Most Wanted 2020 page 4

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Alyssa Speakers from Alta Audio: ($5,000 – $6,000 pair): I’ve never heard a speaker that delivered what its maker promised. The technology, design, right down to its polished cabinet are impeccable. With a little more than 100 hours of break time, they brought forth seamless clarity in the highs, mids, and really deep bass, filling this reviewer’s room with exquisite musicality. I especially enjoyed not having to be sitting in the so-called sweet spot for they don’t depend on that exactness to hear them command their sound signature. I’m sure the better the electronics at the front end can only give them greater benefit, bringing much-welcomed sonic enjoyment. At their asking price, they will certainly satisfy the truest of audiophiles. Before ordering contact Mike Levy or staff in regards to your room size for there may be certain cabinet alterations if needed. As you go forward there will be nothing holding these stallions back! (Tim Barrall) 

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editorschoice650.jpgCEEK 4D Headphones ($250.00 reviewed here): Mary Spio, an African American female deep space engineer who is responsible for developing the (patented) technology that allows motion picture studios to distribute feature films to theaters (digitally via satellite), has created headphones primarily designed for gaming and virtual reality, but boy do they do a phenomenal job with live music. If you have a big screen TV and want to enjoy excellent live performances on DVD or even YouTube, but don’t want the wife and kids banging on the door telling you to turn it down, then pop these babies on, and you won’t have to sacrifice any of the music or the ambiance of the venue. Lovers of small venue jazz club performances such as Gretchen Parlato’s Live In NYC will love the “you are there” capability of the CEEK headphones. In contrast, others will love being able to crank up the sound thanks to their use of haptics (subtle vibrations) which can add to the live music sensation. (Dave Thomas) 

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Cube Audio Nenuphar Loudspeakers ($14,990 reviewed here): The Cube Nenuphars address all of the common drawbacks found in single-driver designs with their innovative approach to achieve a near-perfect loudspeaker. The Cubes lacked any coloration across the entire frequency range and, compared to my previous reference, possessed a more accurate and tactile bass response. They also displayed an incredible improvement, in reality, dynamics, imaging, clarity, transient response, phase coherency, and the reduction of ringing distortion over my previous reference, which bests many multi-driver floor-standing loudspeakers. The emotional connection with the music on these speakers is off the charts. Once you hear vocals on the Cubes, it’s “Game over” for most multi-driver loudspeakers. (Mike Girardi)

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Grandinote Mach 4 Loudspeakers ($18,400.00/ pair): Made in Italy, the unique Grandinote Mach 4 is a crossover-less floor-stander. The Mach 4’s possessed an uncanny ability to combine transparency, openness, and resolution with musicality. Subtle details of pitch variation and bowing texture were displayed with an unmatched sense of resolution with a full measure of warmth and body. Review in the works. (Key Kim)  

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hORNSround.jpgeditorschoice650.jpghORNS Symphony Speakers ($17,000.00/pair reviewed here): Up until I reviewed these superb transducers, I had not been a fan of horns. All that has changed with the hORNS Symphony speakers. I was already won over by the beautiful fit and finish, its heft and solidity, particularly after they were set-up in my listening room. The Symphony’s sonic performance is what took me to another level of music appreciation. The music is so real and utterly refined. The speed coupled with the presence and openness horns is known for PLUS the dynamic swing! It was quite an enjoyable listening experience. Being able to fine-tune and dial-in the Symphony’s bass/horn output to a level that suits your room and tastes is also a priceless feature. Even more impressive is that these loudspeakers are supposed to sound even better with SET amplifiers, which I did not have one on hand. These speakers epitomized everything that a “Most Wanted Component” is to me. They are deeply missed now. (Mike Wright)



 

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King’s Audio Queen V Hybrid loudspeaker ($4,950):
Here’s a relative newcomer to the King’s Audio family of electrostats. Standing about 4 feet tall, this elegantly designed and slender hybrid sports a 5 1/2″ woofer section which helps give it a little more low-end balance and weight. As far as ‘stats go, this baby is only 86 dB efficient yet the Struss Audio DM250 (125 watts per), drove it with great confidence. Something about electrostats that always catches this listener off guard is their see-through, color-less, box-less-ness. No, they’re not the most dynamic of loudspeakers and their soundstage may be somewhat smaller than I’m accustomed to. But when it comes to getting the sound of an instrument right, these are truly legendary. (Clement Perry)   

