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Ed Selley  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
The Sttaf of life Clean and simple are the watchwords for this very pretty and unusually compact two-way floorstander, says Paul Messenger Understatement is perhaps the most appropriate word that describes Totem loudspeakers. Whereas most speaker brands tend to promote themselves by highlighting specific technical or engineering features that distinguish themselves from their rivals – the so-called USP (unique selling point) –Totem’s marketing approach has much more to do with emphasising the reproduction of the emotion and soul of the music. Superficially, at least, there’s nothing particularly unusual about the Sttaf. It’s a simple two-way floorstander, based on a 140mm bass/mid driver with a 95mm diameter flared and doped paper cone.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Bang-on sound Alvin Gold is very impressed with the T500 loudspeaker from Teufel, one of the best-known European direct-sell, hi-fi companies Teufel is by far the best known exponent of direct sell loudspeakers and has been steadily raising its profile in the UK over the last couple of years. The big difference between Teufel and other brands is that they’re not available from hi-fi dealers, cutting out the middleman, which means lower selling prices, so to an extent you have to take its qualities on trust. But you do get a generous eight-week trial period, during which the speakers can be returned for a refund if you find you can’t get along with them. An additional confidence builder, is the astonishing twelve-year guarantee period, yes that’s right, twelve years! Conventional design The T500 is one of the latest from Teufel, a classic three-way floor- stander which, thanks to their distribution model, sells for a very attractive price and pitches Teufel into direct competition with some of the more popular mainstream brands, including Monitor Audio and Wharfedale.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 12, 2010  |  0 comments
King of the Castles Castle Acoustics is back! There’s a new owner in IAG and whole new range called Knight, Dominic Todd listens in to see if the old magic is still there Castle Acoustics was a Yorkshire-based company started in the early 1970s. Best known for its rich, real wood veneers and refined acoustic, the firm soon established a following from those appreciating a warm, full-bodied sound. As with many of the British greats, however, Castle fell upon hard times at the turn of the millennium and came under the ownership of IAG (International Audio Group). With IAG’s impressive portfolio that includes Quad, Castle should be in safe hands and as if to prove the parent company’s commitment, the all-new Knight range is voiced by IAG’s Director of Acoustic Design, Peter Comeau – of Heybrook HB1 and Mission 780 fame.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Acoustic Energy AE1 MKIII - £2,000 Acoustic Energy gives its traditional substantially built miniature a classy cosmetic makeover Acoustic Energy’s 1988 debut with the diminutive and defiantly pro-look AE1 caused quite a sensation when it first appeared and effectively launched the brand. This £2,000 per pair MkIII is the middle model of three current variations on the same tiny two-way theme. Unlike the much less costly Classic with its ‘utilitarian’ pro-style presentation, this MkIII’s piano black enclosure has some seven layers of high-quality lacquer finish, while the front panel is decorated by a 10mm-thick, shaped and polished aluminium sheet, reinforcing the baffle and concealing the driver mounting hardware. As the substantial total weight of 11kg implies, the exceedingly hefty build continues beneath the surface.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Bowers & Wilkins CM9 - £1,800 This large wood-veneered floorstander with advanced driver technology looks fine value Back to the days when Bowers and Wilkins simply called itself B&W, the company had three distinct ranges of hi-fi speakers: the beer-budget 600s, the mid-market 700s and the upmarket 800s. Perhaps the 700’s external tweeters and asymmetric enclosures were a little too radical, as some time over the last few years they seem to have been quietly replaced by a rather more conventional CM series, featuring real wood veneers or a gloss black finish, but in conventional rectilinear enclosures with normal built-in tweeters. There were just two CMs to start with, but now there are four stereo pairs, of which this £1,800 per pair CM9 is the largest. And, unlike the neat little standmounts in the range, there’s no way anyone could accuse it of looking cute.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
KEF XQ30 - £1,500 This beautifully designed and finished compact floorstander has an advanced Uni-Q mid/treble driver Although it operates globally as part of the Hong Kong-based Gold Peak Group and takes advantage of competitive Chinese manufacture, the KEF design team still operates out of Maidstone, Kent, using proprietary technologies like the Uni-Q co-axial drive units that have been steadily refined over the decades. The XQ range sits quite high up an impressively large collection of hi-fi and home cinema speaker systems. The smaller of two floorstanders, this £1,500 XQ30 is an attractive and compact design, based around a recent development of KEF’s proprietary Uni-Q driver, alongside cunningly curved cabinetwork. It has a beautiful lacquer finish, over black paint or either birdseye maple or khaya mahogany real wood veneers.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Kudos X2 - £1,350 This compact floorstander is Kudos' first attempt to offer its sound quality at a lower cost A relative newcomer on the British loudspeaker scene, the Kudos range has rapidly become popular, despite quite substantial pricetags. The reason behind the new X-series is to provide comparable quality at rather lower prices, though nobody could really consider £1,350 per pair particularly cheap! A simple two-way floorstander with a small 150mm bass/mid drive unit, the X2’s power handling and bass extension will inevitably have some limitations, though it should be more than adequate for normal listening levels, while its simplicity and high-quality ingredients (English cabinetwork, Norwegian SEAS drive units and crossover components from Clarity Caps and Volt) can provide their own reward. The bass/mid unit has a 95mm-diameter flared and doped paper cone, the tweeter a 25mm fabric dome. The 18mm MDF enclosure comes wrapped up in a wide choice of real wood veneer finishes – black, cherry, maple, oak, rosenut and walnut, alongside satin-white.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
