Recommended Components Fall 2023 Edition Loudspeakers

Loudspeaker Systems:

A (FULL RANGE):

Audiovector R8 Arreté: $77,500/pair
Optional grounding cable adds $3850. (Vol.44 No.9 WWW)

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90: $120,000/pair ★
(Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

Dutch & Dutch 8c: $14,950/pair ★ (stands necessary)
(Vol.42 No.8, Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

Dynaudio Confidence 30: $24,000/pair
(Vol.44 No.8 WWW)

EgglestonWorks Viginti: $42,795/pair ★
(Vol.41 No.6 WWW)

Estelon Forza: $169,000—$185,000/ pair depending upon finish
(Vol.44 No.11 WWW)

Estelon XB Diamond Mk II: $63,000/pair—$65,200/pair depending on finish
(Vol.45 No.11 WWW)

GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference: $12,500/pair ★ $$$
(Vol.40 No.12 WWW)

Göbel Divin Marquis: $89,000/pair
Price is for standard finish. (Vol.43 No.10 WWW)

KEF Blade Two Meta: $27,999.98/pair
(Vol.45 No.9 WWW)

Magico A5: $26,800/pair
(Vol.44 No.7 WWW)

Magico M2: $76,500/pair
Price now includes nonoptional MPOD Bases. (Vol.43 No.2, Vol.44 No.3 WWW)

Magico S5 Mk II M-Cast: $45,400/pair ★
Price is with M-Cast (textured powder-coat) finish. M-Coat high-gloss paint adds $5225. (Vol.40 No.2 WWW)

Marten Parker Trio Diamond: $39,995/pair and up, depending on the finish
(Vol.44 No.6 WWW)

MartinLogan Renaissance ESL 15A: $28,999.98/pair ★
(Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

MBL Radialstrahler 101 E Mk.II: $91,000/pair ★
(Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

Raidho TD3.8: $117,000/pair as reviewed
(Vol.46 No.8 WWW)

Revel Ultima2 Salon2: $24,200/pair ★
(Vol.31 No.6, Vol.32 No.3, Vol.42 Nos.5 & 7 WWW)

Rockport Technologies Avior II: $47,000/pair ★
(Vol.40 No.8 WWW)

Sonus Faber Aida: $140,000/pair
(Vol.41 No.10 WWW)

Tidal Audio Akira: $255,000/pair
Vol.41 No.11 WWW)

Vandersteen Audio Quatro Wood CT: $17,947/pair
Rating assumes it is used with its companion M5-HPA high-pass amplifier. (Vol.42 No.11 WWW)

Vimberg Mino: $40,000—$41,000 (depending on finish)
Accuton diamond tweeter upgrade (not reviewed) costs $8500/pair. (Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit: $95,000/pair
Optional external crossover version: $100,000 ★
(Vol.41 No.1 WWW)

Von Schweikert Ultra 55: $110,000/pair, with Foundation Amplifiers, $120,000/pair
Price is for version reviewed, with powered woofers. (Vol.43 No.7 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia V: $67,500/pair
(Vol.46 No.1 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Alexx V: $145,000/pair
(Vol.44 No.12 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX: $349,000/pair
(Vol.44 No.5 WWW)

A (RESTRICTED EXTREME LF):

Acelec Model One: $6495/pair (stands necessary)
The internally damped aluminum enclosure boasted the lowest-level panel resonances JA has encountered in >30 years of measuring speakers. HR was equaly impressed by the sound of this Dutch two-way standmount, which allies a Mundorf AMT tweeter with a reflex-loaded, 5.9" sliced–paper-cone, ScanSpeak bass/mid driver. He described the Model One as "extraordinarily clear, microresolved, and uncolored," adding that "their clear, expansive soundstage was mesmerizing; it kept my focus on whatever music it was presenting." And the low frequencies? "Overall, the Acelec's bass was tighter, cleaner, went lower, and was more music musically satisfying than any of the other speakers I have piled in the hall." JA's measurements confirmed the Model One's specified sensitivity of 84dB/W/m and while he found a slight excess of energy in the low treble, he noted that the Model One's cumulative spectral-decay plot was impressively clean. (Vol.46 No.8 WWW)

Alta Audio Adam: $17,000/pair—$18,000/pair
A three-way floorstander that uses a 5.75" aluminum-ribbon tweeter, a 6" midrange driver, and an 8.75" anodized aluminum-cone woofer, the Adam features Alta's Extended Transmission Line (XTL) loading for the midrange unit and woofer. This incorporates a short transmission line with no stuffing terminating in a port, which Alta says significantly extends the speaker's low-frequency extension. However, as with Alta's two-way Alyssa, the XTL loading also results in high-Q resonances in the line and port. Nevertheless, RvB liked what he heard from the Adam, writing, "Pure and smooth. Nothing is boxy...Remarkable image cohesion;...transients seemed to travel at the speed of light...With every track, there was admirable force and a corporeal quality to the instruments." He did find that the Adam offered a little too much bass energy, though he never found the speaker to sound bloated or flabby."Right now," RvB concluded, "these are the speakers I'd consider most if 20 grand were burning a hole in my pocket." In the test lab, the Adam was relatively easy to drive, but it failed to meet its specified high sensitivity of 91.5dB/2.83V/m by a significant 7.5dB. Its enclosure was respectably inert, though JA noted that the XTL-related resonances mentioned above affect not just the outputs of the twin ports but also those of the woofer and midrange unit. (Vol.46 No.3 WWW)

Bowers & Wilkins 804 D4: $14,000/pair
The floorstanding 804 D4 features what the manufacturer calls a "reverse-wrap cabinet" : The elliptical-plan, Matrix-reinforced enclosure has its flat side at the rear, with the Continuum-cone midrange unit and two Aerofoil-cone woofers mounted on the curved front. (The latter are reflex-loaded with a downward-firing port, this raised above the floor by a substantial metal baseplate.) The 1" diamond-dome tweeter is mounted at the front of a 12"-long, tapered tube machined from a solid aluminum billet that sits on the top of the enclosure with two compliant mounts. B&W specifies the sensitivity as a slightly higher-than-average 89dB/2.83V/m, which was confirmed by JA's measurements. However, JA warned that while the 804 D4 is a demanding load at low frequencies, its higher impedance in the mid-treble will make tube amplifiers sound overly bright. The measured performance suggested a somewhat "tailored" response, with a little too much high-frequency energy. Care in setup reduced the effect of this, revealing an uncolored midrange and reasonably extended lows, though the speaker's high-frequency balance will make system matching more difficult than usual. JA wrote that "clarity, transparency, low-frequency articulation, and the absence of midrange coloration" seemed to have had a higher priority than absolute neutrality for B&W's design team. He concluded that the measured issues he found "seemed to step out of the way of the music much of the time." Overall, he found the 804 D4's sound seductive. (Vol.45 No.1 WWW)

Canton Reference 7K: $6995/pair
A handsome three-way tower, 1m tall and finished in high-gloss lacquer, the Reference 7K from German manufacturer Canton uses an enclosure formed from several layers of wood glued together with heat and pressure to achieve a stiff, well-damped structure. A downward-firing port reflex-loads the two 7" woofers, which feature ceramic-tungsten cones, as does the 7" midrange unit. The tweeter uses an aluminum-ceramic-oxide dome. The crossover includes a subsonic high-pass filter that is said to extend the linear low-frequency response of the woofers while minimizing out-of-bandwidth cone excursions. JA found that the Reference 7K's needed to be used closer to the wall behind them than he could arrange in his room. Even so, the lows extended to 32Hz in-room, though the upper bass was somewhat exaggerated. JA found that the Canton's sensitivity was the specified 88.5dB/2.83V/m, but the relatively demanding impedance means that the Reference 7K must be used with amplifiers that don't have problems driving 4 ohms. Overall, JA concluded that the 7Ks offered "powerful-sounding low frequencies, clean and grain-free highs, a coloration-free midrange, high sensitivity and dynamic range, and stable, precise stereo imaging," all at a relatively affordable price. KM agreed with JA's recommendation, writing that "the Reference 7K produced perhaps the widest soundstage I've heard in my small Greenwich Village penthouse pad. Tonally, the Canton bordered on lush, with a clear, refined treble and midrange and focused bass with ample weight...The 7K's gorgeous midrange and munificent lower bass made every record sound fat, liquid, and pleasurable." (Vol.44 No.9, Vol.45 No.3 WWW)

DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96: $15,900/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 × 18" W × 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." KM's reference. (Vol.35 No.12, Vol.38 No.1. Vol.40 No.9 WWW)

Falcon Acoustics "Gold Badge" LS3/5a: $3295/pair in basic finishes (stands necessary)
This special edition of Falcon's version of the classic, BBC-designed, two-way minimonitor uses enhanced-size BBC Specification Transformer–style inductors, graded polypropylene-film capacitors, ultralow-inductance resistors, and a new, Falcon-designed multilayer FL6/23 printed circuit board. "Falcon's Gold Badge LS3/5a can deliver enjoyable, well-sorted renditions of all types of music," HR wrote, "but intimate vocal, solo piano, and chamber-instrument fare is the reason people like me are lifelong 5a devotees." He added that "music flowed extra-easily and extra-quietly out of the Gold Badge boxes. The sound seemed more relaxed and less restrained than the classic version." He wrote that the "Gold Badge" is "the best LS3/5a ever produced for general consumption." JA found that the "Gold Badge" measured similarly to his 1978 Rogers LS3/5a and was overall smoother-balanced than the basic Falcon LS3/5a. He concluded that "The Falcon LS3/5a Gold Badge's measured performance...confirms that 46 years after the introduction of the original, this is still a competitive loudspeaker." (Vol.44 Nos.4 & 5 WWW)

Genelec G Three: $1590/pair in white, $1390/pair in black (stands necessary)
A small, active, two-way speaker with a cast-aluminum enclosure, evolved from the Finnish company's studio monitors, the G Three is supplied with an Iso-Pod isolating base, or can be used on stands or with wall-mounting hardware. An array of DIP switches allow the sound to be tailored for the speaker's positions—in free space, nearfield, in a corner, or on a table or desktop. There are both RCA and XLR inputs and the drivers are a 5.125" polypropylene-cone woofer and a 0.75" aluminum-dome tweeter, the latter mounted at the rear of a recessed waveguide. HR noted the "pure and precise" sound, "unspoiled clarity," and "uncompressed transparency," coupled with a surprising amount of well-articulated bass for such a small speaker. He gave it his highest recommendation, writing that "the G Three performs like an authentic studio monitor, providing copious detail without losing any of music's beauty or poetic content." JA was similarly impressed by this loudspeaker's measured performance, noting the G Three's flat frequency response, well-controlled dispersion, and a clean cumulative spectral-decay plot. (Vol.45 No.8 WWW)

Harbeth M30.2XD: $6990/pair (stands necessary) ★
In its "well-crafted, elegantly proportioned," 18.1"-tall reflex-ported cabinet, the Harbeth Monitor 30.2 combines a 7.9" bass-midrange cone made of Harbeth's proprietary Radial2 polymer with a 1" soft-dome tweeter from SEAS. For the 40th Anniversary Edition of this model, derived from the BBC's LS5/9 design, Harbeth sweetens the deal with an exclusive silver eucalyptus veneer, a restyled tweeter grille, better crossover capacitors, and upgraded internal wiring and binding posts. Used on 24"-tall stands from TonTräger Audio ($1495/pair), the Harbeths delighted HR with easy-flowing music, vivid colors and textures, "unshakable clarity," and stereo images that were "tangibly there." Herb's verdict: "the most tuneful, accurate, neutral, fun, and music-loving stand-mounted two-way speaker I've heard." Writing from his lab, JA reported higher-than-specified sensitivity (87.3 vs 85dB) and benign impedance characteristics ("it should be an easy load for amplifiers to drive"), and declared the Monitor 30.2 "as well-engineered a design as I have come to expect from [Harbeth chief designer] Alan Shaw and his respect for the BBC tradition." (Vol.41 No.4 WWW)

