Welcome to the Best Floorstanding Speakers section of the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for Summer 2022.
The Guide is more than “We heartily endorse this [fill in the blank].” This collection represents our enthusiasm. Every product listed in this guide is beloved by at least one team member. These products have elicited responses such as “I was gobsmacked every minute I spent with this” or “The shipping box was wet with the tears of my lost innocence” or, too often, just “Take my money!” In other words, this isn’t about high-end audio products that we merely like. These are the products we love — and we think you will, too.
No list like this can ever be complete since we’re bound to forget something that has duly impressed the heck out of us. We’ve attempted to capture a moment in time — one year — and collect together, in one place, all of those products that we want to have and hold and use in our own systems right now.
If you’re looking for our list of “the best stuff to check out right now” — the best loudspeakers, CD players, amplifiers, turntables, cartridges, preamplifiers, DACs and more — this is it.
The Best Floorstanding Speakers
These entries represent the best floorstanding speakers we’ve heard. They are organized by price in ascending order. Enjoy!
Sonus faber Lumina III ($2,199 pr USD)
A pair of Sonus faber 3-way towers, made in Italy, and retailing for just $2,200? There has to be a mistake somewhere, but there isn’t. The new Lumina line from Sonus faber is this affordable because the construction of the cabinets is so simple–right angles everywhere. The flagship Lumina III floorstanding speakers will make you scratch your head because you still get gorgeous veneers, real Sonus faber drivers and a real Sonus faber sound. A Best Value Award winner for 2020.
Bowers and Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary ($2,300 pr USD)
This is the anniversary edition of the seventh generation of this floor-stander, bestowed with an updated crossover with improved parts quality. Aesthetically, we have never been as impressed with a simple black tower speaker as we are with this “rather executive and smartly finished” look. B&W has managed to “create a speaker that is immediately compelling to listen to with what could be considered the widest variety of music that real people enjoy most frequently—twentieth century rock-n-roll.”
Vandersteen 2CE Signature MkIII ($3,279 pr USD stands included)
Now in its 8th generation, the new Vandersteen Model 2Ce Signature III marks over forty-three years of being in the conversation when it comes to genuine audiophile loudspeakers. Forget that it’s always been a tremendous value, the Model 2 has always been a contender and perennial favorite with audiophile journalists and most importantly those (like Eric Franklin Shook) who own a pair. The new Model 2Ce Signature III receives an even more purified signal path by removal of its contour controls. Along with a new circuit-board and improved components, this is promised to be the best clarity and transparency yet in a Model 2.
Charney Audio Maestro X (starting at $4,400 pr USD)
After enjoying the original single-driver, high-efficiency Charney Audio Maestros, we loved everything about them except for their inability to energize large rooms without unconventional placements. Brian Charney came up with the new X (extreme) version, which sports a deeper cabinet and the ability to use several 8″ drivers from Voxativ, Lii and more. “These are some great examples of full-range drivers coupled into a sophisticated cabinet that will work well in a wide range of listening environments.” A Reviewers Choice winner.
Spatial Audio Lab M3 Sapphire (starting at $4,950 pr USD)
Another pair of floorstanding speakers, this one an open-baffle design, that has most of the PTA staff crushing hard. The Spatial Audio M3 is so reasonably priced for the sound you get–rich, expansive and fabulous with voices. (“Spatial” is truly an appropriate name for this company.) The proper set-up takes some patience, but once everything is dialed in: “They make startlingly realistic, soul-stirring music.” An Editor’s Choice winner.
Volti Audio RAZZ (starting at $5,900 pr USD)
If you think Volti Audio’s Rival is a great loudspeaker that starts under $10K, you should take a listen to the new entry-level RAZZ for a little more than half of that amount. The RAZZ is as dynamic and engrossing as any of Greg Robert’s horn designs, surprisingly so at this price point. (Name another speaker that does so much for $6K.) These are undoubtedly outstanding party speakers–they energize a room like nobody’s business–but they also check off the audiophile boxes of superb imaging and soundstaging and tonal balance. Satisfying on a number of levels, and an Editor’s Choice winner.
