Most Promising Newcomers
ELAC Adante floorstander prototype
ELAC loudspeaker design guru Andrew Jones brought newly assembled prototypes of his upcoming Adante floorstanding loudspeakers (to Munich and we found their sound promising to say the least. The Adante speaker family is the third (and most ambitious) range of speakers Jones has created for ELAC and they promise to continue Jones’ tradition of offering unusually sophisticated sound for their prices, plus the ability to compete with far more expensive designs. The Adante floorstanders use one of Jones’ signature coincident tweeter/midrange arrays, plus a three-driver bass array with a somewhat unconventional cabinet loading scheme. At Munich the Adante floorstanders candidly sounded more like a proof-of-concept design than a finished product, which is to be expected given that the prototypes were assembled just days before the show. However, the performance on offer at Munich suggests even better things are to come once Jones has time to tweak, tune, and refine his design.
Genelec “The Ones” self-powered, coincident array monitors
I have heard many self-powered Genelec speakers over the years and to be honest I would say I often found them speakers I could respect, but not actually embrace in a wholehearted way. All of that changed, however, when I heard the firm’s new “The Ones” monitors in action at Munich. The Ones monitors come in three sizes: the compact 8331 (€1900), the mid-sized 8341 (€2400), and the large-ish 8351 (€2850). All are three-way designs leveraging coincident tweeter/midrange driver arrays, plus concealed dual woofer hidden behind an aluminium front baffle that serves as a diffraction-free waveguide and whose edges provide subtly shaped slot-loading vents for the woofers within. Genelec calls the Ones “ultimate point source monitors”, which turns out to be much more than mere marketing hype. More importantly the Ones not only offer linear and evenly balanced frequency response both on and off axis (as befits proper monitoring designs), but they are also highly ‘musical’ as well, which is why I suspect they will be sure-fire winners in the marketplace.
Graham Audio LS6 floorstanders & Chartwell LS3/5a monitors with Sub 3 woofers
We have long admired Graham Audio loudspeakers and for Munich the firm showed three models that caught our attention (albeit mostly on static display). The models were Graham’s new LS6 floorstanders (£2995/pair to £3395/pair, depending on finish), new Chartwell LS3/5A monitors (£1750/pair to £2100/pair, depending on finish), and the firm’s new Sub 3 woofers (£1995/pair), which can add appropriate low-end extension either for Graham’s LS3/5 monitors or for the firm’s new Chartwell LS3/5a’s.
In essence, the LS6 floorstanders leverage everything Graham has learned through the creation of its LS6 monitors, but recast in an enclosure of even higher volume (albeit an enclosure that takes up no more floor space than would a set of LS6 monitors mounted on floor stands).
The Chartwell LS3/5a is an acknowledgement that some listeners might prefer the sound of the original and now classic LS3/5a BBC monitor to that of the authentic LS3/5 design (as faithfully reproduced in Graham’s own LS3/5), so that now the firm gives listeners both options.
Finally, the S3 woofer (let’s not call it a “sub” just yet) aims to answer this ages-old question: “What shall I do if want the LS3/5a or LS3/5 sound, but also want true deep bass extension?” The upcoming Sub 3 provides an elegant solution and one that also just happens to act as a height-appropriate “stands” for the LS3/5a monitors.
KEF next-gen Q-series loudspeakers
For Munich the British firm KEF rolled out its new 2017 Q-series loudspeaker line-up consisting of the Q150 ($549.99) and Q350 ($649.99) standmount monitors; the Q550 ($549.99), Q750 ($749.99), and Q950 ($899.99) floorstanding loudspeakers; the Q650c ($649.99) centre-channel speaker; and the Q400b ($699.99) subwoofer. All models save for the subwoofer use an updated and enhanced new version of KEF’s signature Uni-Q array—one that incorporates a “damped tweeter loading tube” that, says KEF, “enhances performance of the lower treble register.” The 2017 Q models also receive redesigned cabinets said to provide “a smoother and clearer sound.”
Wharfedale Diamond 11-series loudspeakers
Wharfedale’s Diamond-series speakers have traditionally competed for best entry-level loudspeaker honours and so it is significant that the firm launched its new Diamond 11-series range at Munich. For now, the 11-series Diamond range comprises three models: the 11.0 (€199/pair), the 11.1 (€349/pair), and the 11.2 (€449/pair). Later on, additional models including Diamond 11-series floorstanders will be added to the line-up.
A Wharfedale spokesperson told Hi-Fi+ that revisions made to the range were more extensive than in past updates, with updates including: new drive units, redesigned crossover networks, and curved cabinet walls made from laminated of different types of woods of differing density. The proof will be in the listening and we’re eager to hear the results.
Xavian Epica Calliope
It is always exciting to discover new brands that show high performance potential and at this year’s Munich event one such loudspeaker brand was the firm Xavian, hailing from the Czech Republic. Xavian’s lovely Epica Calliope floorstanding loudspeaker (€10000/pair) gradually captured my attention with its combination of neutrality, refinement, and its ability to let subtle inner details simply speak for themselves. The Calliope is beautifully made, yet styled in such an understated way that it might not initially grip your attention with the sort of purposeful technical flash one might find in, say, a Magico or KEF loudspeaker (speakers that tend, in a sense, to wear their advanced technology credentials on their sleeves, as it were). With the Calliope, it’s all about the sound so that if you stop to listen carefully (not always an easy thing to do at trade shows) they have real potential to win you over.
