter with the deeper woofer diaphragms. The sound was spacious, relaxed, and well balanced overall, with detailed mids and highs and a rich lower midrange, said KR. "The Venere 2.5 is not only provocatively sexy in appearance; it delivers," he concluded. The Venere 2.5 exhibited an exaggerated midbass on the test bench, but offered "respectable measured performance" overall, said JA. Add $499 for walnut wood finish. (Vol.36 No.11 WWW)

Sony SS-NA5ES: $6000/pair (stands necessary)
With the SS-NA5ES, Sony takes aim at what AD described as a lofty goal: "to create a compact loudspeaker that's as well balanced and as reliably musical as their SS-NA2ES floorstander." And while at first glance the finished product appears to be an SS-NA2ES with its bottom two-thirds missing, the reality is more complex. Here, the larger speaker's 5" spiral-cut paper midrange driver has been replaced by an identically sized aluminum-cone woofer, and the loading scheme has been altered accordingly. That said, the SS-NA5ES retains the larger speaker's I-Array of two 0.75" soft-dome tweeters straddling a single 1" soft-dome tweeter, all three covering the same bandwidth. In his system, used on 23.5" stands (not included), the smallest Sonys impressed AD with their "masterly," "clear," and "authoritative" sound, and provided especially good reproduction of singing voices: "Alfred Deller's distinctive tone and diction . . . emerged unscathed, with appropriate timbral warmth and presence." While noting that it will sound best "when used with amplifiers that are comfortable driving 4 ohm loads," JA wrote that, "[like the floorstanding SS-NA2ES], the SS-NA5ES is a well-engineered loudspeaker." (Vol.39 No.8 WWW)

Stirling Broadcast LS3/6: $4995/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
Derived from the legendary Spendor BC1, Stirling's BBC LS3/6 is a three-way, reflex-loaded, stand-mounted loudspeaker with a 0.75" polymer-dome supertweeter, a 1" fabric-dome tweeter, and an 8.6" polymer-cone woofer. The speaker's cabinet measures 25" H by 11.75" W by 11.75" D, is available in cherry and walnut real-wood veneers (rosewood, ebony, and Zebrano add $360/pair), and is built from three different types of board: 5/8"-thick MDF for the rear panel, 3/8"-thick MDF for the baffle, and 3/8"-thick birch plywood for the remainder. Though it lacked some physicality, bass extension, and overall impact, the LS3/6 produced a natural, compelling sound, with a good sense of space and an especially warm, rich, textured midrange, said AD: "Heartily recommended." Open-frame hardwood stands, made by Resonant Woods, add $399/pair. (Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Thiel Audio TT1: $7000/pair
A non-Thiel loudspeaker in all but name, the TT1, which is assembled in the US from Scandinavian drivers and Chinese enclosures, contains none of the design elements that were associated with the late Jim Thiel (first-order crossovers, raked baffles, corrugated driver diaphragms) and at least one that wasn't (a tweeter loaded by a shallow horn). That said, according to TJN, the three-way, four-driver, floorstanding TT1 was praiseworthy for refusing to impress on all recordings its own personality: "I can't think of many words to ascribe a 'characteristic sound' to the TT1: bright, dull, nasal, boxy, bloated, overly dynamic, showy—none fit. I have to limit myself to smooth yet detailed, uncolored (particularly with well-recorded voices), and tight, somewhat lean bass." That said, TJN suggested that other brands offer similar performance for less money: "the unmentioned elephant in the room is cost." JA's measurements confirmed the TT1's departure from Jim Thiel's adherence to time-coincident designs in particular, yet indicated that the new model is nonetheless an "excellent speaker." (Vol.39 No.9 WWW)

