Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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Herb Reichert Posted: Mar 24, 2017 8 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 Posted: Feb 23, 2017 8 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 Posted: 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 Posted: 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 Posted: 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 Posted: 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 Posted: 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 Posted: 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 Posted: Mar 31, 2016 14 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 Posted: 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!

Herb Reichert Posted: Dec 22, 2015 18 comments
I listen carefully as Michiko Ogawa—former Technics engineer, renowned classical and jazz pianist, and current director of Panasonic's Technics division—speaks these words: "In honor of our 50th anniversary, we at Technics are determined to blaze a new audio path and deliver new and emotionally engaging musical experiences for another 50 years." (my emphasis)
John Marks Posted: Aug 21, 2015 3 comments
For many years, I've been a fan of the loudspeakers made by the British audio company Wilson Benesch. Their speakers definitely have their own personality. I first reviewed a Wilson Benesch loudspeaker while a columnist and reviewer for The Abso!ute Sound, and how that came about was amusing. As WB's then US importer was packing up his exhibit at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show, by mistake he put labels with my address on them on the boxes containing the show samples of WB's revolutionary A.C.T. One, the first loudspeaker to have a curved carbon-fiber enclosure, a sloping top, and a baffle of cut steel. And a very nice late Christmas present they were, too.
Herb Reichert Posted: Jul 23, 2015 18 comments
When all you've ever heard are wooden boxes that shout, it's difficult to recognize their highly accented "voice." Few of us actually notice how miserably distorted all loudspeakers are. Don't believe me? Try listening to a recording of your child's voice, the sounds of rattling keys, or an audience applauding.
Art Dudley Posted: May 28, 2015 40 comments
To some, the measure of a company has less to do with the amount of money it makes than with the honesty of the things it sells: the assurance that every product in its line is designed not as a marketing exercise but as a straightforward and presumably unique answer to a real consumer need.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Mar 24, 2015 7 comments
"I'm intrigued how Emotiva can offer an active speaker for so little."

This was John Atkinson's response to my request to review Emotiva's Pro Airmotiv 4s ($299/pair). My colleague Steve Guttenberg had been discussing this speaker with me at a recent industry event, and I'd realized that it had been some time since I'd reviewed an entry-level loudspeaker. I'd reviewed Emotiva's X-Ref XRT-5.2 floorstanding speaker in the August 2012 issue and had been impressed with its combination of sound quality and price. I requested samples for review.

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