I occasionally check in with local high-end audio dealers to see what's new, and they're never at a loss to demonstrate something to catch my ear. Th listening rooms at Audioarts have been refreshed since my last visit, and the store is now the best appointed shop in town. Audioarts doesn't cover entry-level or midrange gear, but there are plenty of other shops covering that market here in New York City.
I'm usually a sound-first guy, but this time I have to talk about the way these Marten FormFloor speakers look. The stunning, three-sided cabinets looked spectacular at the Wes Bender Studio in Brooklyn. The sleek, apartment-friendly towers are works of art.
Luckily enough, the sound is no less brilliant; their astonishing purity really enhances the experience of listening to music. Bass definition and "speed" are exceptional, and vocals sound present, like the singer is in the room with me. With jazz CDs the spontaneity of the band's improvisations was captured with unusual fidelity. The 43-inch-tall towers … Read more
The Wilson Alexia speakers and Dan D'Agostino electronics in the Innovative Audio room at the New York Audio Show stopped me in my tracks. I heard a lot of great gear at the show, but the sound in that room was closer -- a lot closer -- to the sound of the real thing than anything else. The system had a "this is happening now" quality that takes you back to the recording session, proof that cutting edge high-end gear is getting better all the time. Yes, ubergear prices are in the stratosphere, but there were plenty … Read more
The day the iPhone 5 goes on sale, millions of people will happily line up to buy Apple's latest marvel. How could they resist? What with the temptations of the iPhone 5's rumored smaller 19-pin dock connector, in-cell technology that enables the screen's touch sensors and LCD to be consolidated into a single layer, global LTE networks, and oodles of other goodies, it's no wonder Americans on average replace their cell phones every 21.7 months. Computers, digital cameras, tablets, and other gizmos have somewhat longer useful lives, but their owners never develop long-term, decade or … Read more
Go to any hi-fi show and you'll see room after room filled with the latest and greatest-sounding speakers, but chances are you won't come away from the experience captivated by brilliant designs. I sometimes wonder if the audio industry will ever get its act together and make speakers you don't have to be an audiophile to love.
Extreme cars, like Ferraris and Lamborghinis, arouse strong, positive reactions from people who would never buy or even drive them, but high-end audio speakers rarely achieve that sort of admiration. My best guess as to why that's so is that truly beautiful audiophile speakers are rare. Or to put it another way, do you have to be an audiophile to think speakers are beautiful? Granted, if you're already an audiophile you might be predisposed to view large speakers in a positive light and see their form as part of their function. For nonaudiophiles, size is definitely a factor, in the opposite direction: the smaller a speaker is, the easier it is to fit into the average person's living space.… Read more
Like so many audio entrepreneurs I've talked with over the years, Wolf had started building speakers for himself years before he officially got into the business in 2005. Mastering engineer Paul Stubblebine was one of Wolf's first customers; he heard something in a Wolf speaker he couldn't get anywhere else.
Wolf was only interested in building the very best speakers he could without cost constraints, and that's his market niche. Thing is, it's also the most demanding market, … Read more
PSB Speakers has always been one of my favorite brands. The company gets it, and has a knack for making bona-fide high-end speakers with real-world prices. Even by PSB's high standards the Imagine mini is a standout design.
With a name like mini, you'd expect something small, and at just over 9 inches high, it's nice and compact. The mini's curvaceous cabinet is a five-layer construction of 1/8 inch thick medium-density fiberboard sheets laminated together with a special microwave activated adhesive. The top and bottom panels are also curved to enhance cabinet rigidity and minimize internal standing waves. The mini's molded, rubberized base houses all-metal connectors that accept bare wire ends or wires terminated with spades or pins. The mini is an 8 ohm design. … Read more
I recently dropped by EarsNova's spacious new high-end audio store, which has the best-looking showrooms I've seen in a long while. The vibe was relaxed, and the demo rooms' sound was pretty special, but it was the little Magico Q1 speaker that bowled me over.
Were my eyes deceiving me? How could this big sound come from such a small speaker? The sheer physicality and beauty of the sound required some recalibration of my senses to take it all in. Most bona fide high-end speakers are big, imposing things that dominate a room. They're so huge that … Read more
I've heard a number of Verity Audio speakers over the years, and it was always the company's smaller, more apartment-friendly models like the Finn and Leonore that most impressed. Small Verity high-end speakers are still pretty expensive, but when I heard that Verity was about to introduce something a lot more extreme, I wanted to know more about the design. The Monsalvat is very much in the Verity tradition, but the $325,000 speaker system breaks new ground for the company.
Design details are scarce right now, but as statement speakers go the Monsalvat isn't huge: its … Read more
Magico, based in Berkeley, Calif., has established itself as a major American high-end speaker manufacturer in just a few years. The company builds state-of-the-art speakers with truly innovative technology. I've listened to a lot of large and not-so-large Magico speakers over the years, and was never less than astonished by their sound. The company is just now introducing its smallest speaker ever, the Q1 ($24,950 per pair). The Q1's cabinet is an extensively braced-aluminum-and-copper design.
It's a small monitor speaker, but it's sold with an integrated stand. Mounted on the stand, the Q1 measures 44 … Read more