Totem Acoustic Tribe Tower Loudspeakers

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

In November 2018, I concluded my review of Totem Acoustic’s Sky Tower loudspeaker with this: “It’s taken me 15 years to properly experience a pair of Totem Acoustic speakers. Having spent the last few weeks with the Sky Towers, I hope I won’t have to wait nearly that long to hear the next pair.”

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Q Acoustics Concept 300 Loudspeakers

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

Q Acoustics was founded in 2006, and in competing with the UK’s old guard -- Bowers & Wilkins, KEF, Tannoy, Wharfedale, etc. -- Q likes to present itself as younger and fresher, focusing its speaker designs on high value, high sound quality, and great appearance. From their website: “Q Acoustics is a young brand. No heritage. No tradition. No old black and white photographs. We believe that to be the secret of our success.” I hope they realize that, if they succeed and survive, at some point they will be old -- just like the rest of us. But for now, they’re still one of the newer kids on their UK block.

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Hegel Music Systems H390 Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Reviewers' ChoiceHere’s how upgrading your hi-fi used to work: In the early 1980s, when I got into the hobby, a separate preamp and power amp were what you bought if you were serious about sound. But if, like me, you couldn’t afford separates, you bought an integrated amplifier as an interim measure. That’s why, back then, you rarely if ever saw a truly “high end” integrated amp -- the “high end” was all about separates. I first had an NAD integrated, then a Denon, before I finally sprang for my first separates: models from Forte, a subbrand of Threshold Audio. I never looked very seriously at integrated amps again.

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AudioSolutions Figaro M Loudspeakers

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

When, last July, I reviewed the AudioSolutions Figaro B stand-mounted loudspeaker, I was impressed with what I heard. I mentioned how, above 100Hz, the Figaro B’s midrange was accurate and smooth, while its top end was extended and grain-free, never sounding etched or over accentuated. Transparency, detail retrieval, and imaging were all topnotch. Below 100Hz, however, the Figaro B lacked weight and extension, even for a two-way minimonitor, and I said that I’d love to hear the B’s larger, three-way siblings.

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SVS Prime Pinnacle Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceOne thing I’d like to see more of in reviews of extremely expensive high-end audio components is a comparison of the sound quality of the expensive product reviewed with that of real-world gear that doesn’t require its buyer to earn a salary of six or seven figures. For example, while I can appreciate that a $20,000 pair of speakers might sound really good, as a real-world consumer, I’d like to know how those speakers sound in comparison with something that costs a tenth as much. Any reader looking to buy one is unlikely to consider buying the other. But it would be nice if the reviewer of $20k/pair speakers at least had a pair of well-designed, more affordable speakers on hand as a point of reference to provide some context for how much better the pricier speakers sound -- if, indeed, they do.

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Benchmark Media Systems LA4 Preamplifier

In 1983, in a garage in Garland, Texas, Allen Burdick began building high-performance audio equipment for television under the name Benchmark Sound Company. Two years later he incorporated the company as Benchmark Media Systems, relocated to his home town of Syracuse, New York, and expanded into other market segments, including professional and home audio. Benchmark’s hardware is designed for professional applications and continuous operation 24/7, which makes it perfectly suited to less demanding home use. Benchmark’s current product line includes the DAC3 family of digital-to-analog converters, the AHB2 stereo power amplifier, the HPA4 headphone amp and LA4 line preamp, and a variety of interconnects, digital links, and speaker cables. Most Benchmark components can be purchased with rack-mount faceplates for professional use, or with standard faceplates.

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Cambridge Audio Edge A Integrated Amplifier-DAC

Reviewers' ChoiceCambridge Audio’s first product, designed by Professor Gordon Edge in 1968, was the P40 integrated amplifier, which Cambridge claims was the first amplifier ever to use a toroidal (i.e., donut-shaped) transformer. While continuing to make amplifiers, Cambridge has come a long way in the half-century since then, producing CD players, D/A converters, surround-sound receivers, loudspeakers, and, more recently, network streaming devices and a 4K UHD universal BD player. They also make turntables, moving-coil phono cartridges, and phono preamps. Many of their products list for well under $1000 USD, and have earned Cambridge a reputation for providing extremely high value.

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Paradigm Premier 800F Loudspeakers

Reviewers' ChoiceAfter many years of producing, basically, the same few lines of loudspeakers, Paradigm recently revamped almost its entire range of hi-fi speaker models. Except for the Atom, the naming convention used for the new Monitor SE series is entirely different from that of the previous line, and comprises fewer models -- and completely gone are the venerable Studio and Signature lines, now replaced by the intermediately priced Prestige line. Of course, change can be good -- built into Paradigm’s tour-de-force model, the Persona 9H, is a powered subwoofer as well as Anthem Room Correction; the 9H and other Persona models offer state-of-the-art performance at prices that are reasonable by high-end standards. I was a bit disappointed to see the costlier but still high-value Studio and Signature lines retired, but the new designs, including the budget Monitor SE series, incorporate many cutting-edge technologies trickled down from their top models.

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Klipsch Reference R-820F Loudspeakers

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

In over 20 years of writing for the SoundStage! Network websites, I can’t recall our ever having reviewed a Klipsch loudspeaker (we may have -- my memory isn’t what it used to be), unless you count the Heritage Wireless Three, recently reviewed at SoundStage! Simplifi, or the headphone models reviewed on SoundStage! Solo. This is surprising, considering Klipsch’s long, rich history and excellent reputation in high-end audio circles, and their success in the budget market.

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Focal Spectral 40th Loudspeakers

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

Reviewers' ChoiceI’ve long been intrigued by Focal loudspeakers, but while I’d heard them at audio shows, I’d never had a pair in my listening room. My curiosity is always piqued by a speaker maker that manages to produce what is arguably one of the finest speakers in the world, the Grande Utopia EM Evo ($229,000 USD per pair), as well as models that most audio enthusiasts can afford -- not to mention Focal’s lines of headphones, and professional and car-audio products.

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