Loudspeakers

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Hi-Fi Choice  |  Feb 05, 2015  |  0 comments
What’s the best kind of hi-fi product? The only problem with a dreamy vision of ‘the-one-that-gets-you-closest-to-hi-fi-heaven’ is the painfullyhigh price tag or, worse still, a speech bubble that reads: “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it”. Life’s cruel. Fortunately for most of us, there are more hi-fi designers and engineers tasked with wringing the last drop of performance from every pound you spend than those chasing sonic Shangri-La at any cost. As Ross Walker, son of Quad founder Peter Walker, once told me: “Any fool can design a great-sounding amplifier for £30,000, the trick is to do it for £300.
 |  Feb 02, 2015  |  0 comments
There is a school of thought among certain loudspeaker manufacturers that what’s good for studios is alsogood for the home. One of those manufacturers is ATC, the Acoustic Transducer Company, which builds professional and domestic monitors and voices both in the same way. In studios monitors are used to reveal problems, to highlight sounds that shouldn’t be there. Monitors are a fundamental tool of recording and mastering, the window into the production.
 |  Feb 02, 2015  |  0 comments
On occasions, a design idea that notionally offersthe highest possible performance can fail to deliver on that promise in reality. In theory, a crossover is a considerable impediment to the performance ofa speaker and far less effective than having a single driver reproduce the entire frequency range. In reality, the laws of physics ensure that the single driver speaker has as many issuesas one with a crossover in terms of performance at frequency extremes. This hasn’t stopped Eclipse from becoming perhaps the best known manufacturer of single driver speakers.
 |  Jan 29, 2015  |  0 comments
There’s something odd about ATC’s SCM40 – it doesn’t look or feel like almost any other loudspeaker in its price class. It’s almost as if someone has forgotten to style it, like they’ve taken three drivers and put them in a box designed to do the job and then gone home. This is in marked contrast to many rivals, which have all kinds of stylistic flourishes. Despite looking rather ‘old school’ – albeit in a timeless sort of way – the SCM40 is actually a new model that came out in 2013, replacing a 2007 design of the same name that looked as if it had been launched in 1988! ATC, it seems, doesn’t pay too much attention to matters of fashion.
 |  Jan 29, 2015  |  0 comments
Famed for producing loudspeakers since the days of the BBC LS3/5A back in the mid seventies, Spendor made vast numbers of the mini monitor as well as offering its own SA1, which shared the BBC design’s tiny dimensions but was turned through 90°. The D1 you see here is the successor – the result is a tiny loudspeaker that’s purposed to deliver extremely high-quality sound. Purists may look on disapprovingly, but the venerable BBC design is virtually prehistoric by modern standards. The D1, however, uses the latest thinking in drive units, cabinet construction and bracing and crossover design – rather than being a rival to the BBC box, it’s the spiritual heir.
 |  Jan 29, 2015  |  0 comments
Apparently, wireless speaker systems are like buses. No sooner had Elipson’s impressive Planet LW and Bridge system passed through the Hi-Fi Choice review process (HFC 387) than the Audiovector Ki 1 Super Discreet System hovers into view. On paper, the similarities are striking. The Audiovector system comprises a pair of the Ki 1 standmounts and the company’s Discreet hub that form a self-contained system uncannily like the Elipson.
 |  Jan 28, 2015  |  0 comments
Proper hi-fi means piles of separates and reams of cables, right? Not so according to Dynaudio, which introduces a wealth of updates to its active Xeo range to push them further into steadfast audiophile territory. Many audiophiles believe that active speakers offer obvious benefits over passive designs, evidenced by the likes of Linn and ATC as two high-end brands offering active models with equally high-end price tags. Why? Because as well as freeing up some hi-fi rack space, placing a tailor-made amplifier inside a speaker’s cabinet takes the trial and error of amp and speaker matching out of the equation, meaning the sound you get is closer to what the manufacturer had in mind. The Xeo 6 replaces the outgoing Xeo 5 (HFC 376), bringing with it a bunch of new features and improved tech that’s packed into a more compact cabinet.