Joseph Audio Perspective2: $16,999/pair
Introduced in 2013, the floorstanding Perspective started life with a SEAS 1" impregnated-fabric dome tweeter and two SEAS 5.5" magnesium-cone woofers. After its 2019 upgrade to Perspective2 status, the tweeter remains, but the woofers have been replaced with 5.5" SEAS Excel Graphene drivers, in which magnesium-alloy cones are coated with a graphene-based "nanomaterial." JA, who in 2014 reviewed the Perspectives, wrote that the Perspective2s "produced the same wide sweep of full-range sound and tangible stereo imaging" that impressed him with the originals: "The low frequencies were still rich, but perhaps the articulation was even better." He also found the Perspective2s to be more tolerant than their predecessors of overly bright recordings. Reporting from his test bench, JA confirmed that, like the original, the Perspective2 was easy to drive if somewhat less sensitive than average, and concluded by recommending the new speaker "even more highly than I did the original." (Vol.37 No.7, Vol.42 No.7 WWW)

Joseph Audio Pulsar2 Graphene: $9999/pair (stands necessary) ★
The compact (15" H by 9" W by 13" D), rear-ported 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. HR, having long enjoyed the Joseph Pulsars at audio shows, borrowed a pair in 2018 and wrote in his Follow-Up that the Pulsars worked hand in hand with a much-loved recording to "let me delight in sound purely for the sake of sound." Herb felt the Pulsars lacked "the more saturated tone and deeper textural descriptiveness" of Harbeth's 30.2 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeakers but were more transparent and provided better stereo imaging. He summed up: "The Pulsar is a reference-quality loudspeaker." The Pulsar has been updated with drivers coated in a graphene-based "nanomaterial," but based on JA's experience with the larger Perspective, the new Pulsar is likely to remain recommendable. (Vol.35 No.6, Vol.41 No.7 WWW)

KEF LS50 Meta: $1599.99/pair (stands necessary) $$$
This new version of KEF's classic LS50 standmount is a little heavier than the original. It still uses a coaxial Uni-Q drive-unit, but this new one has a cone-neck decoupler, a symmetrical motor system, and an absorptive, dual-layer disc, 3" in diameter and 0.43" thick, behind the drive-unit. This disc is made from a synthetic substance incorporating Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) with 30 tubular channels, each acting as a narrow-band Helmholtz resonator. The structure is said to absorb 99% of the unwanted sound radiating from the rear of the driver at 620Hz and above. The Meta's midrange and low frequencies sounded identical to those of the original LS50, JA decided, but the new speaker's measured response was flatter in the presence region, and there was a little more output in the high treble. Perhaps most importantly, the Metas "painted a transparent window into the recorded soundstage," he wrote. He was continually surprised by how recordings he thought he knew well were presented with detail that he had not fully appreciated with the earlier LS50s. JA estimated the LS50 Meta's voltage sensitivity as 84.5dB(B)/2.83V/m, which is the same as that of the original and within experimental error of the specified 85dB. He concluded that, compared with the 2012 LS50, the Meta "presents a more transparent window into the recorded soundstage without compromising the ability to communicate the music's message." (Vol.44 No.1 WWW)

KEF LS60 Wireless: $6999.99/pair
This DSP-controlled, three-way, powered floorstander offers an analog input, Ethernet, optical and coaxial S/PDIF digital inputs, a UPnP-compatible wireless operation with Roon, AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Bluetooth 4.2, and a subwoofer output. A coaxial Uni-Q drive unit that incorporates the metamaterial technology introduced with other recent KEF speakers covers the treble and midrange, while two sealed-box–loaded woofers on each sidewall handle frequencies below 340Hz. The KEF Connect app is used for setup, adjustment of sensitivity, bass extension, high-frequency balance, the subwoofer settings, and optimization of the low-frequency balance for specific room placements and behavior in the time domain. KR noted that the LS60's tonal balance was reassuringly neutral/natural with palpable bass that belied the speakers' small size. "The LS60s did not sound small," he wrote, adding that they sounded much like the Class A (Full-Range) KEF Blade Two Meta. In direct comparisons with the Blade Two Metas, he found that the latter demonstrated an even more spacious soundstage and sounded firmer and fuller through the mid and upper bass, "but the speakers were surprisingly close." KR was puzzled by his experience of the time-domain–correcting Phase Control, as with some kinds of music he preferred the presentation with this turned off. (Latency with the control off was 10ms; with the control on it was 14.5ms, which may be an issue with video synchronization.) JA the measurer noted that the LS60 offered a superbly flat, even frequency response, well-controlled dispersion, and an inert enclosure. KR's conclusion? "The LS60 Wireless is a near–state-of-the-art sound system that will fit in almost any room and play any source with the addition of only a smartphone loaded with music or a streaming app." (Vol.46 No.3 WWW)

Klipsch La Scala AL5: $13,198/pair
This two-enclosure floorstander may be large and heavy—it weighs 201lb—but this is the smallest of Klipsch's fully horn-loaded models. The upper enclosure combines a 1" compression-driver tweeter loaded with a Tractrix horn with a 2" compression-driver midrange unit loaded with an exponential horn. The lower cabinet contains a 15" fiber-composite-cone woofer that fires into a folded horn. AH found that the speakers sounded more open without the attractive magnetic grilles. "Their ability to (re)produce lifelike dynamic contrasts and scale is unmatched by any speaker I've had in my home, he wrote, adding that he could set the volume "anywhere from Mozart-trio moderate to Mastodon-concert loud with no audible penalty." This will be due in part to the La Scala's extraordinarily high sensitivity— specified as 105dB/2.83V/m, JA's B-weighted estimate was lower, at 101.3dB(B)/2.83V/m, but this was still the second-highest sensitivity of all the speakers he has measured. The high sensitivity correlates with relatively limited low-frequency extension; the woofer rolls off below 50Hz. Nevertheless, AH commented that "despite being limited, the Klipsches' bass is in no way wimpy: When called upon, the big horns emitted bass notes as stentorian and downright scary as any speakers I've lived with." He concluded that "the Klipsches' frequency response sounded just a shade richer than neutral, with an extended but mellow top end and some added presence in the lower midrange and upper bass. This euphonic voicing made poor recordings easier to listen to and good recordings propulsive and fun," though he warned that "frequency-response-graph enthusiasts for whom absolute neutrality is paramount should probably look elsewhere." (Vol.46 No.4 WWW)

Manger s1: $24,995/pair in basic finishes
The active version of the Manger p1 that HR reviewed in December 2019, the s1 combines the unique Manger "bending-wave" drive-unit for the mids and highs with a sealed-box—loaded 8" woofer with a carbon fiber/paper sandwich. Controls are provided for treble level and Room Acoustics Correction. JCA found the s1 sounded most neutral with the high-frequency control set to "0" —the sound became a little hard if he increased the treble—but he did boost the 50—80Hz band by 3dB to better match his room. JCA summed up the Manger's sound as "Fast, pure, more articulate than smooth. The bass is present—all there—but don't expect to bathe in it. The s1 leans more toward exciting than toward comfortable, but not excessively so." Price is for satin finish; wood veneer adds $4000/pair. High-gloss finish adds $7000/pair. (Vol.43 No.9 WWW)

Marten Oscar Duo: $7895/pair (stands necessary)
The least costly loudspeaker from this Swedish manufacturer, the rear-ported, stand-mounted Oscar Duo combines a 7" ceramic-cone mid/bass driver with a 1" ceramic-dome tweeter. Specified sensitivity is 86dB/2.83V/m, which was confirmed by JA's measurements. MF was impressed by this small-but-heavy speaker's low frequencies: "These speakers went deep," he wrote. "Despite the robust bass produced by this small speaker, decay was fast, clean, and close to overhang-free." He also commented on the Marten's low mid-bass coloration and freedom from boxy resonances. The Oscar Duo's frequency response is optimized on an axis midway between the tweeter and woofer on the sloped-back baffle. MF found that toeing-in the Oscars to the listening position produced the best central-image focus and high-frequency response, with no perceptible beaming. JA was also impressed by the excellent sound quality. Reporting from his test bench, he concluded that the Marten Oscar Duo's excellent measured performance is indicative of some equally impressive engineering. Matching stands cost $995/pair. (Vol.43 Nos.11 & 12 WWW)

MBL Radialstrahler 120: $26,500/pair (stands necessary)
This three-way standmount uses the German company's unique, omnidirectional Radialstrahler technology for its midrange and treble drivers, coupled with two reflex-loaded woofers. JMu felt that the 120's bass seemed to extend deeper than the specifications or JA's measurements indicated. But what impressed her the most was how "strikingly coherent" the MBLs sounded. "They delivered seamless sound from top to bottom, which made the presentation seem more realistic. Music sounded 'of a piece,' seamlessly woven within the soundstage," she wrote. Though JA's estimate of the 120's sensitivity was slightly higher than the specified 79dB, this was still significantly lower than average. However, as this is an omnidirectional loudspeaker, the in-room subjective sensitivity will be somewhat higher. "The MBL 120s don't favor one genre of music over another," JMu concluded, adding that they sounded "big and full—voluptuous at times, especially when you turn up the volume." Matching stands cost $1850/pair. (Vol.44 No.11 WWW)

Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G: $3400/pair
This well-finished, three-way, four-driver, bass-reflex tower impressed RS: "What these speakers said was spoken with a clarity and expressive ease...Dynamic and transient-fast, it sounded almost hornlike." The Silver 500 7G's twin ports can be blocked with supplied plugs, but RS felt the sound with them closed was warmer but a little "woolier" than with them open. "Without bungs, the picture was in focus, linear from top to bottom," he wrote, concluding that "The whole wide frequency range of music sounds well-behaved, smooth, and of a piece. Notes seem to emanate from air, not from wooden boxes. The notes slide and shoot like stars." The Silver 500 7G's high specified sensitivity of 90.5dB/2.83V/m was confirmed by JA's estimate. JA was also impressed by the Monitor Audio's superb measured performance. "That it achieves this level of performance at an affordable price is even more commendable," he concluded, a sentiment that was echoed by RS: "The Monitor Audio Silver 500 is one of the great audio deals of the pandemic era." (Vol.45 No.2 WWW)

Paradigm Founder 120H: $8998/pair
The floorstanding 120H, the flagship of the Canadian company's six-model Founder series, uses three powered woofers with CarbonX cones, the behavior of which can be optimized with the ARC Genesis app. (A USB microphone for use with the app is included.) The 6" alloy-diaphragm midrange unit is mounted behind a Perforated Phase-Aligning Lens, which Paradigm claims results in a smoother frequency response, both on-axis and off-axis. The midrange and bass drivers are decoupled from the cabinet by an "Advanced Shock-Mount Isolation Mounting System." The 1" alloy-dome tweeter is mounted at the center of a conical waveguide. The optimal listening axis is said to be between the tweeter and midrange, which is 39" from the floor. RvB found the 120H's trickier to place than most speakers, but once their positions had been optimized, he was impressed by what he heard: "It was the balance that was thrilling, and the continuity up and down the frequency range. Everything sounded 'together,' coherent, right." The Paradigms offered superb low-frequency extension, though RvB found that without ARC room optimization there was a little too much bottom-octave energy. Even so, he wrote that "Bass-wise, the Founders, on spikes, acted like a velvet sledgehammer or an iron fist in a silk glove, if you like that sort of thing. I do." JA's estimate of the 120H's sensitivity was 2dB lower than the specified 92dB(B)/2.83V/m, but this is still higher than average. He also noted that the large, trapezoidal cabinet was well-damped, though he found that the speaker's quasi-anechoic response featured a slightly rising high end, which might correlate with need for careful setup. (Vol.45 No.12 WWW)

