Loudspeakers

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 |  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.
 |  Jan 23, 2015  |  0 comments
With the exception of REL and other longstanding subwoofer manufacturers, the concept of the 2. 1 system is something that has really only come into its own since the arrival of the sub/sat package in the home cinema boom at the start ofthe millennium. The concept of small speakers that take up little space and are underpinned by a subwoofer that can be tucked away out of sight had advantages for getting a home cinema system into a space that otherwise couldn’t accept one. It didn’t take a genius to see this could be applied to a hi-fi setup too.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
The concept is clear – to make a good speaker great. There are several ways of doing this, the obvious one being to spend large amounts of money on the drive units. A fancy ribbon tweeter here or some expensive carbon fibre mid/bass drivers there, perchance? The other way is to work on the cabinet, and if you think about it, this is even more critical than the drivers, which can’t do their best if they’re spoiled by boomy boxes. In a way, cabinets can do no right, as all they can do is lower the performance potential of drive units by accentuating standing waves – smudging and blurring the sound from inside.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
Floorstanding loudspeakers are hugely popular right now, with seemingly more models vying for our attention on a daily basis. It’s a competitive market that has been growing consistently stronger sincefloorstanders first grabbed our attention back in the nineties. Their popularity is a win-win for music fans as the wealth of models means quality is high and prices competitive. It’s fair to say that American loudspeaker companies are often viewed with slightly raised eyebrows in the UK, but here JBL follows more elegant speaker designs rather than the muscular monitors it is better known for.
 |  Jan 19, 2015  |  0 comments
Why is it that some steaks taste like sun-dried cardboard, while others are dripping with flavour and have the texture of warm butter? It’s not that difficult a question to answer, is it? The finest food needs ingredients of the best quality, prepared in a skillful way that doesn’t hide the natural goodness. And so it goes for loudspeakers too – no one ever made a great one with sub-par drive units and cabinets that weren’t fit for purpose. But just like steak, even a good speaker can be ruined if it isn’t cooked properly, or is badly served. Of course, if it doesn’t use the right raw materials in the first place, it can never be right.
 |  Jan 19, 2015  |  0 comments
Hart Audio may not be a household name but David Hart’s Isle of Wight-based business has a refreshing approach to audio design and high-quality UK manufacturing, as well as a growing number of passionate customers appreciating service and bespoke production. Hart Audio sells its speakers direct in the UK so you won’t find its speakers at your local hi-fi dealer. The new incarnation of the imposing EVO1 commands attention even when it’s silent. Two large, understated enclosures per channel, each boasting a purposeful 12in driver hints that you’re about to hear something different.
 |  Jan 19, 2015  |  0 comments
Costing the considerable sum of £900, Tannoy’s new Precision 6. 1 has to be demonstrably better than the large number of cheaper standmounters around to attain serious success. It has to give at least a taste of greatness, if not the full culinary experience! Reflecting this, it is a purposefully styled product, with a design suggesting few compromises. Being a Tannoy it has a Dual Concentric drive unit.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
Back in the November 2013 issue (377) we reviewed the £350 Cambridge Audio Aero 2 standmount loudspeaker. The Aero 6 is a larger, floorstanding version of the same design, deploying identical drive units with the far larger cabinet volume that comes from having a big box that sits securely on terra firma! Many will expect the Aero 6 to be better, then; after all, it’s nearly twice the price and has far more air inside its capacious cabinet. Trouble is, in doing a floorstanding version of a smaller standmount speaker, you open yourself up to a problem that’s never easily solved, especially in budget designs, which is how to keep the cabinet under control. The thing is, that bigger box might let the bass driver move air easier, but there’s also the worry that it will also move the cabinet.

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