Archive for the ‘Speakers’ category

Tannoy i30 iPod Speaker System

January 25, 2008

Tannoy’s latest speaker system is actually kinda sexy. Well as sexy as a speaker system can get. First off, the clever packaging makes for a fascinating unboxing experience nearly on par with an Apple product — the power cords and peripherals come in two simple black boxes labeled “the kit” and “the bits.” The i30 (nestled beneath the kits and bits) is silky smooth and glossy black with a rounded behind. Five dock adapters plus a 3.5mm jack ensure that every generation of iPod is compatible with the dock. Operation is simple: and there are no buttons that you have to worry about not pushing—simply plug it into the wall, dock your iPod, and press play. Our one major beef? The remote. It’s a cheap plastic temperamental little thing that only works occasionally from a few feet away. But that’s not a deal breaker. The i30 is still a great choice for those who need a chic bedroom accessory that also happens to deliver rich, room filling audio.

$400, tannoydigital.com

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Loiminchay Audio takes the state of the ‘art’ of speakers to a new high

January 22, 2008

While the mid-fi brands scramble to load on the latest techno gizmos and race to the bottom with ever cheaper prices and quality, high-end audio brands shoot for the moon. Take Loiminchay Audio, manufacturers of limited-edition speakers for well-heeled audiophiles are introducing their wares at CES in Las Vegas today.

The Loiminchay Audio speakers are artisan-crafted from sensually shaped layers of solid Birch MultiPly. The interior space of each speaker is machined out, the driver holes opened, and substantial bracing added, resulting in a tremendously non-resonant driver support structure. The speaker is then finished with sixteen coats of lacquer–Loiminchay’s three models are named after great painters–Degas and Chagall and Kandinsky. The speakers are designed in New York by Loiminchay’s owner Patrick Chu, and built in China.  

The Chagall’s cabinet mounts an 8-inch woofer in a 1-inch thick concrete board wrapped with high-quality leather to produce a remarkably rigid, non-resonant driver platform. The woofer’s bass extends down to 28Hz, and the speaker’s treble reaches up to a remarkable 50kHz with its optional diamond tweeter (yes real diamonds, chosen because diamonds are harder and therefore immune to the flexing of more common plastic and metal tweeter dome materials).The Chagall is available on order in beautiful MultiClear lacquer finish at $35,000/pr, and in a piano lacquer finish for $40,000/pr. The Chagall equipped with the Diamond Tweeter is $48,500 in clear, and $53,500 in piano lacquer finish.

by Steve Guttenberg

The Most Boring $35,000 Speakers Eever!!!!!

September 12, 2007

Considering all the interesting forms that loudspeakers can and do take, the latest pair from Snell is almost inexcusably boring. Then again, this is the same company that has deliberately tried to conceal other products, so maybe it’s just not interested in appearances.

Electronic House gushes over the Reference Tower A7 Loudspeaker’s “dual 5.25-inch magnesium midranges mounted over and under a silk dome tweeter, combined with twin 10-inch long-throw woofers for exceptional smoothness and dynamic range.” Still, at a price of $35,000, one might expect a little more effort applied to the aesthetic factor. Instead, the speakers–the first in a new line amusingly dubbed the “Illusion Series”–reminds us of A/V equipment from our high school auditorium. But we really shouldn’t complain; at least Snell didn’t produce more floating eyeballs to keep us awake at nights. 

by Mike Yamamoto

 

Cerwin-Vega CVHD 5.1

July 16, 2007

In the 1970s, Cerwin-Vega was a big name in the speaker business, but it fell off the radar a while back. It never really went away but instead focused on building speakers for car audio, clubs, and movie theaters. The company’s biggest coup in the latter venue was its development of Sensurround speaker technology with Universal Studios, which used special Cerwin-Vega subwoofers to supply ultra deep bass for Sensurround-encoded movies such as Earthquake and Midway. The new CVHD 5.1 (Cerwin-Vega High Definition) series marks the brand’s return to the consumer market, and–thanks to its combination of impressive sound quality and relatively modest price–it looks and sounds like a winner. Cerwin-Vega’s engineers insisted the new system had to have five identical satellite speakers to guarantee seamless surround imaging. And each of those speakers sports a whopping seven drivers–six woofers and one tweeter–a safety-in-numbers strategy that ensures the speaker can handle power and deliver full home theater dynamics while maintaining low distortion. The CVHD 5.1’s seriously potent 12-inch subwoofer supplies the motivation to rock your world. Best of all, the CVHD 5.1 is equally adept with home theater and music, a rare feat for flat-screen-friendly speaker packages, especially one as affordable as the CVHD 5.1. Our only real complaint is that there’s a hidden charge for anyone who’s not mounting the speakers on the ceiling or the wall: you’ll need to invest an additional $280 to $435 in floor stands for five satellite speakers, above and beyond the set’s $1,000 list price. Thankfully, the fact that the speakers can be found online for hundreds less takes out a bit of the sting.

