Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Jul 19, 2018  |  30 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.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 20, 2018  |  23 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.

John Atkinson  |  Mar 01, 2018  |  11 comments
Stereophile writers have reviewed three versions of Sonus Faber's stand-mounted, two-way loudspeaker, the Guarneri: Martin Colloms on the original Guarneri Homage, in 1994; Michael Fremer on the Memento edition, in 2007; and Art Dudley on the Evolution, in 2012. The Guarneri has always been an expensive speaker—$9400/pair with matching stands in 1995, $15,000 with stands in 2007, $20,000/pair plus $2000 for the stands in 2012—but its prices have been related to its build quality and appearance, both of which have always been superb. Now we have the Guarneri Tradition, for $15,900/pair, including stands.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 20, 2018  |  33 comments
During the hour preceding my removal of the KEF LS50 loudspeakers from their spiked, rough-iron stands, I was lost in the recurring still moments, reverberating tones, and contemplative spirit of Sir John Tavener's Eis Thanaton and Theophany, in the recording by soprano Patricia Rozario, bass Stephen Richardson, and Richard Hickox conducting the City of London Sinfonia (CD, Chandos CHAN 9440).
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  |  20 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  |  16 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  |  12 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!

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