Stand Loudspeaker Reviews

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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  |  58 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.

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.

John Atkinson  |  Mar 01, 2018  |  12 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  |  22 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.

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