Design
The Cerwin-Vega CVHD 5.1 is a six-piece satellite/subwoofer system. Each of the five identical satellite speakers (CVHD 63) measures 22.5 inches high by 5 inches wide by 5 inches deep–far smaller than full-size bookshelf or tower speakers, but a tad bigger and bulkier than some competing svelte flat-screen models, but attractive enough. The speaker’s front surface has a thin silver plastic frame and nonremovable black cloth grille, and the cabinet is made of molded black plastic. The speakers come with metal wall-mount brackets, or you can opt for OmniMount wall/ceiling mounts.

Adjustable floor stands with wire management to hide speaker cables are sold separately, and they’re not too expensive–the CVHD-FST (for the front and back lefts and rights) list for $180 per pair (but can be found for as little as $110 online) and CVHD-CS (for the center channel, which sits horizontally) goes for $75 or less. Wall or ceiling mounts or floor stands are your only choices–the satellite’s curved ends prevent it from standing on its own, and Cerwin-Vega doesn’t offer a table stand. That means you’re either mounting these speakers or investing up to $435 for floor stands.  The 17.75-inch-high-by-16.75-inch-wide-by-16.5-inch-deep subwoofer sure looks like it means business, but its textured black paint and black cloth grille won’t win any beauty contests. Pop off the cloth grille and you can ogle the red-ringed 12-inch woofer and Cerwin-Vega logo–the sight will quicken the pulse of any audiophile old enough to remember the brand’s glory days in the 1970s, but the color may be too flashy for more subdued tastes. The sub is built like a tank and weighs 48.5 pounds.

Cerwin-Vega recommends an unusually high subwoofer-to-satellite crossover setting of 150 hertz, and that’s what we used for most of our listening tests. But many receivers’ bass management systems come with fixed crossovers, set to 80 or 100 Hz, so we also listened that way and didn’t hear much difference in the sound. If you can dial in the 150 Hz setting, go for it–otherwise don’t sweat it.

 Features
The five satellite speakers are two-way designs employing six 3-inch cellulose/composite woofers and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. The satellites are extremely efficient (95 dB)–that’s a good thing, because they can play really loud with low power receivers (maximum power handling is rated at 125 watts continuous). Instead of the typical plastic-spring clip connectors, the speakers boast heavy-duty five-way binding posts–they accept banana plugs, spades, or bare wire ends.
The powered (250 watt) subwoofer features a front firing 12-inch woofer and two ports. The rear panel has volume and variable crossover (50 to 150 hertz) control, a pair of RCA inputs, a separate “LFE” input, and a 0/180 degree phase switch.

If you like the look and sound of the CVHD system but don’t need the full surround treatment, Cerwin-Vega also offers a stereo (plus subwoofer) version of the system, the CVHD 2.1. It retails for $700.

 

Performance
Back in the 1960s, car guys used to say, “There’s no substitute for cubic inches.” Big engines made more power and torque than little ones, and that holds true today for large subwoofers. A 12-inch woofer in a big cabinet can generate a lot more room-filling low frequencies than any 6- or 8-inch sub. Cerwin-Vega’s 12-inch beast can fill even fairly large rooms with very deep bass.

Big bass wouldn’t mean much if the satellites didn’t keep pace with the muscular subwoofer. No problem there–the sats were unusually alive and dynamic. The combination of the two mimicked the sound of a much larger system with tower speakers.

Since the surround speakers are exactly the same as the front speakers, the CVHD 5.1 system was capable of producing front-to-rear, wraparound soundfields. The center channel speaker’s talents reproducing dialog were also above par. The spatial coherency on well-recorded DVDs–such as our favorite, House of Flying Daggers–was obvious in the smoothness of the sounds as they moved from speaker to speaker. That said, we could localize the surround channel speakers’ positions, more than we could from true dipole/bipole speakers such as Aperion’s Intimus 534-SS; those speakers go for $245 each, and are utilized in systems such as the Aperion Intimus 533-PT Cinema HD. But dipole/bipole speakers are relatively expensive, so we really can’t fault the CVHD 5.1 as a $1,000 system.

