It was bound to happen. Focal, known to audiophiles all over the world for its statuesque Utopia series of high-end speakers is readying its first sound bar system. It's the 3-inch deep, "uni-body" aluminum Dimension, which can be placed in front of a display or mounted to a wall and provide a five-channel audio experience. The Dimension sound bar's speakers deliver bass down to 50 Hertz, that's exceptional bass performance for a slender, one-piece sound bar. For tabletop mounting you can add the optional, "zero vibration" low profile subwoofer base that extends the … Read more
Eyeball a car magazine or two on a newsstand and there's a good chance you'll spot a 200-mile-per-hour dream machine gracing the cover. Why not? They're gorgeous weapons of speed, and they all sell for more than the price of your house. Supercar MSRP inflation shows no signs of letting up, all (three) of the $3.9 million, 750-horsepower Lamborghini Venenos are spoken for. Ferraris are priced somewhat more competitively; the legendary Italian maker will soon offer 499 editions of their $1.15 million carbon-fiber-bodied, hybrid V-12/electric LaFerrari, which has 963 horsepower and can reach 217 … Read more
I remember the first time I saw a Burmester component in a hi-fi store. I couldn't get over how beautiful it was.
The Burmester pictured here is the Reference Line 808 MK5 preamplifier. Introduced in August 1980, the 808 is the fifth-generation model. The preamp's modular construction was a revolutionary design approach in 1980, and new technologies have been incorporated to maintain the 808's performance at the current state of the art.
Sales of ridiculously expensive and absurdly powerful cars are holding steady, and the same can be said for extreme, high-end speakers. Granted, there's no practical reason for the existence of the new 450-horsepower Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 Quattro supercar ($161,000), or a Klipsch P-39F tower speaker ($20,000), but if you can afford them, why not? High-end speakers have one very practical advantage over extreme performance cars; they can provide satisfaction on a daily basis. Few Ferrari and Maserati owners use their flashy wheels as everyday rides, and far fewer are brave enough to drive them anywhere near their top speeds! No, these prized possessions remain stowed in garages most of the time.
Prices listed in this top-10 list are for pairs of speakers, and if these are all out of reach, please don't fret, as the next top-10 speaker list will feature the best sub-$1,000 speakers on the planet. Or check out my "Top-10 must-have audio bargains" list.
I've auditioned many of these ultra-high-end speakers personally, so I can attest that they can take you places everyday speakers never go. … Read more
We possess some basic knowledge about photography and photo editing, but occasionally we encounter a photography-related program that we don't fully understand. Fortunately, one of us is married to a photographer, and he comes in pretty handy when we have questions. So it went with ExposurePlot. We understood that the program displayed EXIF info for groups of images in a bar graph format, but we didn't understand why.
"I don't understand why, either," said our photographer-husband as we looked at ExposurePlot together. The Overview tab of the program was displaying four bar graphs depicting the … Read more
I've been an audiophile for more than 30 years, and from where I stand there's never been a more exciting crop of high-end speakers to choose from. The goal--to make as lifelike a sounding speaker as possible--is exceedingly difficult, but that hasn't stopped a slew of very talented designers from trying. This top-10 list was created without price constraints and is presented in no particular order; the speakers are all exceptional performers (prices listed are for pairs of speakers). They are all currently available models, but I will soon do another top-10 list of the best speakers of the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s.
I did the first "Top 10 greatest audiophile speakers" blog post last year, with a self-imposed price limit of $3,500 per pair (two were under $1,000). Most models are still available, so if you're looking for affordable options, please refer to that list. All of the companies on today's list offer less expensive models.
Hansen Audio Prince V2. This speaker's handsome curves and strong physical presence demands respect--it all but shouts "this is very serious audiophilia"--it's made for those rare souls who would appreciate a world-class speaker small enough to fit in an apartment, with floors strong enough to support the 540-pound weight of a pair of these $39,000 beauties. For my money it's better than Wilson Audio's highly regarded Watt/Puppy speaker.
Naim Ovator S-600. Britain's Naim Audio Ltd. is best known for its amplifiers and CD players, but this new speaker breaks a lot of rules and sounds less like a box speaker than anything on the planet. With super-tight bass, uninhibited dynamic punch, superlative midrange tone, and pure treble, the S-600 is a strong contender on a number of fronts. At $10,450 it's priced near the low-end for today's state-of-the-art speakers. Review to come.
Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.5. A radical update of the Gallo Reference 3.1, with new drivers; the small, 35-inch tall floor-standing speaker projects a huge soundstage. The cast aluminum and stainless steel design feels remarkably solid. Sonically, the Reference 3.5 has the ease and poise of a much larger and more expensive speaker. At $6,000 the Reference 3.5 is the most affordable speaker on this list and offers more than a glimpse of state-of-the-art audio. Sounds great with low-power amplifiers; review to come.
B & W 802 D. Another English contender, and this one's loaded with interesting design tricks, including a synthetic diamond tweeter. The form-follows-function design is drop-dead gorgeous. B & W's top models are favored by audiophiles and recording studios. $15,000.
Wilson Audio MAXX Series 3. More than any other company Wilson Audio dominates the upper-end speaker market. Its held that position for more than 25 years, and now with this 5-foot, 7-inch-tall, 425-pound bad boy, there's no sign that reign will end anytime soon. So sure, the MAXX 3 is brute-force powerful, capable of producing "live" sound volume, in the largest rooms or mansions. That said, the MAXX 3 also plays quiet music with beguiling refinement. It's what any demanding (and wealthy) audiophile would expect a $68,000 speaker to sound like. BTW, the MAXX 3 isn't Wilson's most expensive speaker, not by a long shot. … Read more
Focal Audio, aka JM Lab, may not be a well-known name in the U.S., but it is France's largest speaker manufacturer. I had Focal Mini Utopia speakers in my reference two-channel system for years and the Focal Grande Utopia EM ($180,000 per pair) is the best sounding speaker I've ever heard.
Maybe that's why the Focal Dome 5.1 satellite/subwoofer system ($2,595 MSRP) review by Michael Trei in Sound & Vision magazine piqued my interest.
The Dome replaces the Sib and Cub 5.1 system I favorably reviewed a few years ago. Unlike the Asian-built Sib and Cub, the Domes are manufactured at Focal's factory in Saint-Etienne, France.
The Dome 5.1 package is Focal smallest home speaker system yet. Trei writes: "the Dome satellite's cast-aluminum enclosure feels solid enough to withstand being run over by a small car." Each satellite speaker has a 4-inch woofer and a 1-inch aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter, similar to the one Focal uses in its upscale Profile and Electra S models. Optional stands are available for the sats.
The matching cylindrical, rounded-top subwoofer has a single downward-firing 8-inch woofer and a built-in 100-watt amplifier.… Read more
Each "lens" is actually a set of two lenses, one flexible and one firm. The flexible lens (near the eye) has a transparent distensible membrane attached to a clear rigid surface. The pocket between them holds a small quantity of crystal clear fluid. As you move the slider on the bridge, it pushes the fluid and alters the shape of the flexible lens. Changing the shape changes the correction. This mimics the way the … Read more