~ Speakers

Now to the speakers and naturally this is where there's often the most conjecture. Whether it's bookshelf speakers, floor standing, sub-woofers, surround sound or iPod speakers everyone will always be drawn to their own particular requirement first. So inevitably theres going to be a bit of variety spread across this page, in style and price. Because of this our usual relatively low price capping of the things we review will be slightly wavered. Obviously we're not going to go mental, but you may find the odd speaker slightly on the expensive side. But at the end of the day, this often where those extra few bucks make all the difference.
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Jay's Choice ~ Bowers & Wilkins - CM8
(£1250/$2200)


I must say that I've always loved B&W so my sway towards these speakers may be ever so slightly bias. They've always seemed to create and style their lines exactly to my taste, weather it be their P5 headphones or their Zeppelin iPod dock they're attention to detail has always hit the nail squarely on the head. Sure you can't always judge a book by its cover but when it comes to something thats more often than not the largest part of your system it will inevitably be the one thing that will intrude most into the aesthetics and decor of your room. But from day one B&W have always made it clear that their styling well and truly goes hand in hand with their science. Besides, for the last 20+ years the famous Abby Road studios have been utilising their expertise - if thats not a glowing endorsement nothing is.


So, on with the job in hand. Standing just shy of a metre in hight and a width of about 17cm the CM8's are a shade smaller than the average speaker of it's kind, making them the ideal floor standing loud speaker if you're finding space a little on the sparse side. But don't be fooled, what these babies lack in size they more than make up for in one hell of a kick. With the 25mm domed aluminium tweeter who's design has been derived from the companies mind blowing flagship speaker the Nautilus, you'll find the high end never falls short of being tight and precise and with a real bare minimum of coloration. As for the mid range, well truth be told it rarely comes better. This is also where B&W's 40 plus years of pain staking perfecting and mastery comes to the very forefront. As their patented FST technology (thats 'fixed suspension transducer' for all us mere mortals) comes heavily into play. Utilising kevlar to absorb straying sound waves heading towards the edge of the cone, the result being a greater response time and phenomenal clarity. This can be heard most evidently within vocals, lighter string instruments and suchlike. The FST also plays heavily when in moments of sudden melodic aggression. Perfect examples of which you can hear in the albums 'I, Vigilante' by Crippled Black Phoenix or Refused awesome 'Shape Of Punk To Come'. Those moments before the storm where the vocals and strings gently build up before being met ferociously by exploding bass, percussion and unadulterated overdrive often suffer from a brief second of confused muddiness as all the elements collide together. Evidently not here though as clarity seems to certainly at the top of the agenda.
Even with the addition of the twin bass drivers working to their full capacity nothing seems to buckle under the pressure.
As far as the aforementioned bass goes in and of itself, it is fantastically tight and coherent and without a doubt some of the best I've ever been fortunate enough to hear outside of a studio. Some have argued that B&W's end results within the mid and low range collaboration have tended to produce a sound thats all in all a bit clinical and un-involving. On the whole I really can't say I agree on this front. It may ultimately be down to the particular acoustics of my room, but I'm more inclined to think that it may well be the outcome of the synergy between the CM8's and my valve amp. The inevitable warm tone associated with 4 glowing KT88 tubes may just soften that apparent bite enough without compromising their cutting edge kevlar infused monolithically beautiful craftsmanship.


Available in a choice of four finishes - gloss black, white, wenge and rosenut you'll easily find a ascetically complimentary solution to your system, be it to partner brand new and shiny Onkyo M5000 amp or a lovely wood and brushed aluminium Pioneer Pl-500.
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(£2500/$4000)


In 1946, Paul W. Klipsch, audio and physics genius; launched the Klipschorn loudspeaker, one of the most famous and influential speakers ever. The only speaker design to remain only slightly changed in 65 years, Klipschorns are amazingly efficient speakers. They can be driven with a mere 12 watts of power and produce a sensitivity of 105dB at 1 watt/ 1 meter. I have owned a pair since 1987 and I must tell you that many times I have looked to other manufacturers as technology has changed, you know like an audio geek will do, but you will have to pry my Klipschorns out of my dead arms. Klipschorns are manufactured by hand in Hope, Arkansas, just as they have been since 1946. Since I purchased mine, Klipsch has changed the tweeter from a 3” horn to a 1” Phenolic diaphragm compression driver, personally I like the original horn sound slightly better. It sounds a little more natural to my ears, though it does not deliver as high a range as the new driver, both versions spec 33hz to 17khz +/- 4dB.


I must admit to you Ride with the Devil enthusiasts that like the other 4 senses, hearing is very subjective to each person. So when purchasing a speaker system, trust your own ears and ask to demo a system in your listening environment and with your own personal taste in music. What may sound great in a sound room at the dealer, can sound dramatically different in your entertainment room. Many dealers will happily let you demo speakers in your home and when buying a premium speaker, you will be smart to ask for that. What has really amazed me with my Klipschorns over the years is the sound space that the speakers make. If you close your eyes and spin around, it is difficult to point at the speakers within the room, the sound is that full. Now Klipschorns are not for everyone, they need to be placed in the corners of the room and a fairly large room at that. Currently I have mine in a 3.6m by 4.2m (12’ by 14’) space with a vaulted ceiling, by far the best room I have used them in. Also the speakers weigh in at a massive 79.4kg (175 pounds). I find the Klipschorns very well suited to play metal to classical equally well, the bass is always solid and the midrange horn really brings out a fat clean guitar and is very crisp. One unique design feature of the Klipschorns is that the bass driver, a large 38.1cm (15”) reflects off the front birch plywood case and the sound reflects back out the rear of the speaker, and being in a corner creates a very natural live sound quality. And loud, even with a tube amp of relatively low output, these speakers can scream.


The listening mode that I really believe my Klipschorns excel at is with a recording on vinyl. That rich analog sound is reproduced flawlessly. I often find myself on the couch with an old live Who or Clash recording, eyes closed, imagining they are playing on stage in front of me. With timeless design, cabinet beauty, hand craftsmanship, and no bull shit, the Klipschorns are Futzer approved.
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