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TOWER SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Chris Lewis Posted: Dec 21, 2005 0 comments
Quality drivers in quality cabinets equals quality sound—at a nice price.

It's easy to find your eyes dazzled, and your mind befuddled, by the outpouring of new speakers over the last few years, particularly those of the nontraditional variety. In-walls, plasma-friendly speakers, and even flat-panel speakers are all the rage with the general public. This is hardly a bad thing—anything that can get people to recognize that the speaker realm extends far beyond the two-dollar paper drivers in their televisions serves a valuable purpose. Many of these people may also come to realize that, at this point, most of these recent unconventional designs embody some degree of compromise, and they hopefully won't fall victim to the dreaded anything-that-is-new-is-better philosophy. It is true that manufacturers are getting more out of unconventional designs than ever before. But, generally speaking, the best speaker sound still comes out of old-fashioned cone drivers and dome tweeters in cabinets with the proper interior and exterior qualities, along with the proper space for them to do their work.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 18, 2005 0 comments

While I'll be the first one to defend the importance of the independent dealer who can provide expert demonstrations and face-to-face advice, the reality is that these dealers are experiencing an increasingly diverse and difficult market. And in some parts of the country, they're hard if not impossible to find.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 12, 2005 0 comments
All clear!

I think it's time we revived the old maxim that speakers are the most important part of an audio system. Yes, DVD players, A/V receivers, pre/pros, and power amps all play crucial roles, but speakers give you a bigger shot at personalizing your sound. Some speakers deliver exacting resolution, while others effortlessly unleash a wide range of dynamics or shake the foundation of your abode. Dynaudio speakers excel on every front and remain loyal to the sound embedded in your DVDs and CDs. So don't let the Dynaudio Focus speaker series' understated demeanor throw you off track; these speakers can get down and boogie.

Chris Lewis Posted: Dec 12, 2005 0 comments
This time, it's all English.

After the parade of international system mates that we've had in every other installment of this column recently, we finally settle into a system whose parts share their nation of origin. Don't be too quick to assume that it is the United States or Japan I speak of—this month's system hails entirely from merry old England. This isn't terribly surprising, but it does give me an opportunity to say a few things to our friends across the pond that I've been meaning to say for a while, such as: Sorry about that whole revolution thing (although I don't really mean that sincerely), and thanks for the Rolling Stones, Lord Stanley (who gave us the Stanley Cup), and Elizabeth Hurley—in no particular order, of course.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Nov 22, 2005 0 comments
Real speakers have curves.

I remember when Ferraris and Maseratis topped out around 400 ponies, but, nowadays, that much oomph is available in Ford Mustangs. Blisteringly fast rides have never been cheaper, and, over in the consumer electronics world, the speed with which technology migrates from bleeding-edge surround processors to $500 A/V receivers demonstrates the benefits of trickle-down engineering. But the quality gap between high-end and affordable speakers hasn't appreciably narrowed, until now. Wharfedale's real-world-priced Pacific Evolution Series speakers are engineered like far more expensive speakers.

Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 17, 2005 0 comments
A new page—or is it the first page—in the annals of Japanese-Danish collaboration.

It's a true testament to the international character of home theater, circa 2005, that so many of our Spotlight Systems include equipment from different countries—which usually provides a convenient opening angle in the process. Some of these worldly connections have been easier to make than others, and I already thought I was stretching things in our August 2005 issue by trying to come up with a compelling storyline for England and Japan. This time, I'm officially stumped. If you can come up with an introduction-worthy link between Japan and Denmark, then consider yourself truly educated in world affairs. I certainly like to imagine a band of Vikings and a band of Samurai trading blows on the battlefield, but, somehow, I don't think that ever happened. It's possible that these two countries squared off on a soccer field at some point, but I'd be the last person to know about that. Maybe this is finally a sign that I should stay more focused on what we're all really here for anyway—what these countries do when they get together in the listening room. Point taken.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Oct 22, 2005 0 comments
Diamonds can be everyone's best friend.

If truth be told, I have little use for diamonds in their conventional form. This probably stems from all the pomp and pageantry that surrounds them—not to mention my disdain for those people who drape themselves in the stones and attempt to outshine everyone else with their brilliance. This hardly means that I have little respect for diamonds, though, even if this respect is far more about material than materialism. Since ancient times, mankind has recognized the value of the diamond for pragmatic applications, in everything from grinding and engraving tools, to drill bits, to turntable styli and semiconductors.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 22, 2005 0 comments
American beauties.

