- Product Name: F500, WRS RDM, Prime Pinnacle, Kendall Floorstanding Speaker, Oberon 7,
- Manufacturer: Fyne Audio, Well Rounded Sound, SVS, KLH, Dali
- Review Date: April 19, 2019 23:00
- MSRP: $780/pr - F500, $1,200/pr - WRS RDM 8, $800 each - Prime Pinnacle, $1,300/pr - Kendall Floorstanding Speaker, $1,400/pr - Oberon 7
- First Impression: Gotta Have It!
In this segment of our coverage for the 2019 AXPONA show, we will look at a selection of the more affordable loudspeakers we saw there. While the massive, ultra high-end speakers seem to get most of the attention, these shows are also a good opportunity for manufacturers to show what can be done in more reasonable price ranges. We will be looking at loudspeakers that are less than $2,000/pair which, for most people, is not cheap but is not unattainable either. Mega-speaker systems are certainly a sight to behold, but affordable speakers are far more relevant, because this is the class of product that most of can afford! For me, it’s easier to get excited about products that I could actually hope to own.
Fyne Audio used AXPONA as an opportunity to
present themselves to the US market. Fyne Audio was formed out of the team who were behind the Scotland-based Tannoy loudspeakers before Tannoy was bought out by a larger conglomerate and their engineering and design work was outsourced to China. That left a whole group of Scottish loudspeaker makers with nothing to do, so they started a new business for themselves using all the experience that they had accumulated under Tannoy and now free to explore new designs since they were unchained from traditional Tannoy design considerations. Fyne Audio has yet to find a US distributor, but they have a range of products to offer, from highly affordable bookshelf speakers to high-priced, high-end tower speakers. The speakers that caught my attention at Fyne’s AXPONA exhibit were the F500 bookshelf speakers. The F500s are coaxial speakers that use a titanium compression tweeter mounted in the center of a 6” woofer. They had a nice black oak finish and used a unique flared port on the bottom of the cabinet. I had the Fyne Audio reps play some music and found the sound to be balanced, lively, and full, especially for such modestly-sized speakers. Converted from the pound sterling, the dollar cost of the F500 would be an affordable $780 per pair. I hope that this speaker brand finds a US distributor soon because I think speakers this good at such an accessible cost would find a very receptive market in North America.
I find the market for high-end desktop speakers to be surprisingly under-served. I'm sure I am not the only one stuck at my desk for hours on end working at my PC/laptop and could use some music to break up the trudgery. While there are some good contenders in this arena, most major speaker manufacturers seemingly leave this application as a blank spot in their product lines. Well Rounded Sound provides an entry in this market segment that looks great, sounds great, and, while somewhat expensive, doesn’t break the bank. Well Rounded Sound obliged me when I asked to hear the WRS RDM 8 speakers that were set up off to the side of their main attraction speakers, and I was taken off-guard by the amount of bass punch that they could throw. The treble was detailed but well balanced with the midrange and bass. The WRS RDM 8 uses an AMT tweeter with a wide-range 5” bass driver with an unusually high crossover frequency of 4 kHz. It has a down-firing port and a -3dB frequency of 48 Hz. The finish and design of the WRS RDM 8 were exceptional and would make a great fit on any executive’s desk. It’s not the cheapest desktop speaker at $1200 per pair, but the craftmanship and sound quality should prompt serious consideration from anyone looking for a tasteful sound system for their desk or office.
MSRP: $1,600/pr | Buy Now
AXPONA gave me a chance to finally hear SVS’s new Prime Pinnacle towers that we recently ran a preview of. The demo material was a movie scene about a helicopter chase from the latest ‘Mission Impossible’ film, and, wow, did those speakers pack a punch! The sound had commercial cinema level dynamics; it was crystal-clear, authoritative, and exhibited no signs of compression or distortion despite the elevated sound levels during my brief visit to the SVS room. To be fair, I wasn’t seated very far from the speakers, and they were ably assisted by a host of Prime surround speakers and a center speaker, but the Prime Pinnacle was carrying most of the weight for that demo, and it didn’t break a sweat. Indeed, their $800/each sound matched that of far more expensive speakers at the show. This taste of the Prime Pinnacle has upped my anticipation for the review pair that are scheduled to come my way, so stay tuned to Audioholics where we will really dig into the latest new creation to come out of SVS to see if it continues their winning streak of high-quality loudspeakers.
Older audio aficionados will remember the golden age of the KLH loudspeaker brand to be the late 50’s and 60’s. In its day, KLH was a premier manufacturer that went toe-to-toe with other heavy-hitters such as Acoustic Research, Klipsch, and JBL. However, by the 90’s, a string of ownership changes had driven into the ground by bottom-of-the-barrel designs from trademark owners who were determined to squeeze as much blood from the name as was possible. The name has recently been revived by a group of individuals who want to restore the brand to its former glory. KLH made a splash at AXPONA this year by resurrecting this once-admired brand name and creating a speaker line worthy of its bygone reputation. The speakers they brought not only sounded great, but they were also shockingly inexpensive given their top-flight construction. In my time in the KLH room, I listened to the Kendall floorstanding speakers and I was impressed by their tonal neutrality and articulate sound. The Kendall uses kevlar cones, cast-aluminum baskets, real wood veneers, and a host of other amenities that I would expect to see on a speaker three times this price. This modern incarnation of KLH looks to be giving the buyers an awful lot of speaker for the money: a three-way tower speaker using high-quality components for $1,300 a pair. Many people look on KLH’s past with fondness, but maybe its best days are yet to come.
One of the last rooms I visited as the AXPONA show was ending featured the
se somewhat plain looking speakers from Danish manufacturer DALI. The real reason I went in the room is that it was empty of guests, and I just wanted to get off my feet for a little while before returning home. The rep asked me what I would like to listen to, and I said, “something easy-going” since my hearing was a bit fatigued from listening to demos all weekend. I was immediately struck by the vivid soundstage from a latin-american album that I foolishly forgot to write down, but the spectral balance and outstanding imaging of the system stood out to me, even after demoing dozens of high-end systems for the past three days. The rep told me that the speaker model was the Oberon 7, and I was shocked to learn it was priced at a modest $1,400 per pair. These sounded better than some systems whose speaker cables cost more than that! The website discusses a few unusual features of the Oberon 7s, but I didn’t see anything about its design so particularly radical that would explain why these sounded so good to me there and then. Maybe it was just acoustic serendipity with the room? I am hoping to hear more Dali speakers in the future to see if that magic can be recreated.
These are only some of the affordable speakers that were on display at AXPONA. Most manufacturers brought their flagship products or at least some of their higher-echelon products, much of which was in new car cost and beyond. However, in the realm of speakers, bigger isn’t necessarily better (unless you just want louder and deeper bass). Great sound quality can be had at a surprisingly low cost, after which only gains in dynamic range and bass extension can be had without greatly diminishing returns. And in a small room without a large listening distance from speaker to listener, even a small speaker can have a large sound. You don’t need to be rich to be an audiophile; you only need to be diligent. This fact was as much on display at AXPONA as any of the gee-whiz gadgets or king-size loudspeakers for those who were looking.