Wharfedale Jade 3: $1499/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
The three-way Jade 3 uses a 6.5" woofer made of a proprietary glass-fiber/carbon-fiber matrix; a 3" midrange driver of the same material, sandwiched with a thin layer of aluminum; and a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter in a sealed particleboard-and-plywood cabinet with curved sides and a claimed fundamental bass resonance of 44Hz. Used atop their purpose-made stands ($599/pair), the Jade 3s impressed BJR in virtually every aspect of performance: "With every recording I tried, I could find nothing to criticize in the areas of tonal balance, detail resolution, soundstaging, transient articulation, or dynamic range." JA's measurements uncovered a sensitivity of 83.5dB—lower than the specified 86dB—but a "generally benign electrical phase angle." Apart from a primary tweeter-dome resonance peak that might be audible to younger listeners, JA praised the Wharfedale's "excellent measured performance." BJR gets the last 11 words: "Wharfedale's flawless—and remarkable—Jade 3 punches way beyond its price." Dedicated stands add $599/pair. (Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

Wilson Benesch Series II Square One: $5195/pair (including stands)
The luxuriously finished Series II Square One—JM's review samples, the fit and finish of which he described as "second to none," were clad in Ebonized Walnut Gloss—is a two-way loudspeaker whose 1" soft-dome tweeter and 7" midbass driver are augmented with a 7" rear-mounted passive radiator and two bottom-mounted vents; dedicated stands accommodate the latter via metal standoffs that nonetheless hold the enclosure rigidly in place. The claimed sensitivity is 87dB, with impedances of 6 ohms nominal and 4 ohms minimum, and bass extension down to 45Hz. JM confirmed that last spec, noting performance in his room down to 44.1Hz: "very impressive for a speaker with an internal volume of only 10 liters." He also praised the Square Ones for "remarkable depth of soundstage" and "exemplary" clarity on piano, and concluded that the speaker "absolutely deserves a very high Class rating." In measurements conducted for his Follow-Up report, JA found a sensitivity only slightly less than spec, plus "well-controlled horizontal dispersion, and clean decay in the treble." But he also uncovered a response peak between 3 and 7kHz, and suggested that the Series II Square One will sound best when the listener's ears are between 5° and 10° below the tweeter axis. (Vol.38 Nos. 8 & 9 WWW)

Zu Audio Soul Supreme: $4500/pair (may be higher depending on finish)
As HR was advised before reviewing Zu's Soul Supreme, "this is not your normal two-drivers-in-a-ported-MDF-box loudspeaker." Indeed, the Soul Supreme mates a 10.3" full-range driver, complete with whizzer cone, to a tweeter comprising a 113dB-sensitive Radian compression driver, loaded with an aluminum-alloy horn that stands proud of the 37.7"-tall cabinet. Bass extension and impact are maximized by the company's Zu-Griewe loading technology, the crossover is as minimal as can be, and the overall system sensitivity is specced at 97dB, with a tube-friendly 16 ohm nominal impedance. HR's listening notes point to the Soul Supreme's vivid microtextures, exceptional musical flow and viscosity, and massive and abundant dynamic slam. His conclusions: "These speakers represent what I value in audio engineering. These speakers get me and I get these speakers! Highly recommended; high Class B." JA's measurements uncovered lower sensitivity than advertised (a still-high 91dB instead of 97dB), but portrayed the Soul Supreme as "a very easy load." And while JA noted some wrinkles in the Zu's cumulative spectral-decay plot, these were not as audible as he'd expected: "I enjoyed the afternoon I spent listening to the speakers in Herb's system." (Vol.39 No.7 WWW)

C (Full-Range)

GoldenEar Technology Triton Five: $1999.98/pair
A two-way loudspeaker with three active drivers and four passive radiators, the Triton Five is the second-least-expensive model in GoldenEar's Triton line of floorstanders. Centered in a D'Appolito configuration at the top of this tower is the company's Oskar Heil–inspired High Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR) tweeter, straddled by two 6" cone woofers that are reflex loaded not by a port but by four side-mounted 8" passive diaphragms. The Triton Five's enclosure is otherwise a sealed box, covered with a stretched polyester sock. According to HR, the Triton Five was "a perfect match" with his Line Magnetic LM-518IA integrated amp, and although the very smooth-sounding GoldenEar didn't deliver the punch, sparkle, or flesh and blood of the more expensive DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93, it earned praise for re-creating "big, open, fully constituted" spaces. According to HR, even when heard to its worst advantage, the Triton Five "sounded beautiful but kind of soft and accommodating." Notably, JA's measurements revealed the Triton Five to be even more sensitive than specified—90.8dB vs the 90dB quoted by GoldenEar—and otherwise confirmed the speaker's "excellent measured performance at an affordable price." (Vol.38 No.12 WWW)

