To Gordon Brockhouse,

Simplifi: I like the sound of that. I started down the path of multichannel surround sound in the late 1990s with a 5.1 Dolby Pro Logic setup. After three AV receiver upgrades and two moves, I decided to free myself from the tangle of cords and wires that inhabited my living room. Not only was I tired of the cords, wires, and ugly black-box speakers all over the room, I also grew tired of the ever-expanding surround codecs and AV receiver user manuals. So I decided to go back to my first love: stereo music. I got my 30-year-old Yamaha RX-700U stereo receiver out of its box, and connected a pair of 20-year-old Paradigm Titans from the 5.1 system, then went back to listening to two-channel sound. I have also connected a Google Chromecast Audio to one of the receiver’s analog inputs for streaming music, and a FiiO DAC to another for playing CDs and FLAC files from an Xbox One.

Now I am thinking of replacing my Paradigm speakers with something more modern and pleasing to look at, and also upgrading my DAC. I was looking at affordable tower speakers, but decided that most are too big for my medium-sized room. Also, most tower speakers in my price range (under $1000) are not particularly attractive. So I’ve started considering bookshelf speakers, with the option of adding a subwoofer later if I feel the need.

After doing some browsing on the Web, I came across Doug Schneider’s “Is It Finally Time for Active Loudspeakers?” article. After doing some research on my own, it seems to be that the answer to Doug’s question may be, “Yes, it is time.” For people like me who want a simple, affordable solution, with great sound and flexibility, active speakers may be just the ticket. The idea of using DSP technology to wring the best sound possible from a small package appeals to the engineer in me. Because of this, your Simplifi site, with its focus on active and powered speakers, has captured my attention.

However, I am still a little leery of the practicalities of active speakers. My speakers sit on stands, so any cables routed to them will be visible. With KEF’s LSX, I would be trading two simple speaker wires for power cords, both of which would need to go to my centrally located electrical outlet. Then there is the TosLink cable (and maybe a USB cable) that would have to reach the master speaker from my sources. Powered speakers like the Kanto TUK eliminate the power cord for the slave speaker, but still have a speaker cable linking the master and slave speakers, as well as cables from source components to the master speaker. Compare this to an integrated amplifier that can stay in my console, with the power cord and interconnect cables hidden, and only speaker wires visible.

This long-winded prelude leads me to the reason for my writing to you. In your feature “Let’s Keep it Simple,” you wrote about your plan to “review all-in-one integrated products that use passive speakers.” This lines up perfectly with my search. I am trying to decide between active/powered speakers, or an all-in-one solution with passive speakers. I look forward to your reviews of both product types in the future.

I just ask that you not forget folks like me who are looking at “affordable” solutions, like the SVS Prime Wireless speakers you just reviewed. The Yamaha WXA-50 streaming amplifier is a perfect example of an affordable all-in-one for use with passive speakers. Hope to see more like this from other manufacturers and in your reviews.

Regards,
Joe Pop
United States


Hi Joe,

Thanks for the note. As it happens, I have just received a review sample of Yamaha’s WXA-50 streaming integrated amplifier. No review date has been set, but it will probably be published in the spring or early summer.

And I hear where you’re coming from regarding the placement challenges of active and powered speakers. I wrote about this in my first piece for Simplifi, which you can find by clicking here.

All the best,
Gordon

To Gordon Brockhouse,

I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews. I’m trying to decide between the Totem Kin Play and KEF LSX speakers. Without taking price or anything other than sound quality into account, do you have a recommendation?

Thanks,
John
United States


Hi John,

Thanks for your kind note. As to your question, I don’t think I can add anything that’s not in my reviews of the two products. As I said in my reviews, the KEFs are smoother and more refined, and I think more neutral, but the Totems are bigger-sounding, more dynamic, and I think more revealing. As you can tell from my reviews, I enjoyed them both a lot. Sonically, it’s a hard choice between these speakers, but I don’t think there’s a bad choice.

The feature content (app control, Wi-Fi connectivity, and DSP configurability on the KEFs, versus phono preamp and simplicity of setup on the Totems) may prove decisive for you. The Totems are larger as well. Are you near any dealers where you can hear these speakers?

Kindest regards,
Gordon


Hi Gordon,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I do have a KEF dealer nearby, but not a Totem dealer. I think I’ll listen to the LSXes and then try to decide. Keep the good reviews coming!

John
United States