Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Sonus Faber describes itself as an “Artisan of Sound,” and a glance at their website reveals how much effort they put into physically crafting their loudspeakers -- from their least expensive speaker all the way up to the Aida ($130,000/pair, all prices USD). When, in June of 2019, I reviewed their Sonetto Wall speaker ($1199 each), the high-gloss black finish of my review samples was so seamless that each speaker looked as if carved from a block of solid ebony.

Reviewers' ChoiceRecently wowed by French manufacturer Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique’s Borea BR03 minimonitor, I wasn’t shy in expressing my admiration in a May 2020 review. Now in my listening room is the BR03’s floorstanding big brother, the three-way, four-driver Borea BR08 ($1399/pair, all prices USD). I looked forward to this review -- it had been a while since I’d heard a budget floorstander that impressed me, and I wondered if the Borea BR08 would deliver the BR03’s exciting sound and exceptional value.

Monitor Audio, founded in 1972, is part of the UK’s rich history of high-quality hi-fi design. Recently, Monitor launched the latest iteration of their affordable line of Bronze loudspeaker models, now in its sixth generation. The Bronzes have been completely redesigned for, per Monitor, superior sound and build quality.

It sounded simple enough. Our esteemed editor-in-chief, Jeff Fritz, asked me to contact NAD to request a review sample of their C 588 turntable ($899 USD). I did, and almost immediately, NAD rep Peter Hoagland told me he would arrange for NAD’s parent company, Lenbrook Industries, to ship me a C 588 from their HQ in Pickering, Ontario. A few days later the C 588 arrived.

Reviewers' ChoiceThe Austrian manufacturer Pro-Ject Audio Systems was founded in 1991 by Heinz Lichtenegger. His first product was the Pro-Ject 1 turntable, launched as an antidote to that era’s CD players, which still suffered from poor sound quality. Pro-Ject now makes an extensive line of turntables, some with USB outputs and built-in phono stages, and over the years has gradually expanded its offerings to tonearms, loudspeakers, accessories, cables, and electronics such as amplifiers -- even CD players. Today, their range of products is one of the widest I’ve seen -- you name it, chances are they make it at one of their two factories, one each in the Czech Republic (turntables) and Slovakia (electronics).

I try not to take being an audio reviewer for granted. I examine, live with, and, most important, hear many audio products -- things most people don’t get to do. And I am never more aware of my privileged position than when I get my hands on a special edition -- models that manufacturers produce, often in limited numbers, to commemorate an anniversary or other occasion, and that typically are made to look and sound quite distinct. In this case, my privilege was to be one of the first reviewers to get their hands on the new Menuet SE (for Special Edition) minimonitor ($1799/pair, all prices USD), which its maker, DALI, expects to keep in production for a limited time.

Although Fyne Audio was founded in Scotland only three years ago, in 2017, they boast that their team has, collectively, “over 200 years’ experience” in all aspects of loudspeaker design and manufacture. Their website offers few details, but it’s my understanding that the design team mostly comprises people who used to work for Tannoy, plus a few from other UK speaker makers. A quick glance at their various models makes it obvious that not only do Fyne speakers pack a lot of leading-edge tech, they look the parts of high-end speakers.

As I looked at Music Hall Audio’s Classic turntable, there came to mind an old auto-racing adage: “If it looks right, it is right.” To this grizzled audio vet, the Classic looks right. But would it work right?

Focal was founded by Jacques Mahul more than 40 years ago, in Saint-Etienne, France. The company began as an original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) of speaker drivers for other companies while also making their own finished loudspeakers, sold under their JMlab brand, named for Mahul. The company’s full name is still Focal-JMlab, but since 2002 its products have been named simply Focal.

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

Reviewers' ChoiceAs their logo reveals, French manufacturer Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique named itself for the simplest musical instrument -- but did they also consider that triangle has the same meaning in at least two languages? This occurred to me a few weeks ago while sitting at the anechoic chamber of Canada’s National Research Council, helping SoundStage! founder-publisher Doug Schneider measure some speakers, including the Triangle BR03. Doug and Randy, the NRC technician taking the measurements, stared at the BR03 and said, almost simultaneously, “I wonder why a French company named themselves Triangle?” I, the only French Canadian in the group, responded with a coy smile: “You do know, guys, that in French, triangle means . . . triangle?” My fellow Canadians looked somewhat embarrassed.