TOWER SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 25, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $4,250 (updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Superb sound on both music and movies • Wide, deep soundstage • Outstanding value

Cue the Qs

KEF’s Q Series, improved over multiple generations since 1994, has long been the British speaker company’s bread-and-butter line. The new Qs, which began shipping earlier this year, were designed in the U.K. and are manufactured in China.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 31, 2011 14 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,745 (updated 3/10/15)
at a glance: Folded diaphragm tweeters • Built-in 1,200-watt subwoofers with DSP • Super-slim center and surround speakers

Squeeze Me. Please Me.

Laurels can be an extremely comfortable and cushy thing to rest on. (They’re good for the environment, and they’re hypoallergenic.) Companies and individuals often rely on past successes to carry them along like giant helium-filled balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Just because you were the first to do or invent something doesn’t necessarily mean your next project or idea will be any better than a picture painted by a monkey throwing his poo at the zoo. As the investment caveat goes, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” That being said, though, how can you not be pee-in-your-pants excited when a true giant in the speaker industry says he’s going to start a new speaker company?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 17, 2011 0 comments
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Deep, powerful bass • Sweet, extended treble and uncolored midrange • Can be unforgiving at high levels

H-PAS the Bass

For the past two years, Atlantic Technology has been working on a new speaker designed around what the company claims is a revolutionary bass-loading technique. Invented by Philip Clements of Solus/Clements Loudspeakers, H-PAS (for Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System) has intrigued trade-show goers since Atlantic started sneak-peeking it in late 2009. The speaker, the Atlantic Technology AT-1, is now in full production.

For a company known for its dedication to producing outstanding home theater speaker systems (its 8200e system won a 2008 Home Theater Award), launching what is, at present, essentially a standalone two-channel model might seem a bit odd. But Atlantic is so pumped about the potential of this design approach that the effort to get the AT-1 to market has been highly focused.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Jan 26, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,997 At A Glance: Forward Focused Bipolar Array provides spectacular soundstage, imaging, and focus • Built-in powered subs bring the bass slam for movies and music • Big speakers, big sound, small footprint

Bipolar, Refocused and Refined

Living bipolar isn’t an unfortunate state of mind at Definitive Technology; it’s a chosen philosophy. And stretching further, it’s perhaps even a reason for being. Founded in 1990, Definitive is a stalwart brand and a staggering success story in the CE business. Definitive has made compelling entries in the speaker market in recent years with speakers as diverse as its flat, sexy Mythos XTR-50 on-walls and its ultraslim, floorstanding Mythos STS. But the bipolar Super Towers, which include built-in powered subwoofers, are still the flagship line. To this day, much of Definitive’s brand identity is those tall, sleek, and big-sounding black towers. The reason you’re reading this review is that the bipolar Super Tower series has now been completely redesigned and reborn.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 24, 2011 4 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $23,247 (updated 3/16/15)
At A Glance: Highs to die for, uncolored midrange, tight bass • Cinematic soundstage • Flawless build quality

Going for the Beryllium

Focal first became a household audio name in the 1980s. Located in Saint-Etienne, France, the company furnished driver units for a number of well-known speaker manufacturers, among them Wilson Audio Specialties. Wilson continues to use an exclusive version of a Focal inverted titanium-dome tweeter. With that exception, Focal has long since kept all of its driver production in-house for its own complete lineup of loudspeakers for the consumer, professional, automotive, and multimedia markets.

Filed under
Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 29, 2010 1 comments
Price: $58,390 At A Glance: Huge dynamics • Enormous, transparent soundstage • Foundation shaking, boom-free, tuneful bass • Exquisite musical delicacy

Painting Pictures With Sound

To produce room-filling sound, a speaker has to move a lot of air—even in a relatively small room. Moving a lot of air, particularly in a big room, necessitates a large woofer placed in an even larger box. Refrigerator-sized speakers were commonplace in audiophiles’ living rooms back in the 1950s. When stereo arrived and required two large expanses of wood-framed grille cloth, significant others objected. Downsizing began, aided in part by Edgar Villchur’s invention of the sealed-box acoustic-suspension woofer.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 06, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $4,400 At A Glance: Clean, open, natural detail • Enveloping soundstage • Outstanding fit and finish