 |  Jan 28, 2015  |  0 comments
One day, people might look back at 2014 and say it was a significant year for loudspeakers. The newK2 series isn’t a dramatic change of trajectory for Epos, but it’s certainlya clear move in a certain direction. It ushers in a brave new world of active operation for the company; these speakers aren’t actually active, but they have the capability to be so built in. In a few months’ time, there will be an Active-K module that will transform the K2 into something completely different… Look at the back and you’ll see it’s not the prettiest.
 |  Jan 28, 2015  |  0 comments
Can you imagine the seventies without Compact Cassette, or the eighties without Compact Disc? Philips was one of the great innovating consumer electronics companies of the last century, easily surpassing most of its Japanese and American rivals. It may not have had the marketing nous of Apple, but it has originated far more technology than anyone in Cupertino ever did. But what of this century? Many would say its performance has been something of a mixed bag, but more recently there have been encouraging signs. A few years ago, it came up with its new audio brand ‘Fidelio’.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
Every once in a while someone does something remarkable that seems bizarre and contradictory to the received wisdom, yet sometimes they stick to their guns, resist ridicule and peer pressure and eventually turn out to be right. When Dick Fosbury jumped backwards over a high jump bar at the 1968 Olympics, many in the crowd thought he was mad. But this madness won him a gold medal as well as setting a new Olympic record. Origin Live may be better known for its highly engineered tonearms and turntables, but with the launch of its Astute speakers it’s bending over backwards to declare that there may be alternative ways to reproduce high fidelity music.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
Anyone who thinks of themselves as an audiophile may be more than a little dismayed to see a subwoofer review in these pages, but there’s alot to be gained from integrating a subwoofer into a two-channel hi-fi system that stretches beyond the reach of the majority of traditional loudspeakers. Subwoofers have come a long way in recent times, and with careful integration including a sub in your setup can have benefits on other elements of the sound aside from just extending its low-range performance. REL has been at the top of the subwoofer game since the Welsh company first appeared on the scene with models back in the nineties. It perfectly positioned itself for the home theatre boom, and the growth of the surround sound speaker market, with a range of dedicated subwoofer models that enabled movie fans to unleash multichannel soundtracks in their home.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
Driven a new car lately? They’re very good, aren’t they? Even a relatively anonymous, middle priced Eurobox like a Ford Focus is now capable of safe, comfortable long distance travel, and is no slouch around country lanes. It’s economical, nippy and practical, so what’s not to like? Loudspeakers are getting this way too. Having started reviewing them in the mid-nineties, I come across fewer downright bad ones now. Perhaps it’s because we’re a bit further down the road, or up the learning curve, to know how best to design a loudspeaker.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
It is easy to take one look at a product and jump to conclusions about what it was designed to do and the intentions and thinking behind it. One look at the science-fiction prop styling and lustrously shiny finish of the Elipson Planet and you would be forgiven for writing it off as some sort of fancy lifestyle bauble. Two spheres, the size and shape of a steampunk astronaut helmet can only have resulted from a serious need for attention surely? The reality is that, the Elipson Planet is to French broadcasting what the Rogers LS3/5 is in the UK. The Planet has appeared in various versions over the last 50 years.
 |  Jan 23, 2015  |  0 comments
Buyers have come to know what to expect from the £1,000 price point. Lavishing this sort of sum buys you a physically largish box that is nicely if not luxuriously finished. It gets you a decent set of drive units, and you’d expect to be looking at three per speaker at least – and that’s precisely what you get here. Here’s a three-way, four driver floorstander that’s just over a metre tall when sitting on its plinths (not shown).
 |  Jan 23, 2015  |  0 comments
The past few years have been a prolific time for Sonus faber. The company now has a burgeoning range of products; no sooner was the ‘affordable’ Venere range launched than the Olympica popped up at last year’s High End Show in Munich. The II you see here is in the middle of a three-strong range; the I is a standmount, whereas the III is a larger floorstander with an additional bass driver to the II’s existing three. The woodwork is lovely, the detailing exquisite, the finish immaculate – and yet the speaker feels even nicer still.

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