Loudspeakers

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David Berriman and Keith Howard  |  Oct 25, 2009
These new Mission 792s certainly have kerb appeal, or maybe that should be curve appeal. With their contoured sides, wrap-around grilles and sculpted front, no one could accuse them of not standing out from the crowd – even if their looks are sure to divide opinion sharply. The shiny black finish is actually genuine piano lacquer, with seven coats applied to create a truly deep and lustrous gloss. This approach is both labour and time intensive, as each coating must be dried for 24 hours before it is rubbed down by hand and re-sprayed.
Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2009
Perhaps because Audioplan is more than just a loudspeaker manufacturer – it makes cables, Sicomin isolation and damping products, and mains conditioners as well – the German company offers just three models of speaker. Each is a two-way design, although the costliest Konzert III incorporates three drivers: two forward-facing and a second bass-mid driver firing rearwards from the back of the cabinet. The bottom of the range Kontrapunkt IV B, on review here, has no such elaboration but still sports some unusual features. First of these to catch the eye is its – for want of a better term – cabinet stand.
Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2009
Gamut by name, gamut by nature. Danish audio company Gamut (it writes it GamuT), not content with offering eight models of loudspeaker, of which the Phi7 is top of the four-model Phi range, also manufactures a CD player, preamplifier, two integrated amps and four power amps plus interconnect and speaker cables. So it can supply you with an entire hi-fi system, wires included. Phi in the context of this Gamut speaker and its siblings is the golden ratio, 1:1.
David Berriman and Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2009
The LS80 speakers by JBL are no shrinking violets, standing tall in the room at just over a metre high and weighing over 35kg each. The veneered sides are gently curved, as is the front. The wood finish for the side panels looks a bit dark for my taste and, as Henry Ford offered, there are lots of colours – provided you choose Dark Ebony, which is polished to a high gloss finish. The front, top and back are all in dark grey to black, so these speakers are quite sober in appearance.
Ken Kessler and Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2009
Since 2004, PMC’s entry level DB1+ has been one of my reference speakers. Put another way: since reviewing it for the November 2007 issue of Hi-Fi News that year, I’ve regarded the DB1+ as one of the best speakers available for under £1000 per pair. How far under? Enough to allow that figure to include decent stands and cables. Part of this love goes back to my unshakeable admiration for transmission line speakers, since I first heard IMFs.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Like Audio Physic’s Sitara model recently reviewed in these pages [see HFN June ’09], the latest incarnation of the Audio Physic Tempo – the sixth, no less – catches the eye by being notably slim, deep and tilted back at 7º to provide time alignment of its small midrange driver and soft-dome tweeter. As the grilles on either side of the cabinet hint, a pair of opposed bass drivers handle the low frequencies, an arrangement which facilitates the narrow front baffle and reduces vibration through cancellation of their magnet reaction forces. The only puzzle is why Audio Physic didn’t take the opportunity to mount the two bass units at the bottom of the cabinet, a disposition pioneered by Roy Allison to help reduce low frequency power output variations caused by interaction with the room boundaries. Its narrow footprint makes the Tempo cabinet relatively unstable, so Audio Physic provides aluminium outriggers which screw to the bottom of the cabinet to carry spikes outboard of the base at either side.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
I admit to double-checking the price of the CM9 because it appears to offer such a lot of hardware for the money. As well as being one of the largest speakers here, it has four drivers including B&W’s highly regarded FST midrange unit whose woven Kevlar cone, rather than having a conventional roll surround, is swaged at the edge and rests on a ring of foamed plastic which operates in compression. This novel arrangement improves the dissipation of cone vibrations but limits the available cone excursion, making the FST unit unsuitable for reproducing bass frequencies. So here the CM9 hands over to twin 165mm bass drivers (effective diameter about 132mm) which are reflex loaded via B&W’s familiar dimpled Flowport.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Along with the Spendor A6, Dynaudio’s Focus 220 – now in Mk II guise – is the most conservative looking speaker here. Whether you consider that a merit or demerit will depend on both your taste and your décor. Also like the Spendor it is a two-way, although in this case the soft dome tweeter is accompanied by twin bass-mid units operating in parallel. In common with all the other speakers here the 220 II is reflex loaded in the bass, with a port venting on the cabinet’s rear panel.