Fern & Roby Raven III ($8,500 pr USD)
Slotted between the Raven and Raven II full-range speakers from this charismatic Virginia-based company, the Raven IIIs have attractive proportions, a truly gorgeous solid wood enclosure made from American walnut and the ability to match well with both low-powered and high-powered amplification. The Raven III also uses a new SEAS full-range driver that was co-designed with F&B, providing a slightly more detailed sound. A Reviewers Choice winner.
Trenner & Friedl Osiris ($8,900 pr USD)
The Austrian-built Osiris may occupy the low-to-middle slot in the Trenner & Friedl line, but they’re so good that they made $35,000 worth of Mactone amplifiers sing like Julie Andrew on the top of some hill. The theme of the Osiris is balance, and they do qualify as an “all-arounder,” but the superb coherence of this speaker should not be understated. An Editor’s Choice winner.
Volti Audio Rival (starting at $8,900 pr USD)
This three-way horn-loaded loudspeaker was designed by Volti Audio’s Greg Roberts to come close to the performance of the massive Vittoras at a much more approachable price, and with a more forgiving footprint. What’s special about the Rivals is how fun they are – they’re dynamic, they’re dynamic, and they’re really dynamic. Music can just leap out of nowhere, and the result startles and delights. They also can create a stunningly precise image, with all the audiophile trimmings, and have the unnerving tendency to completely disappear. Utterly addicting. Upgrades to the finish, and new outboard crossovers, are available for a modest upcharge.
Nola Champ S3 ($12,500 pr USD with ball-bearing bases)
The latest design from hi-fi legends Carl and Marilyn Marchisotto, the 3.5-way, five driver Champ S3 delivers a big spacious sound with plenty of power and dynamics and yet they can sound perfectly delicate and natural when needed. The open baffle design also creates an airy, expansive treble with superb balance and a fantastically big sweet spot. The roller-ball base option provides more stable images and deeper, tighter low frequencies. A Reviewers Choice Award winner.
Focal Kanta No. 2 ($9,990 pr USD)
This beautiful Focal speaker is rare for “balancing several disparate parts, a metal dome tweeter, with soft cones, a 3-way complex crossover, but high efficiency.” It’s a surprising mix for such a coherent speaker, especially when you consider its undeniable dynamic punch. “This speaker is proof that the heyday of large, multi-way floorstanders isn’t over; it is perhaps in its golden age,” we concluded.
Sonus faber Olympica Nova II ($10,000 pr USD)
These three-way towers from Sonus faber’s newish Nova Olympica line offer superb, organic bass and a relatively soft treble that still doesn’t come up short in the the “sparkle” department. “The sound is really very refined and the midrange is just stunningly good for a speaker at the $10,000/pair level,” we concluded.
Qln Prestige Three (starting at $10,000 pr USD)
We’ve been drooling over the Swedish-built Qln Prestige Threes, especially with Vinnie Rossi amplification, for a few years now. Once we tested these floorstanding speakers, we didn’t want to give them back. The Qlns throw up a huge sound, warm and yet crystalline, and you’ll stare in disbelief when you hear these very petite towers in action. We felt they did so many things exceptionally well, that we suggested that many different types of listeners will find them to be “all they need.” An Editor’s Choice winner.
Marten Oscar Trio ($10,995 pr USD)
These Swedish towers from Marten sounded fast, detailed, accurate and resolving to our ears, combined with “a special soulful something heard in nearly every recording…a cozy feeling of rightness.” The ceramic drivers have incredible low levels of distortion, which indulged us with sublime overall sound during evaluation. A stand-out at the $10K level, these beautiful loudspeakers are also a Reviewer’s Choice winner.
Fern & Roby Raven ($12,500 pr USD)
The Fern & Roby single-driver, beautifully made speakers are certainly a “lifestyle product,” but only in the sense that they enrich your life through sheer pride of ownership. The SEAS Exotic full-range driver has one of the widest frequency responses we’ve experienced, causing us to exclaim that “after some time, they start to reflect you and who you want to be when you go home at night and listen to music.” We gave them the Editor’s Choice Award.
