Hi-Fi+ Awards 2016: Loudspeakers

Devialet Gold Phantom,
ELAC Electroacoustik GmbH Debut B5,
REL Acoustics T/9i,
Vivid Audio B1 Decade,
Wilson Audio Sabrina,
YG Acoustics Sonja XV

Floorstanding Loudspeaker of the Year

Wilson Audio Specialties Sabrina

In the past, one new Wilson Audio loudspeaker would be launched few years, but Such is the rate of change at today that the Sabrina came hot on the heels of the Sasha W/P Series 2 and the Duette Series 2, then to be followed by the ALEXX, the Yvette, and soon the mighty WAMM – effectively one new product per year, every year. As we went to press, Wilson Audio’s hand-over from father to son was completed, with Daryl Wilson taking over the role of CEO as his father David stands down. In the audio world, however, few people retire, they just spend more time designing products! The Sabrina, however, remains something truly special; it’s the least expensive floorstander Wilson Audio has ever made and – judging by the number of electronics and turntable manufacturers fighting over being able to use a pair in their demonstrations, it’s clearly one of those loudspeakers everyone wants. It’s not hard to see why; the three way, rear ported design offers much found in larger Wilson designs, without the need for an absolutely micrometer-precise installation and equipment matching. Comfortable with electronics capable of delivering more than 50 watts per channel, the Sabrina deeply impressed Alan Sircom in test: “It’s the sense of seamlessness across the frequency range. Try hard to listen out for crossover points – I mean really try hard, like you are pretending at being an audio analyser – and you’ll struggle to hear points of inflexion, and in the real world of playing music – forget it!” He also felt the Sabrina, “has the large-scale sound that has made Wilson loudspeakers so successful, so much so in fact that if you close your eyes you’d swear there’s a bigger speaker in the room.”

Reviewed in Hi-Fi+ Issue 134

Cost-No-Object Loudspeaker of the Year

YG Acoustics Sonja XV

To celebrate 15 years of YG Acoustics, the company will release its new four-tower flagship, the Sonja XV, both as a standalone project, and as a substantial upgrade for present Sonja owners. The XV is formally launched in 2017, but we’ve had exclusive access to the loudspeaker in time for a review at time of launch, and the overall performance is as impressive as its physical size would suggest. YG Acoustics really pulled the stops out on this one, introducing a wholly new ‘BilletDome™’ tweeter and a new CNC-milled ‘ViceCore™’ inductor system for the bass crossover network. With each tower standing as tall as the average American man, and the whole package weighing about the same as a Honda Civic, everything about the Sonja XV is designed for cost-no-object performance. In listening, we were surprised by the effortless, unforced treble performance, perfectly matched by a midrange, bass, and sub bass that redefine what is possible to be heard in an audio system.

Reviewed in Hi-Fi+ Issue 145

Subwoofer of the Year

REL T/9i

To some, the only thing better than a subwoofer is two subwoofers, and that was certainly the case when we tested the REL T/9i. While a single T9/i delivers the speed and depth we have come to expect from REL designs, the true strength of the argument comes when you use a pair of subwoofers, but not in the way you might expect. You see, carefully and cleverly used, two of these 300 watt powered subwoofers with a front-firing long-throw 254mm powered bass driver, and a similar downward-firing model used in passive mode, add up to more than the sum of their parts. Not only do they deliver all the bass and drive needed by sub-bass aficionados, but the two act more like active room treatment in the sub-200Hz region. In test, Alan Sircom said, “the T/9i – put simply – is your loudspeakers, but more so. Everything you like about your speakers is heightened; typically opening out the midrange detail, and adding a heightened sense of presence in the upper registers.”

Reviewed in Hi-Fi+ Issue 135

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