I don’t know how many stereo systems are sitting unused in people’s basements and attics; but I’d guess a gazillion or so, give or take a million. That’s a pity, because it wouldn’t take much to update them. Just connect a streaming DAC like the new Bluesound Node ($549, all prices in USD), and that old system is ready to stream music from the internet, play digital music from an external drive, play soundtracks from a connected HDTV, and perform other 21st-century audio tricks.
Almost all of the products reviewed here on Simplifi, and on other corners of the SoundStage! Network, are fairly new to market—in most cases, less than one year old. And quite often, our reviews are of products that are brand new to market.
At first glance, Q Acoustics’ Q Active 200 ($1999/pair, all prices in USD except where noted) doesn’t look much like a loudspeaker. It could be an appliance of some kind, or maybe a minitower desktop PC. After setting up the speakers on the matching Q FS75 stands ($499/pair) in my living room, I sent close-up pix to a few friends and family members, and asked them what kind of product the pictures showed. Those were some of their guesses.
One of the hottest product categories in hi-fi right now is the streaming integrated amplifier—an amp with a built-in network streamer and Wi-Fi connectivity. Just add a pair of loudspeakers, connect the amp to your home network, log on to your favorite streaming service, and you have everything you need to play just about all the music in the world. Of course, these products also have digital and analog inputs to accommodate components like disc players, game consoles, and TVs.
During my three years on Simplifi, I’ve reviewed 27 different powered and active loudspeakers—more than any other product category. There’s a reason for this. Because of their all-in-one designs, speakers with built-in amplifiers work wonderfully for Simplifi’d hi-fi.
In the 21st century, has there been a more successful, more important bookshelf loudspeaker than KEF’s LS50? I doubt it. Just look at how the LS50 and its progeny have fared on the SoundStage! Network.
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
If there was ever an occasion for an audio manufacturer to release a statement product, this was it. On September 28, 2020, Brian Russell, Bryston Ltd.’s tremendously capable, tremendously affable president, passed away in his sleep from an apparent heart attack. He was 69.
In the past two years I’ve reviewed active studio monitors from Heinz Electrodynamic Designs (HEDD), Focal, and PMC. As you’d expect, all of these speakers work wonderfully for desktop audio. But what about listening Simplifi’d style: sitting on a sofa or comfy chair, cueing up music with a tablet or smartphone, and playing it from a streaming DAC connected to the speakers?
Since mid-2019, I’ve been looking for ways to get better bass from the music system in the living room of the 1920s Toronto rowhouse I share with my infinitely better half. My quest began when I reviewed Elac’s Navis ARF-51 speakers ($4599.96/pair; all prices USD). Those active floorstanders delivered deeper bass and more slam than the active stand-mounted speakers I was using at the time, and I enjoyed them so much I bought the review samples.
In mid-February, SoundStage! editor-in-chief Jeff Fritz e-mailed to ask if I’d be willing to put together a “virtual system” as part of a series he was writing for SoundStage! Ultra: “If you had an unlimited budget and wanted the best performance money could buy on the desktop, what would you pick?”
Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
Three years ago, when Kevin and Jonathan Couch formed Heavenly Soundworks, the father-and-son team planned to make only conventional passive loudspeakers—active speakers weren’t on the agenda. “My dad has been into audio as long as I can remember—since before I was born,” Jonathan told me in a phone interview, “which is why I’m into it too.”
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