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Tallest and slimmest of the speakers here, Pioneer’s S-81 is also one of the boldest, both aesthetically and technically. Its curvaceous cabinet looks a million dollars in the supplied black lacquer finish (it is also available in ash veneer) and the narrow front baffle incorporates no fewer than five drive units, although the coaxial 130mm midrange driver and 25mm titanium dome tweeter share the same chassis. Pioneer has a long history of enabling and advocating high sampling rates and researching the effect of ultrasonic frequencies, and so – uniquely here – the S-81 incorporates a transformerless ribbon supertweeter with a response which is said to reach out to 100kHz. Twin 130mm woofers (effective diameter about 108mm) handle the bass in conjunction with a single forward-firing port.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
If you haven’t heard of PSB before it’s not because the company is a young one – it was established as long ago as 1972, when founder Paul Barton was still at high school. But PSB’s products, well respected in its native Canada and elsewhere in North America, are only now coming to our attention in the UK, with the Armour Group (responsible for NAD and many other brands) having been appointed UK distributor. As an emissary, the Synchrony One is impressive even given that it is the most expensive speaker in this test. Almost as tall as the Pioneer but broader, it also features five drivers but in a three-way configuration: a 25mm titanium dome tweeter, 102mm cone midrange and no fewer than three 165mm bass drivers (effective diameter about 153mm) positioned at the top, middle and bottom of the cabinet.
Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
As well as being the smallest speaker in this test, the Spendor A6 is also the simplest. Like the Dynaudio it is a two-way design but with only one bass-mid driver, not two. Spendor manufactures its own bass-mid units, this nominally 180mm version (effective cone diameter about 135mm) claiming low coloration and high power handling, its most eye-catching feature being that it has a transparent cone. Crossover to the soft dome tweeter is at 4kHz, and unusually is linear-phase.
Andy Whittle and Keith Howard  |  Aug 24, 2009
Vienna Acoustics was established in 1989 by Peter Gansterer in, believe it or not, Vienna. The city has some of the finest concert halls in the world, and may be considered as the birth-place of Classical (or Western Art) music. Peter lived in Vienna whilst studying acoustics… So no prizes for guessing how this ends up: a fine range of speakers named after classical composers, most of whom worked in Vienna. At the top of the Grand series is the Mahler, followed by the Beethoven Concert Grand, the Beethoven Baby Grand, the Mozart Grand and, finally, the Bach Grand.
Keith Howard  |  Jul 25, 2009
Let’s play a game of audio word association. If I say ‘Cabasse’, what’s your response? If it’s ‘What?’ because you’ve never heard of the French speaker manufacturer then shame on you. Its name may not be on everyone’s lips but Cabasse has been around a long time and even in not-always-Francophile UK the marque has staunch admirers. If you replied ‘Bizarre’ instead then that is both linguistically and technically nearer the mark.
Richard Stevenson and Keith Howard  |  Jul 25, 2009
I’m a sucker for a bit of extreme hi-fi, so how could I resist the UK’s first review of what is billed as the world’s most powerful domestic subwoofer. Velodyne’s DD-1812 Signature Edition is a 176kg beast with two 1250W Class D amps driving twin drivers in a true two-way configuration. Low frequency duties are split between a 12in carbon-laminate driver at the top and a whopping great 18in version for the really deep-down stuff south of approximately 35Hz. The name 1812 is a rather dull reference to the driver dimensions and not Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of that year, which would have been so much more appealing given the piece’s famous low frequency thunder.
Keith Howard  |  Jun 25, 2009
Although German speaker manufacturer Audio Physic has had a low profile in the UK for some years, its name still has cachet here among those who remember its products with affection. Now back with a new distributor, C-Tech Audio, it is aiming to re-establish old friendships and forge new ones. Its three-driver, two-and-a-half-way Sitara is the new base member of its three-model High End range and does battle in the competitive market for £2000 floorstanders. The Sitara’s key visual feature is its tall, narrow cabinet which leans backwards at seven degrees to provide time delay compensation for the displaced acoustic centres of the tweeter and bass-mid driver.

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