Larsen 8: $6995/pair
In his review of the Larsen 8 loudspeaker, AD didn't quite come out and say it, so we'll say it for him: Some Scandinavian speakers are weird. That said, like Flannery O'Connor's short stories and the films of Wes Anderson, some of them are weird and lovable—and that's how AD felt about the Larsen 8, a modestly sized floorstander with three tweeters (two point at the ceiling, while the third is angled up and inward toward the listener, though half of it is blocked by a piece of metal), one 7" midrange cone (also angled toward the listener, and reportedly loaded with a reflex port that AD had trouble finding), and one 7.5" woofer (also reflex-loaded, and mounted on the outer side of each cabinet: the Larsen 8 is sold in mirror-imaged pairs). Also part of this Stig Carlsson–influenced design are two acoustically absorptive pads and the metal tweeter-reflector-blocker device referred to above. Used in his system, which is peculiar enough as it is, the Larsen 8s didn't provide AD with quite everything he wanted: They were "a bit rolled off at both frequency extremes," without a lot of bass drive. That said, the "musically satisfying" Larsens had "excellent touch with plucked strings" and were "timbrally and texturally convincing [with] solo bassoon, oboe, and other woodwinds." That said, in measuring the Larsen 8s, JA found little to rave about: "Like the legendary curate's egg, this is a speaker that is 'good in parts,' I feel" and he was bothered by a narrow-band midrange coloration. (Vol.40 No.3 WWW)

NEAT Acoustics Iota Alpha: $1995/pair
NEAT's newest speaker confounds expectations: Though at 17.6" tall it's no bigger than a stand-mounted speaker, the Iota Alpha is intended as a floorstander: Its angled upper baffle is aimed upward, at the ears of its intended listeners. The Iota Alpha also confounds the expectations of those who assume that the two drivers on that baffle—a 2"-long ribbon tweeter and a 4" midrange driver—are the only ones in play: Also contributing to the NEAT's claimed frequency response of 33Hz–22kHz is a reflex-loaded, downward-firing 5.5" woofer on its bottom panel, held above the floor by four spiked feet of the usual sort. Evaluating the smallish NEAT floorstanders in his smallish apartment, KM had particular praise for their "fully present, tactile, and meaty sound," with instrumental tones that were "rich and saturated for such small speakers," and with scale, pacing, and dynamics that were "as accurate and thrilling . . . as I've heard." At his test bench, JA noted lower-than-specified sensitivity (83 vs 86dB), reflex-port response peaks at multiple frequencies, a response peak at 3kHz, and other wrinkles, all prompting his being "disappointed in its measured performance." (Vol.40 No.2 WWW)

Wharfedale Diamond 10.7: $1299/pair ★
Available in three handsome finishes (Blackwood, Cinnamon Cherry, Quilted Rosewood), the Diamond 10.7 is a compact (37.6" H by 8.7" W by 11.7" D) three-way, reflex-loaded floorstander. Its cabinet has curved sidewalls and a piano-black front baffle on which are mounted the four drive-units: a 1" soft-dome tweeter, a 2" dome midrange unit, and two 6.5" woven-Kevlar cone woofers. Though it lacked some high-frequency detail and extension, the Diamond 10.7 had a warm, rich midrange and deep, natural bass that made music especially involving, said BJR. "The Diamond 10.7 is an impressive speaker that provides many of the attributes of pricier floorstanders in an attractive, small-footprint cabinet at an accessible price," he concluded. Similarly, JA noted "excellent measured performance for the price." (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

C (Restricted LF)

ADAM Audio A3X Active: $699.98/pair (stands necessary)
From the pro-audio line of ADAM Audio GmbH comes the A3X active loudspeaker, a front-ported reflex design that uses a 4.5" carbon-fiber mid/woofer alongside ADAM's proprietary X-ART (for eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology) tweeter, the latter based on the famous (among audiophiles) Heil air-motion transformer. Each driver has its own dedicated 25W class-AB amplifier, and both RCA and XLR inputs are provided on the rear panel of the enclosure, which ML described as "ruggedly handsome." He was especially impressed with the ADAMs' "excellent dispersion characteristics" when used with his PonoPlayer, noting that the A3Xes "were capable of sounding as if the music they were playing was being made directly inside my head—like headphones, only better." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

