Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Ken Micallef  |  May 18, 2017  |  14 comments
If, like me, you're a dues-paying audiophile who's circumnavigated the upgrade block a few times, you've seen a lot of gear and set up many systems. I've carried 80-lb line conditioners up the six knee-crunching flights to my bachelor's penthouse, managed 50-lb loudspeakers downstairs to a waiting van, and made more trips to FedEx than I can count. I've owned dozens of audio products and reviewed dozens more.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 27, 2017  |  22 comments
Having discontinued the MAXX3 loudspeaker ($68,000/pair in 2009, when I reviewed it), Wilson Audio needed to plug the resulting gaping hole between the Alexia ($48,500/pair) and the Alexandria XLF ($210,000/pair). Company founder Dave Wilson was busy with the limited-edition WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker ($685,000/pair), so son Darryl Wilson set about creating a speaker with a retail price of about $100,000/pair. The result, the Alexx, finally came in at $109,000/pair.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Mar 24, 2017  |  12 comments
When it comes to Focal loudspeakers, I've been a lurker. For decades now, their demonstrations at audio shows have been memorable—a highlight was when, several years ago, I got Focal to play a powerful percussion track through a pair of their Grande Utopias at very high volume on a show's last day. Just to hear and feel how this mammoth system could deliver clarity and impact was awe-inspiring, and it was underscored by seeing folks from all the neighboring rooms quickly entering to enjoy it with me. It has also been a continuing pleasure to relax and listen to music with Stereophile's former Senior Editor, Jonathan Scull through his Focal Utopias, which he purchased in 1998. Alas, the years have turned, speakers have come and gone, and I had not yet had any Focal speakers in my own system. (Bob Deutsch seemed always to get the jump on me!)
Art Dudley  |  Feb 23, 2017  |  7 comments
I wouldn't normally begin a review of an imported product with generalities about the culture from which it sprang, but this isn't just any imported product. It's a Scandinavian loudspeaker, and Scandinavian speakers are subject to a different and altogether more liberal set of rules.

For one thing, because they tend to be healthy and well educated, and because their governments are at peace and, for the most part, economically and politically sound, Scandinavians can take a joke. For another, Scandinavians are famous for not only having a loudspeaker industry—something that has thus far eluded Spaniards, Corsicans, Ethiopians, and the Maltese, among others—but also for the distinctiveness of the speakers they make. Like the Scandinavian people themselves, their speakers are intelligent, serene, uncompromising, outwardly serious and inwardly whimsical, outwardly tidy and inwardly complex, and a bit quirky.

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 02, 2017  |  16 comments
Reviewers of high-fidelity gear are a trend-sniffing, topology-bandying bunch. When four of our kin gathered last November over lunch, during the 2016 New York Audio Show, the high-end chatter flew fast and furious. "Did you hear those mother-rocking big horns on the seventh floor?" "Nah, man, the Bruno Putzeys speakers on nine were best in show." "What about those li'l Lowthers on eight? Great sweet spot, but small as peanuts."
John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2017  |  8 comments
"Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the October issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.
Jon Iverson  |  Dec 22, 2016  |  6 comments
I prefer and have owned electrostatic speakers for most of my audiophile life. Depending on your point of view, this makes me either the most qualified or the least appropriate writer to review MartinLogan's new electrostatic loudspeaker, the Masterpiece Renaissance ESL 15A.

