Hi-Fi+ Products of the Year: Loudspeakers

Estelon Extreme,
Magico S5,
Marten Design Coltrane Supreme 2

Joint winner: YG Acoustics Carmel 2 floorstanding loudspeaker

With build quality that would do military aircraft proud, YG Acoustics’ Carmel 2 is an exceptionally well-made two-way floorstanding speaker that, despite it’s modest size, delivers sonic performance that would put any number of larger and/or more costly loudspeakers to shame. Part of the speakers’ success involves their largely handmade drivers and the extraordinary quality of the parts (resistors, capacitors, inductors, and even machined—not printed—circuit boards) used in their crossover networks. But perhaps the biggest single factor influencing the Carmel 2’s sound is the proprietary, Yoav Geva-developed CAD/CAM software used to design the speakers—software said to be the only design package of its kind that simultaneously optimises both frequency and phase response. The result is a very nearly full-range speaker ideal for use in small-to-mid-size listening rooms and one whose qualities of focus, resolution, soundstaging, and overarching neutrality are second to none. (Reviewed in Issue 128).

Floorstanding Loudspeaker of the Year

Joint winner: Wilson Sasha Series 2

Reviewed in the context of an Audio Research, Crystal Cable, and HRS system context, the £30,998/pr Wilson Sasha Series 2 builds upon one of the foundation stones of today’s high-end audio world – the WATT/Puppy loudspeaker. Although no longer supplied as separate sections, the Sasha retains the two-way top box and two-driver bass unit sections of older designs, but now separated by a micrometer-precise adjustment system to perfectly integrate the loudspeaker in the listening room. In use, the loudspeaker retains all the best aspects of classic Wilson Audio designs (such as awesome scale, power, and ‘you are there’ dynamism) but adds increased dynamic, musical, and spatial coherence. Truer harmonics, a broader tonal palette, and sweeter, more natural balance are valuable by-products, but the key musical results lie in its more emphatic delivery, its ability to sound both more delicate and purposeful. Wilson Audio is at the top of its game here! (Reviewed in Issue 128).

Joint winner: Magico S5

Magico has two loudspeaker ranges. The no-quarter-given Q range, and its more universal S series. Almost any of the range could be nominated for each of the ‘best of’ categories, but the £33,000/pr S5 in particular may just have the best balance of performance, engineering, and price in the whole range. The three-way S5 loses the aluminium spaceframe construction of the Q models, but instead is made from half-inch thick curved aluminium extrusions. It also features a beryllium dome tweeter and a mid and two bass custom-made Nano-Tec drivers. The result is one of the most honest loudspeakers around. If you are one of the few who absolutely must know everything that is laid down on your recording then few audio loudspeakers come close to the Magico S5. (Reviewed in Issue 94). 

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