Paradigm Persona 5F: $17,999.99/pair
Q: What do you get when a company that specializes in high-value, high-tech loudspeakers sets its sights on the High End? A: Something very like the new Paradigm Persona series—so says KR, who tried the Persona 5F in his reference system and declared it "an auspicious entry into the thinner air of high-end audio." Kal also suggested that the key word in the Persona story is beryllium, as in the 5F's 1" beryllium-dome tweeter and 7" midrange driver. The speaker's three 7" woofers have aluminum cones, and are loaded by a bass-reflex enclosure made from seven layers of HDF, bonded to one another under high pressure, with RF waves used to cure the adhesive. (Try making something like that in your garage!) According to KR, that all adds up to a pair of well-balanced, full-range speakers that favor no one style of music, and that "disappear" from the soundstage "like aural Cheshire Cats." In measuring the Persona 5F, JA discovered slightly lower than the specified sensitivity (88 vs 90dB), and an impedance characteristic that augurs in favor of "an amplifier compatible with 4 ohm loads." Those quibbles aside, he proclaimed the Paradigm an example of "textbook audio engineering." (Vol.41 No.10 WWW)

Perlisten S7t: $9999/pair in high gloss black or white (special edition finishes are available at $10,999/pair)
A four-way tower that can have its four woofers reflex- or sealed-box–loaded, the S7t features a unique high-frequency driver array with a beryllium-dome tweeter mounted in the center of a "Directivity Pattern Control" waveguide and two units with "thin-ply carbon" diaphragms above and below it. All three units operate in the low treble, while just the central tweeter operates above 5.5kHz. After some experimenting with placement, KR found that listening to Ry Cooder's Jazz, "placement of the instruments was perfectly clear. More than that, the relationships between them and their tonal characteristics were more consistent and seemed less artificial." He was also impressed by the S7t's dynamic capabilities, and while the Perlisten's low-frequency extension, even when reflex-loaded, didn't extend to 20Hz, the bass was "full, dynamic, taut, and balanced at all listening levels," obviating the use of a subwoofer. JA's measurements confirmed the high specified sensitivity of 92dB/2.83V/m, but JA warned that the S7t should be used with amplifiers that don't have problems driving 2 ohms. JA commented that "To say that I was impressed by the Perlisten S7t's measured performance would be an understatement. It typifies excellent loudspeaker engineering." KR concluded that the S7t was overall the best speaker he'd heard in his room. (Vol.44 No.12 WWW)

Stenheim Alumine Three: $33,950/pair
This three-and-a-half-way tower from Switzerland mounts its four drive-units in a slender, internally braced, aluminum enclosure. HR found that, driven by RAAL's low-power HAS-1b amplifier, the Stenheims, playing music at his normal listening levels "exhibited a beautiful spectral balance and a controlled, well-focused presentation." While the midrange was flat-out gorgeous with the RAAL amplifier, with the Pass Labs XA25 "all nine of the Stenheim's octaves were cloudless, blue-sky bright...The XA25 seemed to add a full octave of clear sky at the top." JA found the Alumine Three's sensitivity was a couple of dB lower than the specified 93dB, but his estimate was still significantly higher than average, and he added that the speaker is a relatively easy load. He also described the Stenheim's behavior in the frequency domain as "mostly smooth, even." HR summed up the easy-to-drive Alumine Three as offering excellent bass power and extension, an absence of hashy, low-level breakup sounds near the limits of the drive-units' passbands, and "extraordinary midband lucidity." (Vol.44 No.10 WWW)

TAD CE1TX: $32,500/pair (stands necessary)
A heavy (63.9lb) three-way standmount that features TAD's coaxial "Coherent Source Transducer" (CST) driver, which combines a 5.5" magnesium midrange cone with a concentrically mounted beryllium-dome tweeter. Frequencies below 250Hz are handled by a woofer with an aramid-composite cone; this unit is reflex-loaded with bidirectional, slit-shaped ducts with flared openings behind the speaker's sculpted-aluminum side panels. "The CE1TX loudspeakers sorted and presented the densest, most complicated and overproduced music in ways that made it more intelligible and agreeable," wrote HR. Using a variety of amplifiers, from low-powered tubed designs to high-power solid state models, HR summed up the TAD speaker as "extremely well-sorted," "exposes everything," and "flawless tone," with "an innate ability to present instruments and voices in a most agreeable, seductive manner." His overall conclusion: "This TAD is the finest example of speaker engineering I've ever encountered. Absolutely Class A." (Vol.46 No.6 WWW)

Vivid Kaya S12: $6900/pair (stands necessary)
The open-backed, aluminum-dome tweeter in the little Kaya S12 is the same one found in Vivid's top-range Giya speakers and is coupled with a reflex-loaded, 4" aluminum-cone mid/bass driver. The cabinet is made from two layers of polyurethane, with the space between them broken up by tubular absorbers that also act as stiffening. HR noted that the S12s were above average in apparent speed, transparency, and resolution, but also a little lean in the bass and noisy through their upper octaves. However, when he bolted the speakers to their dedicated 24" stands, he found that the bass became fuller, solider, and deeper and focus and clarity increased. "The spindly stands added a measure of sheen and a richer, more polished tone that made the speakers sound less like a racecar and more like a luxury car," he wrote. His conclusion? "Overall, the S12s are shy on bass but easy to drive; lightning fast, uber-transparent, micro-detailed, and extremely three-dimensional. Their defining trait is the beauty and intricacy of their projected soundspace." JA was equally impressed. As well as a measured 86.3dB(B)/2.83V/m sensitivity and a relatively easy-to-drive impedance, the Kaya S12 offers an extraordinarily flat frequency response, well-controlled dispersion, and a clean waterfall plot. "The Vivid Kaya S12's measured performance is indicative of the superb loudspeaker engineering I have come to expect from this brand," he concluded. (Vol.45 No.4 WWW)

Wilson Audio Specialties SabrinaX: $19,700/pair in standard finish
This floorstanding, three-way design marries the reflex-loaded pulp-cone woofer from the Wilson Sasha DAW with a pulp-cone midrange unit and the Mk.V version of the 1" Convergent Synergy silk-dome tweeter, which is shared with Wilson top-model designs. The SabrinaX is also one of the first speakers to use a capacitor produced in-house after Wilson acquired the Reliable Capacitor company. The use of Wilson's proprietary, mineral-loaded, dense X Material for the Sabrina's construction has resulted in a "quieter" enclosure than that used for the original Sabrina (reviewed by RD in May 2016). BD found that the soundstage "was huge," stretching "waaaaay outside the speakers," and that it "created detailed, tangible images to the very edges. It was deep as well, though not quite as deep as it was wide." There was also more power and intensity than he was used to hearing. The woofer's alignment is tuned for clarity rather than maximum bass weight, but the speaker's low frequencies will be reinforced by careful placement and the usual room gain. BD concluded that while this may be the Utah manufacturer's smallest, least expensive floorstanding speaker, "it's full of Wilson's latest and greatest everything." JA's estimate of the speaker's sensitivity was a usefully higher 89dB/2.8V/m compared with the specified 87dB, though the SabrinaX's impedance was relatively hungry for current in the bass, mandating careful choice of amplifier. Custom colors add $1000/pair. (Vol.44 No.3 WWW)

B (FULL RANGE):

Audiovector QR 7: $6500/pair
A large, three-way tower, the Danish QR 7 combines an AMT tweeter with a "Pure Piston Technology" midrange unit and twin "Pure Piston Technology" woofers. All three of the lower-frequency drivers use aluminum-sandwich diaphragms, and the woofers are reflex-loaded with a bottom-firing port. JA found that the speaker's weighty, extended low frequencies made setup tricky, but other than a slight excess of energy in the upper midrange, he ended up with a smooth, even tonal balance from the low bass upward. Stereo imaging was precisely defined. JA felt that the QR 7 will work best in medium- to large-sized rooms. His estimated sensitivity was slightly lower than the specified 90.5dB/W/m, at 88.7dB(B)/2.83V/m, though this is still higher than average. (Vol.45 No.9 WWW)

Focal Aria K2 936: $5194/pair
Three-way, ported, floorstanding loudspeaker that combines a 1" aluminum-magnesium inverted-dome tweeter with a 6.5" glass-fiber/aramid sandwich-cone midrange unit and three 6.5" glass-fiber/aramid sandwich-cone woofers. RS found that the Arias were one of the easiest speakers he'd ever set up in his listening room, and he was impressed by the sound. Of the tweeter, he wrote that "Its silky highs may as well have been woven by Rapunzel: They were a balm to my ears, without sounding dull or incongruous." At the other end of the spectrum he decided that "The K2 936s have a balance that gives notes foundation and fleshes things out from the bottom up, but it isn't dark or obscuring." And the soundstage? It "had an illumined quality that gave me a front-row view into what each musician was doing." RS concluded that the Aria's strongest suit "lies in its ability to mine out melodies and give them gravitas. Its defining spirit is that of a melody maker." The impedance is somewhat demanding, JA commenting that "the K2 Aria 936 must be used with amplifiers that don't have problems driving 2 ohm loads." JA also found that the measured sensitivity was slightly lower (2dB) than the specified 92dB/2.83V/mm, but this is still usefully higher than average. (Vol.44 No.6 WWW)

JBL 4367 Studio Monitor: $16,500/pair
This massive (119lb), retro-styled, sensitive, two-way floorstander marries a 15" woofer, reflex-loaded with twin ports, to a horn-loaded compression tweeter with two polymer diaphragms, each with its own voice-coil, neodymium magnet, and motor. AH found that the big JBLs proved remarkable in their ability to play (very) loudly without compression or distortion. He noted that the JBLs' portrayal of detail and atmosphere was superb and concluded that this loudspeaker "reproduced music in an utterly neutral, evenhanded way, sounded robust while resolving lots of detail" and produced deeper and tighter bass than his vintage Altecs. JA was impressed by the JBL's measured performance. His estimated B-weighted sensitivity was close to the high specified 94dB/2.83V/m at 92.7dB(B)/2.83V/m, its low frequencies appeared to be tuned to be maximally flat, in textbook manner, and the farfield response was impressively even. In an email to JCA, AH noted that despite the JBL's high sensitivity, it is not a good match for low-power amplifiers (below, say, 50Wpc). (Vol.45 No.5 WWW)

Klipsch Forte IV: $4998/pair
On its surface, the Forte IV appears almost unchanged from its predecessor, the Forte III that KM reviewed in Vol.42 No.8. The floorstanding, horn-loaded IV's specifications are identical to those of the III, but there are differences in the details. While the 12" woofer and 15" passive radiator are unaltered, the titanium-diaphragm high-frequency compression driver now has an ABS phase plug and the midrange unit is now a Celestion polyimide-diaphragm compression driver. Perhaps most significantly, the crossover has been completely redesigned. The result, according to KM, was a refinement and poise that the III, for all its virtues, lacked: "The IV sounded smoother and richer than the III from the midrange through the upper treble, and the soundstage was deeper." The IVs "rocked" dynamics and visceral textures, found KM, who concluded that for the extra $500 over the price of a pair of Forte IIIs, the Forte IV was "more coherent, sweeter, smoother, and more refined, with a better-defined top end, a warmer midrange, and the same trademark dynamics and low-end weight as the previous Forte version." (Vol.44 No.9 WWW)