TotalDAC d100 (starting at 12,800 pr EU)
These large speakers from France are a 2.5-way high-efficiency (98 dB) design with two 12″ woofers (the upper driver handles the midrange as well) and a “constant directivity horn” to handle to high frequencies. With its large dimensions and horns, you might be tricked into thinking these towers need a big room with a lot of space, so we were surprised by its superb top-to-bottom balance even in fairly small listening spaces. “These dark and mysterious French strangers knew what to say and how to say it–they are superb full-range speakers that are well worth the cost.”
Atohm GT-3 ($12,995 pr USD)
These French towers, from a company that makes all of its own drivers, are unusually easy to set up and optimize thanks to adjustable settings for the bass and treble. Most of all, we felt the GT-3 was a music lover’s speaker “waves a magic fairy wand and just makes stuff sound good, so it’s not great as a reviewing tool as you find yourself wrapped up in the music.” A Reviewers Choice winner.
Sonus faber Maxima Amator ($15,000 pr USD)
“Both wildly beautiful and understated with its simple, clean lines,” this handmade Italian two-way tower is a feast for all of the senses. This was a project long considered by Sonus faber, a floorstanding two-way made from a solid wood enclosure only made possible through modern CNC technology–all affixed to a one-of-a-kind Italian marble bass. “Heartbreakingly beautiful finishes and materials, the small footprint, the huge sound, and all the warmth and hope of my favorite music preserved in a way that makes [us] remember how this music sounded on the Amators, and nothing else,” we concluded. A Reviewer’s Choice winner, as well as the 2021 Product of the Year.
DeVore Fidelity Gibbon X ($15,890 pr USD)
We’ve enjoyed many of DeVore Fidelity’s Brooklyn-based loudspeaker designs in the past, but we felt that the new Gibbon X, which we dubbed “Weapon X,” was a “show-stopper.” The X is so revealing that you’ll be tempted to feed your system only the best recordings so you can fill your “heart, mind, body and soul with the music of the spheres.” We couldn’t find a speaker that offered more for the money, so we kept them and gave them an Editor’s Choice Award.
Qln Prestige Five ($17,500 pr USD)
Qln’s Prestige Five, along with the smaller Prestige Three, were so compelling that our reviewer wound up buying both pairs for himself. It’s no surprise that the PTA team is completely enamored with this Swedish speaker manufacturer, and the Five is the most ambitious design we’ve heard from them–so much bass comes out of these still-petite enclosures that you’ll shake your head in disbelief. “Great imaging qualities and dynamic speed with an added something that gets us closer to the music,” we concluded, giving them a Reviewer’s Choice award.
Wilson Audio SabrinaX ($18,500 pr USD)
Wilson Audio is bringing some of our favorite innovations from the WAMM, XVX, Sasha DAW, Alexia Series-2 down to their new entry level Wilson Audio SabrinaX loudspeaker. The new SabrinaX receives an exponential upgrade with a mass infusion of X-Material, a Synergy MK5 tweeter, a new woofer, new ports, new hardware, and custom capacitors. We noted that this is “a carefully crafted design that packs an enormous amount of the tech and sound reproduction embodied in its far more expensive siblings.”
Sonus faber Serafino Tradition ($22,900 pr USD)
This Italian loudspeaker company is known for its gorgeous craftsmanship and visually striking designs, and we thought the Serafino was an undeniable beauty—both “modern and lux.” A large speaker, the Sonus faber Serafino is deft with all musical styles, but masterful with voices. This is the stuff of desire and dreams; they define the idea of “pride of ownership.”
Von Schweikert Audio ESE ($25,000 pr USD)
Combining Leif Swanson’s affordable Endeavor Audio designs with drivers and technology culled from Von Scheikert Audio’s awesome Ultra speakers line—such as anodized aluminum woofer cones, a Kevlar midrange and a Beryllium tweeter—the ESE is entirely capable of providing full-range sound in almost any room. The ESE offers a big chunk of the dynamic sound of the Ultra 9 and Ultra 11 speakers for around one-tenth the price. An Editor’s Choice award winner.
Dynaudio Confidence 50 ($27,000 pr USD)
Fussy to set-up, especially when it comes to getting the deepest bass honest, these “Danish leviathans” can do the big and loud thing impressively. The Dynaudio Confidence 50s do require a large room to really reach their potential, but at the end of the review period we wondered how we could possibly “go back to the presentation of a smaller pair of speakers.”