Best Loudspeaker Sound of Show, €15k and below
Dynaudio Special Forty monitors
The Danes at Dynaudio have managed to create a lovely 2-way standmount monitor called the Special Forty, in celebration of the firm’s 40th anniversary, which will sell for about €2999/pair. But here’s the thing: In every possible way including appearance and sound quality, the Special Forty could easily pass as a far more expensive product. The ‘special sauce’ in this design starts with two very wide range drivers, including a 28mm soft dome Esotar Forty tweeter with internal pressure conduit and frequency response said to extend down to “around 1000Hz—well into the midrange”, plus what Dynaudio says is its best-ever 17cm MSP (magnesium silicate polymer) woofer, whose frequency response extends upward to “around 4000Hz”. Given the potential for successful overlap between these drivers, the Special Forty is able to use a first-order (phase coherent, 6dB/octave) crossover network, which perhaps helps to explain the Special Forty’s almost eerily lucid and coherent sound. Finally, the cabinets of the Special Forty are beautiful in the way that only fine Danish woodwork tends to be, meaning this loudspeaker should look right at home in the midst of well-made contemporary furniture. Summing up, the Special Forty is the sort of product that leaves one marvelling at the sheer amount of sonic refinement that €2999 can actually buy!
Manger S1 active floorstanding loudspeakers
The German firm Manger has long been a champion of self-powered loudspeakers and the active model that caught and held my attention at Munich was the firm’s two-way S1 floorstander (€15000/pair). The S1 design combines a fast, powerful, and very nearly full-range “Manger Sound Transducer” driven by a built-in Class AB 180 Watt amplifier along with an 8-inch woofer driven by a built-in Class AB 250 Watt amplifier. In the Manger demo system, the S1’s were fed signals from the superb Mola Mola Makua preamplifier/DAC, which sounded terrific.
What struck me about the Manger S1 was its remarkably balanced colouration-free sonic presentation plus the sheer resolution and effortless precision of the Manger Sound Transducer itself. All in all, the S1 is the sort of speaker that invites you to listen deeply and carefully to your favourite recordings, if only to see what new sonic treasures the S1 might reveal. I should also mention that the industrial design of the S1 is simple (but not simplistic), elegant, and very appealing, meaning this is a speaker that not only attracts the ear, but also the eyes.
Monitor Audio Silver 300 floorstanders
I don’t really know how he does it, but over the years Monitor’s Dean Hartley has consistently managed to find ways to improve his firm’s Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum-series loudspeakers in significant ways, yet without imposing cost hikes.
A perfect case in point would be Hartley’s new 6th generation Monitor Silver-series loudspeakers, which were rolled out at Munich. On demonstration were the Silver 300 floorstanders (€1,900/pair), which use a three-way, four-driver configuration. The new Silver models feature new metal-diaphragm C-CAM drivers with, says Monitor, “beefed up driver magnets and improved voice coils”, which are said to yield “a cleaner sound even when listening at high levels. What is more, the Silver 300 and flagship Silver 500 floorstanders both feature a new teardrop-shaped tweeter/midrange module said to deliver “the purest mid-range quality in [this price] class along with precise and consistent imaging”. The upshot is an affordable tower type speaker whose performance could likely compete with that of models selling for twice the Silver 300’s price. In short, value is spoken here, which is a credit to Monitor Audio, to Dean Hartley, and to his team.
Totem Acoustics Sky monitors
The Canadian speaker manufacturer Totem Acoustic has long history of building overachieving monitor-type loudspeakers, but the firm and its legendary founder Vince Bruzzese have really outdone themselves with the new Sky monitors (€2200/pair), which held showgoers spellbound in Munich.
The trick with the Sky is that it is a relatively small two-way monitor of modest size and price, but it emphatically doesn’t sound that way. On the contrary, it offers a big, full-bodied, and room filling sound—a sound so expressive and complete that it is common to see first time listeners either looking for a hidden subwoofer (hint: there isn’t one) or else checking in disbelief to verify that the sounds they are hearing are in fact coming from the compact Sky monitors.
I think we all appreciate products that deliver more performance than we might reasonably expect in light of their size and price, and the Sky certainly fills that role to perfection.
Worthy of Note
Boenicke W5 stand-mound compact monitors
The Boenicke W5 (€2500/pair to €5000/pair, depending on the configuration chosen) is an extremely compact stand-mount monitor that employs a 3-inch wideband driver, a very long-throw 5.25-inch bass driver, and a small rear-firing ambience tweeter. Just how compact is “extremely compact”? Let’s put it this way: If you had two of those relatively thick courier’s satchels that bicycle messengers are found of using, you could likely fit a pair of W5s in your satchels with room left over for the speaker cables! That’s small.
But the trick is that the W5’s don’t sound small at all. In fact, when heard in juxtaposition to much larger and more costly speakers such as Boenicke’s floorstanding W11 or W13 models, the tiny W5s sound more like their bigger siblings than not, which is most impressive. The longer you listen to the W5, the more you may be inclined to forget about their size and just enjoy the music.
Kudos Titan 707 floorstanders
The British loudspeaker manufacturer Kudos takes pride in creating loudspeakers that, says the manufacturer, are “designed not just for music, but by music.” In other words, Kudos engineers use music first, last, and always to evaluate and inform the design choices they make.
Kudos’ flagship range of loudspeakers would be the Titan series floorstanders, ranging from the Titan 606 (€998/pair), to the Titan 707 (€14,998/pair), on up to the flagship Titan 808 (€26,498/pair). Of these three, I found myself drawn to the middle Titan 707 models as offering much of the sonic goodness of the range-topping Titan 808s, but at a fair more attainable price. So what’s the draw with Kudos’ Titan models? The short answer is that they offer a nuanced yet at the same time very powerful quality of musical expressiveness that just won’t quit.
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