Standmount Loudspeakers Group Test 2021

ALL SIX OF this month’s contenders are given a few hours of general running-in time before testing begins in earnest to discern toe-in and proximity to the rear wall, and those speakers that have bungs are tested both with and without them in place.

The speakers are placed on a pair of Partington Dreadnought stands (the exception to this being the Q Acoustics, which is tested on its own stand in the manner of how it is sold) before levels are set with a pink noise test tone and by checking the voltage at the speaker terminals with a meter. The real-world sensitivity differences between the six cabinets here is sufficiently small that only relatively fine adjustment is required

With this done, the test programme is played from a Melco N1A controlled via Roon Nucleus and wired directly to Chord Electronics’s 2Go.

The six speakers are tested back to back before a process of returning to specific models playing certain tracks to identify initially noted strengths and weaknesses. With this done, the cabinets also enjoy a few hours of more general listening to help further identify their overall character and performance traits. As with all our Group Tests, as well as their out-and-out performance, the design, build, price and overall feel of the contenders is taken into consideration when establishing the final placing.

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Recommended
Standmount Loudspeakers Group Test 2021

Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signature

A tweaked and beautified version of the existing 705 S2, the 705 Signature boasts an updated crossover with specially selected components, all wrapped in a special ‘Datuk’ ebony gloss finish.

Beautifully finished and superbly capable, this works well in most systems.
More info +
10
EXCELLENT
Recommended
FYNE AUDIO F1-5 Review
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Fyne Audio F1.5

The smallest member of the flagship F Series (and the smallest in the test), the F1.5 uses a 125mm mid/ bass driver with a 19mm magnesium dome tweeter with a unique downward firing port arrangement.

Small but impressive performer capable of exceptional imaging and fluency
More info +
9
EXCELLENT
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JBL HDI-1600

The most affordable and largest speaker here uses JBLs classic horn-loaded tweeter – designed to give the most even dispersion possible – mated with a 165mm aluminium matrix mid/bass driver.

An impressive performance that’s not without some quirks
More info +
8
EXCELLENT
Recommended
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PMC twenty 5.21i

The smallest member of the twenty5i range, the 21i’s tweeter crosses over to the 140mm mid/bass at an extremely low 1.7kHz. Bass is augmented by a 168cm transmission line in the classic PMC tradition.

Entertaining and potent, it rewards with a sensibly matched system
More info +
9
EXCELLENT
Recommended
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Q Acoustics Concept 300

The standmount version of the flagship Concept Series combines a radical constrained layer damping cabinet with enhanced versions of the company’s famed soft dome tweeter and doped paper driver.

Extremely detailed and spacious, lacks a touch of excitement, but looks fascinating
More info +
9
EXCELLENT
Best buy
Standmount Loudspeakers Group Test 2021
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Spendor Classic 3/1

The second smallest member of the Spendor Classic range employs a rolled surround tweeter and EP77 mid/bass driver in a cabinet that is designed in the manner of Spendor designs of old.

The traditional looks hide a superbly talented and engaging speaker
More info +
10
EXCELLENT
1
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Group test verdict

An exceptionally capable selection of standmount speakers, all with some singular talents. Ed Selley picks his winner

THE LEVEL OF ability on display in this group is unusually high and results in some unique scoring as a result. Pointing out that the JBL has the most apparent limitations in its performance has to be done at the same time as noting it costs at least £ less than any other speaker in the group and that its treble is near the top of the pack.

After much deliberation, I find myself unable to split the Fyne Audio, PMC and Q Acoustics. These are three very different speakers, but their capabilities are all worthy of note. The Fyne’s superb spaciousness, three-dimensionality and excellent tonality is tempered by the slight lack of scale, but it’s a very engaging speaker. The Q Acoustics on the other hand wants for nothing in terms of weight and impact and it also creates a fine stereo image, although the slight lack of emotional involvement might be an issue for some. The PMC, on the other hand, is rather more fun and hits very hard for such a compact speaker, but care needs to be taken to ensure it doesn’t come across as a little too forward with poorer-quality recordings. All three of these speakers, if partnered with any degree of care, though, should be able to delight.

The Bowers & Wilkins is a very successful amalgam of all of these different abilities into a single, hugely impressive speaker. It manages to combine accuracy, scale and spaciousness without losing the sense of engagement that has you wanting to keep listening and it’s also beautifully made. Only a fractional hardness to the top end and some limitations to the stereo image prevent it from taking the top spot, but it’s a superb performer nonetheless.

The Spendor Classic 3/1 isn’t as pretty as the B&W, but the performance is a truly sensational blend of accuracy, scale, refinement and sheer unadulterated fun. It’s also beautifully made and admirably unfussy about placement and partnering equipment.

REFERENCE SYSTEM
NETWORK STREAMER: Chord Electronics Hugo 2/2Go
The addition of the 2Go to the Hugo 2 results in a compact and extremely capable network streamer that has the added bonus of an additional volume control to make fine level matching in the test as simple as possible. The exceptionally transparent performance of the Hugo2 also makes for an excellent piece  of test equipment.
INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER: Naim Supernait 3
Naim’s largest integrated is ideal for testing as the 80W of claimed output is more than up to driving any of the speakers here and the latest refinements to the circuit improve the soundstage without impinging on the traditional Naim virtues, making this an amp that balances grunt and refinement to excellent effect.
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PLAYBACK SOFTWARE: Roon
Roon remains the gold standard of music software. It’s easy to quickly browse through a sizeable library and select the material you need, including being able to pick content from streaming services, assemble it into a playlist and have it ready to go as many times as you need it.
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INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER: Cyrus i7-XR
The i7-XR is an impressive step forward for Cyrus, taking everything that the company has traditionally done well, ironing out some of the rough edges and offering a package with a superbly comprehensive specification.
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TURNTABLE: Vertere DG-1
The Vertere looks unusual, but it’s a superb set of technical solutions to the business of building an affordable (by Vertere standards anyway) turntable that delivers sensational performance in an easy-to-use package.
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MAINS CONDITIONER: iFi Audio PowerStation
The PowerStation is an excellent mains conditioner. It delivers a meaningful improvement over more conventional mains devices and combines this with some useful and well- implemented additional features.
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LABI SIFFRE
The Vulture
Remember My Song (16/44.1 FLAC)
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AGNES OBEL 
Fuel to Fire
Aventine (24/48 FLAC)
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GREGORY PORTER
Revival
All Rise (Deluxe) (24/96 FLAC)
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HAYLEY WILLIAMS
Simmer
Petals For Armour (24/96 FLAC)
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