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December 2015
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Enjoy the Music.com Special 20/20 Award
Enjoy the Music.com's Special 20/20 Award
High-End Audio Loudspeakers --
Page 2
Steven R. Rochlin chooses the most notable products during the past 20 years.

As Chosen By Enjoy the Music.com's Creative Director Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

Beauhorn Virtuoso With Lowther DX4 Fullrange Driver
Beauhorn Virtuoso With Lowther Driver

When Thorsten Loesch first encountered the Beauhorns ($6100 per pair) he was listening to a pair of DIY Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy clones driven by a PSE 300B vacuum tube amplifier. The opportunity presented itself to test the Beauhorns with the then very recent DX3 Lowther drivers. He had heard Lowthers before that, both in the Acousta 90 bass reflex enclosure and in Fidelio or Bicor horns and admits to thinking Lowthers sounded dreadful. Fast-forward to October 2000 with the Lowther DX4 driver and things changed for the better. According to Thorsten, "The speakers where placed fairly close to corners, making their visual impact on the room less, however these are never unobtrusive speaker. And not only visually are these not unobtrusive, music played through these speakers takes on a quality that makes it difficult to ignore. The music demands attention, makes you want to listen. This is not a speaker for background music. Listening to this loudspeaker can be a very unusual and somewhat frightening experience. But let me first note what this loudspeaker does wrong. So if it is a loudspeaker that has no bass, no treble, a colored midrange and upper bass, what does it do well!? It plays music. Never before have I had in my living room such an immense feeling of listening to the Real Thing. Never before has my own system been able to communicate, what is in the music so clearly, directly and with such an emotional response. On measured performance this whole system, when set up correctly and when measured in normal listening conditions sets extremely high standards. In all conventional disciplines (frequency response, phase response, load compatibility this system matches or exceeds anything I ever encountered and when it comes to low distortion and compression I have yet to encounter better. This is most definitely absolute reference grade performance." You can read Thorsten's full review of the Beauhorn Virtuoso with Lowther DX4 fullrange driver here.

 

 

Magnepan MG 1.7 Planar Magnetic Loudspeaker

Magnepan's Magneplanar 1.7 speaker ($1995 per pair) is an extensive redesign of a predecessor, the near iconic 12 years running Magneplanar 1.6. The Magneplanar 1.7 is bumped up to a three-way fullrange quasi-ribbon design with a quasi-ribbon bass/midrange, tweeter and super tweeter. The term Quasi Ribbon refers to a fabrication technique that differs from a true ribbon in that the conductive metal is laminated to a thin sheet of Mylar film. The super tweeter in the 1.7 is improved by bonding the conductive aluminum foil to a much thinner Mylar backing. The Magneplanar concept is similar to an electrostatic speaker in that both produce sound by moving a membrane of film to generate pressure waves. Both of these designs are referred to as dipole speakers, meaning that sound emanates from the speaker radiating in equal amounts from both the front and the back of the panels. "Its greatest strength is its lack of personality, excellent coherence and low coloration" says reviewer Ron Nagle. "Every thing about it tells you everything you hear is the truth. In my room the 1.7 can be intimate or they can be an exciting and formidable presence easily able to take control of the listener and the listening space. Finally, I can only echo what others have said before me, the Magnepan 1.7 speakers are unique, an amazing performance, at $1995 nothing near this price can compare." Ron's review of the Magnepan MG 1.7 Planar Magnetic Loudspeaker can be seen here.

 

 

YG Acoustics Carmel 2 Floorstander
YG Acoustics Carmel 2 Floorstanding Loudspeaker
Whilst he previous generation of YG speakers including the Kipod, Anat and Carmel as reviewed here had drive units from Scan-Speak, the Carmel 2 ($24,300 per pair) has special BilletCore drivers. These are produced to a very exacting and necessarily expensive process. Cone is machined to very high tolerances from a massive slab of aircraft grade aluminum, and incorporates ribbed sections to greatly increase rigidity. The result is a cone of very light weight but tremendous stiffness over a very wide frequency range. "But the magic, and the reason to fork out the asking price of $24,300 for a pair of two way speakers, comes when the sound field is more complex than a solo instrument or a jazz trio" says reviewer Phil Gold. "Most speakers, even very expensive ones, begin to unravel when you throw in more and more voices or instruments. One voice will tend to obscure another, or strings will begin to sound like one big instrument. The Carmel 2 has the uncanny ability to keep the integrity of every instrument or voice in the mix. It makes orchestral music much easier to listen to, since it is far closer to a good concert hall experience than we are used to in our living rooms." You can read Phil's review of the YG Acoustics Carmel 2 here.

