Bowers & Wilkins offers an impressive range of speakers in nearly every size and price category, but they're best known for models that demonstrate the company's continuing pursuit of the state of the art. Just last year, the diamond-tweeter-equipped Nautilus 800 Series speakers made a big splash in audiophile magazines all over the world. Those one-plus ultra models all come with breathtaking MSRPs, but you'll find traces of the 800 Series' inspired engineering throughout B&W's new, considerably more affordable XT Series designs. The XT4 tower's gleaming extruded-aluminum cabinetry is fresh, but the déjà-vu curves, yellow Kevlar midrange driver, and bulging topside tweeter pod leave no doubt—it's a B&W.
It was in the late 1970s when Noel Lee, a laser-fusion design engineer, started a little company, Monster Cable, which soon spawned, well, the entire high-end audio-cable industry. Over the decades, Monster maintained their dominance in the cable market as it branched into power conditioners and M•Design home theater furniture. Now, with Monster Music, they're jumping into the record business with a line of High Definition Surround SuperDiscs. Noel Lee's passion for multichannel music—and frustration with the stillborn SACD/DVD-Audio formats—pushed him to extract the best sound from Dolby- and DTS-encoded music. Monster Music claims that the SuperDiscs are the first music releases certified by THX for sound quality.
Even before you hear Classé's new Delta series of electronics, you'll probably want to do what I did—feel them up. This is not just because their curved aluminum-and-steel chassis are exquisite works of industrial art—your fingertips wield extraordinary control over the SSP-300 surround processor. The matching CA-5100 five-channel power amplifier will supply the muscle to make your home theater roar.
Anthony Gallo Acoustics' speakers had me thinking about the old Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. If you'll recall, after Humpty took a nasty fall and was smashed to pieces, all of the king's horses and men could never make him whole again. Following my cracked-up analogy, two- and three-way speakers break up the sound, sending it through woofers, midranges, and tweeters (and still sound great), but they can't ever really make the sound perfectly whole again. That's why full-range, single-driver speakers are the Holy Grail for some audiophiles. Enter Anthony Gallo Acoustics' latest set of balls, the new A'Diva Ti satellites, which get awfully close to that ideal. Heck, the wee A'Diva Ti is almost full range. Its 3-inch titanium/paper driver covers all frequencies from about 90 hertz to 22 kilohertz!
Just when I thought speaker designers could focus 100 percent of their talents on creating the best-sounding speakers, flat-screen TVs came along and created a burgeoning market for ultrasvelte plasma-friendly speakers. Anything other than the most demure designs now elicit comments like, "They're too big," "I think they're ugly," or the perennial, "Not in my living room!" from reticent shoppers. This just goes to show that, for some customers, style and size are the dominant factors when picking out a set of speakers. Maybe I'm overstating the case, but it's starting to look like colossal towers and even fairly small monitor speakers' days are numbered. Skinny on-walls are what's happening now.
I could easily fill pages of this magazine with a complete list of Phil Ramone's credits and achievements, but I'll stick with this condensed rundown. He's won 12 Grammy Awards and one Emmy, and he's worked with a virtual who's who of music: Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Chicago, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Madonna, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor—and those are just the highlights. Ramone is chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He is also a trustee of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.
Even if the names Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland don't ring any bells for you, you surely know their music. They wrote most of the Supremes' and the Four Tops' megahits, such as "Where Did Our Love Go?," "Come See About Me," "Baby Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Baby, I Need Your Loving," "How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You)," and "Reach Out, I'll Be There." The three men supplied a steady stream of top-ten singles for Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, Martha & the Vandellas, and many others.
I don't think I've ever before referred to a speaker as "sexy," but Sonus faber's new Domus line is definitely hot stuff. Yeah baby, the Domus Series' enticing curves—sheathed in supple black leatherette, poised on spiked feet—will get audiophiles all hot and bothered. That's because they make for pretty sexy sound, too.
I guess I shouldn't have counted him out, but, after Neil Young's last few efforts—Silver & Gold, Are You Passionate?, and Greendale—I was starting to feel like he was in a rut. The recordings had their high points, all right; but, when I'm in the mood for Neil, I'll spin Comes a Time or Sleeps With Angels. Although I've only spent a few weeks with Prairie Wind, I think it'll stand beside Young's earlier triumphs. It's that good.
I think it's time we revived the old maxim that speakers are the most important part of an audio system. Yes, DVD players, A/V receivers, pre/pros, and power amps all play crucial roles, but speakers give you a bigger shot at personalizing your sound. Some speakers deliver exacting resolution, while others effortlessly unleash a wide range of dynamics or shake the foundation of your abode. Dynaudio speakers excel on every front and remain loyal to the sound embedded in your DVDs and CDs. So don't let the Dynaudio Focus speaker series' understated demeanor throw you off track; these speakers can get down and boogie.