ATC SCM7 v.3: $1499/pair (stands necessary)
ATC's entry-level model is a small (11.8" H by 7.9" W by 9" D), two-way, stand-mounted speaker with a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 5" mid/woofer. Unlike previous ATC models, the SCM v.3 has side panels that curve toward the rear, and its drivers are now flush-mounted in a fully veneered front panel. The sealed cabinet is available in handsome cherry and black-ash veneers. Claimed specifications include a lowish 84dB sensitivity and a flat nominal impedance of 8 ohms. Though it lacked low-end impact and resolution, the SCM v.3 produced an engaging overall sound marked by pinpoint imaging, excellent detail retrieval, and well-extended highs, said JM. On the bench, JA observed sensitivity even lower than that specified by ATC: 82 vs 84dB/2.83V/m, redeemed somewhat by impedance and electrical phase-angle curves that describe a benign load. JA was impressed by the SCM7 v.3's measured performance overall, noting that this British minimonitor "will sound best when the listener sits relatively close to it." (Vol.37 Nos.2 & 4 WWW)

Audioengine 5+: $399/pair $$$ ★ (stands optional)
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 WWW)

Elac Debut B6: $279.99/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
Designed by Englishman Andrew Jones at Elac's new southern-California facility, the very affordable Debut B6 seems, at first glance, rather ho-hum: an MDF box just under 14" tall, with a reflex-loaded, 6.5" aramid-fiber woofer and a 1" fabric-dome tweeter, the latter firing from the apex of what its German manufacturer calls a "deep-spheroid waveguide." Notwithstanding what he perceived as an overly lively enclosure, HR's critical faculties were "ambushed by the Debut B6's good tone and easy-flowing musicality." Particularly with his 22Wpc Line Magnetic LM-518IA integrated amp, Herb declared that "the Elac B6es weren't just playing music—they were pumping tangible musical energy into the room," and concluded that their low price should not be taken as a sign of sonic compromise: "'Dorm-room speakers'? Not hardly!" JA's measurements confirmed that the B6's cabinet was indeed given to vibrating at just below 200Hz, but wrote that the speaker otherwise offers "excellent measured performance, especially when you take into account its affordable price." In his Follow-Up, KM wrote, "Anyone looking for an overachieving stand-mounted minimonitor in the $500–$1000 range better shift their view—the Elac Debut B6 is a knockout." (Vol.39 Nos. 4 & 7 WWW)

Emotiva Audio Airmotiv 4S: $299/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
Designed in the US, made in China, and sold direct from the manufacturer, the Emotiva Airmotiv 4s was designed for pro-audio applications—the plain-gray styling is a giveaway. This two-way, reflex-loaded, self-biamplified loudspeaker stands only 9.25" high and weighs slightly more than two bags of sugar. Its tweeter is a 1" by 1.25" ribbon, its woofer a 4" plastic-composite cone, its internal electronics a pair of 25W class-AB amplifiers with toroidal transformers and good-quality parts. BJR pressed the Pro Airmotiv 4s into domestic service on a pair of 24"-high stands and was impressed. He praised the Emotiva's "dead-pure midrange," the "clarity, extension, and [lack of] coloration" in its trebles, and the "pounding clarity" of its "amaz[ingly]" well-extended bass range—and bought the review pair. In his measurements, JA pointed to the Pro Airmotiv's "smooth, even" farfield response and "impressively clean" cumulative spectral-decay plot. (Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

GoldenEar Technology Aon 2: $799.98/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
This small (12" H by 8" W by 10" D) two-way, stand-mounted loudspeaker has an unusual driver complement: a 1.06" by 1.31" High-Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter, a 6" polypropylene-cone woofer, and two 6.5" side-mounted planar passive radiators. The cabinet is a truncated pyramid with a wraparound black grillecloth and a piano-gloss black topcap. Though it lacked some bottom-end slam, the Aon 2 had a coherent overall sound, with clean, well-extended highs, lightning-fast transients, and a warm, rich midrange, said BJR. "GoldenEar has produced a stunning achievement in the Aon 2, with strengths that are unusual for a bookshelf speaker of this size and price," he concluded. The Aon 2 revealed an upper-midrange peak on the test bench, but otherwise measured well for its price, said JA. (Vol.36 No.11 WWW)

