2018 Golden Ear Awards: Robert E. Greene

Equipment report
Audiokinesis Swarm Subwoofer System,
Moerch DP-8,
Stirling Broadcast LS3/6
2018 Golden Ear Awards: Robert E. Greene

Stirling Broadcast LS3/6 loudspeaker
These speakers are the contemporary redesign by Derek Hughes of a BBC model of decades ago. The original was derived directly from the Spendor BC1, which was designed by Derek Hughes’ father Spencer Hughes. When I first encountered this new version, I was immediately struck by its smooth and neutral tonality, and also by its surprising articulateness in the midrange. From my review: “The midrange itself remains in the top echelon for a combination of clarity, resolution, and neutrality.” Later, I looked into whether this clarity and resolution were attached to identifiable measured technical aspects. Something did turn up. The “waterfall” of the LS3/6 has a faster initial decay in the midrange than almost any other speaker, and a lot faster than most of them. The LS3/6 leaves most of the competition, even the very high-priced competition, at the post for clean midrange decay. This is not an accident. Making the sound decay correctly is part of the whole BBC-school viewpoint on speaker design.

Perhaps it seems unlikely a priori that a relatively inexpensive speaker could be at the very edge of the technical state of the art in something as important as midrange resolution, as well as in smoothness of response, but you can check for yourself, both in measurements and in listening. Real engineering, mind over money!

AudioKinesis Swarm subwoofer system
$3000, including amplification
There are reasons, both theoretical and experimental, to hand bass off to a number of speakers larger than two. A pair of Godzilla floorstanders with deep bass built into the speakers by nature handle bass less well than a system like the Swarm, which has four speakers that can be placed at asymmetric positions around the room. The Swarm was inspired by the ideas and demonstrations of acoustician Earl Geddes. Floyd Toole has also recommended such distributed subwoofer systems. And no wonder. They work better. Bass from the Swarm is smoother over the room as a whole, and the resulting system is quite startlingly convincing in reproducing the bass signature of the recording venue as opposed to that of your listening room. Combine the Swarm with the Stirling Broadcast LS3/6s to get a system that works at the highest level, and at a modest price compared to the gigantic floorstanders.

Moerch DP-8 tonearm
$4995, chrome finish; $5895, gold finish
To work right, a tonearm needs low “mass” (moment of inertia, actually) in the vertical direction to track warps without wow, and high “mass” in the horizontal plane to reproduce truly deep bass all the way down (bass is recorded almost entirely horizontally on records). The Moerch DP-8 arranges this via an ingenious system using outrigger weights to either side of the pivot point. The result is bass reproduction that will redefine your idea of what is actually on records in the low frequencies, both in extension and in definition. Only tangential trackers, which offer other ways to control vertical and horizontal moments of inertia and Max Townshend’s front trough damping are comparable. The Moerch is a superb tonearm in other respects as well, with no audible resonant signature and the advantage of interchangeable ’arm tubes for matching to cartridges. And in the bass, the Moerch is not just a little better than other ’arms, it is a lot better. This bass business is demonstrably real, and musically important, too. In this whole wide world there is only one that does the bass right, and this is the one.