Loudspeakers

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Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 12, 2019
hfnedchoiceFirst launched in 1970, the L100 has been reimagined by JBL as the 'Classic' – a modern take on a speaker that's visually faithful to the original. Strap on your seat belts...

Behold this 'modern take on the all-time best-selling JBL L100 loudspeaker' with its classic retro styling. It's certainly something you'll not forget too soon. Yet why would JBL want to recreate such a whimsical thing, considering how far loudspeaker design has come in the past 50 years? The answer is surely more cultural than it is technological as, to a greater or lesser extent, our collective dissatisfaction with the modern world has encouraged us to revisit a generation or two back with rose-tinted spectacles firmly in place.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 09, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe flagship of KEF's new R-series combines the 12th generation of Uni-Q with 'aluminium skinned' woofers

Inspired by KEF's flagship Reference range, its recently updated and more affordable R series was heralded by the standmount R3 [HFN Dec '18] – a speaker that caused sufficient stir here at HFN that we were keen to explore what its tallest floorstander, the R11, had to offer. And here it is, selling for a surprisingly modest £3999 a pair, and looking impressive in a choice of three finishes – black gloss, white gloss or walnut.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jun 28, 2019
hfncommendedThe Special Edition version of these big active ATCs is not exactly a great beauty, but its sound is highly revealing

Well they're not exactly what you'd call pretty… The imposing ATC floorstanders you see here may be a 'Special Edition' model, selling for just over £36,000 in this active version, but in the piano black and nickel/gold inlay finish of the review pair they have a look best described as 'purposeful'.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jun 19, 2019
hfncommendedAn unusual blend of traditional tech and modern design practice, here's a deceptively capable floorstander

Sometimes you can be too clever by half. The pursuit of perfect sound, such as it is, takes many loudspeaker manufacturers way off-piste into all sorts of weird and wonderful drive unit types, cone materials and radical cabinet shapes. Yet there's a decent body of evidence to suggest that a conventional but well made box speaker - complete with high quality drive units that don't try to trip the light fantastic - can deliver just as impressive results.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jun 06, 2019
hfncommendedA group of ex-Tannoy engineers bring their experience to bear on a new speaker brand

As past reviews have noted, the market's not exactly short of budget speaker offerings. Though prices down at the entry-level have shown an upward trend – after all, the £100-a-pair 'superboxes' of a decade or two back really wouldn't be sustainable these days – there's also an argument for saying there's not exactly a crying demand for new speaker brands.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 30, 2019
Wireless speakers aren't new, but Dali ups the game with this hefty floorstander and versatile connection hub

Were all the column-inches expended over the years about wireless hi-fi justified, the world's audio cable companies would have long ago gone out of business. Think back a decade or more and we were already being told that our music was about to come from miraculously-powered speakers attached to nothing, yet able to pluck all the music available in the world out of thin air and play it in quality previously unimaginable.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 21, 2019
hfnoutstandingThis slim column hides its light under a bushel – or at least a sock – but is an addictively attractive performer

You might seem to be setting yourself up for a fall if you call your company GoldenEar Technology. It's a cue for all those jokes about effects heard only by those claiming such aural ability, grist to the mill of the 'design them properly and they all sound the same' brigade. Fortunately for the team behind the GoldenEar Triton range – including the £2300 Triton Five we have here – the product lives up to its billing, for the Five is perhaps the most striking speaker I have heard at this price level for a very long time.

Review: José Victor Henriques, Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 10, 2019
hfnoutstandingLaunched to celebrate the life's work of Wilson Audio's founder, this new Sasha is no mere mk3

The Sasha DAW is a tribute product launched by Daryl Wilson to honour his recently deceased father and Wilson Audio's founder, David Andrew Wilson, whose initials denote the latest form of this iconic loudspeaker. In practice, the Sasha DAW has the same form factor and three-way, four drive configuration as the Sasha Series-2 [HFN Jun '14].

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Apr 26, 2019
hfnoutstandingA beryllium tweeter is the highlight of these new speakers – do they really 'redefine performance expectations'?

They clearly don't believe in sitting on their hands at Revel as the Performa3 M106 and F208 speakers have recently been subject to wholesale revitalisation, creating the PerformaBe range, said to 'redefine performance expectations'. Comprising the £4000 M126Be standmount/bookshelf speaker and the £10,000 F228Be we have here, the new models are available in a choice of high-gloss piano black, white, American walnut or metallic silver and, while the use of ceramic-coated drivers is familiar Harman/Revel fare, the new talking point is a beryllium dome tweeter.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Apr 12, 2019
hfnoutstandingClassical horns do not come any more colourful, or compelling, than this 'entry-level' floorstander

Hi-fi can be such a confusing passion, with so many products to explore in the quest for better sound, but enthusiasts often start by upgrading their loudspeakers, as they're where the greatest subjective differences are typically to be found. Most will begin with conventional box speakers, but many then progress to more left-field approaches – the most striking being 'horns'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 21, 2019
hfnoutstandingAn audio fantasy realised: the return of a bona fide, BBC-approved LS3/5a to match the original – Falcon Acoustics applies provenance and purism to the project

Handing me a pair of 'new' LS3/5as always elicits mixed feelings. Part of me wants the speaker back in production so badly that I tend to go soft on the latest contender. My dark side says it's impossible without KEF drivers, but that was to overlook Falcon Acoustics' pedigree. This brand offers kits and drivers plus the reincarnated LS3/5a we have here, selling for £2350-£2500 per pair depending on finish. It also has a secret weapon in its gene pool: Malcolm Jones.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 21, 2019
hfncommendedWith its unique Manger Sound Transducer full-range driver, this high-end floorstander is as unconventional as it looks

It is refreshing to see that there's still a place for purple prose in press releases. While so many documents describing new products are rather dry, German company Manger does things differently. It talks about its 'technological masterpiece' opening up 'a new horizon' and of 'goose bumps' triggering emotions and 'touching the heart'. Such flowery fluff might sail over the heads of hardened hi-fi hacks, but it's hardly necessary because the £11,429 P2 needs no hype at all. In practice, it's an intriguing, thought-provoking design featuring transducer technology that's far from run-of-the-mill.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 19, 2019
hfnoutstandingWith its D series, Wharfedale yet again aims to redefine the art of the possible in budget loudspeaker design

There's something very special about a bargain hi-fi product able to defy expectations with a surprising level of performance. It stood the original Wharfedale Diamond speakers in good stead in the early 1980s, and continues to be a hallmark of the range to this day, in the Diamond 11 series [HFN Dec '17]. So it's intriguing to see the company launch another budget speaker series to run alongside the Diamond 11s, in the form of the D300 lineup.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngNow classier looking and sounding, it's out with the old and in with the new for B&W's latest budget floorstander

'Things can only get better' is a mantra beloved of marketing men and women, and why not? There's an implicit notion that technological progress means everything is automatically moving forward – and those who disagree must be some kind of latter-day Luddite. They're pushing at an open door, because when people treat themselves to something shiny and new, most have already bought into the idea that it is superior to what came before.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnedchoice.pngThe latest Utopia flagship has improved drivers and cabinets – does the sound match its impressive presence?

When it comes to the description of products – and not just in hi-fi – one word has become so ubiquitous that it no longer has much meaning: that word is 'iconic'. Yet Focal has dodged that particular bullet by describing its new Grande Utopia EM Evo – all 265kg, two metres and £160k-a-pair of it – and its smaller stablemate, the Stella Utopia EM Evo, as 'the most emblematic high-fidelity loudspeakers of all its collections'.

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