Steve Guttenberg

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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.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
Born in the U.S.A., Snell would love to build a set just for you.

Snell's new LCR7 speaker system stopped me in my tracks at last year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The look was so new and fresh, yet elegant, and there was just something about the way their aluminum ends set off the speakers' curves that spoke to me. Yeah, I'm a sucker for style; but, when I learned that the legendary speaker designer Joe D'Appolito had a hand in creating these snazzy Snells, I was hooked. I doubt there's another designer with more name recognition—he lent his name to the ubiquitous woofer-tweeter-woofer arrangement—a.k.a. D'Appolito array—way back in the early 1980s. His goals for this new generation of Snells were disarmingly straightforward: to have them play loud with low distortion, provide an amplifier-friendly load, and produce razor-sharp imaging. Even a cursory audition of an LCR7 speaker will prove that Joe D'Appolito isn't resting on his laurels.

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.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 17, 2005 0 comments
Synergistic sounds.

This review brings together two brands that are special to me: Harman/Kardon and Paradigm. When I was a teenager, I bought a Harman receiver with the money I earned running deliveries for the local supermarket. You know how that is: Nothing ever gets close to the thrill of the first one. I wore out several LP copies of Sgt. Pepper and Led Zeppelin II over that 15-watt-per-channel receiver. Much, much later, in the late '90s, I reviewed a set of Paradigm Atoms. Those little speakers sounded surprisingly huge, and, even more importantly, they were a lot of fun. The Atoms lingered in my listening room long after I finished the review, and that's probably the best indication of what separates good speakers from great speakers. For this back-to-the-future review, I paired Harman's DPR 1005 Digital Path Receiver with Paradigm's newly revised Monitor Series v.4 speakers. Looks like a good combination, but let's see.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
It's three omnidirectional speakers in one.

Here's a tip for home theater newbies: Don't shop for speakers using just your eyes. That advice holds true for any speaker, regardless of size or price; when it comes to what we euphemistically refer to as "lifestyle" speakers, though, please try to listen before you make a purchase, or you'll deserve what you get. Lifestyle-inflicted design compromises too often exact a toll on performance—skinny towers can sound undernourished, wall-mounted speakers can produce pancake-flat imaging, and pint-size satellites can come up short.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 14, 2004 Published: Dec 15, 2004 0 comments
The sound goes round and round and comes out here.

The 2004 Home Entertainment East Show was chock full of cool, new high-tech goodies, but I found myself returning again and again to the Arcam/Gallo Acoustics room. This was all the more surprising because I'm pretty familiar with Arcam's uncommonly elegant electronics and Gallo's radically round speakers, but they were demoing the Drumline DVD at realistically loud levels, and the choreographed thunder of competing marching bands was huge, dynamically alive, and tons of fun. A week after the show, I was still reminiscing about the sound. I made some phone calls, worked out some scheduling and shipping details, and now I'm sitting here exploring the system's capabilities in my very own home theater. Let me tell ya, the spectacular sound I heard at the show wasn't a hallucination; the Arcam/Gallo combination is good. . .really good.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 14, 2004 Published: Dec 15, 2004 0 comments
Hallelujah! A custom-installation speaker package even an audiophile can love.

Klipsch's new THX Ultra2 speaker system boldly goes where poseur speakers fear to tread. Let's face it, the speaker industry is obsessed with producing ever skinnier and sleeker designs; you know, the sort of trendy speakers that look cool straddling plasma TVs. For their new high-end line, Klipsch's product planners took a different approach: The THX Ultra2's raison d'étre is the rapidly expanding custom-installation market. No doubt most of these big-'n'-brawny speakers will be tucked out of sight or flush-mounted in a posh home theater, but I'd bet a bunch of these systems will be sold to performance-oriented buyers. They're that good.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Nov 07, 2004 Published: Nov 01, 2004 0 comments
Close encounters of the audiophile kind.

Peter Tribeman, Atlantic Technology's CEO and founder, is a serious movie buff. So, when Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind advanced the state of the special-effects art in 1977, Tribeman, a native Bostonian, had to fly to New York City to savor the film's full magnificence—in 70mm, six-track surround—at the legendary Zeigfeld Theater. That's commitment. Not wanting to make the trek alone, he invited Dotty, a woman he had just met at a party, on his quest—"but it wasn't a date." They thoroughly enjoyed the film, immediately flew back to Boston, and married a few years later. Tribeman's wedding present to his bride was a signed Encounters poster: "To Peter and Dotty, on the occasion of their ultimate close encounter. Best Regards, Steven Spielberg." Not bad.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 18, 2004 Published: Sep 01, 2004 0 comments
They're cool—really cool!

MB Quart's new Vera Series speakers have redefined cool. They're cool-sounding, for sure, but I also mean cool, as in low-temperature cool. Heat, you see, is the enemy of good sound. When you're rocking with Aerosmith's ballistic blues bash Honkin' on Bobo or crankin' Master and Commander, your speakers' voice-coil temperatures shoot up. In extreme cases, they can heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The excessive temperature does bad, bad things; it can raise the voice coils' resistance by as much as 25 percent. Distortion creeps up, dynamics flatten out, and transient response goes to hell. Worse yet, sustained overheating can lead to driver meltdown. Ouch!

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 01, 2004 0 comments
Licensed to thrill.

Krell's new Resolution Series speakers are all about pure hedonistic pleasure. Think of them as the speaker equivalent of a fire-breathing, 500-horsepower Dodge Viper SRT/10. But hold on a sec: The Resolutions are more than an exercise in brute force engineering. Their manifest also includes incredible precision, hyperclarity, and ultra-low distortion. Forget the Viper; the Resolutions are closer to a Porsche 911 GT3.

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