TOWER SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 12, 2012 0 comments

PSB Imagine T2 Speaker System
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PSB SubSeries 300 Subwoofer
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Price: $6,650 At A Glance: Independent ported chambers for each woofer • Dual five-way gold-plated binding posts for biwiring or biamping • Five-way transitional design

Paul Barton is a nutcase. Oh, sure, he’s soft-spoken, ultra-smart, and intensely passionate about sound. (In the late 1960s, 11-year-old Barton started building speakers with his dad in their workshop because other speakers “didn’t sound natural.”) But that’s just a cover. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that Mr. Barton (the “P” and “B” of PSB Speakers—with his wife, Sue, providing the “S”) has spent so much of his life locked away in the anechoic chamber and testing/listening labs of Canada’s federally funded National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, according to PSB, although folks from other speaker companies (such as Paradigm, Energy, Mirage, Snell, and Aperion, to name a few) have traipsed through the NRC’s Acoustics and Signal Processing Department’s doors, since the late 1970s, Barton “has spent far longer in the chamber and lab than any other speaker designer.” So rather than skiing, hunting, fishing, playing hockey, and/or drinking beer all day like real Canadians do, Barton chose to play in an anechoic chamber. As I said, he’s a nutcase.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 20, 2012 0 comments
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Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Automatic speaker discovery and channel assignment • Uncompressed 24-bit wireless digital audio • No AVR needed

Not long ago, FedEx deposited a 7.1channel HTIB from Aperion Audio outside my door. It’s not really fair to call it a home theater in a box because the system actually comes in seven boxes and sells for $3,499. But since it includes source switching and amplification, it technically qualifies as an HTIB, albeit a rather unusual one. Aperion Audio prefers the term preconfigured home theater system. Normally, setting up this sort of home theater package would entail speaker wires crisscrossing the floor accompanied by the requisite grumbling, stripping of wires, and fumbling with speaker terminals. In this case, though, the Aperion speakers—a pair of towers, a center channel, a subwoofer, and two pair of satellite speakers—come out of their boxes, get placed in their appropriate spots in the room, have each one’s power cord plugged into the nearest AC outlet…and that’s it.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Sep 18, 2012 0 comments

One of my favorite things about the audio biz is that anyone with a dream and a garage can get in. Accumulate the knowledge to design a speaker or an amp, gather the tools and materials to build it, muster the courage and social skills to sell it, and you’ve got yourself an audio company! (Unfortunately, a few would-be entrepreneurs skip that all-important first step.)

There’s no better current example of this phenomenon than John DeVore, founder, president, and chief designer of DeVore Fidelity. DeVore was a musician and high-end stereo salesman in new York City who’d nurtured a hobby of building his own speakers. When he finally got to the point where he was satisfied with his designs, he started to produce and sell them. His company now builds speakers in the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, which has become a hotbed of artisanal manufacturing.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 17, 2012 1 comments

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Price: $950 At a Glance: Folded Motion tweeter • Custom five-way biwire/biamp binding posts • Aluminum cone drivers

For the first 20 years or so, MartinLogan was just a geeky, tweaky speaker company that made electrostatic speakers—that’s just as in Stephen Hawking is just a physicist—with a few very serious (and very hexagonal) subwoofers in the lineup to take over the job of reproducing the lowest bass frequencies that even the best electrostatic panels simply don’t have the wherewithal to generate on their own. During that time, admission to the MartinLogan electrostatic club was never cheap. That, as you can imagine, put the dynamic, open, and airy sound that is a signature aspect of an electrostatic speaker out of reach for lots of people.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 04, 2012 0 comments

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Price: $7,197 At A Glance: Wide and deep soundstage • Clear, uncolored midrange • Superb fit and finish

The Wharfedale brand is one of the oldest and most widely respected in the loudspeaker business. Gilbert Briggs founded the company as the Wharfedale Wireless Works in Yorkshire, England, in 1932. While his name is less well known in the U.S. than, say, Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, and James B. Lansing, Briggs was also clearly one of the founding fathers of the high-fidelity business that took off big time in the 1950s.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jun 05, 2012 0 comments

History may one day judge “offshoring” to be the macroeconomic disaster that some pundits would have us believe. Still, you can’t argue that it’s been a microeconomics windfall for American consumers.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 30, 2012 2 comments

LSiM707 Surround Speaker System
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DSWmicroPRO3000 subwoofer
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Price: $9,600 At A Glance: Excellent dynamic range • Solid imaging and depth • Could use more top-end air

Polk Audio has a proud history stretching back to the early 1970s. Its products have leaned more to the familiar and affordable rather than to the expensive and esoteric, but there have been exceptions. The SRT series, introduced in 1995, was a surround system with seven separate speakers encompassing 35 active drivers, including two subwoofers said to be capable of 120 decibels at 30 hertz. It corralled its fair share of buyers willing to pony up the $10,000 asking price.