Bringing Home the Silver

One benefit that comes from the development of flagship products like Monitor Audio’s Platinum PL300-based speaker system (HT, October 2009) is that the technology often filters down into less expensive models in the manufacturer’s line. Of course, it won’t surprise you to hear that the ribbon tweeters, sculpted cabinets, and leather trim found in that $25,000-plus Platinum set haven’t made it into the $4,400 Silver RX8 system under review here. But refinement, elegance, and most importantly, high value and superb performance are still very much part of the package.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Jun 01, 2010 0 comments
Price: $18,790 At A Glance: Unique design with proprietary components • Seamless topto-bottom coherence • Wide dynamic contrast • See-through transparency and clarity

Defining the Possibilities

Speakers sometimes remind me of cars. The marketing campaigns are built around uniqueness, but in a larger sense, most are far more similar than different. Most cars have combustion engines, four wheels that go around, and options that are more distinguished by the jargon that describes them than by their functionality. These days, many speakers are assembled from materials that are purchased from a handful of well-known source component companies. They often have much more in common with each other than people are led to believe.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 26, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,625 At A Glance: Sweet sounding yet detailed • Wide dynamic range • Big soundstage • Limited subwoofer extension

More for Less

The new Image line of speakers from Canadian manufacturer PSB follows on the heels of two other PSB ranges: Synchrony and Imagine. While they aren’t exactly blue-light specials, the Images provide an intangible quality that today’s speaker buyer demands: value. And with the increasing costs of domestic manufacturing, value most often means overseas production. All of PSB’s new models, including the Imagines, are engineered in Canada but made in China. This is an increasingly common practice in the speaker industry.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 11, 2010 0 comments
Price: $7,250 At A Glance: Clean highs, neutral mids • Mid- and upper-bass prominent • Small but potent subwoofer

Well Centered

These days, most major speaker manufacturers know how to produce a good speaker. But only a few manage to hit all the marks simultaneously: great engineering, great sound, and fair pricing. British speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins has long been a leader in that hunt.

Filed under
Michael Fremer Posted: Jan 04, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $10,095 At A Glance: Bodacious, well-controlled bass • Clean, effervescent high frequencies • Room-filling, three-dimensional spaciousness even in two-channel mode

German Brew, U.S. Bottle

Many home theater enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with the name, but among audiophiles during the 1990s, veteran German audio designer Joachim Gerhard achieved near-legend status throughout the world for his extensive and remarkably varied line of high-performance loudspeakers marketed under the Audio Physic brand.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 08, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $26,000 (excluding stands, updated 3/11/15)
At A Glance: Pristine highs, uncolored mids, tight bass • Great dynamic range • Subwoofer lacks wallop in the deepest, loudest bass

Better Than Golden

Founded in 1972, U.K.-based Monitor Audio has long produced speakers that offer good value. Until recently, it topped out at $4,500 per pair for the Gold Signature model. So when I heard about the new Platinum range, priced at $10,000 per pair for just the front left and right flagship PL300, it came as a surprise.

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Fred Manteghian Posted: Jun 01, 2009 0 comments

Ever since its launch in 1996, Revel has pursued a no-compromise approach to speaker design and manufacturing. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the brand is part of megaconglomerate Harman International, which boasts some of the best speaker-development facilities in the world. For example, Revel engineers have access to multiple anechoic chambers and Harman's Multichannel Listening Lab that allows blind-listening tests, shuffling several speakers around for each test run so the effect of their positions in the room is randomized and thus prevented from affecting the results.

Filed under
Fred Manteghian Posted: May 26, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $45,993 (reviewed with B15a subwoofer, which has been discontinued)
At A Glance: Seductively powerful bass, with or without the sub • Complex midrange timbre • Depth and imaging maestro • What movie theaters should sound like

The Finest Money Can Build

I first heard Revel speakers many years ago at CES when they burst on the scene. The curiously modest-looking original Gem speakers were sitting behind their designer Kevin Voecks as he introduced them. Then he fired up an exquisitely calibrated 9-inch CRT projector. I remember this as the exact moment when I decided, by hook or by crook, there would be a front projector in my house someday. Such is the influence of great sound accompanying good video. All of this introduction is my way of saying that the Revel system here is once again best of show in my book.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 13, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $5,690 (with SubSeries 300 subwoofer substituted for discontinued SubSeries 6i, updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Open, clean, and detailed • Expansive, cinematic sound • High value

Imagine: Airy Soundscapes

When deciding whether or not to set product priority for evaluation, every reviewer (consciously or unconsciously) applies a filter based on his or her previous experience with that manufacturer. Of course, there are always breakthrough products that demand to be covered and new companies that deserve to be discovered. But given the options available in the speaker world—including the new and the fascinating but rarely the revolutionary—you look first to those that have proved that they can make a great product.

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