Lab: Keith Howard

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Dec 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnoutstanding.pngMeze Audio turns up the heat in the hotly-contested high-end headphone sector with the radical Empyrean, claiming the first 'Isodynamic Hybrid Array Headphone'

Yes, £2700. For headphones. Ulp!… Meze Audio isn't messing around with its assault on the state-of-the-art and, thankfully, its new Empyrean model goes to great lengths to justify that price. These ooze with innovation, the construction is impeccable – all the better to convey immediate perceived value – and, thanks in no small part to the impressive packaging, an air of luxury rare in hi-fi. Which is what I have been screaming about for years: these tell you that you're getting what you pay for, and in spades.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Nov 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnoutstanding.pngWith the minuscule TuneTot, Wilson Audio returns to the speaker format that established the brand's appeal beyond the massive WAMM: the small true monitor

There is an inescapable poignancy permeating Wilson Audio's latest speaker, the TuneTot. According to Daryl Wilson, now responsible for design with the passing of his father this year, 'The TuneTot was the last product in development that Dad listened to in the R&D department and he loved it. There is a pair of TuneTots in my parents' bedroom and my Mom listens to them every day'.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Oct 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnvintage.pngIt was an audacious design from a company with no prior reputation for making serious loudspeakers, yet it soon became a landmark product. How does it shape up today?

There's no such thing as the perfect loudspeaker, nor is there ever likely to be one. Most manufacturers don't even try – theirs is a volume business where the trick is to produce a good-sounding product at an affordable price. There's nothing wrong with this, as perfection can often be the enemy of the good. Yet sometimes hi-fi companies do reach for the stars, and attempt to come up with an innovative, no-holds-barred design.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Aug 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngEighty-two years after its founding and 61 years after the ESL-57, Quad delivers its first headphone, the ERA-1, and it's a planar design... but not an electrostatic!

For Quad devotees, the ERA-1 headphone has been a long time coming. One suspects that the company – like B&W, KEF and so many other traditional British brands – saw the writing on the wall. And what did this say? 'Headphones are now the only growth area in audio.' Disagree or concur, that's the reality check in the post-iPod era, and Quad has wisely chosen to deliver a model costing £599.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnoutstanding.pngWith a coincident driver array and interport-coupled cavity bass, meet the company’s most radical floorstander in years

Out with the old and in with the new. ELAC is a German loudspeaker company of quite some repute and a great many years’ standing. Yet major changes have been afoot at the company, with its new VP of Engineering, Andrew Jones, indelibly stamping himself on the brand’s products. A former KEF man – there in what were arguably the company’s harvest years with Laurie Fincham, in the late 1980s – he went on to put Pioneer’s luxury brand TAD on the map with some great soundinghigh-end loudspeakers [HFN Jan ’15].

Review: James Parker, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jul 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngAnd then there were three: Neat's little Iota range is all grown up with the arrival of the Xplorer model

One of the best sounds at Bristol's Sound & Vision Show [HFN Apr '18] came not from a gazillion-pound set-up, but the latest arrivals from Neat Acoustics, driven by modest amplification, in a small room that just made you want to stay and listen some more. The Iota Xplorers are the new model in a range that began with the tiny original Iotas some seven years ago, and while they draw on the same principles, the newcomers are very decidedly grown-up despite standing just 780mm tall on their polished conical spikes.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnvintage.pngWelcomed with open arms by those seeking a quality speaker for use in a tight space, the Diamond created the market for affordable mini monitors. How will it sound today?

Loudspeakers are surely the most fashion-conscious segment of the hi-fi market. There are Japanese amplifiers on sale today that look little different to their predecessors being sold in the late '70s. Yet the same 'period look' can hardly be said to be popular when it comes to speakers.

Review: David Price, Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngWith its lustrous-looking swooping cabinet, exotic drivers and colossal price tag, this is a seriously special speaker

When you're designing a loudspeaker that sells upwards of £38,000, depending on finish, you can pretty much do what you like. Brands selling sub-thousand pound floorstanders have a super-keen eye on what their competitors are doing, and what the market wants. By the time you reach the Raidho Acoustics D-2.1's level, however, you're in a whole new world – it's where designers spread their wings and fly.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Keith Howard  |  May 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfncommended.pngWith a legacy stretching back about 28 years, the 805 may still be the pint-pot of B&W’s 800-series but this latest D3 standmount can still pack a musical punch

One of the world’s largest, if not the largest, loudspeaker brands, B&W dominates the global high-end market. From the launch of the iconic 801 Series 80 nearly 40 years ago, the 800-series has been periodically improved along with advances in engineering and materials.

Review: José Victor Henriques, Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 01, 2018  |  0 comments
hfnoutstanding.pngImproved sensitivity and a deeper bass are just two features of the Master Chronosonic-inspired Alexia S2

During their time, Wilson's famous 'Watt Puppies' were upgraded on as many as seven occasions, until the Sasha W/P was born (now also in its Series 2 iteration). The Sasha was no longer a standalone monitor with a carrying handle and a matching subwoofer but a fully-fledged modular integrated loudspeaker system.

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