Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 25, 2018  |  6 comments
Notwithstanding the twists and turns of Japanese corporate culture, the status of Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, Inc. remains unchanged. Founded in 1975 as a subsidiary of Pioneer to build loudspeakers for the professional market, TAD remains part of that corporation, even after the recent sale of Pioneer's home-audio division to Onkyo.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2017  |  2 comments
New York City, 1989: I had a music and audio-guru friend named George, who worked at both Tower Records and Stereo Exchange. Every Saturday I'd slip him a Grant and, over the following week, he would choose $50 worth of used Tower LPs he thought I should own. One midweek afternoon, on my way home from work, I dropped in on George at Stereo Exchange, to chat and maybe see what was new. Grinning, he led me to a back room and pointed to a pair of small speakers mounted on stands. "Tell me what you think of these." He walked out and left me to listen alone.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 28, 2017  |  19 comments
One of the better things about bookshelf loudspeakers is that they're innately portable. Though not generally considered the sort of music-reproduction machines you'd bring to a party, a 12-step group, or a Burning Man rave (though you certainly could), high-quality bookshelf speakers are overlooked tools in the eternal work-in-progress of introducing lovers, friends, and family to our beloved lifestyle. So during the first week or three of breaking in the Quad S-2 bookshelf speakers, I thought, Why keep these to myself? It's strict Stereophile policy that all gear be evaluated in the context of the reviewer's reference hi-fi rig(s), but there's no law against sharing the joy.
Jim Austin  |  Oct 19, 2017  |  12 comments
It's day five of our planned month-long stay à Paris, late April through most of May. My wife is here for work—for me, it's strictly for pleasure—and we're enjoying Paris's rich, sensual goodness: food, museums, architecture, coffee, people, food. And yet, earlier today, when we were out for a walk—we've been walking close to 10 miles each day, exploring the city—I realized that my life here has been missing something important.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Aug 17, 2017  |  46 comments
At the risk of offending nearly every designer and manufacturer of loudspeakers, I think we have not seen anything really new in a long time. Casting a gimlet eye at Stereophile's "Recommended Components" reveals some electrostatic and planar-magnetic models, a few horns, and lots and lots of cones and domes in boxes. Those cones and domes have voice-coils inductively driven by permanent magnets, and overwhelmingly use passive crossovers. Innovation in speakers mostly takes the form of advancements in materials science and, to a much lesser degree, cabinet shape. All helpful, but not revolutionary.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 24, 2017  |  15 comments
The soul of a loudspeaker cannot be exclusively characterized by such unmeasurable, reviewer-friendly declarations as "lush tonality," "gossamer textures," "clear-water transparency," "microdetail," or "pacey dynamic rhythmic expression." Neither can it be fully described by such measurable characteristics as anechoic frequency response, dynamic impedance, or step response. More than anything else, a loudspeaker expresses its full character in how and where it directs the listener's attention. What a loudspeaker emphasizes—what it reveals, what it obscures, what it forces the listener to notice and think about—that is a loudspeaker's soul.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 23, 2017  |  11 comments
In the United Kingdom, the first seeds of perfectionism in audio separates were sown by Goodmans Industries, founded in 1925. Then, in 1930, Garrard (est. 1722) produced its first commercial gramophone. Shortly thereafter, England experienced the Great Slump, the British name for the worldwide catastrophe known in the US as the Great Depression. Near the beginning of this economic downturn, in 1932, Gilbert Briggs founded Wharfedale Wireless Works—and the first British "high-fidelity" audio amplifiers began being manufactured by H.J. Leak & Co. Ltd., founded by Harold Joseph Leak in 1934.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 21, 2017  |  4 comments
Long-lived loudspeaker models are rare. So it's surprising that the two-way, stand-mounted Model 5, the smallest speaker made by Massachusetts-based Aerial Acoustics, was revised just once between 2015 and April 1997, when Robert Harley favorably reviewed it and it cost $1800/pair. The revised 5B was equally favorably reviewed by John Marks in July 2009. This kept the original's 1" titanium-dome tweeter and sealed-box woofer loading but replaced the 7" polypropylene-cone woofer with a 7.1" laminated-fiber–cone woofer. Despite more than a decade's worth of inflation, the price rose only slightly, to $2400/pair.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 16, 2017  |  22 comments
I have had a long relationship with Bowers & Wilkins. The first B&W speaker I spent serious time with was the DM-6, the infamous "pregnant kangaroo," which was reviewed by Allen Edelstein in December 1977 and which I borrowed for a while after interviewing the company's founder, John Bowers. Ten years later, when I met the woman who was to become my third wife, she already owned a pair of B&W Matrix 801s, a speaker reviewed by Lewis Lipnick in December 1987.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 27, 2016  |  14 comments
Roughly half the size of a breadbox—remember those?—the Trenner & Friedl Sun ($3450/pair) is arguably the smallest stand-mounted loudspeaker presently available for serious home listening: only 8.5" high by 6.25" wide by 5.5" deep and weighing just 7.5 lbs. The Sun is the entry-level model from this Austrian loudspeaker manufacturer, and its ported, solid-birch cabinet is designed and built to golden-ratio proportions (footnote 1) It has a single, coaxial driver from SEAS and a crossover made by Mundorf. The Sun boasts a frequency response of 55Hz–25kHz, +0/–3dB; friends of mine have heard the speaker plumb remarkable depths when paired with the right amplifier. And though they're barely bigger than a pair of Audeze LCD-4 planar-magnetic headphones, the Suns do play louder!
John Atkinson  |  Sep 29, 2016  |  19 comments
I have been an advocate of small speakers since I began using BBC LS3/5a's in the late 1970s, continuing through Celestion SL6es in 1981, Celestion SL600s and SL700s in the late '80s, and B&W Silver Signatures in the mid-'90s. Yes, I do like accurate and extended bass reproduction—but you need a big speaker to be able to provide that, and, as the late Spencer Hughes, founder of Spendor, once remarked, "big speakers have big problems." I don't see the point of extending a speaker's low-frequency performance if the result is compromised soundstaging and midrange reproduction. And there is also the intellectual elegance of a speaker that is no bigger than it need be.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Sep 27, 2016  |  19 comments
The second I encountered Dynaudio's Focus 200 XD powered loudspeaker at the High End 2015 show in Munich, Germany, it called to me. I wasn't so much drawn to its unique functions—which I describe below—as by the fact that it could help fill the black hole left by the dismantling of my reference system for my move from big, badass Oakland, California to the small, magical town of Port Townsend, Washington.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 19, 2016  |  8 comments
Your little car gets in and out of traffic better than minivans or monster trucks. Your little dog runs rings around the other dogs at the park. Maybe it's time to get a couple of little loudspeakers, too?

