Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Sep 27, 2019  |  15 comments
It is said that while any competent engineer can design a superb loudspeaker if allowed an unlimited bill of materials, the true test is being able to produce a great-sounding, budget-priced speaker out of parts that cost a mere handful of dollars. With PSB's Alpha series of bookshelf speakers, Canadian engineer Paul Barton has illustrated this truism many times over the years.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Aug 22, 2019  |  19 comments
Ever go on a blind date? If you've been on more than one, you know what it's like to encounter an entirely new product at an audio show: Sometimes it's love at first listen, your only question being, "When can we get together again?" Other times, you can't wait to say goodbye.

My blind date with the Dragonfire Acoustics Mini Dragon DFA 2.1 nearfield monitor system ($10,000), accessorized with its Kimber Kable Axios Goliath cable upgrade ($1500), took place during its coming-out reception at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) in Denver. After listening to a 24/96 file of Cassandra Wilson's "Dance to the Drummer Again" on the Dragonfire system, I scribbled in my notebook, "totally absolutely impressive . . . musical flow reigned supreme."

Herb Reichert  |  Aug 15, 2019  |  25 comments
A dale is a broad valley. The Yorkshire Dales are broad, picturesque valleys in Northern England, mostly named for the rivers or streams that run through them. One of these is Wharfedale, which is the upper valley of the River Wharfe—and which was the original home of British firm Wharfedale Wireless Works, founded in 1932 by Gilbert Briggs.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jul 25, 2019  |  52 comments
At first glance, this active, DSP-controlled loudspeaker system, with dynamic drivers firing to front and rear, may seem an alien invader from the world of recording and mastering monitors made by such brands as Neumann and Genelec. I wouldn't dispute that perception, but I offer another perspective: The engineering that has gone into the Dutch & Dutch 8c ($12,500/pair) is an all-out attempt to meet the goals that all designers of high-end speakers hope to attain: wide, smooth frequency response; sufficient and linear dynamic performance; crossover management; a cabinet free of audible resonances and edge diffraction; control of the dispersion of sound energy throughout the audioband.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 27, 2019  |  25 comments
It all started when I moved my playback system from my 11' by 16' living room to my 12' by 17' family room: The latter has proven the better-sounding setting, and it's also sunnier and more accessible—and the floor is more level and stable. (The family room is a circa-2005 addition on a 1936 house.) And now that my speakers and my racks of gear have been removed from the living room, there's room for bookcases, books, and people who aren't me.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 25, 2019  |  22 comments
Has Serinus been demoted? You might well ask. This month, instead of reviewing a $58,000 stereo amplifier, I'm tackling a $599 powered loudspeaker system.

Truth be told, I'm always on the lookout for products that deliver outstanding sound at bargain prices. And since I maintain in my living room a modestly priced system built around powered speakers—this in addition to the far costlier system in my dedicated listening room—it's an easy fit for me to evaluate low-priced products in a real-world context.

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 19, 2019  |  73 comments
I keep getting older. By the time you read this, I will be genuinely old. When I was genuinely young, I bellyached, "Wires are the worst part of hi-fi—there's gotta be a way to get rid of them." I first made that statement when audio electronics and loudspeakers both still nestled inconspicuously in proper bookcases. Back then, people sitting on the sofa weren't forced to stare at diverse audio boxes and ungainly wires.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 21, 2019  |  11 comments
If you've ever dipped your toe into some form of high-performance motor sport, you know: The best race-car engines spin torque and exhale horsepower—with intoxicating ease. They're engineered to be responsive. Depress the clutch, toe the throttle, and watch the tachometer instantly pin itself. Engage the clutch—your chest contracts and your head gets light. Then later . . .

