Thirty-five years of trying to find a satisfying speaker has been by far the objective with which I have made the most mistakes in my Audiophile life, although at the same time I have enjoyed most of them as well.
The first speakers I owned after high school were small Advent’s. They went in the windows of my dorm room; you could turn them around and they would play outside for all to hear. Then, both a good and bad thing happened. I discovered ‘Stereophile’ and ‘The Absolute Sound’. At the time they were small journals with no ads and had very long-winded reviews. The writing of Harry Pearson enthralled me and when he said that I could get near state of the art sound from two pairs of large Advent’s, I started saving.
First, I purchased a single pair; and then a second pair. They were surely not the last word in transparency or soundstaging, but I had never heard of it neither and they were a whole lot of fun to listen to.
The only problem was that just before I moved out of the dorms, I heard Ken Askew’s pair of quad 57’s, and that sound kept haunting me as it would for years to come. They had transparency in spades whether I had ever heard of the word or not. I have now come to discover that transparency is one of the two things I value most in a hifi, the other being correct tonal balance.
So, eventually I sold the Advent’s and purchased a used pair of Quad 57’s. I loved them more dearly than any other speaker I have ever owned, but found them very frustrating. I even purchased a second pair and stacked them. I thought these would be my speakers forever, and in some ways they should have been.
I got married and we moved and there was no place for the monoliths, so I started down the road of trying to find a box speaker that sounded like the Quad’s. I settled on another English speaker: I purchased a pair of KEF 104’s. They weren’t Quads, but they were nice. They had that great English way of getting the tonal balance right.
Then we moved again, and I should have gotten a single pair of used Quad’s, but instead I tried a pair of Dalquist which I owned until we moved from Texas. Upon moving across the country into a tiny house, I sold the Dalquist and started over. I tried two mini-monitors. Because of the KEF’s, I did not choose to go with Spendor, KEF’s, or Rogers.
No, I tried the QLN’s, those that looked like Darth Vader’s head. Because of the huge popularity of Wilson speakers, we are now all familiar with that look. At the time, they just looked very different to most people. They were position on stands on either end of the sofa. I actually had someone ask if they could turn the lamps on. Then I went for a full Linn/Naim system, but all I could afford was the entry level electronics and speakers; the Linn table, arm and cartridge took all my money. So I ended up with Linn Kans on either end of that sofa.
We finally got out of that tiny house, so it was time for some larger speakers. The Quad 63’s had come out and I was disappointment; the 63’s were not my cup of tea. I tried to like them, but they always left me wanting something from the 57’s, and I had been down that road. I really liked the Martin Logan CLS’s but never could convince myself to buy a pair.
So, with my new space I tried a pair of Spica Angelus, several model of Klipsch’s. These speakers, while not working out in the long run, let me experiment with SET amps. After a few years of these speakers and inexpensive SET’s, I moved to the San Francisco Bay area.
After moving to California I got lucky and met Joe of the former JC Audio. It turned out that Joe was more audiophile than audio businessman, and for a few years I got to listen to a lot of great speakers and gear. For a short time, I left SET’s for the big and glorious 100-watt, pure Class A Kora amps. During this time, the speakers I had settle on were the wonderful Gershman speakers. These were what I was listening to, but always missing the magic of the SET’s and the midrange of the Quad 57’s.
Then I heard the Audio Note system. You’ve got to move up above the bottom of the line a little to get the magic, and I settled on the pair of AN-E SE’s that cost $8400 and I was happier than I had been in 30 years of audio. I have now discovered another speaker I like a little better, the Ikonoklast Model 3’s.
Nothing prepares you for the sound of these two speakers. The Audio Note’s look mundane, even in the beautiful finishes Peter offers. The Ikonoklast look small and a bit unusual, though my wife likes their looks a lot. Oh but that sound that comes out of a well broken-in, well set-up pair of these is beyond words. They stir my emotions and sound more like live music than any other speakers I have ever heard except for the big Shindo’s. They are both beyond what I had come to think of as transparency and clarity.
These speakers will let you hear all the glory of what it is that so excites people about great SET Amps. They also have rhythm and timing that is uncanny in how lifelike they let music be in your room.
I spent a lot of years looking for something that had that old magic of the Quad’s and the dynamics of the Klipsch and bass that was quick, deep, and had air enough to sound like music. Just pair these with a great SET and they bring a miracle into your room.
Well that’s a little bit of my journey with speakers. Good luck to our readers, too, I hope you find speakers that let you keep boppin’ to the music.
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