Stereophile's Products of 1998 Joint Loudspeakers of 1998

Joint Loudspeakers of 1998

Audio Artistry Beethoven ($28,000/system; reviewed by Shannon Dickson, Vol.20 No.11, November 1997 Review)
Revel Ultima Gem ($7500–$9500/pair with stands but without subwoofer, depending on finish; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.21 No.10, October 1998 Review)

Finalists (in alphabetical order):
Aerial Acoustics 8 ($5000–$6000/pair, depending on finish; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.21 No.1, January 1998; Thomas J. Norton, Vol.21 Nos.4 & 11, April & November 1998 Review)
Avantgarde Acoustic Duo ($13,900/pair; reviewed by Martin Colloms, Vol.21 No.6, June 1998)
Hales Design Group Revelation 3 ($2195/pair; reviewed by Robert Deutsch, Vol.21 No.2, February 1998 Review)
JMlab Utopia ($30,000/pair; reviewed by Jonathan Scull, Vol.21 No.4, April 1998 Review)
Paradigm Reference Active/20 ($1600/pair; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.20 No.11, November 1997 Review)
Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Piano ($3500/pair; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.21 No.5, May 1998 Review)
Thiel CS6 ($7900/pair; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.21 No.3, March 1998 Review)
Wilson Audio Specialties WITT Series II ($11,890/pair; reviewed by Martin Colloms, Vol.21 No.1, January 1998 Review)

1998 offered a broad field of superb loudspeakers with an equally wide range of prices, but the Audio Artistry Beethoven and Revel Ultima Gem dominated the voting.

Designed by Siegfried Linkwitz, the Beethoven is a four-way biamplified dipole system that consists of two dynamic main panels, two subwoofers, a pair of passive crossovers, and a unity-gain, noninverting, balanced, active (line-level) crossover. This means that its potential user must have, at least, a balanced-output preamplifier, as well as a pair of balanced-capable stereo amplifiers, in order to drive the speaker system. In return, the Beethoven owner gets a speaker capable of effortless portrayal of the subtlest nuances, no matter how dynamic or complex the musical signal. Several voters echoed Shannon Dickson's assertion that the Audio Artistry Beethoven is "the single most impressive audio component I've yet encountered."

Newcomer Revel's Ultima Gem, designed by Kevin Voecks, impressed our voters just as highly, however. This hi-tech system, while not as complex as the Beethoven, is a stand-mounted two-way loudspeaker that can also be mated to a passive subwoofer and dedicated monophonic subwoofer amplifier. Transparency and dynamic ease characterize the sound of the Ultima Gem—when integrated in a first-class system, the speaker produces a sound that John Atkinson described as "nothing short of magic."

Anton's picture

He was the audio-review pioneer of commentary via paragraph title.

Some classics....

"Wire we talking about this?"

"Beating against the bars of the cage of form"

"Mr. Polk, are you trying to seduce me?"

A killer title for a conclusion paragraph..."A panegyric untainted by poppy"

Dang, I miss Wes.

John Atkinson's picture
John Atkinson wrote:
Z-System's RDP-1 is my 1998 Editor's Choice. With its transparent control of tone, it points to a future in which audiophiles can eat their cake and have it too.

I bought the review sample of the RDP-1 and subsequently had it updated to handle data sampled at 88.2kHz and 96kHz. It's still in the rack but with my playback of digital audio now happening over the network with Roon and my PS Audio DirectStream DAC, it only very occasionally sees action.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Kal Rubinson's picture

The RDP-1 is the product that convinced me of the value and efficacy of DSP.

Robin Landseadel's picture

"Designing great-sounding gear is no simple matter no matter how much you spend, but it's doubly impressive when the product is available at a bargain price."

Guess that one went out the window.