Within This Issue...
It's been said many times that loudspeakers are all the same – and going nowhere. Two or three Rice Kellogg drivers in a box that date in concept from 1925. Not a lot has changed in the last 95 years! Yep, it's all been refined and computers have made their contribution but multiple Rice Kellogg drivers in a box is one old idea with lots of weaknesses, most of which are little discussed. Reason being their manufacturers would rather not talk about what's wrong with multiple drivers in a box, or worse they don't even know.
Bringing me to our lead review this month of the fascinating Magneplanar LRS loudspeaker, that you can read about on p10. This flat open panel has no box and no Rice Kellogg drivers. It throws the whole design proposition out of the window. So if you are a conscientious objector to modern loudspeakers, as some are, try this one! We'd like to know what you think, as would readers, so write in if you get to hear them.
The sound of valves is always bubbling under. Pro-Ject's Pre Box Ultra RS2 on p17, reviewed by Chris Frankland, has no fewer than four of them inside to offer the unique valve sound, as a switchable alternative to pesky transistors. As a reviewer who has drifted into valves almost by accident and has become a convert, Chris grapples with modern complexity and "old fashioned" sound in this review.
Valves get another nod with iFi's iPhono3 Black Label phono stage, that you'll find on p83. No valves inside, but they allude to "tube state" circuitry (valves / tubes being the same). I'm a deep sceptic here, but the iPhono3 did indeed have some of the loveliness of valve sound – an easy natural quality – that eludes most silicon chip based phono stages.
Since better fundamental design techniques and resultant circuitry, lost to chip designers surrounded by application notes, give improved sound, there's hope yet for transistors, as there is for loudspeakers when they finally get to break away from 95 year old technologies. I see – potentially – a bright future for musical enjoyment and this issue captures some of the ways we might get there.