PMC fact.8 signature: $13,000/pair
This slim, two-way tower loads its twin 5.5" woofers with PMC's "Advanced Transmission Line," which, the company says, has a cross-sectional area at the start and end of the line "to be essentially as small as possible without compromising low-frequency performance and upper-bass absorption." KR found that the fact.8s needed to be much closer to the wall behind them, less than 1', than other speakers he had used in his room. Nevertheless, he felt that he was missing energy in the upper bass and low midrange. He also found that he had to play with both toe-in and the HF switch to get a suitable mid/treble balance and open up the center image and soundstage. "Removal of the front-panel grille enhanced and clarified midrange detail," he decided. JA's measurements revealed an accurate specified sensitivity of 89dB/W/m and a kind-to-amplifiers impedance of 8 ohms. He also found a lack of upper-bass energy in the PMC's frequency response due to the complex behavior of the woofers and the transmission line in the region where their outputs overlap. (Vol.43 No.5 WWW)

PSB Synchrony T600: $8999/pair
The floorstanding T600 houses each of its three 6.5" woofers in its own vented subenclosure and marries them to a 5.25" midrange unit and a 1" titanium-dome tweeter, with, unusually, the midrange unit mounted above the tweeter. "PSB's Synchrony T600 stepped out of the way of the music being played, imposing almost no character on the sound other than a slightly mellow high treble and a slightly forward midrange," JA wrote. He found that the stereo imaging was "stable and precise" and that the bass was "extended and clean-sounding." Rubber plugs are supplied to block one or two of the speaker's three reflex ports, to allow its low-frequency in-room balance to be optimized. JA noted that the PSB's farfield response on the midrange axis was commendably even, though his estimate of the T600's sensitivity was slightly lower than the specified 89dB. The T600's impedance measurement implies that this speaker is a relatively demanding load. Price includes IsoAcoustic GAIA II isolating feet. (Vol.44 No.11 WWW)

Volti Audio Razz: $7500/pair
This beautifully constructed, high-sensitivity tower combines a horn-loaded 1" tweeter with a horn-loaded 2" midrange compression driver and a reflex-loaded 12" woofer. "The ability of Volti Audio's Razz to portray music of any genre with scale, realism, and thrilling dynamics is unmatched by any loudspeaker I've had in my system," wrote TG, adding that while the Razz demonstrates a lovely midrange liquidity, "there's no sacrifice of detail." While Volti specifies the Razz's sensitivity as 97dB, JA's estimate was somewhat lower at a still-high 93dB(B)/2.83V/m, though JA did note that the Volti's highish impedance makes the speaker an easy load for amplifiers. Low and high frequencies are boosted compared to the midrange level, though the treble can be fine-tuned by experimenting with toe-in. Price is for walnut, mahogany, black cherry, or maple veneer. Premium finishes add $1000/pair. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

B (RESTRICTED LF):

Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3: $3400/pair (stands necessary)
The elegant-looking, two-way standmount combines a carbon-diaphragm tweeter in B&W's familiar bullet-shaped enclosure with a reflex-loaded, Continuum-cone woofer. KR found that the matching FS-700 S3 24" stands ($799 pair) were essential for situating the tweeters at ear level and that minimal toe-in expanded the soundstage while avoiding on-axis brightness. He commented that three qualities of the 705s were evident: satisfying bass output (belied by their size); great detail and presence; and a wall-to-wall soundstage. "Their midrange and treble resolution is outstanding, and their bass is musically satisfying," KR concluded. JA's measurements indicated that the sensitivity was slightly higher than the specified 88dB/2.83V/m, but this will be due in part to the fact that the on-axis response slopes upward in the treble, peaking by almost 10dB at 10kHz. He commented that this behavior will not be heard as "brightness" as such. Instead, it will add "air," "transparency," and "openness" to the perceived balance. But it will make system matching tricky and may emphasize surface noise with vinyl playback. (Vol.46 No.7 WWW)

Chario Aviator Amelia: $8400/pair; optional stablizers (bases) are recommended, $820
This three-way, Italian tower mounts one of its 5.1" woofers on the rear of the natural wooden enclosure, the other firing downward, next to the reflex port on the base. The 38mm silk-dome tweeter sits below the 5.1" midrange unit. The Chario Aviator Amelia's delivery "seems unforced and easy," wrote JMu, "but not 'easy' as in laid-back. Easy as in effortless." She noted the Amelia's "smooth, vivid naturalism...big on immediacy—not shy about delivering a punch." JMu did comment that with some albums the Chario's high end seemed slightly exaggerated and in the test lab, JA found that the on-axis response did indeed peak in the top octave, notably so with tube amplifiers. However, as the speaker is very directional in this region the Amelia's treble balance can be adjusted by experimenting with toe-in: "No toe-in and the top octaves will be too mellow," he wrote, but warned that "complete toe-in to the listener position and the high treble will sound fizzy." His estimate of the Chario's sensitivity was inconsequentially lower than the specified 90dB, at 88.6dB(B)/2.83V/m. (Vol.45 No.6 WWW)

DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93: $8820/pair $$$ ★
Made in Brooklyn, New York, the Orangutan O/93 is a two-way floorstanding loudspeaker with a SEAS 1" soft-dome tweeter—the same one used in DeVore's upmarket O/96—and a 10" paper-cone bass/midrange driver. It 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 a semitranslucent gloss-black lacquer. Driving the O/93s with a Unison Research Simply Italy amplifier, ST noted the DeVores' lively, immediate sound: a sweet, extended treble; punchy bass; and a deep, wide soundstage with excellent center fill. In his Follow-Up, AD praised the O/93 for the physicality of its sound—the sense of touch in robustly played piano trills, the feel of mallet against marimba, the tactile pluck of a double bass—and for its fine overall balance that allowed excellent timbral color from acoustic instruments yet also "gave nearly full weight" to kettledrums. He regards the O/93 as among the best choices for people who appreciate the impact, drama, and thrills of vintage loudspeakers yet whose rooms and budgets require a contemporary speaker of more modest price and size—considered as which, the DeVore is "far better stuff than most everyone else is making." With the O/93s driven by the Linear Tube Audio Z10e amplifier, HR concluded, "I've experienced countless audio components that measured well, but only a rare few that produced authentic tone, nine octaves of natural detail, and copious atmospherics. The LTA Z10e driving the DeVore Orangutan O/93s did all that." In a measurements Follow-Up, JA estimated the O/93's sensitivity as 90.1dB—slightly lower than the nominal 93dB, yet still, when combined with the speaker's 10 ohm impedance, indicative of a very flea-watt—friendly loudspeaker. (Vol.37 No.1, Vol.38 No.12, Vol.39 No.6, Vol.41 No.5, Vol.42 No.1, Vol.43 No.5 WWW)

Dragonfire Mini Dragon DFA 2.1: $9992 for the system
The DFA 2.1 system from Dragonfire Acoustics comprises the company's Mini Dragon Satellite planar-magnetic desktop speakers; MD-4 250 Wpc class-D amp, which contains a DSP module for correcting and controlling the speakers; and DFA SB-8P subwoofer, along with a version of the miniDSP SHD headphone amp/streamer (equipped with Dirac Live room-correction software), plus a suite of cables and a calibrated USB microphone. Although Dragonfire published individual prices for all of the above, they really must be used together—especially the speakers and the amp, which cannot perform optimally in isolation from each other. Although JVS found that "setup was not without its challenges" and noted, duly, that the Dragonfire system was designed for "intimate listening where its monitors are precisely aligned to ear height," he remarked that the system's "remarkably transparent, colorful, and detailed full-range sound is musical to the core." JA noted that the system "offers excellent measured performance," but confirmed the for desktops only dictum. (Vol.42 No.9 WWW)

Dynaudio Focus 10: $5500/pair (stands necessary)
The Primary two-way, sealed-box, active standmount offers single-ended analog, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Toslink inputs, with connection to the second Client speaker either via wired S/PDIF or WISA-standard Wi-Fi. A Bluetooth remote control is supplied, but the Roon Ready speakers can also be controlled with Dynaudio's Connect and Control app. DSP is used not just for the crossover, placement optimization, and tone controls, but also to reduce the 5" woofer's low-frequency extension at high spls. JVS used Roon and Tidal Connect for his auditioning and commented that the Focus 10s sounded natural, balanced from top to bottom, and invitingly warm. "Colors, while not as saturated as on my many, many times more expensive reference rig," he wrote, "were nicely differentiated and sufficiently compelling to pull me in." He preferred the presentation with the wired connection between the two speakers, which operates up to a sample rate of 192kHz, noting that with the Wi-Fi connection, which downsamples hi-rez data to 96kHz, transparency was lessened, colors were less saturated, and instruments were surrounded by less air. The Focus 10 did well in JA's lab, though he noted that the speaker has a higher latency, almost 12ms, than other digital active designs he has tested. The Focus 10 includes Dirac room correction. The speaker's behavior with Dirac will be examined in a follow-up review. But even without Dirac, "the Focus 10s are easy to set up and optimize, and they deliver all they promise," concluded JVS. (Vol.46 No.2 WWW)

EJ Jordan Marlow: £1960/pair
This LS3/5a-sized minimonitor uses a single full-range drive unit based on the late Ted Jordan's work. "I had forgotten how much havoc an energy-absorbing, phase-twisting, signal-molesting loudspeaker crossover could wreak," wrote HR, adding "I was stunned by how direct, quiet, and transparent the Jordans sounded." He conjectured that "when we get rid of the tweeter, especially one that operates below 3kHz, we eliminate a layer of fuzzy, splashy, phasey blurring that we didn't know was there. Sans tweeter, the sound is more direct and accurate to the source." While the Marlow cannot deliver commodious deep bass or play loud, HR wrote that it satisfied his hunger to peer into recordings as directly and excitedly as possible, concluding that he "fell in love with its petite, truth-telling charms." JA was less impressed. Though the Marlow offered a good 87dB(B)/2.83V/m sensitivity and its overdamped reflex alignment would benefit from the low-frequency reinforcement from close wall placement, its frequency response was decidedly unflat, with a peaky upper midrange owing to the lack of baffle-step compensation that would have been provided by a crossover. "With music, the boosted upper mids may well have contributed to the added sense of recorded detail that HR reported hearing," JA wrote, adding "but whether the Marlow is perceived as having too much upper midrange or suppressed lower midrange and treble will depend on the recordings being played." JA concluded that the measured performance of the Marlow suggests that this will be a loudspeaker for "special tastes or special systems." (Vol.45 Nos.4 & 5 WWW)

