Loudspeakers

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Ken Kessler and Keith Howard  |  Dec 24, 2009
If you’re torn between the sheer impact of speakers in boxes and openness possible from panels, then your (hi-fi) life has inevitably been a series of compromises. If you own pairs of each, you probably swing between them, never quite satisfied – like owning solid-state and valve amps. You know your Quad 57s lack the bass of, say, big B&Ws or Tannoys. Conversely, you can’t get the openness of the Quads or Maggies out of your head.
Keith Howard  |  Nov 25, 2009
Not having had a Tannoy sub for review before, I was surprised to learn that the new, inexpensive TS range – of which this is the top model – is the first from this famous marque to include high-level inputs, which allow connection to the speaker terminals of a power amplifier. Of course, line-level inputs are also provided for direct connection to processors or multichannel disc players. What this means is that Tannoy’s latest trouser flappers – the 801 with an 8in driver, 1001 with a 10in driver and, you guessed it, 1201 with a 12in driver – are easier to dovetail into a wide variety of audio systems. In a home theatre context you will generally use the LFE output from the AV amplifier or processor, whereas in a conventional music replay system, where line-level outputs downstream of the volume control are often not available, the speaker-level inputs will be a boon.
Ken Kessler and Keith Howard  |  Nov 25, 2009
Blown away by MartinLogan’s Spire earlier this year [see HFN, Apr ’09], I assumed that it would replace the Summit. Before the ink was dry, the Summit X was announced, and at a higher price point to ensure that the gap would prevent customer confusion. But in order to justify the cost difference, for a speaker not that much larger, its performance would have to be instantly, audibly superior. Luckily for ML, the Summit X may be the best hybrid the company has delivered to date.
Keith Howard  |  Nov 17, 2009
Not many audio companies, to my recollection, have made the transition from manufacturing speaker stands to making the boxes atop them, but that’s the journey undergone by Kudos Audio. Its stands are still winning awards but today the marque is as well known for the five-model range of Cardea loudspeakers, ranging from the compact C1 – joint winner of our group test last year (HFN Nov ’08) – to the recently introduced, top-of-the-range C30. Slotted beneath the latter and previous alpha male is the C20, a two-way floorstander that uses the same cabinet and bass-mid driver as the lesser C2 but is equipped with a superior SEAS Crescendo tweeter and higher-grade crossover components. Included in the latter are the bespoke silver-wired capacitors that also feature in the C10 – the cut-above version of the C1.
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.
John Bamford and Keith Howard  |  Oct 25, 2009
When Scott Walker famously sang ‘My Ship Is Coming In’ he could have been describing taking delivery of a pair of Focal’s £110,000 Grande Utopia EMs, surely one of the finest dynamic loudspeakers known to humankind. Standing over 2m tall and weighing 260kg (each!), the four-way ‘Grande EM’ with its electromagnetic 16in woofer and user-adjustable ‘Focus Time’ cabinet construction is a statement product that challenges the envelope of speaker performance. Privileged indeed are the audiophiles with adequately large listening rooms in which to accommodate them and deep enough pockets to afford them. Focal is France’s largest and most successful speaker manufacturer, producing several series of hi-fi models ranging from affordable to, well, the price of a Bentley in the case of the aforementioned flagship.
Richard Stevenson and Keith Howard  |  Oct 25, 2009
Oh to live in a trendy warehouse conversion overlooking the Thames. Imagine the acres of glass, the polished floors and the designer furniture with the Habitat labels peeled off. One’s loudspeakers would need to offer equally stunning visual splendour, exude an air of bespoke affluence and leave your friends (probably called Tarquin and Jemima) green with envy. Clearly you would need Jamo’s sumptuous R 909s or if your City bonus has been a little credit crunched this year, perhaps the smaller but equally lush R 907s reviewed here.
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  |  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.
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.
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  |  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
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.

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