Oh, I've flirted with dynamic speakers. I've owned and loved—and ultimately, when I was an audio retailer, sold—models from Revel, Thiel, Vandersteen, and many others, while my long-term choice has been electrostats. And while I've spent plenty of time with electrostatic speakers from Acoustat and Quad, I've ended up owning MartinLogans: Sequels, Quests, ReQuests, and, currently, Prodigys.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Dec 20, 2016  |  21 comments
Bang & Olufsen's BeoLab 90 is not a loudspeaker to take on lightly. Though its size—49.33" high by 28.9" wide by 29.4" deep—and weight (302 lbs each) meant a major disruption of my listening room, which is also our living room, my wife assented. Its price of $84,990/pair puts it far beyond anything I might consider buying—and the complexity of the BeoLab 90, which has its own dedicated amplifiers and DACs, makes it impossible for a reviewer—or consumer—to directly compare it with any other loudspeaker. So be it.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 13, 2016  |  10 comments
It's no secret that deputy editor Art Dudley is an anachrophile (footnote 1). After expounding on the virtues of vintage audio gear in his October 2016 Listening" column, he spent no fewer than seven pages of our November issue raving about the sound quality of Auditorium 23's expensive Hommage Cinema loudspeaker, from Germany. (The Hommage Cinema costs $49,995/pair, plus $5495 for the necessary AcousticPlan NT-1 field-coil power supply.)
Art Dudley  |  Oct 28, 2016  |  21 comments
Keith Aschenbrenner, proprietor of Auditorium 23, based in Frankfurt, Germany, has long been associated with the people and products of Shindo Laboratory: From the early 1990s until the EU's 2006 implementation of the RoHS 1 regulation, which banned the sale of various old-style electrolytic materials—and thus most of Shindo's products—Auditorium 23 was the brand's European distributor and, arguably, one of its most empathetic and enthusiastic retailers worldwide. Throughout that time, and continuing through to today, Aschenbrenner has also worked as a designer and manufacturer of Shindo-friendly ancillaries and loudspeakers.
Robert Deutsch  |  Oct 27, 2016  |  12 comments
Monitor Audio's Platinum PL300 II loudspeakers weigh 120 lbs each, and my listening room is on the second floor, but I was spared the heavy lifting. The speakers were delivered by Sheldon Ginn, Jeffrey Ginn, and Jamie Arseneau—respectively, the VP of Sales and Marketing, Account Manager, and Service Manager of Kevro International, Monitor Audio's North American distributor. We set up the PL300 IIs, ensuring that the distance from each speaker to my listening seat was the same, then optimized the toe-in: the speakers ended up almost directly facing the listener position, close to where I'd had Wilson Audio's Sabrinas.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 23, 2016  |  21 comments
Thiel Audio's CS3.7 loudspeaker was launched, to much fanfare, in 2006. Like most of Jim Thiel's designs, the CS3.7 received universal praise, but it was Jim's swan song. No one could predict that he would pass away in 2009, undoubtedly leaving on his desk many future designs.

But more was in the cards for—and from—Thiel Audio. The company was sold in 2012 to a private equity company based in Nashville; soon thereafter Thiel Audio moved to that city from Lexington, Kentucky, where Jim had co-founded it in 1977. Thiel's longtime president, Kathy Gornik, left, and for a while the company's directors came and went as if through a revolving door.

John Atkinson  |  Jul 21, 2016  |  9 comments
I am a big believer in supporting events promoted by specialty audio retailers. They reinforce the idea that audiophiles and manufacturers—even reviewers—are parts of a vibrant community that believes that listening to music with the highest possible quality is one of the more important things in life. The "Music Matters" evenings arranged by Audio Advice in North Carolina, Definitive Audio in Seattle, and Listen Up in Colorado exemplify that idea, and it was in April 2015, at Listen Up's Denver store, that I used a pair of PSB's new Imagine T3 tower speakers to play the audience some of my own recordings. The T3 superficially resembles PSB's Synchrony One, a speaker I very favorably reviewed in April 2008, and I was equally impressed by the new flagship—impressed enough to request a pair for review.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 16, 2016  |  13 comments
My lifestyle consultant warned me not to review Zu Audio's Soul Supreme loudspeaker ($4500/pair).

"Why not?" I asked. "They're exciting and super-enjoyable."

"Zu speakers are not mainstream," he explained. "People either love them or hate them. They're for music lovers, not audiophiles."

"That's not true!" I whined like a disappointed child. "They play Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin with spooky soul and natural tone! They play big classical orchestras—especially with trumpets and timpani—with radical ease and full-tilt momentum! And . . . and . . . they project large soundstages! Isn't that what audiophiles like?"

Kalman Rubinson  |  May 26, 2016  |  38 comments
"This is getting to be a habit."

That's how I ended the first paragraph of my review of Bowers & Wilkins' 800 Diamond speaker, in the May 2011 issue; apparently, Stereophile's habit of reviewing models from B&W's 800 series remains unbroken.

Later in that review, I said that "The 800 Diamond doesn't look radically different from its predecessors." That doesn't apply to the 802 D3 Diamond ($22,000/pair). It's still a three-way system with tapered-tube high-frequency and midrange enclosures, stacked and nestled into a generous bass enclosure that's vented on the bottom into the space between it and its plinth.

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