Fleetwood Sound Company DeVille SQ: $18,600/pair (stands optional)
The Deville's "steam-punk-meets-modern" styling disguises a high-performance two-way design with a compression-driven, conical-horn–loaded polymer-diaphragm tweeter and an 8" paper-cone woofer with a phenolic grille. KM wrote that the Fleetwood DeVille SQ's "upper midrange and treble poured out music with microscopic detail, tactility, and complexity...[I]ts top end was meticulous yet never analytical. Micro- and macrodynamics were first rate and fast as hell." He added that the low end was tight and focused with no boom or muck and concluded that "Beef and brawn are not its calling cards, but rather lucidity, spatial beauty, clarity, dynamics, and precision." In the test lab, JA found that the Fleetwood speaker's sensitivity was a little lower than the specified 94dB/W/m, but still usefully high at 91.7dB. The flattest response in the midrange and mid-treble regions was 5° above the axis of the horn-loaded tweeter, which will be 46" from the floor with the speaker sitting on its dedicated stand. He also noted that the tonal balance will be too mellow unless the speakers are toed in to the listening position. Natural-finish "torrefied" stands add $1550/pair; black-painted, reclaimed hickory stands add $750/pair. Optional grilles cost $350 or $450/pair depending on type. (Vol.45 No.5 WWW)

Fyne Audio F500SP: $2100—$2425/pair (stands necessary)
A standmount featuring Fyne Audio's IsoFlare coaxial driver in which the titanium-dome tweeter is mounted behind the woofer's voice-coil, providing the former with a degree of horn loading. Woofer is reflex-loaded with a downward-firing port. JA's estimate of the Fyne's sensitivity was 3dB lower than the specified 90dB, but this speaker is relatively easy to drive. "Music sounded meaty, visceral, and full bodied and proved capable of spinning a deep, wide soundstage," KM wrote, adding that low frequencies were extended and free from bloat. The tweeter is balanced a couple of dB higher than the woofer, which KM found required careful system matching, but when everything was optimal "the Fyne F500SPs played music with a big, wide, deep stage, satisfying punch and precision, and much humanity." Base price is for gloss black or white finish; walnut veneer adds $300/pair. The matching F6 stands cost $1895/pair. (Vol.45 No.2 WWW)

GoldenEar BRX: $1900/pair (stands necessary)
The final loudspeaker to be introduced by GoldenEar while Sandy Gross was still with the company he cofounded, the immaculate-looking BRX (for Bookshelf Reference X) marries the flagship Triton Reference's HVFR (High-Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter and 6" polypropylene-cone upper-bass/midrange driver to a pair of 6.5" planar passive radiators. The optimal listening axis is just below the tweeter, so JA used 30" Sanus SF30 twin-pillar stands to get the best sound. The result is superb stereo imaging accuracy and uncolored, natural-sounding midrange and treble with the grilles, but a touch too much mid-treble energy without them. Excellent low-frequency extension, to 50Hz, for such a small speaker, JA found, with fleshed-out upper bass even with the BRXes used well away from the wall behind them. Measured sensitivity was 87.5dB(B)/2.83V/m compared with the specified 90dB. "While it benefits from being powered by high-quality amplification, its sound quality features an uncolored midrange, clean high frequencies, and enough mid- and upper-bass energy to satisfy, coupled with stable, accurate stereo imaging," he concluded. However, he warned that despite its impedance being specified as "compatible with 8 ohms," the BRX will perform best with substantial amplifier power. HR enthusiastically echoed JA's praise for the GoldenEar's sound, writing "My auditions suggest that the new GoldenEar BRXs might be the best thing to happen to affordable speakers since the debut of the KEF LS50. With the right amplifier, they achieved a level of overt lucidity that is extremely rare at this price." (Vol.43 Nos.9 & 12 WWW)

Harbeth P3ESR XD: $3290/pair (stands necessary) ★
In its standard version, the two-way, sealed-cabinet P3ESR ($2195/pair) stands just 12" tall and partners a 0.75" tweeter with a 5" woofer, the latter using Harbeth's proprietary, patented Radial2 polymer for improved clarity and low-level resolution. Though restricted in loudness and bass extension, the P3ESR had a slightly warm overall balance characterized by smooth highs, an uncolored midrange, and stable and accurate stereo imaging. "The Harbeth P3ESR is the best iteration yet from any manufacturer of the BBC LS3/5A minimonitor concept," concluded JA. The littlest Harbeth also gets the strongest recommendation from JM. While its lack of low and midbass disqualified it for most rock and large-scale orchestral performances, felt BD, the Harbeth's incredible midrange clarity and detail made it an outstanding choice for small, intimate works. The 40th Anniversary Edition, which adds upgraded connectors, internal cable, and crossover capacitors, as well as an exclusive olivewood veneer and two commemorative badges, found favor with HR: Used on TonTräger P3 stands ($1485/pair) and compared to the standard P3ESRs, the 40th Anniversary Edition Harbeths showed him "greater separation of instruments, and a fleshier texture to [Birgit] Nilsson's voice." Herb regards the 40th Anniversary Edition P3ESR as "the best-built, most natural-sounding small speaker I have ever heard, and considers the prices of both versions "chickenfeed." (Vol.33 Nos.8 & 10, Vol.34 No.7, Vol.41 No.12 WWW)

Harbeth Super HL5plus XD: $7995/pair (stands necessary)
The same size as the BBC-inspired Spendor BC1, the three-way, reflex-loaded Harbeth features the same combination of drive units as that 1970s-era speaker: a woofer, a tweeter, and a supertweeter. These are all thoroughly modern units, however. The in-house–made woofer features Harbeth's RADIAL2 polymeric composite-cone; the tweeter and supertweeter use aluminum domes and are sourced from SEAS. KM liked what he heard: "The Super HL5plus XD succeeded at being exceptionally refined, robust, and fun, in roughly equal parts. It was ultradetailed but never surgical. Its immaculate resolution never sounded less than natural, smooth, never processed." Imaging and soundstage were similarly profound, KM wrote, producing "an enveloping 3D soundfield, at least with recordings with that potential." He concluded that the Harbeth is tailor-made for well-recorded classical with its grandeur, spaciousness, and separation. He also enjoyed jazz and female vocals with this speaker. However, when he played anything that required "major boogie factor"—ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Mastodon—he found he wasn't satisfied. "They seemed to lack the drive needed to fill my small room with convincing rebel sounds." Writing from his test lab, JA confirmed the 86dB/2.83V/m, sensitivity and noted that while the Super HL5plus was a relatively easy load, tube amplifiers will work best with their 4 ohm output transformer taps. He found that the frequency response was impressively even, with small peaks balanced by small reductions in energy, though he commented that there was a very slight downward slope in the treble. (Vol.46 No.9 WWW)

Heretic AD614: $7290/pair
The Canadian two-way AD614—the "AD" honors the late Art Dudley—uses an Italian 12" coaxial driver rated at 97dB/2.83V/m in a vented birch-plywood enclosure. Crossover is a series-wired, second-order, Linkwitz-Riley type set at 1.7kHz. With the 614s' tweeters pointed directly at his nose, HR commented that the speakers sounded more transparent, deep-spaced, and sharply focused than they did when aimed straight ahead. "The AD614s displayed an oceans-wide, minutely drawn, evenly lit soundspace that felt natural and relaxed, not exaggerated or contrived," he found, even with the speakers sitting only inches from the wall. "These boxes can play LOUD!" he exclaimed concluding that while he could always hear the paper in the Heretics' cones, and was never not aware of the location, mass, and volume of their thin-walled boxes, "those things were more of a comfort than a distraction." (Vol.46 No.4 WWW)

JansZen Valentina P8: $9250/pair
This complex floorstander uses a multi-element electrostatic diaphragm in a sealed subenclosure mounted between two 8" dynamic woofers, these also loaded with a sealed box. An auxiliary 1" ring-dome tweeter is mounted outboard on each speaker, firing sideways toward the nearest sidewall. Rear-panel controls allow the levels of the electrostatic driver and woofers to be individually adjusted—with these level controls, the tiltback of the speaker's baffle, and the side-mounted tweeter, JA found that optimizing the Valentina P8s' setup in his room was complicated. Fortunately, he noted, the extensive manual offered useful advice, and after experimenting with the speakers' positions, toe-in, and level controls, JA found that the high frequencies were naturally balanced, the midrange was uncolored and clear, the reasonably extended low frequencies were articulate, and the JansZen speakers presented a clear window into the recorded soundstage. The measured sensitivity varied somewhat with the exact measurement axis. JA found that the P8's voltage sensitivity was low, at 83–84dB/2.83V/m depending on the measurement axis, but noted that this speaker is a relatively easy load for the partnering amplifier. "The JansZen Valentina P8's measured performance indicates that, when optimally set up, it will give an even tonal balance," he concluded. (Vol.45 No.6 WWW)

KLH Model Five: $2499.98/pair including stands $$$
One of the first loudspeakers from the reborn KLH brand, the three-way Model Five echoes its vintage ancestor by having an acoustic-suspension woofer. A three-way switch allows the speaker's Mid-HF balance to be adjusted. With this switch set to its maximum, KM liked what he heard: "The M5's midrange was consistently meaty and lucid, but some recordings could excite a thin, slightly papery quality from the tweeters; it was recording dependent. Mostly, the speaker played with a detailed, sparkling upper/mid/treble chutzpah that favored and seemed to amplify texture and viscosity." KM was also impressed by the KLH's low frequencies: "Bass notes have never sounded tighter or more carved in black space here than they did through the Model Five," he wrote. KLH specifies the Model Five's free-field sensitivity as 87.5dB/2.83V/m, which was confirmed by JA's measurements. He found that the KLH's impedance lay between 4 and 8 ohms over most of the audioband but recommended this speaker be used with amplifiers that don't have problems driving 4 ohms. Measured farfield response was even, though JA noted that experimenting with toe-in will be useful in obtaining the optimal low-treble balance. KM concluded that for not a lot of money, the Model 5 "was a forensic instrument when needed and an audiophile speaker capable of reproducing rich, true-to-the-source sounds when desired...The KLH M5s are intoxication kings, urging me to hear my most beloved vinyl via [their] big personality and well-scaled dimensionality." Matching stands included in price; Stonewash Linen grilles add $199/pair. (Vol.44 No.10 WWW)

KLH Model Three: $1799.98/pair including stands
While it resembles the classic KLH Model Five speaker from 1968, like the current-day Model Five, the Model Three is a thoroughly modern design. It combines the Five's 1" aluminum-dome tweeter with a sealed-box–loaded 8" pulp-paper–cone woofer. A three-position "Acoustic Balance Control" attenuates the output above 400Hz by 0, 1.5dB, or 3dB to deal with difficult room acoustics. A pair of black, powder-coated, 14-gauge slant riser stands are included in the price; these tilt the speakers back to place the listener's ears on the tweeter axis. RS found that the silvery grille rattled with high-level bass notes. He removed the grilles for his auditioning, noting that bass was then one of the M3's strong suits. The soundstage was wider than he expected, and he also admired the KLH's transparency. "Understated transparency; it didn't call attention to itself. Detail wasn't hyped," he wrote, adding that the M3 "preserved the richness and warmth inherent in the music." He summed up his time with the KLH speakers by writing "The M3 delivered both fun and refined audiophile sound, at a price I consider almost laughably low. It delivers music in a way that made this long-time audiophile shake his head and smile." Measurer JA confirmed the M3's specified sensitivity of 85dB/2.83V/m and noted both that the speaker will work well with amplifiers that don't have problems driving low impedances and that tube amplifiers will best be used from their 4 ohm output transformer taps. (Vol.46 No.1 WWW)

