Floor Loudspeaker Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 13, 2014  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1991  |  0 comments
jbl160.250.jpgA visiting manufacturer recently told us here at Stereophile of an ongoing informal "survey" he was conducting. He would ask strangers to name three brands of loudspeakers. Their responses were not what I would have expected. They almost invariably named Japanese companies—two of the most commonly mentioned were Hitachi and Panasonic. Other than my spell-checker insisting that I change "Hitachi" to "hibachi," I have nothing in particular against these two manufacturers; they are well-recognized in many product categories. But loudspeakers? I can only guess that the respondents were dredging up the only consumer electronics companies that came readily to mind.

My list for most recognized loudspeaker brands would most certainly have included JBL. How could it not? They have been involved in home high-fidelity since 1954. And for years before that in professional audio—primarily motion picture theater sound, a field in which they are still active. In short, they were around before there was such a thing as "hi-fi."

John Atkinson, Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 01, 1991  |  0 comments
This must be the month I drew the right straw to review "loudspeakers with three-letter initials." Elsewhere in this issue I describe my experiences with a pair of JBLs. Everyone knows that JBL stands for "James B. Lansing," founder of that company. You do, don't you? But PSB? If you've been paying attention here, you probably remember that JGH reviewed one of their loudspeakers back in May 1988. If you haven't, well, listen up. PSB is named after Paul Barton and his wife Sue, who formed Canada-based PSB in 1971. (Paul is still their chief designer.) The company was unknown in the US until just a few years ago, and still has a lower profile here than, well, certainly that other three-letter company. But not for lack of trying. They have at least 10 models—at last count.
John Atkinson, Arnis Balgalvis  |  Jan 10, 1995  |  First Published: Jan 10, 1991  |  0 comments
"Boy, that's flat!" I whistled. I was looking at a quasi-anechoic TDS response Avalon Acoustics' Charles Hansen had produced for his latest brainchild, the two-way Eclipse loudspeaker that he was setting up in my listening room.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 30, 2009  |  First Published: Dec 30, 1990  |  0 comments
"My vision for the future is one where all manufacturers sell their products directly to the end user. In this way, even the audiophiles in Dead Horse, Alaska can have access to all the audio manufacturing community has to offer." Thus wrote loudspeaker designer David Fokos in a letter introducing his new company Icon Acoustics to the press at Stereophile's High End Hi-Fi show in San Mateo, CA last April (footnote 1). Mr. Fokos, a Cornell graduate who for some years worked for Conrad-Johnson Design and designed that company's well-regarded Synthesis and Sonographe loudspeaker models, feels very strongly that the traditional retailing setup is inefficient when it comes to exposing audiophiles to a wide enough choice of product, particularly when it comes to loudspeakers. With 300 speaker manufacturers listed in the Audio directory issue but even a major retailer restricted to probably six brands, even big-city audiophiles will only be able to audition a fraction of the total number of brands. "Our industry is suffering from product saturation of its retail distribution network."
Thomas J. Norton  |  May 28, 2006  |  First Published: Nov 28, 1990  |  0 comments