 

THIEL SCS4 Monitors With SS1 SmartSub Subwoofer
THIEL SCS4 Monitors With SS1 SmartSub Subwoofer  
Coming as the then new generation of THIEL designs, their SCS4 ($990) is somewhat unique in the company's line up for price. It is a two-way bookshelf loudspeaker that offers a 6.5" woofer coaxially mounted with a 1" tweeter. This is the first product from THIEL that was not manufactured in the United States. The SS1 SmartSub features one 10" woofer powered by a 500 watt Class AB amplifier. It should be noted that although it is "entry-level" in their product offering in the subwoofer category, it is by no means an entry level product. At $2900, the SmartSub is certainly neither inexpensive nor entry-level in anything but the fact that it is the smallest of the THIEL subwoofers. "On Dark Side of the Moon "Us and Them" the multi-channel reproduction is almost eerie in how realistic and holographic it sounds" says Enjoy the Music.com reviewer Brett Rudolph. "The sound comes from all the right places to create a setting of overwhelming experience and satisfaction. You can almost imagine feeling the artist's true meaning while drifting into your own world carried by the sounds of the music." Check out Brett's full review of the THIEL SCS4 monitors and SS1 SmartSub here.

 

 

Tannoy Dimension TD12 Floorstander
Tannoy Dimension TD12 Loudspeaker
Tannoy's award winning TD12 floorstanding loudspeaker is a massive, costly high-end design using updated Dual Concentric drive units with updated asymmetric designer enclosures. The top-mounted SuperTweeter is positioned behind the apex of the 30.5cm Dual Concentric bass cone, which is an arrangement designed to provide time alignment in the forward listening plane. The statistics are little short of awesome! It stands 1030mm tall, weighs 108 lbs and has a 92dB/W/m sensitivity so you can use this giant with a good 8 Watt single-ended triode amplifier. With a frequency bandwidth (-6dB) extending from 30Hz all the way to 54kHz and a price tag of $10,000 a pair we're talking some serious bit of speaker here. "The Tannoy TD12 generated some of the most realistic orchestral tonality I have experienced in a long time, perhaps ever outside the concert hall, and the sheer physical breadth and scale of the sound came as a revelation" says reviewer Alvin Gold. "The hushed opening to the second movement of Vaughan Williams London symphony (in the Richard Hickox/LSO version on the Chandos label - a worthy winner in this year's Gramophone awards) had a raptness and density of sound, along with and an exquisitely varied range of tonal values that bought the performance to vivid, glowing life. There was never a hint of any loss of density and passion even during the quietest moments. This is also an extremely dynamic loudspeaker. The word dynamic is a multi-purpose adjective that can be used to cover a multitude of sins, so let's specify by saying that the TD12 obeys the everyday meaning of the term, namely that it has the ability to reproduce the loudest and the quietest passages of a work in their correct relationship, better, arguably, and often more dramatically than with any other loudspeaker I can recall, and certainly at the price. But the Tannoy TD12 is dynamic in another sense too, namely its ability to resolve low level information in the presence of louder events, and this is the kind of ability that is necessary to make sense of the complexities that are found again and again, not least in the previously mentioned Vaughan Williams recording." Read Alvin Gold's review of the Tannoy Dimension TD12 for Enjoy the Music.com at this link.

 

 

Reference 3A MM de Capo i
Reference 3A MM de Capo i
It is no secret that Enjoy the Music.com's Creative Director, Steven R. Rochlin, has been using variants of the MM de Capo for decades. In this newer version, Reference 3A MM de Capo i ($2995 per pair) there is a low resonant frequency 1" textile dome tweeter and specially-designed 8.25" hyper-exponential shaped woven carbon midrange/woofer driver. Improved cabinet construction uses perforated braces and a vertical spine piece to eliminate undesirable cabinet resonances. Within the crossover are Mundorf Supreme Silver Oil capacitors used as the tweeter high-pass filter for extended, more dynamic and faster high frequencies. "What I did find however is that the Ref 3A acts like a magnifying glass" says Phil Gold. "It seems to succeed brilliantly on the best recordings, such as these two SACDs. The agility of the speaker is very evident, there being no discernable overhang. In fact my notes read "floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee." But the converse is also true. It will reveal all the imperfections on less stellar recordings. Some speakers tend to romanticize the sound, adding a patina of warmth to a thin sounding recording, glossing over a slight digital edge, but you won't get that forgiving nature here. So for example, through these speakers you'll really appreciate how much better the remastered Beatles albums are than their older equivalents. If you really want great Beatles sound, you'll want remixing as well as remastering, and the Beatles Love album [Capitol 094637981023] is the one to go for. "Because" throws a very wide image, birds tweeting well to the left of the left speaker. Depth and location are excellent and resolution quite strong, although not in the same league as the reference Wilson Benesch Act 1s. As in the Brahms, the Ref 3As play the music, but they don't have that superb sense of ease and clarity of the very best speakers, the sense that comes from working well within their margin of safety." Read Enjoy the Music.com's review of the Reference 3A MM de Capo i here.