Klipsch RP-600M II: $749/pair (stands necessary) $$$
The original version of Klipsch's two-way standmounted RP-600M used a 6.5" spun-copper-plus-ceramic-cone woofer to handle frequencies below 1.8kHz and a 1" titanium-diaphragm tweeter loaded with a Tractrix horn to reproduce everything else. The new version is an inch deeper than the old and has a larger conical-tractrix high-frequency horn and a redesigned woofer, which sports Faraday rings and a larger voice-coil. While HR preferred the old Klipsches with their speaker grilles attached, he found the new Klipsches sounded best with them removed. "The combined effect of the revised horn and bass driver is to add weight, presence, and low-signal delicacy to the presentation," he wrote. While the original speakers did an extraordinary job of emphasizing the beat and "diagramming the melody" of classical music, the new Klipsch "is simply more refined-sounding." HR commented on the Klipsch's "ability to play really loud" with even an 8W amplifier, though reporting from his lab, JA estimated the original RP-600M's sensitivity to be 89.6dB—" much lower" than Klipsch's spec. Even so, he praised the earlier speaker's "impressive measured performance, especially when its affordable price is taken into account." (Vol.42 No.4, original version; Vol.46 No.8 WWW)

MayFly Audio Systems MF-201A: $3499/pair (stands necessary)
This unique, almost circular-profile standmount uses internal skyline diffusers to damp the woofer's backwave in the midrange, but not at lower frequencies, to get more bass output from the reflex-loaded alignment. The single driver is a coaxial unit from SEAS. RvB found that the MayFlys have tight bass that pumps out 40Hz with authority; he felt that the MF-201A sounded "honeylike, and it's hard to dislike a skosh of honey." Overall, he felt that there was a "dignified, reserved quality" to the speakers' presentation and commented on their precision and delicacy. His conclusion? "Though slow to quicken the pulse, these speakers are not shy or retiring, but you may have to take the time to find the right placement." JA found that the voltage sensitivity was 5dB lower than the specified 88dB and warned that despite its overall high impedance, the MF-201A will work best with amplifiers that have no problem driving 4 ohms. Matching 14" stands cost $899/pair, though RvB felt that the MF-201As sounded better-balanced on taller, conventional stands. (Vol.45 No.3 WWW)

Mission 770: $5000/pair including stands
Looking almost identical to the classic 770 from 1979, the 2022 770 is a completely new standmounted, two-way, reflex-loaded design from IAG's Peter Comeau. Drive units are a 28mm soft-dome tweeter and a mineral-loaded–polypropylene-cone woofer. JA found the 770s' low frequencies extended and articulate, with low distortion. He was also impressed by the speaker's midrange, which he described as "warm, detailed, and musically involving," especially with vocal recordings. He summed up his time with the 770 by saying that its "sonic character was in some ways more than the sum of its parts." The Mission's respectable measured behavior correlated well with its sound quality, though while the specified sensitivity is 88dB/2.83V/m, JA's estimate was 2.5dB lower. Ameliorating that discrepancy, the Mission is a relatively easy load. (Vol.45 No.11 WWW)

Mobile Fidelity Electronics SourcePoint 10: $3699/pair (stands necessary)
This hefty, reflex-loaded, two-way standmount is from the CAD app of veteran speaker engineer Andrew Jones, who, over the years, has designed well-regarded speakers from KEF, Infinity, Pioneer, TAD, and ELAC. Unusually, it uses a coaxial driver that mounts a 1.25" soft-dome tweeter at the center of a 10" woofer's paper-pulp cone. The woofer cone acts as a waveguide, and with its corrugated surround not disturbing the tweeter's wavefront, this results in what JA confirmed as well-controlled dispersion. Low frequencies extend to 42Hz, —6dB, and the farfield response was respectably flat in the midrange and low treble, with a slight rise in the top two audio octaves that JA heard, though he noted that the high frequencies were clean and that the speaker otherwise sounded smoothly balanced and uncolored. He found the SourcePoint 10s' stereo imaging precise and stable, and commented favorably on the speaker's high dynamic range capability. JA's measurements confirmed the high specified sensitivity of 91dB/2.83V/m and indicated that the MoFi speaker won't be a difficult load for the partnering amplifier. Overall, he concluded that with its clean, superbly well-defined low frequencies, the natural-sounding midrange, the high sensitivity, the easy-to-drive impedance, the ability to play loudly without strain, and the affordable price, the SourcePoint 10 gets a thumbs-up. In his follow-up review, KM wrote that he heard sweet, extended treble, natural, clear, and stomach-churning sub bass. "The SourcePoint 10's versatility—its ability to delight playing all styles of music with a wide variety of amplifiers—make it, in my opinion, a contender for Loudspeaker of the Year," he concluded. (Vol.46 Nos.2 & 6 WWW)

Mobile Fidelity Electronics SourcePoint 8: $2999/pair (stands necessary)
With similar looks to the larger SourcePoint 10, the SourcePoint 8 substitutes an 8" coaxial driver for the '10's 10" unit but this driver's active area is almost as large. KR found that the clearest and most stable center imaging was achieved with the SourcePoint 8s toed in about halfway between straight ahead and directly aimed at the listening position. He also found that the SourcePoint 8 demonstrated remarkable bass for a small box with a bass driver of modest size. "They did not reproduce much output below 50Hz," he wrote, "but above that frequency they proved capable of tight, powerful bass." KR concluded that this is a balanced, wide-range speaker, enjoyable at all practical volume levels. The SourcePoint 8 demonstrates how satisfying a small, relatively affordable loudspeaker can be, he wrote, adding that "they generate a fairly wide and deep soundstage that is notably transparent and detailed." JA noted that the MoFi SourcePoint 8 offers excellent measured performance, is an easy amplifier, and he confirmed the specified 87dB/2,83V/m sensitivity. (Vol.46 No.9 WWW)

Moon by Simaudio Voice 22: $3200/pair (stands necessary)
The smallish, designed in Canada, made-in-Indonesia Voice 22 marries a waveguide-loaded, 29mm textile-dome tweeter with a reflex-loaded, long-throw, 6.1" woofer that has a cone made from mineral-filled polypropylene. Unusually, RS found that the speakers sounded best without any toe-in to the listening position: "the sound was clearer and more incisive that way, yet also bloomier and more open-air breathy." While the 22's treble couldn't reach the same airy heights of his twice-the-price reference speakers, he noted that the Voices "reproduced an introspective, well-lit environment bathed in texture and space" and were "adept at exposing reverb." RS concluded that the Moon Voice 22's most conspicuous sonic attribute "was its well-sorted, seamless midrange." The speaker incorporates a removable "hover" base, a tapered isolation platform with a rubberlike material base, which is magnetically affixed to the speaker. JA found that this did reduce the level of the enclosure's vibrational modes. JA also estimated the Voice 22's sensitivity as an inconsequential 1dB lower than the specified 89dB/2.83V/m. Frequency balance was a little forward in the upper-midrange, but the cumulative spectral-decay plot "is superbly clean," he remarked. (Vol.46 No.5 WWW)

Piega Premium Wireless 701: $8495/pair
This slim, Swiss-made, two-and-a-half-way active tower features an enclosure extruded from a single piece of solid aircraft-grade aluminum. A ribbon tweeter is mounted above two 5.5" drivers, the lower of which rolls off earlier than the upper. As the name suggests, the Piega Wireless 701 uses a proprietary Wi-Fi connection to receive signals from the Connect control unit—a choice of three RF frequencies and corresponding data rates is offered—though it also has a line-level analog input feeding an A/D converter. The Connect has both analog and digital inputs (the latter with aptX Bluetooth) and allows the speaker's volume to be controlled. DSP is used to implement the speaker's crossover, adjust low frequencies to suit the room acoustics, prevent woofer overload, and provide loudness compensation. JMu was impressed by what she heard from this system, which sounded "bigger than you'd expect from these slender speakers. Bass extension and control were impressive. Music from the 701s filled my room, and the spaciousness of the sound suggested wide, even dispersion. Tonal balance remained fairly neutral, and familiar music sounded like it should. Hi-hat cymbals were smoothly reproduced, without detectable resonance or ringing." Despite the system offering generally respectable acoustic performance, JA found some anomalies on the test bench. Though the Connect would lock to a 192kHz datastream, it appeared to downsample that rate to 96kHz. In addition, the Wi-Fi connection between the Connect and the loudspeakers appeared to be limited to a 48kHz sample rate, higher rates being downsampled. Systems sold in the US include the Connect control unit. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

Polk Audio Legend L100: $999/pair (stands necessary)
After this pair of well-finished, two-way, rear-ported standmounts had been broken in, KM found they "imaged beautifully, were dynamic as the dickens, recreated a satisfactory soundstage, and provided very respectable bass weight and extension—indeed, exceptional for their size...The L100s often fooled me into believing they were replicating bass notes lower than those small mid/bass drivers should allow." KM was also impressed by the Polk's midrange, describing it as "reliably distinct and rich-sounding," though he also found the upper midrange—treble balance somewhat forward. Although the L100 has a specified sensitivity of 85.5dB/W/m, JA measured a slightly higher figure of 87dB(B)/2.83V/m. KM found the Polk to sound better with some amplifiers than others, which JA ascribed to the demanding impedance. The L100 "will work best with amplifiers that are comfortable driving loads below 4 ohms," he concluded. He also warned that the L100s should be used with stands that are sufficiently high so that the listener can't see the tops of the cabinets. (Vol.43 No.10 WWW)

ProAc Response D2R: $4750/pair with ribbon tweeter option, $5500/pair in premium finishes
The D2R is derived from the Response D Two that JM and JA reviewed in 2010. It keeps the original's reflex-loaded, 6.5" glass-fiber—cone woofer but replaces the D Two's 1" silk-dome tweeter with a 2.75" ribbon tweeter made by ProAc. "The D2R impressed me immediately with its lucid, clear top end, rich-sounding midrange, and, for a cabinet of its size, well-defined and extended bass," KM wrote. Although JA's measurements indicated that the tweeter's top-octave output was 3—5dB too high in level compared with the average level of the woofer, KM never experienced the speaker's ribbon tweeter as forward, bright, or mechanical sounding, writing that the D2R was "open and natural sounding in the treble, reproducing the tone, texture, and sizes of pianos, percussion—and cymbals." MF concluded that "the ProAc D2R demonstrated excellent transparency...When called for by the recording, it delivered rich, characterful midrange sounds and deep, well-defined bass notes." (Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

Q Acoustics Concept 50: $2999/pair
This affordable, elegant-looking two-way tower combines a 0.9" fabric-dome tweeter positioned between two 5" plastic-cone woofers and incorporates a custom suspension system in its base. The reflex woofer alignment requires placement close to the wall behind the speaker, but even with the Concept 50s farther out in the room, JA noted relatively extended low frequencies, with low distortion and excellent upper-bass articulation. Stereo imaging was precise, with good soundstage depth, and while the mid-treble region sounded a little softened compared with the upper midrange, the Concept 50's overall presentation was uncolored and clean. JA's estimate of the speaker's sensitivity was somewhat lower than the specified 90.5dB/W/m, at 88.1dB(B)/2.83V/m, but the Q Acoustics is relatively easy to drive. It also offered excellent measured performance. (Vol.45 No.8 WWW)

Sonus Faber Lumina III: $2399/pair
This elegant but affordable three-way tower stands 38" tall on its spikes. (The spikes provide clearance for the reflex port, which fires downward from the speaker's base.) Two 5" pulp-cone woofers are accompanied by a 5" pulp-cone midrange unit and Sonus Faber's Damped Apex Dome tweeter. Specified sensitivity is 89dB/2.83V/m—JA's estimate was commendably higher, at 91dB(B)/2.83V/m. Bass alignment is a little overdamped, meaning that the Lumina IIIs will sound at their best when placed relatively close to the wall behind them without compromising low-frequency definition. JA didn't recommend this speaker for use with source components that are themselves too forward in the treble, even with the toe-in adjusted to give the most-neutral treble, but concluded that in the right system and room, "this elegant-looking tower will excel at communicating the music's message." (Vol.44 No.4 WWW)

