Munich High End 2017 – Loudspeakers €15K and below

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Munich High End 2017 – Loudspeakers €15K and below

Most Promising Newcomers

ELAC Adante floorstander prototype

ELAC loudspeaker design guru Andrew Jones brought newly assembled prototypes of his upcoming Adante floorstanding loudspeakers (to Munich and we found their sound promising to say the least. The Adante speaker family is the third (and most ambitious) range of speakers Jones has created for ELAC and they promise to continue Jones’ tradition of offering unusually sophisticated sound for their prices, plus the ability to compete with far more expensive designs. The Adante floorstanders use one of Jones’ signature coincident tweeter/midrange arrays, plus a three-driver bass array with a somewhat unconventional cabinet loading scheme. At Munich the Adante floorstanders candidly sounded more like a proof-of-concept design than a finished product, which is to be expected given that the prototypes were assembled just days before the show. However, the performance on offer at Munich suggests even better things are to come once Jones has time to tweak, tune, and refine his design.

Genelec “The Ones” self-powered, coincident array monitors

I have heard many self-powered Genelec speakers over the years and to be honest I would say I often found them speakers I could respect, but not actually embrace in a wholehearted way. All of that changed, however, when I heard the firm’s new “The Ones” monitors in action at Munich. The Ones monitors come in three sizes: the compact 8331 (€1900), the mid-sized 8341 (€2400), and the large-ish 8351 (€2850). All are three-way designs leveraging coincident tweeter/midrange driver arrays, plus concealed dual woofer hidden behind an aluminium front baffle that serves as a diffraction-free waveguide and whose edges provide subtly shaped slot-loading vents for the woofers within. Genelec calls the Ones “ultimate point source monitors”, which turns out to be much more than mere marketing hype. More importantly the Ones not only offer linear and evenly balanced frequency response both on and off axis (as befits proper monitoring designs), but they are also highly ‘musical’ as well, which is why I suspect they will be sure-fire winners in the marketplace.

Graham Audio LS6 floorstanders & Chartwell LS3/5a monitors with Sub 3 woofers

We have long admired Graham Audio loudspeakers and for Munich the firm showed three models that caught our attention (albeit mostly on static display). The models were Graham’s new LS6 floorstanders (£2995/pair to £3395/pair, depending on finish), new Chartwell LS3/5A monitors (£1750/pair to £2100/pair, depending on finish), and the firm’s new Sub 3 woofers (£1995/pair), which can add appropriate low-end extension either for Graham’s LS3/5 monitors or for the firm’s new Chartwell LS3/5a’s.

In essence, the LS6 floorstanders leverage everything Graham has learned through the creation of its LS6 monitors, but recast in an enclosure of even higher volume (albeit an enclosure that takes up no more floor space than would a set of LS6 monitors mounted on floor stands).

The Chartwell LS3/5a is an acknowledgement that some listeners might prefer the sound of the original and now classic LS3/5a BBC monitor to that of the authentic LS3/5 design (as faithfully reproduced in Graham’s own LS3/5), so that now the firm gives listeners both options.

Finally, the S3 woofer (let’s not call it a “sub” just yet) aims to answer this ages-old question: “What shall I do if want the LS3/5a or LS3/5 sound, but also want true deep bass extension?” The upcoming Sub 3 provides an elegant solution and one that also just happens to act as a height-appropriate “stands” for the LS3/5a monitors. 

KEF next-gen Q-series loudspeakers

For Munich the British firm KEF rolled out its new 2017 Q-series loudspeaker line-up consisting of the Q150 ($549.99) and Q350 ($649.99) standmount monitors; the Q550 ($549.99), Q750 ($749.99), and Q950 ($899.99) floorstanding loudspeakers; the Q650c ($649.99) centre-channel speaker; and the Q400b ($699.99) subwoofer. All models save for the subwoofer use an updated and enhanced new version of KEF’s signature Uni-Q array—one that incorporates a “damped tweeter loading tube” that, says KEF, “enhances performance of the lower treble register.” The 2017 Q models also receive redesigned cabinets said to provide “a smoother and clearer sound.”

Wharfedale Diamond 11-series loudspeakers

Wharfedale’s Diamond-series speakers have traditionally competed for best entry-level loudspeaker honours and so it is significant that the firm launched its new Diamond 11-series range at Munich. For now, the 11-series Diamond range comprises three models: the 11.0 (€199/pair), the 11.1 (€349/pair), and the 11.2 (€449/pair). Later on, additional models including Diamond 11-series floorstanders will be added to the line-up.

A Wharfedale spokesperson told Hi-Fi+ that revisions made to the range were more extensive than in past updates, with updates including: new drive units, redesigned crossover networks, and curved cabinet walls made from laminated of different types of woods of differing density. The proof will be in the listening and we’re eager to hear the results.

Xavian Epica Calliope

It is always exciting to discover new brands that show high performance potential and at this year’s Munich event one such loudspeaker brand was the firm Xavian, hailing from the Czech Republic.  Xavian’s lovely Epica Calliope floorstanding loudspeaker (€10000/pair) gradually captured my attention with its combination of neutrality, refinement, and its ability to let subtle inner details simply speak for themselves. The Calliope is beautifully made, yet styled in such an understated way that it might not initially grip your attention with the sort of purposeful technical flash one might find in, say, a Magico or KEF loudspeaker (speakers that tend, in a sense, to wear their advanced technology credentials on their sleeves, as it were). With the Calliope, it’s all about the sound so that if you stop to listen carefully (not always an easy thing to do at trade shows) they have real potential to win you over.

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