 

 

Waterfall Audio Iguascu EVO
Waterfall Audio Iguascu EVO
It is difficult to describe in prose about these speakers made in France, yet nowhere in hi-fi is there really a clearer case of what you see is what you get and what you get is a perfectly executed column of tempered glass with truly flawless edges. Clever dressing of the internal wires up the front panel appears as an art-deco element of the design; almost like the face of the Empire State Building. Makers of their own Atohm drivers, and unable to use conventional wadding to dampen the speakers output owing to their choice of transparent cabinet material, the mid-bass drivers are inset into their own enclosures just large enough to contain them and tame the back output of the drivers. The mini-enclosures are, however, vented, with bass supplemented by a passive radiator positioned in the base. In a design twist, the Waterfall Audio Iguascu EVO speakers are supplied with different weights that you can apply to the passive radiators to adjust their response. In three sizes, the larger the weight, the deeper, if slightly more sluggish bass. "On a diet of Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Norah Jones, Maria Callas, the Clash, that bastard T. S. Eliot, Allison Krauss and Led Zeppelin, the Waterfall Audio Iguascu EVO loudspeakers never failed to deliver or made you think you were listening to glass" said Enjoy the Music.com reviewer Dr. Jeff Rabin. "Throwing a wide and delineated soundstage, with good front to back layering, image height could have been higher but was perfectly adequate on the couch. Bringing the speakers away from the wall as much as possible without endangering the cats endangering them did wonders for the bass, not so much as reducing it, but giving the speakers a better opportunity to integrate with the rest. The Waterfall Iguascus are not for everyone, but for those that appreciate fine sound and fine craftsmanship and want something just a bit out of the ordinary, one will not go wrong with these French beauties." You should check out Dr. Rabin's review of the Waterfall Audio Iguascu EVO here.

 

 

Special Mentions
While the below are designs older than the 20 year cut-off, we'd be remiss if they were not mentioned within our Special 20/20 Awards list for their importance in legendary design and sound.

 

Wilson Watt / Puppy
Wilson Watt / Puppy

The original design of the Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy were a bit brash and that sound personality was tamed to some degree as newer versions refined the design. Before the Puppy dual-woofer was released, audiophiles would place a cloth 'beard' under the Watt monitor in hopes of achieving some bass extension to reduce the peaky sound of the Watt two-way unit. Even with its shortcomings, Dave Wilson kept at it and over the years and his company has brought to market some impressive designs. With cabinets seemingly made from Kryptonite, and weighing three times as much, Wilson Audio strives to produce the best loudspeaker they can with the classic design of conventional drivers mounted to a cabinet. In the early days of bragging rights, the combination of Watt/Puppy and Goldmund amps with MIT cabling became in vogue.

 

 

Infinity IRS V
Infinity IRS V
What massively large, multi-megadriver loudspeaker was the most lusted for by many audiophiles worldwide in the 1980's? If you answered the Infinity IRS then you got it right! Seen above is the Infinity IRS V, the final version before designer Arnie Nudell move on. Founded in 1968 by Arnie Nudell, John Ulrick and Cary Christie, in the early days Infinity produced home and mobile audio products by employing innovative materials such as their EMIT tweeter and EMIM midrange drivers. As the high-end audio industry's first ultra-high end system, it would have set you back $65,000 in the 1980s (about $200,000 in today continually devalued United States Federal Reserve Dollar Debit Notes). Infinity's IRS V employed 76 EMIT tweeters, 24 EMIM midrange drivers, and twelve 12" polypropylene woofers. For those curious total system weight was well over 1300 lbs. Steven R. Rochlin, Enjoy the Music.com's Creative Director, had the smaller version of these for a period of time and found that they were excellent with techno music and large-scale classical music. The tweeter and midrange panels had the greatest synergy with vacuum tube amplification, while the woofer towers benefited from gargantuan solid-state power such as that offered by Nelson Pass designed Threshold monoblocks.

 

 

Additional Choices
The Quad electrostatic, Klipschorn, circa 1969 Tannoy 12" Gold monitor plus early Advent and KLH designs should be mentioned. So should the sand-filled cabinets of the early Wharfedale and the interesting dual-concentric and adjustable impedance driver design by Stentorian. Early Lowthers with Alnico magnets is a natural too. Both the first and more recent Limited Edition version of Goldmund Reference speaker get the nod as does the interesting design by MBL. ELAC's just-released Debut series, designed by Andrew Jones, is a wildcard and perhaps the best bang-for-the-buck within the marketplace today. We predict ELAC's Debut series will win a plethora of awards in the coming months.

 

 

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