Loudspeakers

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Ed Selley  |  Jan 09, 2012  |  0 comments
Twenty’s vision PMC’s new twenty series applies some of the lessons learned while developing the upmarket fact models, says Paul Messenger PMC achieved its 20th anniversary last autumn, celebrating the fact by launching a brand new four-strong ‘twenty’ series of models that are intended to fill the gap between its regular ‘i’ series of domestic hi-fi speakers and much more costly ‘fact’ models. In truth, the twentys are priced much closer to the ‘is’ than the ‘facts’, this compact floorstander starting at £2,095 for the real wood veneered version. (There’s a choice of three here, including oak, walnut and amarone, though the highgloss Diamond Black finish costs an extra £210. ) That compares with a current price of £1,525 for the GB1i, its nearest equivalent in the standard range.
Ed Selley  |  Jan 09, 2012  |  0 comments
Figure of speech Spendor has updated its legendary S3/5R2. Ed Selley finds out if the classic character has survived the improvements Few speakers have a pedigree quite as long or distinguished as the LS3/5 standmount speaker. Originally designed for the BBC to monitor outside broadcasts, it’s impressive performance won many fans. So when the BBC requirement ceased, Spendor took over; a success record that has resulted in the latest iteration, the S3/5R2.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 23, 2011  |  0 comments
Spendor SP3/1R2 Classic 1970s styling distinguishes this relatively large model from the pack Spendor was founded by an ex-member of the BBC’s Research Department more than forty years ago, primarily to make broadcast monitor loudspeakers, but that original – and with hindsight very radical – design soon became just as much of a favourite amongst hi-fi cognoscenti. So much so that, despite changes in ownership and the development of numerous models that look better suited to domestic environments, those original monitors remain the inspiration behind Spendor’s Classic R2 range of traditionally styled models. The five models in the Classic R2 range are all standmounts with ‘picture frame’ front baffle edges around inset grilles. They cover a wide range of enclosure and driver sizes, but all feature Spendor’s traditional approach to enclosure construction, using relatively thin but well-damped panels, albeit now executed in MDF, rather than birch ply.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 23, 2011  |  0 comments
Totem Rainmaker Canadian manufacturer Totem has built a strong reputation with its attractive compact speakers Totem has the rather quaint tradition of naming its models after the country’s First Nations shibboleths, a procedure which is, frankly, rather more imaginative than most rivals manage. The Rainmaker is a compact standmount, loading its bass/mid driver by a reflex-ported enclosure of just nine litres capacity. The shape is a little unusual, rather taller and less deep than most speakers of this size and the construction is strong, linking all the panels with properly mitred joints. Yet it’s also quite light in weight, since mass tends to store energy.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 23, 2011  |  0 comments
DALI Mentor 1 This exceptional standmount has a unique hybrid tweeter module, combining dome and ribbon diaphragms This Danish operation was once closely linked to a leading Scandinavian hi-fi retail chain, but it has always operated entirely autonomously and independently as a speaker manufacturer and indeed has proved more successful on the UK market than most overseas brands. The DALI name has nothing to do with surrealism here, but is actually an acronym for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries. The Mentor range, probably best described as ‘affordable upmarket’, is one of several in the DALI portfolio and consists of six stereo pairs which share a number of proprietary engineering techniques. The most obvious of these is seen in the tweeter arrangements.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 23, 2011  |  0 comments
Amphion Argon 1 An unconventional standmount from one of hi-fi’s newer companies, based in Finland Amphion is a relatively young brand, founded in 1998 and brings some interestingly different techniques to the party. The most obvious of these is the large waveguide that surrounds the tweeter and matches the diameter of the bass/mid drive unit. This has several implications. The prime purpose is to control the tweeter’s directivity, presumably to avoid the directivity discontinuity that usually occurs in the transition from bass/mid driver to tweeter.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 23, 2011  |  0 comments
Dynaudio Excite X16 This chunky and solidly built Danish speaker has a larger than average main driver Denmark’s Dynaudio operation is one of relatively few brands to enjoy success in both the professional and domestic hi-fi speaker markets – one often notices Dynaudio speakers furnishing BBC TV studios, for example. However, that’s partly due to the high-power handling conferred by the use of extra-large-diameter voice coils on many of its bass/mid drivers. A feature that doesn’t appear to be a part of this new Excite range, which seems to be more obviously oriented towards the price-sensitive home hi-fi marketplace. The X16 sits one rung above the smallest model in the Excite range, which explains why the speaker is a little larger in both volume and main driver than the group average.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 23, 2011  |  0 comments