The reasons for doing so are pretty much the same: little speakers deserve consideration not because they sell for little prices—although some of them do—but because they're nimble, they're fast, and they get out of the way of the music they play.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 31, 2016  |  21 comments
The first I heard about Elac's new Debut line of speakers was from two 12-year-olds at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2015. "Elac's room is making the best sound at the show," they said.

Elac? I thought. I have an Elac Miracord 40A turntable. Hmmmm...

So I walked to Elac's room and listened to the Debut B5 bookshelf speakers ($229.99/pair). I was impressed—but maybe not as impressed as everyone else in the room seemed to be. In the halls, people were raving: "Did you hear Andrew Jones's new speaker?" Show bloggers went crazy. People kept asking me, "Herb—what'd you think of the Elacs?" My polite response was always, "I'm glad I'm not in the business of making $1000/pair speakers."

Herb Reichert  |  Feb 04, 2016  |  24 comments
My first girlfriend was a hopeless kleptomaniac. Once, just before sunrise, as I helped her bury a few hot items in the woods, she asked from which direction the sun would rise. Always the smart-aleck, I told her: "It rarely fails to rise in the east."

She frowned and stared quizzically into the darkness. After a long moment, she said, in a low, sad voice, "Really . . . ?"

September 23, 2015: In his response to and defense of Elizabeth Newton's wildly insightful essay "The Lossless Self" (footnote 1), Michael Lavorgna wrote, on Stereophile's sibling website AudioStream.com: "My idea of hi-fi is to make the possibility of losing oneself in the music happen as often as I choose with the least amount of brain processing as possible." He continued: "Here's my preachy dogma in a nutshell (something I've been saying for years): the best hi-fi is the one that's used to discover and enjoy music most often." (footnote 2) When I read this, I thought, Right on, brother Mike!

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