Floorstanding Speakers Still Reign as the Best Sonic Performers
Harman’s Revel Salon2 has found a level of popularity in entertainment system installations because of its deep bass extension (no subwoofer needed), extremely flat frequency response, and overall output capability.
The floorstanding speaker is the king of sound reproduction, a statement that can be easily argued on multiple levels. Evolving from what Klipsch’s vice president of product development, Mark Casavant called a big ugly box that “looked like a small refrigerator,” floorstanding speakers continue to the be choice of audiophiles devoted to hearing their music at its best.
The Klipsch speaker that has been a sweet spot for its dealers over time is the RF82 II Tower, a Reference Series dual-woofer speaker now in its fifth generation.
Speaker manufacturers have long known this, and while in-wall and in-ceiling speakers enjoy popularity with a large section of homeowners and integrators, floorstanding speakers occupy a lofty place in the pantheon of entertainment system accessories.
“No other type of speaker beats the sound quality and imaging of properly configured, high-fidelity floorstanding speakers in an optimal listening environment,” said Darren Egan, sales and marketing director for RBH Sound. “For those who have the floor space and the budget, and who are looking for the highest sound quality and imaging, floorstanding speakers are the only way to go.”
RBH Sound recently introduced the Signature SX Series of floorstanding speakers that integrated with the company’s Signature in-wall product line–a design that allows its dealers to work with their clients on creating a truly custom multi-channel audio system regardless of the type of speakers requested throughout the project.
“The Signature Classic 661-SE, and its new Signature SX counterpart, the SX-661, has to be RBH Sound’s most popular model,” Egan said. “This model is an LCR design employing dual aluminum cone 6.54-inch woofers and a high-grade silk dome tweeter, and is the perfect combination of performance, looks, and price.”
Casavant said that Klipsch’s floorstanding speakers allow dealers to do a demonstration that will be unmatched. “They can put on a show for the customer that the customer may not have experienced before,” he stated. “It helps the dealer to make a memory for the customer. Even if the customer doesn’t buy anything, they’ll remember that experience in the store.”
The Klipsch speaker that has been a sweet spot for its dealers is the RF82 II Tower, a Reference Series dual-woofer speaker now in its fifth generation. Like its series siblings, the RF82 is fitted with Tractrix Horn technology to reduce distortion and improve reliability, rigid Cerametallic woofer cones to dampen and prevent distortion, and titanium tweeters with linear travel suspension to create a natural, open sound.
Noting that floorstanding speakers provide soundstage depth and images that in-walls simply cannot, Ken Forsythe, director of product management at Meridian America points to the manufacturer’s Digital Active Loudspeaker, which, with its moderatesized enclosure, can play four times louder and has deeper bass than a passive speaker of the same size.
“All Meridian DSP Loudspeaker models incorporate sophisticated room boundary compensation software that allows freedom of placement while providing the highest sound quality,” Forsthye said. “Because Meridian designs are full systems, they can be combined with a digital source, such as a Meridian Sooloos Digital Music System, and you have everything you need to play music in three simple components.”
The Meridian DSP5200, the most popular of Digital Active line, is the company’s best seller, with subwoofers that take up under one square foot of floor space and a range of custom color options suitable for most interiors.
David Kroll, CI product manager for KEF, believes that the smart integrator knows to make cabinet speakers an option in every proposal, “because the worst thing that can happen is the customer might say ‘no.’ The upside is huge: a happy customer with a superior audio experience and an increase in revenue,” he said.
KEF recently developed its Q Series of floorstanding speakers that utilizes the company’s Uni-Q point source driver where the tweeter is at the acoustic center of the midrange. This means the Q Series offers flexible placement when the space may seem to lack that perfect spot and still deliver great sound. There are nine speakers in the line, including a frontfiring subwoofer and a dipole surround model, which can be easily assembled to suit any room, set-up, or budget.
Bowers & Wilkins’ 802 Series Diamond is one of the company’s most expensive models, but also one of its best selling.
At Paradigm, where changing consumer tastes have influenced the company’s slimmed down floorstanding speaker aesthetic, maintaining the wowfactor performance associated with floor models is paramount.
“All of Paradigm’s latest floorstanding speakers offer a scaled-down presence without sacrificing a whit of performance,” said director of marketing, Mark Aling. “Paradigm has built loyalty into the Monitor, Studio, and Signature brands.”
Of its range of models, Paradigm’s Reference Studio 60 has proven to be a hit with its dealer base. Sitting between the company’s high-end Signature and more value-oriented Monitor floorstanding lines, the Studio 60 features G-PAL Gold-Anodized Pure- Aluminum Domes and S-PAL Satin-Anodized Pure- Aluminum midrange and bass/midrange cones for smooth, detailed sound reproduction free of vibration resonances.
Employing larger motor systems, driver diaphragms and horns for higher output abilities and extended low-frequency performance, Pro Audio Technology aims to provide a more true-to-life presentation of sonic scale. PAT’s SCR-2215sm is a dealer favorite with its modular design, a coaxial compression driver that offers high-resolution detail, and dual 15-inch woofers that provide cinema reference-level (105dB) audio in excess of 50 feet from the viewing screen.
“Pro Audio Technology floorstanding speakers employ advanced DSP optimization, allowing the speakers to be installed in a flush-mounted environment without degradation of performance,” said Pro Audio Technology VP of sales and marketing Larry Reagan. “This unique approach to product design allows the dealer to install the speakers behind the viewing screen or flushed into a baffle wall where they do not have to be seen, minimizing the impact on room aesthetics and making for a happier client.”