Magnepan Magneplanar .7: $1400/pair $$$
Magnepan's Magneplanar .7 planar-magnetic or "quasi-ribbon" loudspeaker is a two-way panel design that measures just over 54" high and 15" wide. The manufacturer's specs include a 4-ohm nominal impedance, sensitivity of 86dB, and bass extension down to 45Hz. Used on their own, especially when driven by Rogue Audio's 100Wpc Sphinx integrated amplifier ($1295), the .7s delighted HR with their "microdetail, transient attack, transparency, and soundstaging," but could also sound "a little bass shy." But when augmented with a pair of Magnepan's DWM bass panels ($795 each), the combination of .7 speakers and Sphinx amp delivered "disarmingly big, robust, vivid, and extremely tactile" sound with plentiful, "authentically toned" bass. "These Maggies did slam," HR declared, adding that he'd never enjoyed Led Zeppelin II more than through this system. Class B, felt HR; Class C decided JA, following his auditioning. (Vol.38 No.8 WWW)

Morel Octave 6 Limited Edition: $2799/pair (stands necessary)
In the bookshelf version reviewed by HR—the speaker is also available as a floorstander—the Octave 6 is a reflex-loaded two-way design in a polymer-coated MDF box standing just under 1' high. Its proprietary drivers, built in-house at the Morel factory in Israel, are a 11/8" Acuflex soft-dome tweeter and a 6" mid/woofer with a polypropylene cone. HR found that "the Octave 6 had a special way with singers and songs." Listening to a recording of Gregorian chants, HR noted that, "With the Morels, the adult singers' maleness was delivered with a lush, saturated tone," and added that the Octave 6 reproduced the natural reverberation of the room's acoustic "with striking clarity." On the downside, HR described how other speakers of the same size and somewhat lower price were more accurate in their bass reproduction, replacing the Morel's "loosey-goosey with tight and tasty." JA reported that the Octave 6 was less sensitive than specified—85.1dB vs 88dB—and that the bass extension was less than specified. He also noted some high-Q port resonances and a response peak at the top of the midrange. Matching stands cost $399/pair. (Vol.39 No.2 WWW)

Sonus Faber Venere 1.5: $1199/pair ★ (stands necessary)
The Venere 1.5 is a two-way, front-vented, biwirable bookshelf speaker measuring 15.4" H by 8" W by 11.7" D and weighing 13.2 lbs. It uses a 1.25" silk-dome tweeter with a conical waveguide and a 6" Curv-cone mid/woofer. Like the larger Venere 2.5, the 1.5 has a beautifully finished, internally braced cabinet whose sidewalls curve around to meet a very narrow rear panel just wide enough to accommodate a staggered array of four multiway terminals. Though it lacked high-frequency sparkle and exhibited a slightly elevated upper bass, the Venere 1.5 produced a natural, dynamic, and involving overall sound, with a detailed midrange and delicate highs, said BJR. Price is for black or white high-gloss lacquer finish; real-wood walnut veneer adds $299/pair. Matching stands add $399/pair. Borderline Class B overall. (Vol.37 No.1 WWW)

Tannoy Reveal 402: $560/pair (stands necessary)
The Tannoy Reveal 402 active loudspeaker mates a 4" high-sensitivity mid/woofer with a ¾" soft-dome tweeter—the latter nominally warranted as "Poke-Resistant"—for a claimed frequency response of 56Hz–48kHz. Each lucky driver gets its own internal 25W amplifier, and the lucky owner gets a volume control, adjustable EQ settings, a minijack for use with a portable music player, and RCA and XLR input jacks. When fed from the similarly inexpensive iFi nano iDSD DAC, the Tannoys impressed ML as "damn fun to listen to." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