It may surprise some readers to learn that all of the contributors to Stereophile do not get the chance to hear, at our leisure and in familiar circumstances, everything that passes through the magazine's portals. Not that we wouldn't like to, but there just isn't time. Nor are the logistics always right. I was therefore probably as intrigued as the average reader by LA's glowing report on the $5000/pair Mirage M-1 in the June 1989 issue. The M-1s had been on the market long enough for me to have heard them on several occasions, of course, but generally at shows and not under the best of conditions. I did get to hear them briefly at LA's later that same summer, but the hustle and bustle of a Stereophile Writers' Conference party isn't the optimum place for value judgments.
Dick Olsher  |  Aug 09, 1995  |  First Published: Aug 09, 1990  |  0 comments
As Laura Atkinson shuffled into my listening room one evening, she spied the Stage loudspeakers tucked away in the corner. "Hey, Dick, those look like Apogees, but they're kind of small." Rising to the occasion, I responded with: "Honey, I shrunk the Apogees." At roughly 3' tall by 2' wide, the Stage is far from intimidating; it even feels more compact and is certainly much cuter looking than the old Quad ESL. Yet Junior's resemblance to the rest of the Apogee family is unmistakable. The canted baffle, the vertical tweeter/midrange along the inside edge of the baffle, and the pleated aluminum-foil woofer clearly bear the imprint of the larger Caliper and Duetta models. It's almost as though Apogee started shrinking the Duetta until the price tag shrank below two kilobucks.
Robert Harley  |  Oct 29, 2006  |  First Published: Jul 29, 1990  |  0 comments
When a loudspeaker designer produces a world-class product, it is usually the result of years, perhaps decades, of experience gained from designing less ambitious products. To review a particular designer's product history is to witness the learning curve in action as both his skill and technology advance. Successfully battling the laws of physics to produce a truly exceptional loudspeaker is thus thought of as the domain of the seasoned veteran whose vast knowledge and experience culminate in the pinnacle of his career—a world-class loudspeaker. Moreover, it is just these designers, working their way up to their masterpiece, who are the most successful at getting an ambitious design right. The high-end loudspeaker business is littered with the remains of companies that attempted to build a first product far too lofty for their skills.
John Atkinson, Larry Archibald  |  May 06, 2007  |  First Published: Jun 06, 1990  |  0 comments
John Atkinson Opens
I've said it before and I'll say it again: a would-be loudspeaker designer shouldn't even start to think about the possibility of maybe designing a full-range, multi-way loudspeaker until he (and they do all appear to be men) has cut his teeth on a small two-way design. There is still as much art as science in designing a successful loudspeaker, even with all the computer-aided this and Thiele-and-Small that, that even a two-way design requires a designer either to be possessed of a monster talent or of the willingness to undergo months, even years, of tedious and repetitive work—or of both. For a would-be speaker engineer to start his career with a wide dynamic-range, multi-way design, intended to cover the entire musical spectrum from infra-bass to ultra-treble, seems to me to be a perfect case of an admittedly well-intentioned fool rushing in where any sufficiently self-critical angel would fear to tread.
Robert Harley, Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 15, 2016  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1990  |  0 comments
The DQ-12 is the latest loudspeaker from Dahlquist employing their "Phased Array" technology, first used in 1973. The company was formed that year by Jon Dahlquist and Saul Marantz to produce the DQ-10, a loudspeaker that enjoyed a long and successful life. When I sold hi-fi in a retail store in the late 1970s—we stocked Dahlquist speakers—the DQ-10 was among the more prominent audiophile speakers, prized for its imaging abilities.

