Loudspeakers

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Ken Kessler and Keith Howard  |  Mar 25, 2009
Has it really been more than 20 years since Acoustic Energy bridged the worlds of professional studio monitoring and domestic audio? Back in ’88, the former regarded the latter in the way that, say, Labour regards fiscal responsibility. AE was having none of it, and produced a classy, compact two-way monitor of true studio merit, sort of a UK answer to Wilson’s WATT. Given its diminuitive stature, most noteworthy was the AE1’s prodigious bass. Rear-ported and boasting a still-radical metal mid/bass driver, it begged to be positioned away from walls on solid 24in stands.
Keith Howard  |  Mar 25, 2009
Thiel Audio Products Company of Lexington, Kentucky may have a lower profile here in the UK than in its native US, but its reputation precedes it. Designer Jim Thiel holds fast to certain, long established design principles in his loudspeakers such as eschewing high-rate filters to ensure phase linearity through crossover. He also prefers the costlier underhung voice coil geometry (voice coil much shorter than the magnet gap) for the marque’s proprietary drivers, in preference to the more commonly used overhung geometry, because of its inherently superior performance. Thiel is innovative too, examples being its cast aluminium, surface-mounting PowerPoint 1.
Keith Howard  |  Mar 25, 2009
In this era of DSP room correction systems, surprisingly few loudspeaker manufacturers seem to be looking at the issue of room interaction from the speaker design angle, trying to find ways to quell the room’s influence and thus, potentially, render DSP assistance redundant. Danish company Dali is an exception, although to look at the Helicon 400 Mk2 you could be forgiven for thinking that it is an entirely conventional direct-radiating floorstander. The giveaway, although its significance may not be immediately obvious, is the trademark Dali twin tweeter module which combines a 25mm soft-dome unit with a leaf supertweeter whose diaphragm is 10mm wide by 55mm high. Supertweeters are normally deployed these days to extend response out to low ultrasonic frequencies but the Dali supertweeter also has an important function within the audible range, where it takes over from the dome tweeter at 13kHz.
Ken Kessler and Keith Howard  |  Mar 25, 2009
Some years ago, Magnepan produced a tiny panel for in-store display as a point-of-sale item. It was a miniature Maggie, maybe 18in tall, with sections cut away to show the technology. I asked Jim Winey, ‘Why not make them functioning speakers?’ But, alas, my first visit to Magnepan took place well before home theatre and Dolby Surround would deem small speakers desirable. But I loved the idea of a pair of ‘mini Maggies’ for the desk, or the bedroom, knowing they would never be realised.
John Bamford and Keith Howard  |  Feb 25, 2009
I didn’t need much persuading to audition this sumptuous pair of floorstanders made by Revel, one of its flagship Ultima2 range. Priced a cool £11,000 they exude opulence from their sculpted front baffles in gloss black, highly lacquered cabinets finished in real wood veneer (ours were the mahogany version; also available in piano black) and hi-tech drive units. Revel’s Ultima2 range comprises the Studio2 that we have here, an even larger model called Salon2, a slim bookshelf that’s suitable for on-wall use dubbed Gem2 and the Voice2 centre speaker. Commensurate with price, attention to detail is fastidious; to ensure that each Ultima2 loudspeaker is matched to within a fraction of a decibel to its prototype reference, a final tuning process is conducted on all production units to ensure absolute uniformity.
Keith Howard  |  Feb 25, 2009
Siltech may be best known as a cable manufacturer but it already has a track record of branching out, in spectacular style, into other product areas. High-end watchers will recall that early in the new millennium Siltech introduced its limited edition 80W Single Ended Mono Triode valve power amplifier and matching preamp, which included novelties such as a specially manufactured output valve. Now from the Dutch company comes a statement loudspeaker design, the Pantheon, with a price tag of £65,000. Once again the engineering is novel and the production run limited – only 39 will ever be made.
Keith Howard  |  Feb 25, 2009
Approaching a reviewer to assess a product is simple: the manufacturer or distributor contacts the magazine and they arrange delivery. That’s it. One assumes that the product is suitable for the magazine, and it’s up to the editor to assign the reviewer. But never in my 25 years as a reviewer have I been so nagged, badgered, pestered, henpecked and begged to write a review.

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