Loudspeakers

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Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 24, 2019
hfnoutstandingClearly inspired by its LS50W, KEF's tiny 'wireless' system in a box is a big triumph

There are active speakers and active speakers. Some models claim to be 'active' but are really just powered, with a single amplifier within the speaker cabinet driving the tweeter and mid/bass unit via a conventional passive crossover, sometimes even with a stereo power amp in one speaker driving both it and a slave partner.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 16, 2019
hfnoutstandingWe report on a classic with a modern twist as Spendor launches a flagship inspired by its iconic 1970s models

As any hi-fi enthusiast will know, Spendor has an illustrious history, its co-founder Spencer Hughes creating the company's first speaker, the BC1, using knowledge he'd gained while working at the BBC in the '60s. Yet for the past decade the brand has been working hard to reinvent itself, its affordable A and higher-end D series selling into the mainstream speaker market.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Nov 19, 2019
hfnedchoiceRedesigned from the ground up, Klipsch's all-new Reference Premiere series leverages over 70 years of loudspeaker history. We audition the largest of its bookshelf trio...

With no shortage of standmount loudspeakers vying for our attention, any newcomer needs to stand out from the crowd. And few stand out as boldly as Klipsch's £625 'Reference Premiere' series RP-600M, arriving from a company with an auspicious portfolio of exciting-sounding horn-loaded loudspeakers [HFN Jun '19], all dating back to the first ever Klipschorn model launched in 1946.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Nov 12, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe latest – and largest – model in Focal's Kanta range combines its signature style with innovative materials

You might be tempted to see the Focal Kanta range as Utopia-lite: while the loudspeakers in what is now a three-strong lineup are one-piece designs, lacking the adjustable articulation of the flagship offering, they do echo the company's Utopia style [HFN Dec '18]. This is done by shaping the front baffle so that, in the £9000 Kanta No3 we have here, the two bass drivers are in a section of baffle sloping gently back from bottom to the midpoint where the tweeter is mounted, while the midrange driver at the top is slanted slightly downwards.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Oct 30, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe new ELAC Navis 'powered speaker' series is a slick system alternative, whether or not you use it wirelessly

As one of the largest-scale speaker manufacturers around, US/German company ELAC has what can sometimes seem like a baffling range, all the way from very affordable mini-monitors and 'subwoofer and satellites' packages right the way up to very high-end floorstanding designs. And apart from the sheer breadth of the lineup, this diversity allows it to explore a variety of technologies: in this range there's no signs of a 'one design fits all, just in different scales' approach.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Oct 21, 2019
hfnoutstandingThis may be the baby of the latest Gold range, but it has the company's usual impeccable design, fit and finish, and a big sound that belies its compact dimensions

The hierarchy of the Monitor Audio loudspeaker range – starting with Bronze, and progressing through Silver and Gold to the flagship Platinum series – is well-established, and so too is the company's rolling programme of updating the products line by line. In recent times this has run alongside a series of acquisitions – the company scooped up electronics manufacturer Roksan in 2016, and more recently added Blok, the maker of the STAX range of hi-fi stands and AV racks, to its stable.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Sep 25, 2019
hfnoutstanding35 years on from Sonus faber's birth, a blessed return to the values on which it was founded: the Electa Amator III

Two blasts from the past in one month, both small two-way monitors, both with a massive presence in my hi-fi history, but so dissimilar that loving both seems like a case of schizophrenia. As with the LS3/5a, I have been a devotee of Sonus faber for over 30 years, though of late the passion has cooled. But something tells me that the company has again found its mojo, and the Electa Amator III is its herald.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Sep 12, 2019
hfnoutstandingLike buses, you wait and wait for genuine LS3/5as and then two come along – now Rogers is back with a re-engineered version of the milestone, to our reviewer's delight

Throughout my hi-fi career, I have manifested three fixations: valves, Decca cartridges and BBC LS3/5as, all of which faced sell-by dates 40 years ago. My pessimism was unfounded. Valves have never been stronger, and London maintained the Deccas. But LS3/5as? Aside from occasional facsimiles using non-KEF drivers, the LS3/5a was history. Yet now we have two new proper LS3/5as, a rebirth I never anticipated.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Aug 29, 2019
hfncommendedCelebrating its 40th anniversary, Focal continues to diversify and expand – its Kanta range now three-strong

Sitting smack-bang in the middle of the company's vast loudspeaker range, the Focal Kanta series is described as 'a new vision for a premium speaker', no less. Personally I'm not entirely convinced that this is so revolutionary, but the £4499 Kanta No1 still makes a fine case for itself. It's attractive, very well finished and sports some novel technologies.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Aug 23, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe top model in this slimline range takes on the big boys – do built-in subwoofers give it sufficient clout?

Our admiration of what GoldenEar's Triton Five model achieves for the money [HFN Mar '19] also prompted a desire to hear what the Maryland company could do when going for broke. Its ambitiously named 'Reference' flagship is definitely playing with the big boys at £9495, and with brands better known, at least in the UK. So it has its work cut out…

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Aug 09, 2019
hfnoutstandingProducing monumental SPLs from next-to-no-power, this refreshed American behemoth is no brick in the PA wall. Prepare to be stunned by the La Scala's scintillating sound...

Efficiency, sensitivity and coverage pattern – all attributes that are hard to beat,' says Klipsch's Principal Engineer Roy Delgado. 'The benefits of horn loading have not changed.' He's quite right, of course, but neither have the caveats, not least because attempts to deliver realistic bass typically requires gigantic horns and speakers the size of the average British garden shed.

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.

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