Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Apr 19, 2019  |  69 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.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 11, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1999  |  14 comments
Which loudspeakers do audio professionals listen to? And why should we care? After all, it's not as if recording engineers are the kind of refined, sensitive, music-loving types who read Stereophile. As much as they may love music, many audio pros appear only to view the original sounds of musical instruments as raw materials to be creatively reshaped and manipulated. (Okay, there are exceptions. But recordists who care about the sounds of real instruments usually record them in real acoustic spaces rather than in studios, and use as little signal processing as they can get away with.)
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."

Wes Phillips  |  Sep 06, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1997  |  0 comments
"Its a dessert topping!"
"No, its a floor wax!"
"Dessert topping!"
"Floor wax!"
"Kids, don't argue—it's a dessert topping
and a floor wax!"

Twenty years later, this Saturday Night Live routine still rings true. Experience has taught me that very few products can do two things equally well. Remember those jaunty amphibicars that sported propellers on their rear decks, letting you drive them straight into the lake after a bracing spin along the back roads? Unfortunately, they could neither corner well nor handle even the slightest chop. As for Swiss Army Knives, well, I guess it's better to have a mediocre screwdriver/awl/magnifying glass/tweezers with you than none at all. And I've never seen a Veg-O-Matic in a professional kitchen, just mandolines, food processors, and knives.

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  |  32 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.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 17, 2018  |  71 comments
It's after 5pm on Wednesday, and I'm finishing up the listening part of my review of Apple's wireless speaker, the HomePod ($349). On a whim, I've just asked Siri to play me some drinking songs.

I mention this because the HomePod's "smart" features—its integration with Siri and the Apple Music streaming service—is a big part of its appeal. In its natural element, the HomePod provides a way of accessing music that, although as old as our century, to me is still new and unfamiliar: Forget your hoary music collection, your Rolling Stones and Beethoven. Decide what kind of music you want to hear—a genre or a mood—then leave the choice to Siri and her algorithmic minions.

Dick Olsher, J. Gordon Holt, Martin Colloms  |  Jun 07, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1986  |  0 comments
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) loudspeaker projects are quite common in the UK, where details about several excellent designs, including a recent one by Martin Colloms, have been published for public domain consumption. Stateside, the situation is rather grim, where only an occasional subwoofer project (always popular) makes it into the commercial magazines.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 07, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1989  |  0 comments
The Acustik-Lab SR Bolero loudspeaker ($1580/pair) debuted at the 1988 SCES in Chicago. I must own up right from the outset that I know nothing about the Swiss SR Trade (Acustik-Lab) company. I do know, however, that Audio Advancements' Hart Huschens was getting an intensely musical sound from their little Bolero speakers, driven by the German Klimo Kent tube amplifiers, at the 1988 Summer CES. I immediately asked for a pair for review; in addition, Mr. Huschens sent along a pair of the matching Bolero Forte woofers ($920/pair).
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 20, 2018  |  29 comments
Everything sounds like what it's made of.

I'm known for saying that, and to me, it's obvious: box speakers with dome tweeters sound like box speakers with dome tweeters. I can hear their tweeters calling to me when I'm in the next room, making a phone call. I can hear their boxes hissing and groaning even after I turn off the stereo. Many a day, I think Edgar Villchur, inventor of the acoustic-suspension loudspeaker and the dome tweeter, ruined audio, and that audiophiles will never stop denying how artificially colored the sounds of domes and cones in boxes really are.

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