A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing GoldenEar Technology's least expensive home theater system. The SuperCinema 3 ($1,750) comes with five small satellite speakers and a smallish subwoofer, but the sound was big and beautiful. More than that, the sound was distinctly high-end in its flavor. It was easy to tell it was designed primarily for home theater, but for those buyers who also have a hankering for audiophile-quality sound.
The buzz in certain corners of the high-end audio community at this year's CES was that Audiovox was going to acquire Klipsch, and Klipsch's other speaker brands, including Jamo, Mirage, Energy, and Athena. The January 6 press release sounds like it was written by lawyers:
Audiovox Corporation announced today that it has recently signed a non-binding term sheet to purchase all of the shares of Klipsch Group Inc. and its worldwide subsidiaries ("Klipsch"). Klipsch is a leading, global provider of premium, high performance speakers sold through retail and installation channels. The transaction is subject to a … Read more
Sales of ridiculously expensive and absurdly powerful cars are holding steady, and the same can be said for extreme, high-end speakers. Granted, there's no practical reason for the existence of the new 450-horsepower Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 Quattro supercar ($161,000), or a Klipsch P-39F tower speaker ($20,000), but if you can afford them, why not? High-end speakers have one very practical advantage over extreme performance cars; they can provide satisfaction on a daily basis. Few Ferrari and Maserati owners use their flashy wheels as everyday rides, and far fewer are brave enough to drive them anywhere near their top speeds! No, these prized possessions remain stowed in garages most of the time.
Prices listed in this top-10 list are for pairs of speakers, and if these are all out of reach, please don't fret, as the next top-10 speaker list will feature the best sub-$1,000 speakers on the planet. Or check out my "Top-10 must-have audio bargains" list.
I've auditioned many of these ultra-high-end speakers personally, so I can attest that they can take you places everyday speakers never go. … Read more
Amar Bose started Bose in 1964 when he was a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to build a very successful company that is one of the top selling hi-fi, headphone, and car audio brands in the United States.
Bose's popularity isn't based on selling budget-priced gear; the company aims higher and has earned its success with a more quality-oriented approach. CNET's Matthew Moskovciak recently blogged about Bose's new Lifestyle home theater systems, that cost from $2,000 for the T20; $2,500 for the V25; and $3,300 … Read more
Specifically, I listened to the 802 Diamond speaker that sells for $15,000 a pair. The speaker has a big and beautiful, carefully honed design. The 159-pound speaker stands 44-inches high by 14.5-inches wide by 22-inches deep. It has a 1-inch synthetic diamond dome tweeter, 6-inch woven Kevlar midrange driver, and two 8-inch Rohacell woofers. Rohacell is a super lightweight, yet highly rigid material that is ideal for woofers that need to move a lot of air without flexing.
The 6-inch midrange driver is housed in a teardrop shaped "head" that is crafted from inert Marlan composite material, a synthetic, mineral-filled resin. This granite-hard enclosure is sprayed with seven coats of hand-polished black lacquer. The head's internal cavity--a sphere closely coupled to a short tube--absorbs most of the sound from the back of the driver. On the outside, the teardrop shape smoothly disperses the sound around the speaker, creating a solid, three-dimensional stereo image.
The diamond tweeter is fitted to a tapering tube that is filled with absorbent wadding to control the energy that radiates off the tweeter's backside. The diamond tweeter doesn't look like a diamond at all, it's a dull gray dome, so it wasn't just used for show. B&W favored aluminum tweeters for its top models for years, but now uses diamond domes because of their higher stiffness-to-density ratio. According to B&W, diamond gets closest to the sound of a hypothetically perfect tweeter.
I've heard my share of high-end speakers, but the thing that struck me first about the 802 Diamond's sound was its purity. It's the second-generation diamond model, the original version was the 802 D--the company changes it models every five to seven years. B&W offers a complete range of 800 Diamond Series speakers for hi-fi and home theater systems. … Read more
It's the hi-fi's job to produce the sound of music encoded in a recording.
Does how well or how accurately it produces the sound affect musical enjoyment? I'm not so sure about measurements; they just define distortion levels, power rating, and frequency response, but they don't have all that much to do with good sound. Good sound is much harder to nail down; we like what we like. You know good sound when you hear it.