Tannoy Stirling Prestige Gold Reference: $6990/pair
This classic-looking floorstander uses Tannoy's traditional Dual Concentric driver with its Tulip Waveguide loading the aluminum-magnesium–alloy tweeter diaphragm. The paper-cone woofer features an impregnated-fabric surround and is reflex-loaded with vertical slots at the sides of the recessed front baffle. A three-position "Energy Control" allows the treble balance to be optimized. KM noted that this speaker requires careful setup and, unusually, he found that the Stirling sounded better with the bulky grille attached—"its tone fuller, its treble more open and revealing, its low end weightier and better defined." He noted that the high frequencies were clean and extended, the dynamics were marvelous, and the speakers presented "a full, believable, densely populated soundstage. "At its core a horn speaker," he wrote, "the Stirling is fast, communicative, coherent, and demonstrative. It was transparent to equipment and music sources while retaining its trademark sound." JA found that the Tannoy's sensitivity was almost 3dB higher than the already high specification of 91dB/2.83V/m and commented that while the Stirling will work best with amplifiers that don't have problems driving low impedances, the speaker's high sensitivity will reduce its need for current. He concluded that the Stirling's measured performance was dominated by the effects of the tweeter being coaxially mounted behind the woofer cone: "Experimentation with vertical listening axis and/or toe-in, in combination with the high-frequency controls, will be necessary to optimize its in-room tonal balance." (Vol.45 No.10 WWW)

Triangle Antal 40th Anniversary Edition: $4700/pair
As its name suggests, this slim, three-way tower celebrates the French manufacturer's 40th anniversary. A horn-loaded tweeter with a rigid anodized-magnesium dome is allied with a midrange unit that uses a paper cone that Triangle says is the most optimized they've ever developed, and two reflex-loaded, wood-pulp, flax, and carbon fiber-membrane woofers. RS found that the Antals offered a big sweet spot and that the speaker's midrange had "a projector-like clarity against which images and musical lines appeared in physical, protuberant relief." Bass drum hits were clean yet bold, he noted, with good impact and sustain, but without overhang. "Assuming the rest of your system is up to snuff," RS concluded, "the Antal 40s will let you hear an inordinate amount of what's on the record. I found it hard to imagine, as I listened, that I was missing anything." JA found that the Antal's sensitivity was 3dB lower than the specified 92dB/W/m and noted that the speaker was a relatively demanding load for the partnering amplifier. He did note that the Triangle speaker's frequency balance was flat and even, its dispersion in the vertical and horizontal planes well-managed, and the low frequencies extended if overdamped, favoring articulation over ultimate bass weight. For her follow-up review, JMu drove the Antals with the HiFi Rose RA180 integrated amplifier. She found that they were capable of endowing images "with sufficient presence and enough highly resolved detail to be immersive in their own way...Voices sound as though they came from the bodies of real, flesh-and-blood singers." She concluded that the Antal's best features were "presence and purity of tone." (Vol.45 No.10, Vol.46 No.6 WWW)

C (RESTRICTED LF):

Alta Audio Alyssa: $5000/pair (stands included) in High Gloss Black; $6,000/pair in Beachwood or Rosewood
This large, two-way standmount features a high-quality ribbon tweeter and a 6" Morel woofer loaded with a folded transmission line that terminates in a port on the speaker's rear. This combination, called "XTL Loading" by Alta, "tunes the speaker from resonance on up as it would in a properly tuned ported speaker, and the transmission line tunes the speaker from system resonance down. This extends the response significantly." JA's measurements showed that the Alyssa offered extended low frequencies for a speaker its size but also revealed that the internal transmission line suffered from high-Q resonances. HR noted that in his relatively small room, the Alyssas exhibited "a vexing lack of focus in the lower midrange and upper bass," which was especially audible with male vocals. JA conjectured that this coloration was due to the line resonances. (However, subsequent auditioning by JCA in his room, which is larger than HR's, indicated that those resonances didn't seem to affect sound quality.) Higher in frequency, the Alyssas delighted HR with their innate transparency and their ability to project an enormous soundstage with lifelike musicians arrayed in front of him. When the samples were delivered to JCA, the ports were stuffed with wool, although they had been open for HR's auditioning and JA's measurements. "I found the low-bass reach and the quantity and quality of the low frequencies superior without any stuffing," JCA wrote. "Even a quarter as much [stuffing] as they were delivered with reduced their bass impact considerably." Price is for gloss black finish; gloss beech or rosewood finish adds $1000/pair. (Vol.43 Nos.11 & 12 WWW)

Fyne Audio F301: $625/pair (stands necessary)
Fyne Audio was founded by a group of former senior managers from Tannoy. The two-way, ported F301—the company's second-least-expensive speaker—marries a 1" polyester-dome tweeter to a 6" matte-silver—finished, "multi-fibre" —cone woofer. "After a break-in period," KM wrote, "the Fyne F301s impressed with their exceptional rendering of soundstage width and depth, reasonably wide dynamic range, extended low end (for their size), and exuberant, I-can't-stop-spinning-records presentation." He did note, however, that though it "tilted toward the dark side," the F301's treble could sometimes have a tinge of dryness or hardness on brass and strings. Even so, KM concluded that "the Fyne Audio F301 loudspeakers punch way above their price point. Their ability to cast a wide, deep soundstage with super imaging was as good as any bookshelf speaker I've had in house. Their serious jump factor and meaty bass frequencies were a consistent treat." JA's measurements indicated that while the F301's sensitivity was almost 3dB lower than the specified 89dB/2.83V/m, the F301 is a relatively easy load for the partnering amplifier. (Vol.43 No.5 WWW)

Magnepan .7: $1995/pair $$$ ★
Magnepan's .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)

SVS Prime Wireless Pro: $899/pair (stands necessary)
This two-way, active standmount offers an 1/8" stereo analog input, RCA and TosLink S/PDIF, HDMI ARC and eARC, and Ethernet digital inputs, as well as AirPlay 2 and Chromecast Wi-Fi connectivity using the DTS Play-Fi app. There is also a single subwoofer output. RvB felt that Play-Fi still needed improvement, so he streamed audio with Tidal Connect or Roon. Although the Prime Pro's low-frequency extension is specified as –3dB at 42Hz, RvB found that the small speakers offered sufficient bass weight. "Even without a sub or two," he wrote, "they played loudly without breaking up or sounding ragged." Imaging lacked pinpoint precision, however, and RvB was bothered by the lively enclosure. (Measurer JA noted a strong cabinet resonance in the midrange with a frequency close to that of the musical note Middle C and another strong resonant peak just below 600Hz in the port's output.) Nevertheless, RvB was impressed by the Prime Pro. Compared with the all-in-one Vanatoo Transparent One Encores, he found that the SVS speakers played louder, partied harder, slammed deeper, and looked nicer, as well as offering a "small smorgasbord" of convenient features. "If your budget is somewhere south of $1000, and you're looking for versatile powered speakers capable of unabashed performance, I don't think you can go wrong with the SVS Prime Pros," he concluded. (Vol.46 No.1 WWW)

D:

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)

Deletions
Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha DAW, replaced by newer model not yet reviewed. Totem Acoustic Skylight, discontined. Elac Carina BS243.4, GoldenEar Triton One.R, JBL Stage A170, Manger P1, Monitor Audio Gold 300 G5, PSB Alpha P5, Q Acoustics Concept 300, Songs Faber Olympica Nova 1, Trenner & Friedl Osiris, Vanatoo Transparent One Encore, Vivid Audio Kaya 45, Wharfedale Linton Heritage, not auditioned in a long time.

COMMENTS
creativepart's picture

Does Stereophile ever question the validity of this twice a year list? Perhaps it really helps with newsstand sales, but I've come to dread it's release twice a year. First, there are the stupidly priced A+ turntables all reviewed by one staffer that's been gone for quite some time. The entire A+ section will go away with "not tested in a long time" and rightly so.

Some items are ranked by full reviews with testing and others are just columnists saying - highly recommended - at the end of their monthly column. And those items are many times totally out of the mainstream of the product marketplace.

And, while price doesn't indicate quality, it is so jarring to see $500 products achieve the exact same ranking (A or B usually) along side $15,000 products.

I'd love to see you folks test more of the items people are buying in fairly large numbers everyday... even though they don't have the same 5 popular distribution partners or those that advertise in the magazine. No, I'm not saying it's pay to play. But MoFi Distributing buys a lot of ads, it's friends with staffers and routinely gets their products reviewed. It's not payola, but it is a symbiotic relationship.

I'd recommend you scrap the listing and retool the whole thing - and put some thought into how and why you test the products you test.

tenorman's picture

Very objective , well written and fair . You’ve made some great suggestions . Thank you

HeadScratcher's picture

I too recommend scrapping the current format for a complete retooling of a listing that isn't so time lapse convoluted...

Glotz's picture

Creativepart is mincing words to that they fail to commit to... They are saying it's pay to play in no uncertain terms and views their listings with mistrust. To imply MoFi has a friendly relationship is complete conjecture and Stereophile does not make nor position themselves as a symbiotic relationship with any manufacturer or distributor. If they get their product reviewed, it's because a reviewer saw or heard their product at a show, and anything else is implied BS. Rather, they hate MoFi for their lack of transparency about their debacle on digital masters, and want to see any association of Stereophile's behalf as condemnation of their own lack of transparency and veracity. That implication stinks like jaded political pundits grasping for correlated facts.

What CP is also implying directly is that he or she would like validation of their mainstream products purchased to be favorably reviewed (so they can feel good about their purchases of gear). It's generally opposed to what Stereophile does and any long term reader or subscriber would know that as gospel and the very reason the magazine exists on one level- to provide a review of one person's experience with a hard to find or less-investigated piece of gear. It is easy to find, learn and buy any mainstream piece of gear. I do think that should change a bit.

What is important is for Stereophile to review these mainstream audio products and compare against their audiophile offerings and EXPLAIN why they are different and (if) superior. That would be bring in more readers if the descriptions of well known products (vs. audiophile products) could be compared and contrasted well enough. This acts to bring real-world reference points to levels of sound quality that more non-audio dudes would understand.

I do not think this magazine is as good at comparisons (though understandable) as they used to be in the 80's and 90's (less HR and JA). Manufacturers don't like comparisons to their products because often the context is misunderstood by readers. Yes, almost all products in any category are vastly improved and the 80's performance points were much more obvious to hear and report about as negative or positive. Technology marching forward has changed that and leveled the playing field drastically. The fundamental design approaches of audiophile companies still focus on sound rather than ergonomics or functionality.

What should happen is to NOT name the product under comparison in the review but only use price as an indicator of quality vs. price in any comparison. That way readers can understand the product from a price perspective and not feel they have a field day crapping on the product that they 'KNEW was audiophile garbage'.

Side note- Other than subscribers, no reader should be allowed to make comments on this or the other sister websites. By way of omission of the subscribed investment, we will be able to separate the dross from water. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other websites that do this outright, but I get that Stereophile wants to increase it's readership. Perhaps, this is actually a better way to do it. Require subscriptions for posting comments here and there (AP).

Jazzlistener's picture

high when you wrote this? Talk about verbal diarrhea. Creativepart made some good points. Although I do personally enjoy the Recommended Components feature, I too find it questionable (e.g. the Rega P3 makes it into Class C but none of their higher end tables can crack Class A? Pluh-ease. What I would really love to see is more system recommendations in Stereophile like in some of the British Hi-Fi mags, and at different price points.