If pure performance is the goal, there is “no replacement for the displacement” of a high-quality floorstanding speaker,” said Jim Garrett, marketing manager for Harman High Performance AV. “No in-wall, in-ceiling, on-wall or even bookshelf product can compete with the full-range response and overall performance capability of a well-designed floorstanding speaker.”
Among its dealers, Boston Acoustics’ RS 326 (pictured) and the A 360 have sold well.
To underscore Harman’s commitment to delivering that pure performance, Garrett notes that several of the manufacturer’s loudspeakers are used in recording and post-production studios worldwide and have a price range from $1,000/pair to $70,000/ pair. Of these, the Revel Salon2 has found a level of popularity in entertainment system installations because of its deep bass extension (no subwoofer needed), extremely flat frequency response, and overall output capability.
“Many of our dealers and customers are looking for the best possible products as, ultimately, it is the experience of listening that is the passion that drives us all to this business in the first place,” Garrett said. “There is nothing quite like sitting down in front of a pair of Salon2’s and re-discovering your music all over again as you hear details and nuances you have never heard before.”
Bowers & Wilkins’ 802 Series Diamond is one of the company’s most expensive models, but also one of its best selling. “It is revered by both audiophiles and world-renowned recording studios such as Lucasfilm and Abbey Road, both producing award-winning movie soundtracks,” said B&W’s vice president of sales and marketing Doug Henderson.
The components of the 802 Series Diamond go a long way to explaining the $2,500-$24,000 price tag. Made with quad-magnet diamond tweeter technology, the 802 Series also features a new dual-magnet motor system to improve the bass drivers’ performance and reduce harmonic distortion, oxygen-free copper speaker terminals and links, a newly design capacitor that uses unique silver, gold, and oil construction and proprietary B&W technologies, such as Kevlar FST mid-range drivers, Nautilus tube-loaded tweeters, Matrix enclosures and the unique sphere/tube heads on the two largest speakers in the range.
“Think of how a candle in front of a mirror looks like two candles, with the reflected image appearing as if it’s behind the wall,” said SnapAV’s director of product development Eric Harper when describing how an added sense of depth applies to floorstanding speakers and is why they are still a favorite of music aficionados who enjoy two-channel listening.
Harper’s imaginative illustration sells SnapAV’s Episode 700 Tower that, as part of the 700 Series, is timbre matched to optimize performance across its in-wall and in-ceiling complements. It also makes its an attractive option for dealers with what Harper called “lucrative dealer margins” in addition to its 6.5-inch Kevlar woofers, catenary dome tweeters, hand-polished, black lacquer finish and $1,500/pair price point.
Seeing floorstanding speakers as the perfect complement to a whole-house system that included a dedicated home theater, Mark Suskind, vice president of product line management at Polk Audio, said that the manufacturer’s RTi A9 speaker has been its best to date. “I can’t think of another product in its price range that offers comparable depth, detail, and bass response, and it looks as good as it sounds,” he said.
Sitting between Paradigm’s high-end Signature and more value-oriented Monitor floorstanding lines, the Studio 60 features G-PAL Gold-Anodized Pure-Aluminum Domes and S-PAL Satin-Anodized Pure- Aluminum midrange and bass/midrange cones for smooth, detailed sound reproduction free of vibration resonances.
The flagship of the RTi A series, with three seven-inch bass drivers and two 5.25-inch midrange drivers, the RTi A9 is made to anchor a home theater or music system. With 500-watt power capacity, RTi A9’s unique midrange section is sealed off from the rest of the cabinet to give the clearest, most articulate midrange in the series.
“If you have the available space, floorstanding speakers still provide the broadest frequency response, overall maximum performance and highest output levels,” said Boston Acoustics’ national sales manager, Matthew Hegt. “So, if space and budget are not an issue, then our floorstanding speakers remain the best option, no matter if it is for music or home theater.”
Among its dealers, Boston Acoustics’ RS 326 and the A 360 have sold well. In the case of the former, Hegt said that it’s “stunning design and high-end performance” has contributed to its popularity, while the A 360’s price point has it made it a viable choice for customers who want floorstanding speaker performance without breaking the bank.
GoldenEar co-founder Sandy Gross said that his company has worked very hard on the industrial design of its loudspeakers to make them more visually appealing and easier to attractively place into a room and integrate them well with the environment. “This is especially important in order to make floorstanding speakers a viable option for a dealer and their décor conscious customers today,” he explained.
To that end, GoldenEar has designed the Triton Two Tower floorstanding speaker that has found appeal because of its built-in 1,200-watt subwoofer and affordable price point.
High performance, beauty and value are the three points of reference Devin Zell, MartinLogan’s product manager, used when talking about the speaker’s manufacturer roster of products.
“Dollar for dollar we pack a lot of content into our products– from quality crossover components and machined metal sub-assemblies to highperformance drivers and hand-built cabinetry,” Zell said. “Of course all of this is done in an effort to make a beautiful object that is capable of reproducing sound that is emotionally compelling and engaging to the listener.”
For dealers, MartinLogan’s ElectroMotion ESL electrostatic floorstanding speaker touches on those three cornerstones, and at $2,000/pair, makes for a compelling sales pitch. EMESL’s XStat MicroPerf electrostatic panel is housed within a radical aluminum and composite AirFrame–a technology makes the electrostatic panel rigid without obstructing the playable surface area. MartinLogan’s proprietary Vojtko filtering technology blends audio output from the high- and mid-frequency electrostatic panel to the low-frequency woofer. Rigid and lightweight, the custom woofer’s diaphragm eliminates cone flexure and maximizes response time.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor to Residential Systems.