Wharfedale Diamond 225: $449/pair $$$ (stands necessary)
Descended from the original Diamond stand-mounter of 1981, the Wharfedale Diamond 225 is a two-driver, two-way speaker featuring a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 6.5" Kevlar-cone mid/woofer in a 14"-high reflex-loaded box. (The woofer's rear wave speaks to the world through a "slot-loaded distributed port" that fires downward.) Entirely manufactured in China, the Diamond 225 is specified as having an electrical sensitivity of 87dB and a nominal impedance of 8 ohms (4.2 ohms minimum). HR said that the Diamond 225 responded well to biwiring, and described it as capable of displaying "highly sensuous, richly colored piano tones" with Debussy and "easy clarity and ambitious drive" with Metallica. The Wharfedale also played orchestral music "with the supplest, non–hi-fi, nonmechanical sounds imaginable"—although, with some recordings, it exhibited a "modicum of puffy vagueness in the lowest and highest octaves . . . traits [that] robbed the Diamond 225 of some precision, sharp focus, and punch." JA was impressed overall, observing that "the Wharfedale Diamond 225's impressive measured performance lives up to what I expect from this classic British brand." (Vol.40 No.3 WWW)


Audioengine A2+: $249/pair $$$ (stands optional)
At the end of 2013, Audioengine replaced the A2 ($199/pair) with the A2+, the only apparent differences being that the latter costs $50/pair more and, per JA, "adds to the left, master speaker a USB 1.1 input for digital audio and a pair of output jacks, used to feed an unfiltered, unequalized signal to the subwoofer(s)." JA compared the new speaker with its predecessor, confirmed that they sounded "identical," and added, "I was impressed by how well these tiny speakers managed to fill my listening room with sound." His new measurements noted that "the A2+'s farfield response . . . is identical to the A2's." He concluded, "A heck of a speaker at a heck of a price!" (Vol.37 No.9, Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

Pioneer SP-BS22-LR: $129.99/pair $$$ ★ (stands necessary)
The SP-BS22-LR is a two-way, bass-reflex bookshelf model with a 1" soft-dome tweeter, a 4" woofer with a structured-surface cone, and a sophisticated six-element crossover network. Its cabinet has gently curved sidewalls and is finished in black wood-grain vinyl. The Pioneers lacked some extension on top and bottom, but had a rich midrange and exhibited excellent detail resolution, transient articulation, and reproduction of ambience, said BJR. Compared with the Music Hall Marimbas, the Pioneers produced fleshier images and smoother, gentler highs; compared with the PSB Alpha B1s, the Pioneers were more transparent and had better image focus but lacked some bass impact, said SM. (Vol.36 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

PSB Alpha PS1: $299/pair ★
The Alpha PS1 is a small (8" H by 4.5" W by 7" D), two-way, powered desktop loudspeaker with an attractive gloss-black cabinet. It has a 0.75" aluminum-dome tweeter and a 3.5" metallized polypropylene-cone woofer with an oversized magnet and rubber surround; a slotted rear port is tuned for enhanced bass response. The left-channel speaker contains a 20Wpc amplifier and provides several useful connections: a single pair of RCA inputs, a 3.5mm Aux input, a subwoofer output, a 5V USB power port for charging mobile devices or powering a WiFi dongle, and a 24V DC input. The PS1s produced a surprisingly large and full-bodied sound, with clean highs and an open, uncolored midrange, said SM, who bought the review samples. (Vol.36 No.7 WWW)

Sjöfn HiFi (the clue): $999/pair (stands necessary)
A perennial attraction at audio shows, Sjöfn's idiosyncratic The Clue is a small, stand-mounted, reflex-loaded speaker designed to be placed near room boundaries. It has a 0.875" silk-dome tweeter and a 5.5" plastic-cone woofer, and boasts a sensitivity of 87dB/W/m and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms. Stands ranging in height from 19" to 22" are recommended. HR auditioned a variety of records through the Sjöfns, and had strong praise for their "smooth and seamless" upper mids and lower treble range: Their speed and definition were impressive. But an apparent discontinuity in The Clue's upper-bass response resulted in a lack of weight and body in many vocal and instrumental sounds. In the end, HR expressed frustration: "I couldn't find a way to really enjoy my listening time while The Clues were in the system." JA's measurements confirmed the speaker's specified sensitivity, but suggested that The Clue's nominal impedance went a bit lower than 6 ohms. (Vol.38 No.1 WWW)