Back in your Ford Fiesta, its revving engine sounds distant, muffled. Your body can't feel the powerplant's power. In gear, the Ford feels soft and hesitant, not responsive.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Feb 26, 2019  |  14 comments
One of the recurring themes of this column has been my search for servers that will support the playback of high-resolution multichannel files with DSP for speaker/room equalization (EQ), as well as the format conversion and downsampling that are often part of those processes. Because most EQ software is PCM-based, format comversion is needed to convert DSD files to PCM. In addition, because most EQ products work within a limited range of sampling rates, PCM files sampled at high rates may have to be downsampled before being subjected to EQ. Those of us who use home-theater preamplifier-processors and audio/video receivers (AVRs) should be familiar with such constraints.
Ken Micallef  |  Jan 31, 2019  |  19 comments
In the 1990s, while putting together one of my early hi-fi systems, I'd often visit New York City audio retailer Sound by Singer to gawk at their top-tier wares. On one such visit I noticed a serious-looking gentleman listening to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring through a pair of Audio Physic's Step loudspeakers (accompanying electronics long forgotten). Sitting on their dedicated, minimalist-looking metal stands, the pint-size Steps were angled up 22° or so, to create a physical time alignment of the tweeter's and midrange-woofer's wavefronts. The Step looked odd—kind of scrawny. But these petite minimonitors projected music that seemed to exist entirely free of their cabinets, pulling off a sort of "disappearing" act I'd never before heard.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 04, 2018  |  24 comments
With reviews of Wilson's Alexia 2 loudspeaker ($57,900/pair) in the July issue, Constellation's Centaur 500 amplifier ($55,000) in the October issue, and Tidal's Akira loudspeaker ($215,000/pair) in the November issue, my system's been inhaling some rarefied air the past few months. Accordingly, I felt I should live with some components priced within the reach of real-world audiophiles. As it happened, I was finishing up my review of the Constellation amplifier when MoFi Distribution's Lionel Goodfield e-mailed me, asking if I'd like to review the new Diamond 11.2 loudspeaker from the venerable British brand Wharfedale.
Herb Reichert  |  Nov 27, 2018  |  16 comments
I promise not to tell you that the 40th Anniversary Edition Harbeth P3ESR loudspeaker sounds like a bigger speaker than it actually is. It does not. Likewise, I won't suggest that it offers a large portion of what Harbeth's bigger, more expensive models do—I'll leave that to the happy owners on the Harbeth User Group. But can I tell you it's good value for the money? The current, non-anniversary version of the P3ESR costs $2195/pair (footnote 1), while the souped-up, tarted-up 40th Anniversary Edition goes for $2890/pair—prices I think are chickenfeed, considering all the timeless virtues and musical satisfactions I have discovered in both versions.
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 27, 2018  |  24 comments
The day I installed the review samples of Legacy Audio's Studio HD loudspeakers, my friend Jay-Jay, a speaker manufacturer, dropped by to hang out and eat Mexican food. When he spotted the glossy black Legacys, he laughed.

"So, Herb—looks like these speakers are going to get a bad review."

"Why's that?"

"You told me you didn't like shiny speakers."

John Atkinson  |  Aug 30, 2018  |  59 comments
A highlight of my visit to AXPONA, held last April in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, was the Dynaudio room, where the two-way, stand-mounted Special Forty loudspeakers ($2999/pair) were being driven by a tubed Octave integrated amplifier. "The stereo image was superb," I wrote in my show report; "even more impressive [were] the solidity and believability of the softly struck bass drum that punctuates the Ramirez Misa Criola." I concluded that this dem "illustrated how matching a relatively small speaker to a smallish room can produce optimal and excellent sound quality."
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 19, 2018  |  33 comments
"It was not subtle. The [$2000/pair] Tekton Impact Monitors were doing it all: singing, drumming, shaking the air, drawing me in, and making every CD or LP pure pleasure to listen to. A little soft . . . but not too soft. Imagine a gentle but guiding touch with a most perfect sparkle—and then firm and impactful when necessary."

I wrote that last October, after hearing Tekton Design's new Impact Monitor speakers at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I repeat it here because, as I listened to the Impact Monitors, I thought, Yeah, these speakers sound pretty damn good, but those seven tweeters are a gimmick if ever there was one.

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