Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Speakers to Consider

Why listen to me about speakers? Well I have better ones than most. I have been to CES and listened to the finest systems ever made.

There has always been a big bang for your audiophile buck buying self powered speakers. The cheapest computer speakers connected to your Ipod give an perfectly acceptable sound. The  
  look like they a capable of providing outstanding. sound for only $200 CDN. While they are made in China, the tech is all from a former JBL top engineer.  Another benefit of most self powered speakers is they use digital amps, consuming a fraction of the power of the class A or B.
review here

KEF is one of the big boys. A mass producer of rare and expensive audio implements. Their R-Series is a result of trickle down from the blade. Which gave the first "single apparent source" loudspeaker to the world. If you look at the speaker cone in the top right, you see the tweeter is in the centre of the speaker cone. This placement solves all kinds of acoustic problems. The Blade retails for $30,000. The complete R series home theatre system pictured above retails for $6,000. If you were to buy a Totem or Paradigm system of equal sonic supremness they may not seem expensive.

Axiom's business model mirrors the original Dell, direct to customer, eliminate the middle man and in theory provide double the bang for the buck. The reviews say, "Mission Accomplished".
For between one and two thousand dollars they make a highly regarded product. Visually they do not have the refinement of some of the big boys, but sonically I doubt many could tell the difference.

Paradigm is another major player. Like Axiom and Totem they are Canadians. The MilleniaOne systems make the critics drool. Gibbys online will sell you the home theatre version for around $2000.  There are several variants including a 2.1 self powered system, that would have to make any wanna be audiophile reconsider a soundbar. Paradigm has a huge range of products.

IMHO their visual aesthetics are only surpassed by some B&W speakers.

On Dec 14, 2012 I installed my new mini monitor series 7. Not only do they sound fantastic, they look so good a speaker grill will never touch these cabinets. The white speaker cone you see in the picture is actually aluminum and silver in real life. Not a screw or bolt visible. They were chosen as best surround system speakers of 2012.

Totem makes beautiful acoustic totems. My favourite stereo shop is BayBloorRadio, and Totem is one of the select brands they carry. The $4,000 a pair forest speakers remind me of the early Totems my parents had.
The cheapest Totem 5.1 system using the Dreamcatcher bookshelf, centre, and Storm self powered subwoofer, come in at $2,810.

Magneplan speakers are not widely distributed. They use ribbon magnets of differant widths on a mylar sheet to generate a unique (dipole) lifelike sound. I have a pair of SMG's: there are downsides, they have a large footprint, and unless you only play acoustic music they need a subwoofer. Because dipole speakers rely on sound generated both forward and rearward placement is critical. Exact pricing is hard to determine. The pair above are $2000, but they do have smaller less expensive lines. If you have the room, definitely consider using Maggies as your front pair in a 5.1 or 7.1 system. If money were no object I would likely have a pair of Maggies as my principal speakers.

Speaking of a lack of constraint:Bowers and Wilkins. The Nautilus is a piece of art, a sound architecture that looks like it was designed by Frank Gehry or Frank Lloyd Wright. A pair costs the same as a loaded Porsche Boxter ($88,000), they weigh in at 44KG and are about 1.5 meters high.

Pro equipment is tricky. The first thing to consider is they are called pro for a reason. Designed to be completely neutral/accurate, so if the rest of your kit is not up to the same standard the sound may not stand out. Secondly the acoustic environment will have large impacts on how they sound. KROKIT monitors have built in sound controls, but like anything you have to know how to twist the dials. Nevertheless these come highly recommended and the versatility of being self powered give them a huge edge over the conventional route. And for pro equipment the price is right.

Some great Youtube about speakers to buy.

Some great reading about setting up and playing audiophile quality sound from your computer.


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