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. Compared to the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR, the Wharfedale had a warmer overall sound with more delicate highs and a richer midrange, but lacked the Pioneers' image focus and clean attack transients, said SM. "The Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 remains my favorite affordable stand-mounted loudspeaker," he concluded. "For the price, I'm not sure you can do better." JA noted superb measured performance. (Vol.34 Nos.2, 4, & 10; Vol.36 No.10 WWW)


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. Dayton Audio B652-AIR ($59.80/pair) replaces the dome tweeter with a folded-ribbon unit and was also impressive. "Recommended for those looking for the least-expensive way to share our enthusiasm for recorded music," JA summed up. (Vol.36 No.1, original WWW; Vol.38 No.2, AIR WWW)


Rockport Avior II, Quad ESL-2912, Wilson Audio Alexx, Volti Rival.

MartinLogan Montis no longer available; DALI Zensor 1, Definitive Technology Studio Monitor 55; Harbeth P3ESR, Sony SS-AR2, Stirling Broadcast SB-88, Vandersteen Treo, Vivid Oval K1, Wharfedale Jade 7, Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia Series 3, all not auditioned in a long time.

Richard D. George's picture

Thank you for your efforts. These are always informative and interesting.

Comparing this web page for Loudspeakers with my iPad subscription, I believe that there is a section header missing after YG Acoustics Carmel 2 and before Bowers & Wilkins 683 S2.

Richard D. George's picture


rom661's picture

I'm surprised at the age of some of these components; at least two are discontinued. What's up?

John Atkinson's picture
rom661 wrote:
I'm surprised at the age of some of these components; at least two are discontinued. What's up?

We checked with every manufacturer and distributor in January about the current price and availability of everything included in the listing. It is always possible that some products have been discontinued since January.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Leoi's picture

An interesting cartridge to review, in the wake of yout review of the ART-1000, is of the AT ART-7. I've heard it and for the money I think is among the best; it might get a place in the next list of components.

Zenonu's picture

Please hyperlink each component to the manufacturer's website. I should be able to click through on each component w/o having to do a Google Search first. Perhaps some components aren't represented on the web, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.

gaddgadd's picture

Bob Katz compared in a blind listening the Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum Bundle: $5295 (with Voltikus power supply) and the Yggdrasil. Results...50-50. On youtube you will find a video...What are the reasons for this poor rating?
Numerous raving reviews and only Stereophile will tell us we are all wrong. mmhm

TheNoose's picture

Some major names not present...CH Precision, Tidal, Mola Mola, Nagra to name a few. Is that cos' you haven't had them in for testing...?

John Atkinson's picture
TheNoose wrote:
Some major names not present...CH Precision, Tidal, Mola Mola, Nagra to name a few. Is that cos' you haven't had them in for testing...?

That's correct. We have reviewed Nagra components in the past and have published a review of a CH Precision phono preamplifier since this list was compiled.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

TheNoose's picture

Thanks John. Much appreciate your super quick reply, and the basic list done yearly, very helpful to compare major brands. I like it a lot.

z24069's picture

Logged this in 2016 for those lists and with no response. The lists have not changed in many ways so sending again...

There are some fine choices on the Transports, Digital Processors, Preamp and Amp listings. I am puzzled however at the total lack of mention of any Esoteric Audio product. They are current products well known for their performance and musicality. What criteria being utilized could yield a recommended components lists where at least one of their products (or more) would not make it into the results?

Ali's picture

Recently reviewd Mytek Manhatan 2 DAC recommended as class A by reviewer is not in your list here; Missed in print or is not just chosen at all?

John Atkinson's picture
Ali wrote:
Recently reviewed Mytek Manhattan 2 DAC recommended as class A by reviewer is not in your list here; Missed in print or is not just chosen at all?

I'm afraid our time machine is out of order. This listing was published in the April 2017 issue whereas the Mytek DAC was reviewed in the September 2017 issue.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Frans's picture

The footer says that the E28 was replaced, but the list does not reflect the addition of the E38 in its stead.