Audiovector R 6 Arrete ($35,000 pr USD)
These large Danish speakers from Audiovector achieved an almost perfect score on the listenability/accuracy matrix, providing a “sumptuous aural feast that was very easy to fall in love with.” We also found the R 6 Arrete to be an ideal speaker for hi-rez digital since it “LOVED getting a clean, dynamically punchy, recording fed to them.”
Acora Acoustics SRC-2 ($37,000 pr USD)
At least two members of the PTA staff felt these granite speakers from Acora Acoustics created some of the best sound they’ve heard anywhere, which led to only the third Summit Award we’ve handed out, and the first for a loudspeaker. Getting audiophiles to agree on the best pair of loudspeakers is fraught, but most of the PTA staff has heard these very special Canadian speakers from Valerio Cora and we agree that the emotional connections that are made with the SRC-2s are sublime. Very worthy of your attention.
Wilson Audio Sasha DAW ($37,950 pr USD)
This design from Wilson Audio, the first released after the passing of its founder, is a complete re-working of the previous Sasha—although these improvements bring it closer to the more expensive Alexia. We felt that this might be the Wilson speaker “you fall in love with,” especially if you’re dealing with a normal-sized listening room. Accurate time alignment, impressive dynamics and deep bass response define the Sasha—these may be the best floorstanding speakers from Wilson ever.
TIDAL Audio Piano G2 ($49,000 pr USD)
If they’re good enough for our publisher Scot Hull, do we need to say more? The Piano uses the very same Accuton 30mm pure diamond diaphragm tweeter like from their top models. Not only it is the biggest diamond tweeter in the world, TIDAL Audio also was the very first company at all using a 30mm diamond tweeter. It’s not often that you find the same drivers shared throughout a line of speakers from entry level tower, on up to the flagship offering.
TIDAL Audio Contriva G2 ($69,000 pr USD)
Doug White of The Voice That Is has been tempting us with TIDAL Audio loudspeakers since the very beginning. Have we really heard anything better than the speakers from TIDAL Audio? No. We hear things that are different, but never anything any of us would dare call better. The best fun fact about TIDAL Audio speakers is that the same drivers appear up and down the line, so when shopping for TIDAL Audio speakers you just pick the size that best works for your room. How cool is that?
Von Schweikert Audio Ultra 55 (from $100,000 pr USD)
The new “entry-level” model in VSA’s extraordinary Ultra line still features Accuton ceramic drivers, a beryllium ScanSpeak tweeter, a rear-firing Raal ribbon that captures ambient detail and an optional booster amp for the dual 9″ woofers. “There are plenty of bigger, flashier, seemingly alien tech-based, flavor of the year loudspeakers out there,” we concluded. “The Ultra 55 however, is the marrying kind.” A Reviewers Choice Award winner.
Wilson Audio Alexx V (starting at $135,000 pr USD)
The Wilson Audio Alexx V is unveiling details deep in the wax of our favorite recordings, surfacing things we haven’t heard in the past in Senior Contributor Mohammed Samji’s reference room. The Alexx V brings forward many of the innovations seen in the larger Chronosonic XVX to a smaller footprint and adds a few new tricks including a 3D printed carbon fiber tweeter enclosure. Dynamics, tonality, and detail are all elevated vs the prior Alexx and the smaller Alexia Series-2. These towering speakers can play loud or whisper with a noise floor not experienced previously. This might be the best Wilson speaker we have ever auditioned. A Reviewer’s Choice Award winner.
None of the PTA staff has been able to bribe Von Schweikert Audio’s Damon Von Schweikert or Leif Swanson for a long-term review pair, but we’re all thinking about asking our banks for a modest loan. We’ve spent so much time with these massive state-of-the-art speakers at various high-end audio shows that we feel like know them and understand the very few limitations they have as transducers. Most audiophiles can argue all day about the best floorstanding speakers out there, but things get eerily quiet when someone brings up the Ultra 11 or its smaller sibling, the Ultra 9 and the newest Ultra 7. You have to hear these for yourself–words won’t do them justice.