Michael Fremer Posted: May 18, 2012 13 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
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Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 20, 2012 0 comments
GoldenEar Technology may have had the fastest rise to the top of any speaker manufacturer in history. The company started less than 2 years ago. Yet its very first product, the Triton Two tower speaker, was named Sound+Vision’s 2010 Audio Product of the Year — and practically every other audio publication raved about it, too.

It shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise, though. GoldenEar is the creation of Sandy Gross, a co-founder of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, and engineer Don Givogue, the other co-founder of Def Tech. Still, to have people comparing your $2,500-per-pair speaker to $10,000-per-pair models is an accomplishment.

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Al Griffin Posted: Mar 20, 2012 0 comments

Two years ago, I found myself listening to Monitor Audio’s flagship Platinum Series towers in the company’s CES demo room and thinking, Who drops 10 grand on a pair of speakers, no matter how good they sound?

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 30, 2012 0 comments

It seems like there have been Paradigm Monitor-series speakers roaming the earth since shortly after Rice and Kellog patented the dynamic loudspeaker as we know it in 1924. (The original practical design was by Peter Jensen, co-founder of Magnavox, some years earlier.) And as the arrival of its “Series 7” might suggest, the Canadian maker’s Monitor family does in fact date back a couple of decades. Like the speakers that preceded them, Paradigm’s new Monitor models are benchmarks of performance/value quotient in the best Canadian-speaker tradition: rationally priced, excellent-performing, technically advanced designs that compete very effectively with some far more costly “high-end” designs.

So what has changed for Series 7? According to Paradigm, the answer is smaller, deeper, broader: The new models are smaller in size (and so more décor-friendly), yet thanks to redesigned waveguides and the adoption of aluminum bass/mid cones and tweeter domes, they offer improved low-frequency extension and smoother, wider off-axis response. In other words, just like before — but more so.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

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Price: $2,995 At A Glance: Little brother to the Triton Two • Built-in, powered subwoofer • Folded-diaphragm tweeters

Those of us who are “the baby of the family” know the ever-living hell of growing up surrounded by older siblings. In addition to the incessant abuse—both mental (teasing, taunting, terrorizing) and physical (wedgies, wet willies, purple nurples)—there’s the oxygen-depleting cloud of expectation that swirls around your every step, especially if you’ve had a particularly zealous overachiever blazing the familial trail ahead of you. By the way, for those parents who aren’t aware of it, “Why can’t you be like your brother?” isn’t, in most cases, a terribly motivating exhortation. Unless, of course, said brother happens to be a ne’er-do-well who lives off the proceeds of an obscenely large trust fund, drinks absinthe with impunity, and eats fresh beignets heaped high with powdered sugar for breakfast (at noon) every day. (That’s my kind of role model! Bring it on, sibling rival…) Unfortunately, few of us are blessed with the kind of bottom-feeding low-life for an older brother or sister who makes you look like a shining star just for getting out of bed and watching cartoons in the morning. Instead, we’re doomed to a life of waking up knowing that the rest of the day is likely to be nothing but another disappointment to our parents, grandparents, and every ancestor who ever walked (even remotely) upright.

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Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Dec 05, 2011 0 comments

“This is the worst listening room I’ve ever heard,” Magnepan’s Wendell Diller said, half joking. It might have been less than half.

Honestly, I couldn’t disagree. We were sitting in my office, facing my computer and a newly setup Mini Maggie system. I don’t review speakers in my office, for good reason. It’s basically a cube with mostly bare walls: one of the worst acoustic environments possible.

And with any speaker — especially a planar magnetic speaker — the room is a huge part of the deal. So began my quest for a better room, better sound, and the perfect setup.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 31, 2011 0 comments

Performance
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Price: $5,290 At A Glance: CLS Xstat electrostatic transducer • Folded Motion XT tweeter • Dipolar panels

I hate MartinLogan.

That’s right. I hate MartinLogan with a passion that borders on the obsessive. And there’s more to it than the fact that the company’s headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas, are just a hop, skip, and a third-and-long TD pass away from KU. (As a graduate of Mizzou, I say, “Pluck the Jayhawks.”) What gets me is that every time I see those tall, translucent, slightly curved, hard-to-believe-they-actually-work panels that are the hallmark of a MartinLogan electrostatic speaker, I want a pair.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Oct 19, 2011 0 comments

“But is it a real MartinLogan?” I wondered to myself as I read the press release for the ElectroMotion ESL tower speaker that had come through my e-mail.

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