Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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Note: Measurements can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceParasound Products was founded in 1981, in San Francisco, by Richard Schram, whose mission was to provide value for the money to his customers. As Parasound defines it, value begins to decline when additional cost provides only marginal and diminishing returns, and increases when a product is reliably functional over decades. Parasound serves both the consumer and professional markets; their products have been used by multiple Oscar-winning sound designers, from such studios as Lucasfilm, Pixar, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros.

Reviewers' ChoiceOn March 1, 2016, I enthusiastically reviewed Onkyo’s A-9010 integrated amplifier-DAC, calling it “a screaming bargain.” My opinion of the A-9010 amplifier hadn’t changed since then, so I was very pleased when editor-in-chief Jeff Fritz suggested I review the A-9010’s successor, the A-9110, which costs precisely what the A-9010 cost three years ago: $349 USD.

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

Reviewers' ChoiceI recently reviewed Paradigm’s Monitor SE 3000F floorstanding loudspeaker, and though it had shortcomings, I was impressed by what its price of $698/pair (all prices USD) bought in terms of physical quantity of speaker and audible quality of sound. Now I’ve got my hands on Paradigm’s Premier 100B minimonitors, which are tiny in comparison but cost $100 more per pair. I expected less bass output from the Premier 100Bs, of course -- but other than that, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When I think of Sonus Faber, I think first of their ultra-high-end speakers -- for example, the Aida, which retails for $130,000 USD per pair. However, their speaker line spans a huge range of prices, and is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen. My second thought is usually of the exquisite Italian craftsmanship evident in every Sonus Faber speaker, and their extensive use of cabinets shaped like works of art.

Reviewers' ChoiceSVS Inc., a major player in the subwoofer game since 1998, currently offers a broad range of models at various prices and designed to satisfy a wide range of needs -- each of their subwoofer lines contains sealed and ported designs, and some include décor-friendly cylindrical models. In SVS’s system of model names, SB stands for sealed box, PB for ported box, and PC for ported cylinder.

I’m not really a subwoofer guy. Getting a pair of ballsy floorstanding loudspeakers perfectly set up in a dedicated listening room is hard enough, but trying to integrate the output of a small sub with those of a pair of bookshelf speakers in a modern, open living space can be nearly impossible. But I get the appeal. A sub, properly set up, can quickly turn a cheap pair of two-ways into a nearly full-range system without having to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a pair of big, three-way towers. It also gives you system flexibility -- like the possibility of an ultimate desktop setup. I just wish there were an easier way to dial in a sub’s sound without having to constantly get up and fiddle with rear-mounted cabinet controls. Paradigm, it seems, has an affordable solution.

Scansonic HD came into being in 1970, as a speaker line of Scan-Speak, the famed Danish maker of drive-units. Scan-Speak was then purchased by Scansonic’s current parent company, Dantax Radio, in 1977, before being spun off on its own some ten years later. This left Scansonic under the Dantax umbrella, along with loudspeaker brands GamuT Audio and Raidho Acoustics. While Raidho’s ultra-high-end speakers are famed for their fast, airy sound, thanks in no small part to the ribbon tweeter used in all their models, their retail prices stretch well into six figures and make them pipe dreams for all but the wealthiest audiophiles. Scansonic’s mandate is to make available to a wider audience some of the Raidho magic at more affordable prices.

In my city, the Crosley name carries a lot of weight. It was here in Cincinnati, in 1920, that successful auto-parts manufacturer Powel Crosley Jr. found himself appalled at the price of radios: a simple crystal set cost $100 -- the equivalent of $2262.20 in 2018 dollars -- but that didn’t include the necessary headphones and long outdoor antenna. His son really wanted a radio, but Crosley was frugal. Instead, he bought a $9 book on how to build a radio. He built it, then hired a couple of engineering students from the local university to build replicas, which he sold for $20 apiece ($452.44 in 2018). He sold a ton of them. By the mid-1920s, Crosley was the largest radio manufacturer in the US, mostly because he made radios affordable for so many; he was often called “the Henry Ford of radio.”

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

Paradigm has been around since 1982, and still designs and engineers all its loudspeakers in its headquarters just outside Toronto, Canada. The company can always be counted on to deliver high-quality products with good sound, at a variety of prices.

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

Reviewers' ChoiceThe pursuit of perfection is a lonely endeavor, and talent, on its own, doesn’t guarantee success. That talent must be nurtured and honed through years of practice and adversity, to fortify the constitution and single-mindedness required to create something of true excellence. Paul Barton founded PSB Speakers in 1972, and by 1974 had set to work in the anechoic chamber of Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) with Dr. Floyd E. Toole, one of the early pioneers of measurement-based loudspeaker design. Barton has worked vigilantly in the NRC ever since, having reviewed, by his own estimate, hundreds of thousands of measurements, all in the quest of slowly but surely improving his designs. He is, for me, firmly fixed in the pantheon of great loudspeaker designers.