In 1976, Carl Marchisotto joined the company, designing support products for the DQ-10 including a subwoofer, variable low-pass filter, and a passive crossover. Jon Dahlquist is no longer actively involved with the company; Carl has now assumed the engineering responsibilities at Dahlquist and is the designer of the latest group of Phased Array loudspeakers (footnote 1). This new line, introduced at the Winter 1990 CES in Las Vegas, encompasses three models: the $850/pair DQ-8, the DQ-12 reviewed here, and the $2000/pair flagship, the DQ-20i.

John Atkinson  |  Jul 30, 2010  |  First Published: Mar 30, 1990  |  0 comments
According to the conventional wisdom, companies selling consumer products fall into two categories: those whose sales are "marketing-led" and those whose sales are "product-led." Marketing-led companies tend to sell mature products into a mature market where there are no real differences between competing products—soap powder, mass-market beer, or cigarettes, for example—whereas product-led companies tend to sell new technologies, such as personal computers and high-end hi-fi components. In the audio separates market, conventional wisdom would have a hard time categorizing any individual company: no matter which you choose, it would be simplistic to say that it is either product- or marketing-led. No matter how good the product, without good marketing the manufacturer stands little chance of success; a poor product superbly marketed may make a company successful overnight, but that success will have hit the end stops by the following night. Nevertheless, for this review, I have chosen a model from a company renowned for its marketing strength: Polk Audio.
Dick Olsher  |  Feb 25, 2006  |  First Published: Feb 25, 1990  |  0 comments
Even to a nontechnical observer, someone without a deep grasp of the germane technical issues, the Amazing Loudspeaker should indeed prove a source of amazement. First of all, there's no box. Don't mistake the back grille for an enclosure—if you pass your hand along the Amazing's behind, you'll realize that the grille is merely a cosmetic cover; you can actually stroke the woofer magnets if you're so inclined. Yet without an enclosure or electronic trickery, this speaker boasts excellent dynamic headroom and true flat bass extension almost to 20Hz. Just think of the woodworking costs inherent in trying to coax such low-end performance from a conventional box speaker. The savings in carpentry have been put toward one heavy-duty ribbon design. The Amazing begins to sound like an incredible bargain at its modest (by high-end standards) asking price. What's the catch? Fundamentally, the answer lies in superior engineering. And, as Bob Carver will readily admit, good engineering isn't inherently any more costly than bad engineering.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 09, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1990  |  0 comments
RSL is the house brand of a California chain of retail stores, Rogersound Labs, that is part-owned by the leader of the RSL loudspeaker-design team, one Howard Rodgers. (Rogersound Labs also owns the Upscale Audio high-end store in north Los Angeles.) The range offered by RSL is unbelievably wide, with models addressing just about every market niche and price category. The Speedscreen II, however, is Howard's attempt to produce a true high-end loudspeaker at an affordable price. To the casual observer, the Speedscreen ($898/pair) appears to be a planar design; however, its shallow, braced enclosure houses moving-coil drive-units, and is a result of Howard's attempts to minimize the effect of cabinet resonances. "I always thought deep, narrow enclosures sound 'boxy'," said Howard when he visited Santa Fe last September, "and the wide but shallow cabinet seemed to be the best way to get a large internal volume without 'boxiness'."
John Atkinson  |  Apr 11, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1990  |  6 comments
TDL is part of ELAC, one of the most successful OEM drive-unit manufacturers in the UK, particularly renowned for the 1" aluminum-dome tweeter that they make for Monitor Audio, Acoustic Energy, and British Fidelity. Perhaps of even more interest to readers of Stereophile is that the TDL system designer is one John Wright, who designed the classic series of IMF loudspeakers and who also was one of the leading equipment reviewers in the UK back in the 1960s. (For a while John was also a contributor to this magazine, his comprehensive reviews of tonearms appearing in Vol.2 Nos.10 & 12.)
Sam Tellig, Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 09, 2014  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1990  |  0 comments
666acoustat11.jpgI wish I could be enthusiastic about the Acoustat Spectra 11—an electrostatic/dynamic hybrid selling for $999/pair. At first glance, the Acoustat Spectra 11 looks like a good deal. They could almost be called knock-offs of the Martin-Logan Sequels—they're about the same size. As with the Sequels, there are moving-coil bass cabinets below, electrostatic panels on top. The Spectra 11 cannot be bi-wired and does not come with spikes. Tiptoes are recommended, and I used them. I let the speakers run in for about 24 hours before doing any serious listening.
Larry Archibald  |  Aug 12, 2006  |  First Published: Nov 12, 1989  |  0 comments
John Ötvös, the father of Waveform Research Inc. and The Waveform Loudspeaker, hesitates not at inviting ultracritical examination: "The Waveform is the most accurate, the best, forward-firing loudspeaker in the world." Period. Reviewers, of course, welcome such statements, and I'll be examining that one, but I'll also try to answer the inherent reviewing question of whether the Waveform is a good place for you to park $9800 on your way to "the highest of high-end sound" (that was our slogan for the first Santa Monica High End Hi-Fi Show).

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