TOP 5 New launches

1

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 £400

Making your way in the world of consumer electronics is tough-going for a standard pair of desktop speakers. Why? Because of products like this. The new Q-BT3 speakers not only claim to deliver proper «hi-fi sound» as opposed to a «jazzed up iPod dock» but also feature the higher-quality aptX version of Bluetooth for wireless streaming from laptops, phones and tablets. There’s also an integrated DAC for connecting digital sources.

2

Meridian Director £450

We welcomed Meridian’s exploration of the more affordable end of the market with open arms — and a five-star review of

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SURROUND SOUND, QUICK DIRTY

A simple wiring trick derives center channels.

Back in the late 1970s, I worked as a movie theater projectionist. That’s when I learned this dead-simple trick for wiring a center-channel speaker to augment the right and left channels.

To do it, you wire the left and right speakers to the amplifier as usual, red to red and black to black. Then wire a middle speaker by connecting | one pole to the amp’s right red output and the | other pole to the left red output. This will take the signal that’s shared by the left and right speakers, more

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Spendor D7

£3500

They may not look it on the page, but the Spendor D7s are rather compact by floorstander standards. Yet, properly setup, these speakers deliver a full-bodied sound that’s a match for anything we’ve heard at this sort of price.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Spendor has produced an accomplished speaker — the A9, A6 and updated SP2 are all class-leaders after all — but what is surprising is just how dynamic and punchy these relatively small towers are.

Play something particularly complex — we’ve chosen Trent Reznor’s soundtrack to The Social Network — and the Spendors marshall

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ProAc Response D40/R

£6125

As is the way with ProAc, it’s going to be rather hard to get excited about the D40/R speakers based on their looks and specification. But as we learned with the D18s on page 64, the relatively small British manufacturer is capable of producing extraordinary sound from rather ordinary-looking boxes.

Take a closer look at the D40/Rs and there are a couple of details that might hint at something more than ordinary. There’s a ribbon tweeter for a start — a 6 x 1cm unit that gives the speaker the ‘R’ in its name. You can buy a standard

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Quad ESL-2812

£6500

They don’t just look different, they sound it too. But they also make conventional speakers seem inadequate.

‘Legendary’ is a word bandied about by PR executives far too often. Can a smartphone case ever be described as ‘legendary’? We’ve seen it done. But forget the hyperbole, because Quad’s electrostatic speakers really are legendary.

For the ESL-2812, Quad has upgraded the internal power supply in terms of both layout and quality of components, strengthened and damped the frame that supports the diaphragm and made the grille more acoustically transparent so that it interferes even less with the sound.

All the

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ProAc Response D18

£2145

Almost everything about the Response D18 speakers screams ‘ordinary’. They’re fairly slim compared with some, and the optional ebony veneer (£400 extra) is a bit fancy, but no-one’s going to fall in love with the looks of these angular towers.

There’s nothing in the specification list that hints at greatness, either. So how did such a conventional speaker win our 2011 Best Floorstander £1500+ Award? By somehow sounding very special indeed.

A beautiful balance of abilities

As is often the case, it’s all about balance. These ProAcs sound sweet, smooth and refined while still delivering plenty of punch. They’re

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PMC Twenty 21

£1485

We’re big fans of PMC’s Twenty series. So far we’ve reviewed two of the four-strong range and raved about both. Now it’s the turn of the ‘entry-level’ standmounters.

The 21s have the same sloped-back design as the rest of the range. The uneven shape helps to reduce the build-up of internal standing waves, and it makes the speakers stand out on the shop floor.

Take time to get them right

Once given a couple of days to run in, these speakers shine. That wasn’t our initial impression though. Standing a meter or so from the rear wall and playing

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Neat Iota

£695

Thank heavens for Neat and its determination to do things differently. It’s not just that the Iota’s are so clearly unlike other speakers — they’re tiny, they sit on their sides and they have a ribbon tweeter — there’s more to it than that.

Neat also approaches it’s speaker-tuning by ear rather than measurement, and we’re big fans of that approach. And the Iota’s go a long way to showing why — here it’s enabled the team to wring out of very small boxes far more sound than one would expect.

The detail, weight and scale on offer here

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Focal turns the air Blue(tooth)

Focal XS Book Wireless Desktop speakers £300

Focal’s commitment to audio outside dedicated hi-fi has grown in recent years, and the Focal XS Book Wireless desktop speakers are the latest addition to its more consumer-focused product range.

Ultimately, we’re looking at a pair of the original XS Book speakers launched in late 2011, except this time they come bearing aptX Bluetooth for wireless playback.

The design is therefore almost identical to its predecessors’. The same tapered look remains, as do the 19mm aluminium dome tweeters and 10cm polyglass mid/bass drivers. There’s still a 20W-per-channel amp in the right-hand master speaker.

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Focal SM9

Designed for studio use, these stereo speakers fit the domestic bill too

Profile

Price £4580 ★★★★★

Highlight the Focals’ ability to play loudly while still sounding clear, refined and composed is a rare quality indeed, especially at this price.

Consider if you want an insightful, dynamic and powerful active speaker and don’t mind the SM9’s functional appearance

TECH SPECS

Type Standmount

Sensitivity n/a

Impedance n/a

Max power handling 600W

Biwirable No

Finishes 1

Dimensions 32 x 49 x 39cm

Sound and Vision we don’t make a habit of covering studio-orientated equipment, but in the case of Focal’s SM9s we’ve made

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