Quadral Aurum Megan VIII This very solid compact features a ribbon-type planar tweeter and a complex alloy main driver diaphragm Little known here in Britain (though we did review a couple of models about five years ago), Quadral is apparently the third most successful hi-fi speaker specialist in Germany, which must mean that it’s a good size operation by any standards. The Aurum range is actually a higher performance sub-brand of the main Quadral operation, with its own website and an extensive range of ten loudspeakers, plus some electronics. We reviewed the Altan VIII standmount quite recently (HFC 350), so now it’s time to cast an ear over the somewhat smaller Megan VIII model. The family resemblance is unmistakeable and build again seems very solid indeed.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 01, 2011  |  0 comments
It’s a gas The Helium 410 is Amphion’s smallest speaker, but as Ed Selley discovers it still packs a punch The premise of an advert, inviting you to listen to a speaker with the volume turned down, might not be the most obvious way of selling it to a wider audience. For Amphion however, there is a reason for this unusual approach. The entire range is designed to offer excellent intelligibility and clarity even at very low volumes. The Helium series is the entry-level offering in the range and the 410 is the smallest speaker in the group.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 30, 2011  |  0 comments
Let the beat drop The Drop is one of the most distinctive-looking speakers on the market. Ed Selley investigates whether the music is as smooth as the lines Scandyna has been producing its distinctive pod speakers for over a decade and there is now an eight-strong range of stereo models with supporting subwoofers and amps. The Drop is, however, as the name suggests, modelled on a droplet – even down to the ‘separating stem’-effect at the top of the cabinet. Plastic fantastic The Drop retains many classic Scandyna features, including a cabinet formed of ABS plastic.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
Arro takes Flight Totem’s super-slim new Arro is a beautifully made speaker. Paul Messenger gets close up and personal with the Canadian rocker Well established Canadian manufacturer Totem takes its name from – and tends to name its models after – elements of that country’s First Nations culture, though quite where Arro comes from remains a little obscure. Perhaps it simply reflects the fact that the speaker itself is unusually straight and slim, albeit devoid of point or flights. Whatever, few serious speakers manage to look more discreet and self-effacing, especially in the highly reflective (and very fashionable) high-gloss black of our review samples.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 28, 2011  |  0 comments
Small is beautiful This latest model from Bowers & Wilkins is, says Paul Messenger, a beautifully styled and finished luxury miniature Although the mainstream marketplace for hi-fi loudspeakers invariably tends to equate price with size and necessarily expects a costly loudspeaker to be a large loudspeaker, more sophisticated hi-fi customers are aware that this relationship is largely false. It’s certainly true that a small loudspeaker is bound to have certain limitations, especially in areas such as bass extension, loudness capability and power handling. However, such designs also have certain strengths that are often all too easily overlooked, over and beyond the obvious fact that for many customers, when it comes to loudspeakers (rather than, say, TV screens), small is, by definition, beautiful. For example, the smaller the loudspeaker, the less the enclosure area available to radiate unwanted cabinet colorations.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 28, 2011  |  0 comments
Blade Runner KEF’s Blade celebrates 50 years of loudspeaker innovation with the most dramatic leap forward in decades, says Paul Messenger KEF has been virtually synonymous with loudspeaker innovation for five decades. Although in recent years the company’s main preoccupation seems to have been with multichannelhome cinema, through an impressive succession of clever designs, but the Blade looks likely to put KEF back on the stereo hi-fi top table. Conceived by Mark Dodd and executed with considerable assistance from Jack Oclee-Brown, a Project Blade ‘technology demonstrator’ first appeared two years ago. There was talk of it going into production, but nothing had been decided and its elaborate and costly enclosure – a carbon fibre,balsa wood sandwich – meant that the price was likely to be something like twice our review speaker’s £20,000 price.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 09, 2011  |  0 comments
Music of the spheres Elipson’s Planet L brings the acoustic benefits of a spherical cabinet down to a new price point. Ed Selley goes listening ‘outside the box' French hi-fi has made significant inroads to the UK market in recent years, but Elipson remain one of the lesser-known brands. This is in spite of the fact that it has been in existence since 1938 and amongst other achievements were the default loudspeaker choice of French national television for over forty years. Bowling ball The striking looking Planet L is the latest in a long line of spherical designs dating back for most of the history of the brand.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 11, 2011  |  0 comments
Ken goes to Boston Boston Acoustics’ new range has been tuned by Marantz’s Ken Ishiwata for European ears. Ed Selley goes hunting for the ‘signature’ sound Boston Acoustics are one of the major players in the American speaker market, producing a full range of conventional box loudspeakers, custom install products and car audio. Since the company was acquired by D&M holdings – which oversees Denon, Marantz and McIntosh amongst others – it has been raising its UK profi le. The A Series speakers are the new entrylevel range and made its low key debut at Bristol this year.

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