Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Though best known for such premium luxury speakers as the models populating its Utopia and Sopra lines, France’s Focal offers speakers in many price categories. In September 2019, Focal introduced the Chora line with the release of the 806 minimonitor and the 816 and 826 floorstanders. The Choras comprise Focal’s newest series of affordable speakers, slotting between the Aria 900 and Chorus 700 lines. The Choras’ main-speaker prices start at $990/pair (all prices USD), for the Chora 806.

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Italy’s Sonus Faber has a well-earned, decades-old reputation for producing speakers that not only sound great, but are some of the most beautiful and luxurious-looking in the world. Unfortunately, not every audiophile has pockets deep enough to experience the upper echelons of Sonus Faber’s model range.

Sonus Faber describes itself as an “Artisan of Sound,” and a glance at their website reveals how much effort they put into physically crafting their loudspeakers -- from their least expensive speaker all the way up to the Aida ($130,000/pair, all prices USD). When, in June of 2019, I reviewed their Sonetto Wall speaker ($1199 each), the high-gloss black finish of my review samples was so seamless that each speaker looked as if carved from a block of solid ebony.

Reviewers' ChoiceRecently wowed by French manufacturer Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique’s Borea BR03 minimonitor, I wasn’t shy in expressing my admiration in a May 2020 review. Now in my listening room is the BR03’s floorstanding big brother, the three-way, four-driver Borea BR08 ($1399/pair, all prices USD). I looked forward to this review -- it had been a while since I’d heard a budget floorstander that impressed me, and I wondered if the Borea BR08 would deliver the BR03’s exciting sound and exceptional value.

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Monitor Audio, founded in 1972, is part of the UK’s rich history of high-quality hi-fi design. Recently, Monitor launched the latest iteration of their affordable line of Bronze loudspeaker models, now in its sixth generation. The Bronzes have been completely redesigned for, per Monitor, superior sound and build quality.

It sounded simple enough. Our esteemed editor-in-chief, Jeff Fritz, asked me to contact NAD to request a review sample of their C 588 turntable ($899 USD). I did, and almost immediately, NAD rep Peter Hoagland told me he would arrange for NAD’s parent company, Lenbrook Industries, to ship me a C 588 from their HQ in Pickering, Ontario. A few days later the C 588 arrived.

Reviewers' ChoiceThe Austrian manufacturer Pro-Ject Audio Systems was founded in 1991 by Heinz Lichtenegger. His first product was the Pro-Ject 1 turntable, launched as an antidote to that era’s CD players, which still suffered from poor sound quality. Pro-Ject now makes an extensive line of turntables, some with USB outputs and built-in phono stages, and over the years has gradually expanded its offerings to tonearms, loudspeakers, accessories, cables, and electronics such as amplifiers -- even CD players. Today, their range of products is one of the widest I’ve seen -- you name it, chances are they make it at one of their two factories, one each in the Czech Republic (turntables) and Slovakia (electronics).

I try not to take being an audio reviewer for granted. I examine, live with, and, most important, hear many audio products -- things most people don’t get to do. And I am never more aware of my privileged position than when I get my hands on a special edition -- models that manufacturers produce, often in limited numbers, to commemorate an anniversary or other occasion, and that typically are made to look and sound quite distinct. In this case, my privilege was to be one of the first reviewers to get their hands on the new Menuet SE (for Special Edition) minimonitor ($1799/pair, all prices USD), which its maker, DALI, expects to keep in production for a limited time.

Although Fyne Audio was founded in Scotland only three years ago, in 2017, they boast that their team has, collectively, “over 200 years’ experience” in all aspects of loudspeaker design and manufacture. Their website offers few details, but it’s my understanding that the design team mostly comprises people who used to work for Tannoy, plus a few from other UK speaker makers. A quick glance at their various models makes it obvious that not only do Fyne speakers pack a lot of leading-edge tech, they look the parts of high-end speakers.

As I looked at Music Hall Audio’s Classic turntable, there came to mind an old auto-racing adage: “If it looks right, it is right.” To this grizzled audio vet, the Classic looks right. But would it work right?