Flat-screen-friendly speakers, iPod-inspired microspeakers, and adorable HTIBs are selling like crazy, but Vandersteen Audio is immune to such flights of fancy. Their speakers are all plus-size beauties—the company's new VCC-5 Reference center channel measures a healthy 24 inches wide, 9.75 high, and 18 deep. So, sure, it would be a hell of a lot easier to sell a slimmer design, but the company's head honcho, Richard Vandersteen, doesn't play that game. He designs speakers for buyers who care more about sound than fashion. His stuck-in-the-1980s styling isn't a calculated stab at retro—the handsome 1C tower speaker was originally introduced in 1981 as the Model 1, and the "C" iteration debuted in 1996. You see, change for the sake of change isn't an option at Vandersteen Audio, and that extends to bucking the industry stampede to move production offshore. They still build every speaker in Hanford, California, and they test and measure every speaker in their own anechoic chamber. That's commitment.

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Steven Stone Posted: Oct 02, 2005 0 comments

When I reviewed the Genesis 6.1 speaker system I liked it so much I still use it as my reference in my upstairs home theater system. Now Genesis has a new, smaller speaker called the Genesis 7.1c that shares much of the G6.1's technology—and a level of performance that can equal its more expensive sibling in most conventional home theater situations, and in some environments even better it.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Sep 30, 2005 0 comments
Infinity comes through again.

When it comes to expectations, setting the bar high can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can't establish credibility or customer loyalty without coming through time and time again. On the other hand, the higher you set the bar, the easier it is to go down rather than up. Infinity quickly comes to my mind as one of the companies that isn't afraid of this challenge, whether it be with a $500 speaker or a $5,000 speaker. No reviewer can ever predict how tuned his ear will be to a particular set of speakers, or even a brand. However, with Infinity, you can count on getting a well-designed, well-built speaker from a company that has the right priorities in mind. Some speaker manufacturers get it, and some don't. Infinity is clearly one that does.

Michael Fremer Posted: Aug 14, 2005 0 comments

Who do you think benefits most from corporate investments in technological research and development: so-called "early adopters" or average consumers? After I reviewed Infinity's top-of-the-line, high-performance Prelude MTS speakers a few years ago for <I>Stereophile</I> (Joel Brinkley reviewed the 5.1 version in <I>The Stereophile Guide to Home Theater</I>), I would have concluded "early adopters." But after spending a few months with the relatively inexpensive Beta ensemble, which is based on the driver technology developed for the Prelude MTS, I think mainstream consumers gain the most and they get it at near Wal-Mart prices.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
Big ambitions.

Boston Acoustics has been perfecting the art of speaker design for 26 years, so I guess they're ready to try something new. For 2005, the company set their sights on the fiercely competitive A/V-receiver market and released a classically handsome, custom-installer-savvy contender, the AVR7120. To keep it all in the family, I checked out the receiver with a contingent of Boston VR Series speakers.

Steven Stone Posted: Jun 19, 2005 Published: Jun 20, 2005 0 comments

The modern world revolves around easy. Look at the home-theater-in-a-box products. Consumers only need to make one shopping decision to purchase an entire home theater sound system. Unfortunately, they still need to set up the speakers and connect everything together.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
Klipsch and Yamaha show that not every Spotlight System requires a second mortgage.

So far, we may have given you the false impression that the pages of this new column were going to be dedicated almost exclusively to the rarified air of the high end. After all, there has only been one installment so far that rang in under five figures, and last month's MiCon Audio system seriously blew the curve with a price tag roughly equivalent to that of a decent house in some parts of the country. Little did you know it was all part of an ingenious plan to build momentum for the column with flashy, big-ticket systems before settling in to the meat and potatoes of the A/V world—i.e., the systems the rest of us can afford. This month's Klipsch/ Yamaha combo is just such a system. Sure, it's not something you'll be able to buy with the change you find in your sofa, but it is certainly more attainable to a broader range of people than the MiCon Audios of the world are.

Chris Lewis Posted: May 01, 2005 Published: May 17, 2005 0 comments
Turn on, tune in, strap down. I was standing in an area of last year's Home Entertainment Show in New York that had no demonstration rooms anywhere nearby. It started with a boom and a rumble, like the gathering of a distant but powerful storm. It wasn't enough to shake me yet, but it was enough to grab my attention. Then came another boom, another rumble, and enough curiosity that I felt compelled to find a tactful way out of my conversation and make my way toward this growing intensity. Not only could I feel the floor moving under my feet as I got closer, but I even started to believe I was seeing Sheetrock flakes on the floor, steadily gathering into a distinct trail. Soon enough, the rattling of the walls, the low-frequency energy waves hammering my senses, and the shaken but excited looks of people coming the other way told me I had arrived. MiCon Audio, the door announced. Curious, I thought—or tried to think, before another sortie ripped out from inside—and a belief that the door might literally be blown off its hinges began to monopolize my thoughts. Finally, the door opened, and the answer to all of the riddles awaited me inside—but, for that, you'll have to read on.

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