Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceThe pursuit of perfection is a lonely endeavor, and talent, on its own, doesn’t guarantee success. That talent must be nurtured and honed through years of practice and adversity, to fortify the constitution and single-mindedness required to create something of true excellence. Paul Barton founded PSB Speakers in 1972, and by 1974 had set to work in the anechoic chamber of Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) with Dr. Floyd E. Toole, one of the early pioneers of measurement-based loudspeaker design. Barton has worked vigilantly in the NRC ever since, having reviewed, by his own estimate, hundreds of thousands of measurements, all in the quest of slowly but surely improving his designs. He is, for me, firmly fixed in the pantheon of great loudspeaker designers.

Reviewers' ChoiceMea culpa

I’ve been at this reviewing gig for a while now, and save for the odd wrinkle with a couple of products, I’ve never committed a faux pas, such as returning a product damaged or missing any of its accessories -- until now.

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Though Q Acoustics has long been on the fringes of my consciousness, their products had never found their way into my listening room. My introduction to this British manufacturer was in 2013, when I visited electronics manufacturer Arcam in Cambridge, England, and found that they were using Q’s Concept 20 bookshelf speakers in their listening room. I was taken with the little speakers’ dynamics and overall clarity, and said as much to some of my SoundStage! Network colleagues.

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Bowers & Wilkins is a rarity in high-end audio. Founded in 1966 by John Bowers and Roy Wilkins, the British brand has in the five decades since built a loyal following of audiophiles. Other boutique audio companies have enjoyed this sort of staying power, but the list is relatively short, and few are known outside the high-end community. B&W’s roots go back to the year the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, Syd Barrett was still the face of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic sound in the London underground, and the Beatles had yet to release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably the beginning of their most interesting period of work (with apologies to those who claim that this began with Revolver, an exceptional album in its own right).

Since 1977, with a brief break around 2000, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab records have had a reputation for being some of the best vinyl available anywhere. BDA (Before Digital Audio), Mobile Fidelity’s half-speed-mastered SuperVinyl LPs had incredible dynamic range and superquiet surfaces. Finally, after all these years, Mobile Fidelity offers its own line of turntables, sold under its MoFi Electronics brand. I had the pleasure of auditioning their basic model, the StudioDeck.

MartinLogan’s slogan is “Truth in Sound.” Like most speaker companies, they strive to make products that re-create the most complex musical passages as faithfully as possible. In their lines of large hybrid-electrostatic speakers, they try to do this by using an extremely thin, light membrane with excellent transient response. For optimal horizontal dispersion, the panel is curved. This panel is coupled to a conventional woofer cone to reproduce deep bass frequencies that the electrostatic panel cannot.

If you looked at the title above, shook your head, and said, “Huh?” I wouldn’t be surprised. I’d never seen a standalone phono stage that also contained a headphone amp either. That’s only one of the surprises offered by the Cambridge Audio Duo ($299.99 USD).

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

My first and second reviews for the SoundStage! Network are of loudspeakers from Bowers & Wilkins. I’m hoping that, just as this reviewing gig begins to burgeon, this won’t typecast me as “the B&W guy.” But if it did, I wouldn’t mind -- I’ve loved spending time with these beauties. I’m just finishing up listening to a pair of 705 S2s ($2500 USD per pair) for SoundStage! Hi-Fi -- now, for SoundStage! Access, I’ve got my hands and ears on a pair of 606 minimonitors.

Reviewers' ChoiceSumiko, a well-established importer and distributor of excellent audio gear, recently added to its Oyster line three new moving-magnet phono cartridges: the Oyster Rainier ($149 USD), the Oyster Olympia ($199), and the subject of this review, the Oyster Moonstone ($299). These models continue Sumiko’s tradition of value-priced cartridges, two of which have become standards: the Oyster Pearl moving-magnet and the Blue Point moving-coil, a cult favorite.

Reviewers' ChoiceWhat’s in a name? According to my family history, it’s said a Scandinavian king’s personal guards were the only people in the kingdom allowed to use the crescent moon as their symbol. After raiding England sometime around 1000 CE, they decided the weather there was better than in their homeland, settled in Yorkshire, and took Moon as their name. A Korean acquaintance told me that Moon is one of the most common surnames in her homeland, along with Pak (Park), Kim, and Lee. That must be the case, given the amount of junk mail this Moon receives, most of it in Korean.