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Speakers

A tale of two terrific tower speakers -- wired and wireless -- and the winner is...?

The Audiophiliac compares the wireless Raumfeld Stereo L with the wired Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 tower speakers.

This review is CNET Senior Associate Editor Ty Pendlebury's idea -- he brought in the Raumfeld Stereo L wireless tower speakers and suggested I give them a try. I liked them well enough, but I also wanted to compare the Stereo Ls with a set of wired Pioneer SP-EFS73 tower speakers. The contest proved interesting, as we shall see.

The Stereo L is pretty big -- it's 45 inches high, and if you remove the grille you'll spot a 1-inch dome tweeter, 5-inch coated cellulose midrange driver and two 6.5-inch carbon woofers along with a bass port hidden on the bottom panel. The Stereo L's electronics, including a total of 400 watts of Class D power amplification, are housed in the left-channel speaker (a wire connects the left speaker to the right one). There are USB, Ethernet and RCA stereo analog inputs; I used the latter hooked up to the preamplifier outputs of a NAD C 356BEE stereo integrated amplifier for most of my listening tests. Stereo L speakers are sold on Amazon for $2,400 a pair, which includes shipping for Amazon Prime customers.

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Raumfeld Stereo L speakers

Teufel Audio

The Stereo L samples were decked out in a gorgeous matte-black lacquer finish and are also available in satin white. With the Raumfeld App you can stream music from USB storage devices, NAS drives or stream music from smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android), and you can stream Google Play, Deezer, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, SoundCloud, Napster or access radio stations via TuneIn. I'm no expert when it comes to wireless speakers' ease of use, but Ty seemed happy with the Stereo L's ergonomics. From what I heard, ever so briefly, Wi-Fi or wired, the Stereo Ls sound the same.

The Stereo Ls are the only powered speakers I've tested that let you use either their internal amplifiers, or bypass the amps and play the speakers with an external power amp. Cool, but I have no idea why anyone would spend the extra money on an external amp. The sound changed little when I compared the sound of Stereo Ls powered with its own amps vs. the NAD C 356BEE amp.

The Stereo Ls have a big and brawny sound -- they like to party! If you crave loud you've come to the right place. And ditto for bass lovers: the Stereo Ls' prodigious bottom end output is deeply satisfying. I popped on some ESG (a South Bronx funk band from the early 1990s) tunes, and the Stereo Ls sprang to life. Encouraged by what I heard, I pumped up the volume and the grooves were even more intense! Then I played a mix of things, including some African pop recordings, and the Stereo Ls continued to impress. However, with acoustic music I suspected the Stereo Ls were lacking in clarity, so that's when I decided to compare the Stereo Ls with a pair of Pioneer SP-EFS73 tower speakers ($1,328 per pair).

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The Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 tower (left), and Raumfeld Stereo L (right)

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

It was easy to see and hear that the Stereo L cast a bigger, more imposing presence in the CNET listening room than the smaller SP-EFS73, but the latter was considerably clearer and more spacious sounding than the Stereo Ls. I preferred the SP-EFS73s' more transparent sound, but you might find the sound too lean, and opt for the fuller sounding Stereo Ls.

With Roger Waters' "Amused To Death" high-resolution, audio-only Blu-ray, the SP-EFS73 towers unleashed a more three-dimensional soundstage than the flatter Stereo Ls. The SP-EFS73 couldn't match the Stereo Ls' rock-and-roll stamina, but it wasn't that far behind. In the end, I felt the SP-EFS73s' superior clarity put them over the top, but I admired the Stereo Ls more muscular sound.

So if wireless operation is a priority, the Stereo L would be a fine choice. If you can deal with speaker wires and buying a stereo integrated amp, I recommend the Pioneer SP-EFS73 towers.