 On CDs, the CVHD 5.1’s sound emphasized every recording’s detail, and yet treble was very natural. You can hear an acoustic guitarist’s fingers sliding over the strings and a drummer’s most delicate tap on the cymbals. Most packaged 5.1 channel systems sound undernourished and bass-shy in stereo, but again, the CVHD 5.1 broke that stereotype. It was almost as satisfying in two-channel as it was in surround. Live concert DVDs from Cream and My Morning Jacket sounded especially good. In fact, the CVHD 5.1 sounded better and better as we cranked the volume, which is a sure sign the CVHD 5.1 has very low distortion and the sats and sub are well matched. Hey, CerwinVega is known as “the LOUD speaker company,” and that’s no hype. The drums, in particular, came off well, with the sort of impact and power that’s rare in $1,000 sat/sub systems. Acoustic jazz on the One Night With Blue Note DVD was just as mush fun, the vivid clarity of Herbie Hancock‘s piano and Freddie Hubbard‘s trumpet added to the music’s excitement. The sub’s control over the bass was decent, but it could have been a little tighter and better defined. Then again, we were pleasantly surprised how well it integrated with the satellites, but the CVHD 5.1’s blend wasn’t perfect. There were a few times where the bass sounded a little thin, but even so, the sat/sub blend was well above average. To prove that point we did try substituting a different subwoofer–the 10-inch model that comes with the Onkyo HT-SR800 home-theater-in-a-box system. It didn’t come close to matching the Cerwin-Vega satellites; the CVHD 5.1 is, indeed, a finely tuned system. In the final analysis, the Cerwin-Vega CVHD 5.1 system represents a great bang for the buck–but it would be an even better one if you weren’t stuck with having to buy those floor stands. We’d love to see the company charge a bit more (say, $1,200 instead of $1,000) and include table stands with the speakers. In their current configuration, though, they’re still highly recommendable… especially for anyone who listens to a good balance of music and movies and has an appreciation of deep bass.

New Tannoy PSP speaker system

July 13, 2007

 

PSP speaker systems haven’t exactly taken off like iPod speaker systems, but a few continue to trickle out onto the market, including a new one that carries the Tannoy brand name and features SRS TruSurround (Accessories 4 Technology Limited is manufacturing the thing). According to the press release, SRS TruSurround “processes any multichannel audio source and delivers an immersive virtual 5.1 surround sound home theater experience over two speakers or headphones. With TruSurround, consumers will feel as if they’re surrounded by ‘phantom’ speakers that appear to extend all around them, putting them in the center of the entertainment experience.” 

OK, I’ve got a copy of Casino Royale on UMD, so I’ll see just how immersive this little puppy is once someone sends us a review sample. Probably won’t be for a while, however, as the Tannoy PSP speaker is only available in the UK currently and won’t hit North America shores for a few months. In case you’re wondering, it’s going for £99.99 at Amazon UK. I suspect it’ll cost around $100 when it ships here–perhaps even less–as all electronics seem to be well marked up in the UK.

I Personally Love This Unit. True Portable Sound

July 12, 2007

The Cambridge Model Twelve Portable Music System has won the admiration and affection of many of the world’s top musicians. We at Cambridge SoundWorks are honored that the very artists we listen to ourselves are so enthusiastic about our product.

 

One of the Model Twelve’s biggest fans and supporters is Mick Fleetwood, co-founder of Fleetwood Mac. Mick has been using the Model Twelve for several years, taking it on tour and on vacation, as well as using it at home. For Mick, the Model Twelve is pure listening enjoyment. In fact, his respect for the Model Twelve is so great, we decided to make it his own.

 Here is what Mick has to say: “I have always been impressed with the quality of the system and the incredible sound that comes from this small package. When Fleetwood Mac finished recording ‘Say You Will,’ the band members each had the responsibility of suggesting a running order for the songs on the final CD. At that time, I traveled to my home on Maui where I set to the task by spending many hours listening to the sample mixes on my Model Twelve. “Another brilliant thing about the Model Twelve is its versatility. I use this system in many different ways. For starters, I rarely leave for the road without the unit and a portable CD player so I have quality sound wherever I am. Not only do I use the Model Twelve when I travel, but I also use it in my home office for listening enjoyment and as a sound system for my computer.” “When the people at Cambridge SoundWorks asked if I’d lend my support to this product, I was honored that they wanted to rename it the Mick Fleetwood Signature™ Model Twelve. I truly believe this is a brilliant and innovative system and indispensable for those who really love their music.

The Mick Fleetwood Signature™ Model Twelve is the ultimate multimedia system for your MP3 or portable CD player. It’s amplified subwoofer/satellite speaker system with a difference-the BassCase™ subwoofer enclosure, which also includes a handy carrying case for the complete system, and has space for a portable music source. No other self-contained, portable music system combines such accurate, wide-range sound-quality in a package that’s small enough to fit under an airline seat.  