PMC GB1i - £1,525 Opinion might be divided on this PMC, but there’s no doubting its ability to take on the competition The key factor that distinguishes PMC speakers from the herd is an ATL. This stands for ‘advanced transmission line’ and refers to a bass loading technique that is uncommon, though by no means unique. Much more complex than the almost ubiquitous port loading, the efficacy of TL loading might still be a topic of fierce debate in some quarters, but a folded line does create a very stiff and solid structure. Because it uses a relatively small (140mm) bass/mid driver, the £1,525 GB1i still manages to accommodate a 2.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Spendor A6 - £2,095 A worthy successor to the S6e, this speaker adds extra refinement on several fronts Spendor first emerged from the BBC Research culture some forty years ago. It has been through numerous changes since then, but that original culture seems to have largely survived, albeit somewhat modified by marketplace trends, including the current fashion for floorstanders. This £2,095 per pair A6 is the middle of three floorstanders that make up the company’s A-series successors to the S-series. Very similar in many respects (including dimensions and measured behaviour) to the S6e we reviewed in HFC 257, it’s a good size two-way floorstander, dressed in real wood veneer (black ash, cherry, light oak or wenge) and mounted on a black- painted MDF plinth the same width and depth as the enclosure proper.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Towering strength Triangle's new Lyrr boasts a whole lot of driver tech for just a modest sum. Paul Messenger checks out the finer points of this french fancy Founded some thirty years ago in North East France and one of three major French speaker brands to make a serious impression on the international stage, Triangle’s success is primarily due to its very distinctive drive unit technology. The £3,300 per pair Lyrr is the largest of three stereo pairs in the Genese range, which itself occupies the middle ground between the inexpensive Esprit EX series and the seriously upmarket Magellan range. Both the smaller Genese models, the Quartet floorstander and the Trio standmount, have been reviewed previously in Hi-Fi Choice (HFC 302 and HFC 334), with, it must be said, somewhat mixed results.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 26, 2010  |  0 comments
Affordable Xcellence Kudos's £2k Cardea C2 was a finalist for 'Best Speaker over a £1,000' in last year’s HFC Awards. Paul Messenger looks at a bright newcomer Kudos might be a relative newcomer on the British loudspeaker scene, but it has rapidly established popularity among dealers and customers alike. And that’s in spite of the fact that its original Cardea range of floorstanders and standmounts carry quite substantial pricetags. Made in England The basic idea behind the new X-series is to provide Kudos quality at rather lower prices.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 26, 2010  |  0 comments
Whiter than white Germany's number one speaker brand makes a welcome return to the UK. Paul Messenger tries the pick of the bunch Although black is the fashionable finish in loudspeaker-land, albeit with high-gloss highlights, it’s just one of just two alternatives available for this speaker (the other being high-gloss white!) This is such a beautifully styled, finished and presented loudspeaker, it clearly comes from a major brand with plenty of muscle. The Canton name might not be well known here in Britain, but it was founded back in 1972 and is Germany’s leading hi-fi speaker brand, with a large collection of different ranges in its portfolio. The latest contenders The Chrono SLs are the latest range to join the ranks, effectively upgrading and updating the original Chrono models, bringing much sharper and more modern-looking styling, alongside engineering improvements in enclosure, crossover and drive unit performance.
Ed Selley  |  Aug 27, 2010  |  0 comments
New way to play Direct-seller Teufel's ambitious Ultima 800 loudspeaker is not only innovative, it's redefining value for money, says Alvin Gold Teufel is set up quite differently from most of its rivals, with a range of loudspeakers that must be ordered off the page, rather than through traditional hi-fi dealers. This does mean making a purchase without the usual safety net, but then part of the deal is that you do get the opportunity of an extended trial period before committing yourself irrevocably. You also get an extended guarantee period – twelve years – and full phone/web-based technical support. Above all, the simplified retail structure means that more of the manufacturer’s resources can be invested in R&D, so factor in unusually strong value for money.
Ed Selley  |  Aug 02, 2010  |  0 comments
A mini adventure Paul Messenger test runs Bowers and Wilkins' stylish CM5 - a variation on a familiar and long established two-way luxury standmount theme The request from the Bowers and Wilkins marketing team to the engineering department responsible for the CM5 loudspeaker, probably went along the lines of “make us something small, simple, beautiful and affordable”. So it did! At £800, it doesn’t come cheap, but it is unquestionably delightfully designed and beautifully finished and a vast improvement over the 685 model (HFC 299), which incorporates many ostensibly similar core ingredients at around half the price, yet which is dressed in clothes that even its friends would call nondescript. And that’s certainly not the description one would apply to the CM5. But its virtues aren’t entirely superficial.
Ed Selley  |  Jul 20, 2010  |  0 comments
Monopulse 62S £1,195 Monopulse breaks the rules on standmount stereotypes with the help of its proprietary super-tweeter The basis of Monopulse loudspeakers lies in applying audio lessons that were learned working with phased-array radar systems, the prime purpose being to reproduce transient leading edges accurately. The consequent need to time-align the outputs of the three drive units at the listening seat imposes some constraints on the driver layout. These are solved by adopting a floorstanding configuration (which determines the height of the drivers above the floor), by placing the tweeter beneath the bass/mid drive unit, and by mounting a super-tweeter on the top, set back from the front panel under a metal protective hoop. The complexity of this arrangement perhaps goes some way towards explaining the decision to go for a fabric covering over the front and sides of the enclosure.