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LSA (Living Sounds Audio) 20 Signature Speaker ($3,995 reviewed here): The LSA 20 Signature is a petite, beautifully veneered in chocolate Rosewood floor-standing speaker that rivals the physical appearance of much more expensive designs. It uses four active drivers, which are based on an XBL2 magnet structure technology that lowers distortion levels at high volume levels, and three passive radiators to produce not only a superb natural organic tonality in the mid-range and high frequencies but a subterranean bottom-end extension. It images like a great two-way stand-mount monitor. You would have to spend at least another 4k to 6k more to get a better performing speaker. (Terry London)

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REL G2 MKII Subwoofer Six Stack ($33,000): When I first heard of the concept of stacking subs, I laughed and thought that had to be the craziest concept I have ever heard. Over the years, I have used a pair of REL subs, and for me, that was more than enough. When I learned from a close and trusted friend who purchased a six-stack of REL G2 MKII subwoofers of how much it changed his entire sonic environment and how he gushed with excitement, I became curious. It caught my interest, so as I set out to conduct some research by reading some comments on a couple of forums that I trust, all of the articles/feedback began to make sense. However, stacking subwoofers is something you must experience to understand the massive improvements it brings to your musical enjoyment and satisfaction. Just to name a few, some benefits of incorporating a six-sub stack are; deep, powerful clean bass that will not bring attention to itself. The bass is exceptionally musical and never overbearing. Since incorporating the six REL G2 MKII subs with my existing YG Acoustic Hailey 2.2 speakers, I have experienced a different level of music that I never knew existed or even possible. The two speaker systems are integrated so perfectly that I often forget they were in the room. A magical integration results in a plethora of new and improved sonic frequencies that are not possible with the conventional setup. (Moreno Mitchell)

 

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Role Audio Starship SE Loudspeaker ($7,995): The Starship SE is one of the latest innovative designs from the creative mind of Erol Ricketts, owner/designer of Role Audio. In this very attractive small footprint floor-stander, he incorporates small drivers loaded into a proprietary quad transmission line that creates excellent bass extension. The four-driver array, with the tweeter in the middle, functions as if it was a point source without any of the shortcomings, beaming, breaking-up at high volume levels, or lacking bass extension. The Starship SE offers excellent speed and crystal-clear transparency, accurate bass frequencies, and musicality based on the natural fiber drivers used in this speaker. (Terry London)  

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Rosso Fiorentino Elba II Loudspeaker($5,000 reviewed here): I reviewed a lot of great equipment in 2020 but there can only be one winner, and the component I most wanted to keep in my listening room this past year was the Rosso Fiorentino Elba II loudspeaker. This handsome two-and-a-half way floor-stander required time and an open mind to really understand its virtues. It also required getting past my own reviewer’s prejudices: the Elba II is not the last word in liquidity or infinite resolution in the hi-fi sense as we often currently understand it. Nevertheless, I ultimately found it to be one of the most satisfying pair of speakers I’ve listened to in my room. I wrote, “Its ability to unearth the beauty in great music was exemplary: dynamic, exciting and satisfying.” A narrow impedance band makes it a stable, easy speaker to drive, and fit and finish is first rate. There’s no question that the Rosso Fiorentino Elba II offers its own, unique, even mildly startling perspective – at least initially – on music reproduction, but once I got used to it, its ability to deliver a compelling musical experience quickly became it’s defining musical characteristic. An impressive effort all the way round. (Greg Simmons)

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Spatial Audio M5 Sapphire Loudspeaker ($3450/pair reviewed here): Paired with modest equipment, the Spatial M5 Sapphires will outperform speakers costing several times as much. But they have the ability to go beyond that and deserve the best ancillary equipment and cables you can afford. The M5 Sapphires are speakers you can grow your system around. They excel at low volume listening levels and are comfortable in small rooms. They are an equally excellent choice if you have a large space to fill, and they sound superb off-axis. They are available in seven natural wood veneer and painted finishes. (Donald Shaulis) 

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YG Acoustics Hailey 2.2 Loudspeakers ($48,000): The YG Acoustic Hailey 2.2 Loudspeakers are by far the best speakers I have had the pleasure to listen to and enjoy (especially now while sheltering in place). Sonically, the Hailey’s do it all. The Hailey’s deliver life-like, natural sound, evident by YG Acoustic’s latest technologies in the new BilletDome Tweeter and BilletCore midrange driver. This combination produces an astonishing level of musical performance. Marrying the technologies of the YG Acoustics flagship Sonja XV within the Hailey 2.2’s results in a stunning sonic performance. (Moreno Mitchell)



 
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