Studio recordings rarely sound "live," or even realistic. How could they? Chances are the band never played the entire tune together "live" in the studio. Their music was patched together from bits and pieces, overdubbed, pitch corrected, rhythm corrected, EQ-ed, dynamically compressed, and processed in a gazillion ways. Of course, a lot of that also goes into modern "concert" recordings. So what constitutes a good sounding recording is pretty impossible to define. Play it back over a great system and what do you hear? Does it get your blood pumping?
So the question really is, does the music fully engage the listener? Sometimes, the better the hi-fi, the more music the listener hears, the more they like the music. Why that is? I don't know. … Read more
You'll get no argument from me that $107,000 seems like a lot of money for a pair of speakers.
But the YG Acoustics Anat Reference II Professional is a lot of speaker. Stereophile magazine's Wes Phillips delved deep into the flagship speaker's build and sound quality in his review. It was a tough assignment, but somebody had to do it.
While $107,000 is definitely out of my price range, that doesn't mean there's not a market, albeit a very small market, for products that advance the state of the art. Great, but who buys these things?
Answer: rich people. You probably know some of their names. Rock icon Bruce Springsteen just signed a new $110,000,000 contract. The Boss could and should buy these things (maybe he'd make better-sounding records). And the last time I checked, Tom Cruise is still getting upward of $20 million to appear in a movie. A pair of YG Acoustics Anat Reference II Professionals would be a nice start for his home theater.
In addition, sports superstars are still signing megamillion contracts, and big-business CEOs are still eating at fancy restaurants. Even now, the rich aren't hurting; luxury markets are holding steady.
The Anat Reference II Professional is a three-piece modular loudspeaker. It is, shall we say, on the statuesque side of large; the Reference Main Module sits atop the Studio passive subwoofer, which, in turn, rests upon the Professional powered subwoofer. Each three-module array weighs 440 pounds.
Most of each module is made of aircraft-grade aluminum; the front baffles are a machined "ballistic grade" alloy of aluminum and titanium. The speakers are shipped in six custom aluminum flight cases.… Read more
Devore Fidelity, founded by president and chief designer John DeVore in 2000, builds state-of-the-art speakers in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
DeVore is one of the few speaker designers I've met who worked as a high-end audio salesman, so he can draw upon first-hand knowledge of what buyers really want. He's also listened to the very best stuff out there, and learned that components that measure well and sound impressive at first don't always sound great over the long run.
I've known John for a long time, and when he first decided to get into … Read more
Of all the major high-end speaker-manufacturing countries in the world--the United States, England, France, Germany, Italy--Denmark is, in some ways, my favorite.
The Danes balance art and engineering better than anybody. I recently reviewed Dynaudio's latest series, Excite, for Ultimate AV magazine. You can read the complete review, but here are some excerpts:
The Excite system featured a pair of X32 towers (together costing $2,800), an X22 center channel speaker ($850), a pair of X12 bookshelf speakers (together costing $1,200) for use as surrounds, and a SUB 250 subwoofer ($1,000). None of them are very large or imposing; my nonaudiophile friends barely noticed the speakers' presence in my living room. That's probably a plus for folks looking for a 5.1-channel system that blends in with its surroundings.
All of the Excite models feature Magnesium Silicate Polymer cone woofers with die-cast aluminum frame baskets and aluminum voice coils. Dynaudio's specially coated soft-dome tweeters, with newly designed magnet structures, grace all the speakers.
The Excite speakers are available in real-wood maple, cherry, rosewood, and black ash veneers; my review samples came in the deep 'n' dark rosewood, which was truly stunning. … Read more
Anthony Gallo Acoustics never made box speakers.
No, Gallo speakers, from the company's earliest days in 1994, were always designed around spherical cabinets. Yes, others have followed suit, but Gallo was the first to perfect round sound.
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, which opens Thursday in Las Vegas, Gallo will premiere its latest speaker: the double-balled Strada ($1,000 MSRP each). Measuring a compact 6.5 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide by 5.5 inches deep, the Strada is jam-packed with unique technology.
Round speakers are no cosmetic gimmick; round speakers get around the inherent … Read more