Paul Barton has been in the loudspeaker game for over 35 years and his latest iteration of speakers shows that his experience has been put to good use. The Synchrony Ones are his top of the line 3-way (5 drivers) towers that use some interesting design twists. At nearly 61 pounds apiece, they make an elegant statement of curved wood and aluminum surfaces that blend together in a flawless fashion.
Engineered Music Products (EMP) was founded in 2007 by industry professionals with over thirty years experience in designing, engineering and manufacturing high-performance loudspeakers for companies such as ParaSound, McIntosh, JBL, Destination Audio and Fosgate. EMP Tek is a sister company of speaker manufacturer RBH Sound. For years I have heard people talk about tubes ("valves" if you are British) and how warm and wonderful they sound. This is my chance to hear for myself. Can one find analog bliss in a digital world?
My first introduction to high end audio was back in college. During my freshman year (1975) I came into contact with a kid across the hall from me who owned a Pioneer tape deck. I remember well the wooden side panels and dancing dials. Even though I can not remember the model, I remember that it was able to record on CrO2 tape for the highest fidelity. Does anyone else remember those tapes? Over the years, I have owned a Pioneer CTF-650 tape deck and at least one Pioneer CD/SACD player. But even back then, I knew that Pioneer was really only mid-fi. In fact, Pioneer was competing with JVC, Technics, Sansui and others in the entry to mid level equipment market place. Sure, today the Elite series is pretty good, but I still can't shake the feeling that it is just on the upper end of the mid-fidelity crowd. Pioneer makes speakers too, and they are very good. Here, we review their model S-2EX, which are monitor-sized, which means they are too big to go on a shelf, but not floor-standing.
Is there a more apropos name for a manufacturer of subwoofers than Earthquake? True, they now make a fine line of speakers and their power amplifiers have won many awards, but their real claim to fame has always been their subs. During my recent trip to CEDIA last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting with Abraham Sahyoun, Earthquake's marketing director. He encouraged me to attempt to lift the Super Nova Subwoofer off its display pedestal…he grinned while I attempted and failed…and then told me that it weighed in excess of 300 pounds. He then introduced me to a new sub, the CP-8, a subwoofer that is designed to fit behind or under your couch. The CP stands for "Couch Potato."
In 1997, McCormack Audio was purchased by Conrad-Johnson, known primarily for their fine tube amps and preamps. They have the same high quality and value that Steve McCormack put into his designs in California, but these current products are basically an entirely new line (and are built in Virginia). In this review, we take a look at one of their line-stage preamps, and a stereo (two-channel) power amplifier.
Revel is the upscale speaker division of Harman International, which includes Infinity, Harmon Kardon, JBL and Lexicon. Revel has been making speakers since 1996 and makes the Ultima2 (~ $26K/pair) and Performa series from which the Concerta gets its lineage. The chief designer of these speakers is Kevin Voecks who also has had a hand in developing speakers for Snell and Mirage. With an audio testing facility built by Harman International in California, all Revel speakers go through a rigorous testing process for voicing and timbral accuracy.
I well remember the day I got my first NAD product back in the 70's. I have long since forgotten the model number, but it was a stereo receiver. I remember listening to it and thinking how great it sounded compare to the old Marantz it was replacing. I knew back then that moving up to the NAD meant that I was no longer just listening to tunes. I had moved up into the realm of being a lover of music, an audiophile.
Founded by Raymond Cook in the 1960's on the premises of Kent Engineering & Foundry (from where the name KEF is derived), KEF speakers have been a popular loudspeaker brand in Europe for many years. With interest in expanding their presence here in the States, KEF is introducing their XQ series which ranges from the XQ10 bookshelves to the XQ40 towers. What I consider to be their most innovative design is the Uni-Q, a point source that consolidates the tweeter into the mid range driver.
The name Velodyne is practically synonymous with subwoofers. They have been creating innovatively designed subs since the 1980's with such features as high gain servos, anti-clipping, dynamic driven control systems and digital drive accelerometers to produce high volume, low distortion sound. Their latest product is part of their SubContractor Series. The SC-600 IW and SC-600 amp are a smaller, more affordable version of their SC-1250 in-wall design. Does this sub live up to its slogan of "Cut, Plug and Play"? Can a subwoofer that is less than 4 inches deep produce powerful bass?
Onkyo has recently added a new line of receivers to its already long list of stellar audio/video equipment. The new TX-SR606 is the latest upgrade to the well reviewed TX-SR605.In one-upmanship, it has the added features of 4 HDMI (1.3) inputs and Audyssey 2EQ. SIRIUS and IPod docking are available, too. This is my first foray in using Audyssey and I was anxious to take it for a test drive in my upstairs, dedicated media room. MSRP is $599, which puts this receiver in the entry to mid range in price (though I have seen a street price as low as $399), and for the money, the 606 comes very well equipped!