Glotz's picture

But I was pissed a bit. Implied collusion ruffles my s***.

Great recommend on the system point you bring up. That should be a regular feature if they can create very different systems for each 'type' of listener. From there they could build on hybrids of system types involving tubes and solid-state, etc.

These rankings are just one reviewer judging a component in relation to their system. The Benchmark reviews come to mind- Certain people loved them, others not. There's massive nuance there and goes to the heart of preference thing- accuracy to source vs. myfi, vs. 'the absolute sound'.

They all need to fit somewhere into the classes here. It may be a hodge-podge like it is, but whatever. It just is.

The Belles vs. McCormack amp comparison from Sam Tellig (2000) comes to mind as well. The pursuit of accuracy vs. warmth and obscuration of detail lent the McCormack the nod and the higher rating for ST in Class A and the Belles to Class B. Same realm of performance and price (in my listening as well) but they don't share a rating. In more ways and in my lighter balanced system (at the time), I preferred the Belles.

I think dollar amounts do have play a part here as sometimes there are positives that 'overweigh' the subtractions to placement a certain class and could serve one particular group of listeners as a justification for a higher cost or greater perceived value.

Expensive modern tube power amps are a great examples. To get to a greater level of measurement and subjective performance to that of solid state one has to spend sometimes thousands more. The classes do need adjustments for a positive listening value like 'superb depth', even though there may be subtractions for other weaknesses.

I look at the classes as just a rough guide. I doubt that the Project DAC reviewed as Class A a few years back could compete with the top dollar DAC's like dCS, but I haven't heard the Project. I would think there is enough areas of merit to make Class A, but probably not as many facets of performance as the dCS or other pricey DACs.

Anton's picture

One of those turntable must surely be A++, no?

And some of that 'A' gear must really be 'A-.'

I think we should switch to the Moody's rating system...

Or, perhaps the Robert Parker 100 point scale.

Glotz's picture

lol.

RobertSlavin's picture

First let me say I heard the Raidho D2-1 speakers several years ago and was very impressed.

However, given how uneven the measured frequency response of the Raidho TD3.8 was in the Stereophile measurements, I question whether it should have even qualified for Class E if it were sold for $700. Instead, we find it recommended at Class A+ for $117,000.

It is generally acknowledged that there is a strong correlation between even measured frequency response and generally perceived speaker quality.

I realize that to get in A+ just one reviewer has to think that way. But it does raise my eyebrow.

Robert

Scintilla's picture

Despite my recent foaming-of-the-mouth and throwings-under-the-bus here, I do think there is value in the list each year. I have used Stereophile reviews and the list to both narrow my choices and to purchase goods based on a long-standing relationship with a reviewers words. Fremer might think me a random hater but I used his reviews to pick both a phono preamp, and a tonearm. I trusted my own ears to pick other parts of my system before glowing reviews appeared here. Assembling a modern, high-quality audio system is made much more difficult by the sheer number of products available, companies and general noise on the Internets. In the 80's we could go to a hifi salon and listen to products like the Robertson 4010 with some Soundlab A1's (made my neck hair stand up) and find Celestions with omni subs paired with Bedini or BEL amps. In this age, having a curated list to help people at least find products to seek is more valuable than ever. What it comes down to is whether you trust the ears that made the choices. And I do not trust all the new reviewers and neither should you. They haven't earned it yet.

Glotz's picture

Haven't you given a reason why you can't trust them?

Specifically why.

Scintilla's picture

Because they can't actually hear differences. I only trust Kal, JA1 and nobody else; maybe Herb; maybe but he's one of those I just write for pleasure guys. So why trust them? Because the rest of the new writers, including JA2 have not proved themselves over time. It's one thing to have a good review when many people agree. Why is JVS reveiwing the highest-end equipment like J10 did? WTAF does he really know about that gear other than his association with the magazine? Not much, actually. He's an amateur listener no more skilled than me. At least Fremer proved himself as a real arbiter of sound quality. I may not agree with his choices for equipment, but the man proved his prowess as a listener. Not so with the rest of these newbies. They can be indignant all they want to be but until they have a record of salient, quality reviews, they are nobodies... And this is Stereophile's big fail.

Glotz's picture

I wasn't trolling you- You didn't give reasons until now.

I thought these reviewers had enough experience at shows, with their own multi-thousand dollar systems and constantly refining their own craft by interviewing and working with manufacturers.

It would seem strange that a manufacturer or distributor installed-system would be anything less than successful playback, as they don't leave until they are satisfied. They certainly have the respect of manufacturers, dealers and distributors when I see them talk together at shows. (And if collusion ruled those relationships, we would see a different dynamic here.)

MF's system is real close in many ways to JVS' so what is the culprit?

Is it your perception of measurements don't match JVS' experiences? Or is that HR has a more observable scientific method by way of comparisons of gear that seems more transparent? Or the way either communicates their observations?

It just may be about the type of subjective tests that reviewers are performing that fails to bring one type of measurement to be audible. Classical music omits a ton of performance areas for review parameters. The component review may be really for classical lovers. I certainly don't read anymore into it if he isn't remarking on other music.

Yet I do see JA defending JVS' experiences in his measurements section in last month's Infigo review. No one seems to ever acknowledge or comment on those reasonable defenses- ever.

Thank you for your explanation no matter what.

ChrisS's picture

...from mine?

No problem!

creativepart's picture

I went to pains to explain I wasn't claiming payola. And, I'm still not. I'm saying that products with distributors are granted more reviews due to attendance at shows, relationships with editors, and just increased personal contact. Companies expect their distributors to represent their brand for them and to advertise their brand for them. And, that's what they do.

Reviewed products end up on the Stereophile Recommended Products list because of this greater exposure to Stereophile writers and editors.

When someone from a small equipment company calls an editor their call will not be answered as readily as a call from that nice rep you met at the Munich show and shared a beer with last year. It's how the business works.

And, everyone should know when a product is getting a review in a future issue the Ad Dept is made aware and sales people call to suggest an ad be placed in that same issue. It's not pay to play because the ad sale has nothing to do with the product review being printed. But companies recognize synergy when they see it.

Add to this that most reviewers seem to be in Urban areas that have the traditional HiFi Shop. Where the rest of the country only has internet forums and online reviews to audition various products.

My entire point is... the list is tilted, skewed toward bigger budget, higher priced gear that is professionally represented and that is not necessarily representative of the broader equipment marketplace, and what mainstream audiophiles are buying.

Jazzlistener's picture

“My entire point is... the list is tilted, skewed toward bigger budget, higher priced gear that is professionally represented and that is not necessarily representative of the broader equipment marketplace, and what mainstream audiophiles are buying.”

I do not begrudge any company that does a good job marketing itself, attending shows, building a presence in the industry, etc. That’s a lot of hard work and investment. There is a boutique speaker company in my home town that makes outstanding speakers, but the owner has steadfastly refused to show them off at shows, market them properly, or work with dealers. The result has been failure to grow his company or draw attention to his speakers. That’s on him. Stereophile is only one of myriad sources on the Internet where audio enthusiasts can find reviews on gear. Many other reviewers cover mainstream products. In fact, if you’re interested in a product you’d be hard pressed not to find a reasonably to excellent credible review on it.

ChrisS's picture

...shopping.

Does no one know how to do that anymore?

Yeesh!

Jean-Benoit's picture

It seems like an obvious thing to include, or else the reader is left to "manually" go looking for reviews of every component that piques his/her curiosity. Seems like a wholly unnecessary hassle for what is otherwise a really useful list.

CG's picture

Good suggestion!

I tried to search for the review of the Ayre VX-8. No luck, link or no.

John Atkinson's picture
CG wrote:
I tried to search for the review of the Ayre VX-8. No luck, link or no.

This review will be posted to the website on Friday. The other reviews in the new (October) issue will be posted over the next 10 days. (Stereophile gives priority to print subscribers.)

John Atkinson
Technical Editor/part-time web monkey

CG's picture

Ahh! Coming attractions, as they say. Fair enough, all around.

ChrisS's picture

The review for the EX is online...The new one should come up soon!

ednazarko's picture

Always stunned by how many people are compelled to tell the world at length how outraged they are about something online they don't like. Maybe insufficient joy in their lives? A lack of purpose? Afflicted with oppositional defiant disorder? I don't know. But if you think online comparison rankings of audio gear are a fruitless exercise, why read them? If you didn't read them, how can you have much of a useful opinion? Expressing outrage about something you refuse to read is mostly chest pounding and declaring superiority over the fools filling the world.

Don't like the comparison reviews? Really, just move on. Less rage hormones in your blood will extend your life span. Or raise money, buy the company, and show us your better ideas in action.

I enjoy reading through these comparison ratings. Don't agree with some, do agree with others. I've found over time that there are reviewers whose ears and preferences seem to match up with mine and others who don't. (In these twice yearly ratings, and in the ongoing reviews published.) These cyclical ratings and the ongoing reviews have been quite useful for me in trying and buying gear when living in a location that limits my ability to hear a lot of gear for myself.

Right now massively enjoying listening to Kingfish Live in London on my Okto stereo DAC, which I'd never have heard of without the review here, and would have never bought other than the reviewers were ones who's opinions and ears have matched with mine in the past, along with the wildly excellent measured performance. Through an old Anthem integrated that was well reviewed way long ago... and through B&W 702 speakers that got mixed reviews, but in the mix there were specifics that told me that they'd work well with my other components and in the large studio listening space I had. (And that I definitely needed the smattering of sound panels on the walls behind and to the side.)

Just because something pleases you not, or strikes you as ignorant and wasteful consumption of bits on the internet, doesn't mean that others don't find value and useful insights. Save your time and your cortisol and ignore the stuff you think it dumb. Life is short. Spend it well.

Glotz's picture

N/T

creativepart's picture

No anger, no stress on this end. Simply making suggestions in hopes of improving this twice a year feature (of the printed magazine). If you read anger and vitriol in phrases in my post like "I'd love to see you folks..." then it's not me that's overreacting.

If you like the listings as they are, then great. No one is stopping you. Me, I think they could be more meaningful than they are currently. But that's just me.

pinkfloyd4ever's picture

It would be really helpful if you posted a link to the full review of each of these products in this list

Jau's picture

Hi,
In delections from their latest Recommended Components they relate to the Devialet Expert 140 Pro and say that it has been replaced by a new model which has not been tested. However, the Expert 140 Pro continues to appear on the Devialet website and there is no new model to replace it. (?)

Firemike's picture

Maybe a quick visit to Funk & Wagnall's might be in order to refresh ourselves of what a review and recommendation is. If a consumer wants to spend $10 or $20,000 on a widget, consider a review as gospel, or only an opinion, isn't that their prerogative? If a person prefers the sound of pink colored audio equipment made from crystals and walnuts from "Big HI FI" that has no scientific or measurable reasoning behind it, who are we to judge? Akin to politics and religion, each person votes with their ears and ultimately, wallet. Not every opposing view is a conspiracy which require's a need to question other's intentions. A review is nothing more than one person's opinion. Aren't we in this hobby to listen and enjoy music - not hyper analyze equipment, materials, and the evil empires that provide it? Somehow fellow hobbyist's have survived all of these years in life - many of them very successfully - without our subjective criticism. Yes, I get it. As a subscriber you have input into how you would prefer to see things done. Maybe a letter to the editor could be a consideration.

moukie's picture

Really surprised NOT to see Bryston 4B3 14B3 or 28B3 in the recommended amps and that is like every year

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