The Model Twelve’s two-way satellites provide integral speaker cable management for easy packing and unpacking. The sturdy BassCase and proprietary bass driver combine for a deep, powerful low-end unparalleled by other portable speaker systems. The Model Twelve offers carefully fine-tuned octave-to-octave balance for smooth, uncolored upper, mid-range and high-end while also providing wide dispersion. The compact amplifier unit has three selectable inputs as well as bass, treble and balance controls, a headphone jack and record outputs. The Model Twelve operates on 110V AC or 12V DC for home or mobile use (12-volt adapter is included.) For those who want to travel overseas with the MD12 there is a universal 100V to 240V AC adaptor available.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY…

“Model Twelve is unquestionably the finest computer-related sound system we have yet to hear, and its portability makes this Editor’s Choice winner that much more attractive.” PC Magazine

“Even demanding listeners can now live out of a suitcase- literally.” The New York Times

“The clarity at high volume dwarfs any portable unit. It is a high-tech wonder.” Village Voice

“A true high-fidelity component system that can hold its own with others many times its price…the maximum volume is as impressive as its quality…it has no equal.” Stereo Review

“It will blow your flip-flops off.” Rolling Stone

“This may be the most exciting design in portable stereo systems since 1976. If you rent a summer place on weekends, it’s the perfect way to ensure an uninterrupted supply of tunes.” CREEM

“How did it sound? In a word, great.” Home & Studio Recording

Cambridge SoundWorks’ Model Twelve sounds better than any portable has a right to… The build quality is typical Cambridge: solid and substantial without a trace of cheesiness… I quickly reached the conclusion that this setup is probably superior to most people’s primary hi-fi system, but the real beauty is that it’ll painlessly bring this same living-room performance to the office, the vacation house, or even the car.” Digital Home Entertainment, Summer 2000

“The Model Twelve, a home-audio–quality speaker system, integrates a 6.5-inch woofer and comes in a hard, black shell the size of a trumpet case. Inside are two removable satellite speakers, a freestanding amplifier, and room for cables and a portable CD player. After hours, the Model Twelve makes a great speaker system for frequent travelers (even Lou Reed and Phil Collins each carry one).” – More of My Favorite Things

by Bill Howard, PC Magazine

Griffin Journi Portable Speakers for iPod

June 27, 2007

What with the iPhone being all the rage right now, we’re just happy to see that accessories makers such as Griffin haven’t decided to leave the iPod in the dust. The company is in the midst of launching three new sound systems for the omnipresent MP3 player: one , and one portable. We got our hands on the portable unit, dubbed Journi, for this review. Right off the bat, we’re digging this $130 speaker’s fabulous design and wealth of features, but the audio quality isn’t so fantastic. Still, if you’re not superpicky about sound, this is one sweet system.

 Superfantastic design
No doubt about it: The
Griffin Journi’s design is awesome. It’s the most unique-looking portable speaker we’ve seen in a while. When fully closed, the unit looks like a datebook or a clutch. This is thanks to what Griffin calls the Wrapstand, a black, leatheresque casing decked out with silver dot detailing. The Wrapstand uses a magnetic closure to keep the speaker fully concealed when not in use–simply pull it out and around and insert its tabbed end into a slot at the bottom edge of the speaker to create a handy stand. Neat!  

The front of the Journi features the standard central iPod dock, but Griffin forgoes the standard dock adapters in favor of an adjustable wheel that allows any docking iPod to sit flush with the speaker. The wheel can be turned from the back of the speaker unit, which also features a magnetic slot for the remote. Returning on the front of the Journi, you have the standard silver speaker grilles on either side of the dock. Hidden behind the grilles are two 50mm high- and midrange drivers and two 64mm passive radiators.

 

The features of sound
The
Griffin Journi offers an impressive array of features for its price point. It comes with a basic remote that includes volume, power, and playback controls. Texturized power and volume buttons can also be found on the right edge of the unit. The left side of the speaker houses a battery button, which activates a set of battery meter LEDs–this innovative extra lets you see the amount of juice left in the internal lithium-ion battery (rated for 10 hours). Griffin also includes a modular cable/power adapter that gives you the choice of charging through either your computer’s USB port or a standard AC wall outlet. Below the battery meter, a rubber flap can be opened to reveal a 30-pin iPod port (for pass-through syncing) and an auxiliary line-input (for connecting non-iPod MP3 players).

 Sweet design and bountiful features notwithstanding, the Griffin Journi’s sound quality fails to impress. Given that the speaker has SRS Wow technology built right in, this came as a bit of a surprise. In our tests with both an iPod and a Creative Zen V, music was far too bright for our taste, lacking the warmth and depth we like to hear. Rap songs in particular sounded hollow. We heard a wee bit of bass, not to mention nice clarity on the high end, and the speakers can pump out the volume with no distortion, but all in all, the Journi’s audio is only about on a par with that of a high-end CD alarm clock radio. So, the Journi’s audio quality is not the best, but it’s also not terrible. Plus, the speaker is superstylish and packed with useful features. In final analysis, we think this speaker is still a good choice for those who want something ultraportable that won’t put a huge dent in their wallets.