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Dazzling audio designs from Europe and the U.S.

The best of today's high-end audio not only has to sound great, it has to look the part.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
The Elipson Planet L speaker Elipson

Unless you're a regular reader of hi-fi magazines, you're probably unaware of some of the most innovative designs coming out of Europe and America. That's why from time to time I highlight a small sampling of the exotic high-end gear that catches my fancy. I think it's a shame that the major consumer electronics brands like Denon, Pioneer, and Sony are content to sell only the blandest designs year after year.

The Elipson Planet L is an 11.4-inch spherical speaker available in red, white, or black painted lacquer finishes. A few other brands have dared to make spherical speakers, but Elipson claims to have been the first; they've been perfecting round speaker design for more than 70 years. The Planet L has received glowing reviews, and I think it looks great. Considering its small size, the Planet L can make a fair amount of bass. The speaker is the culmination of two years of research and development, and the Planet L is fitted with a special two-way woofer-tweeter driver. Elipson is based in France; L'Atelier Audio is the North American distributor.

The Kuzma turntable and tonearm Kuzma

The Kuzma Stabi S turntable's unique shape and construction provide an extremely rigid platform for its platter, bearing, and tonearm. The motor is housed in a separate tower to ensure the lowest possible background noise. The turntable's bearing is fabricated from highly polished, fine-grain carbon steel and has a one-point contact.

The Kuzma Stabi S and matching Stogi S tonearm have been in production for more than a decade. Kuzma turntables and tonearms are designed by Franc Kuzma; his small work force handles the machining, polishing, assembly etc. on-site and at various vendors in Preddvor, Slovenia. The turntable sells for $1,750, plus $1,000 for the Stogi S tonearm. Kuzma products are imported by Elite Audio Video Distribution.

The Jeff Rowland Design Group, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., has been making state of the art electronics for more than 30 years.

The Rowland Criterion preamplifier Jeff Rowland

In 1992, Jeff Rowland introduced his Model 9 monoblock amplifier, the world's first high-power amplifier to sport twin external rechargeable battery power supplies. Rowland has continued to refine his battery power supply technologies and their application to reference grade amplifiers and preamplifiers, like the new twin chassis Criterion preamplifier that sports a sophisticated DC power supply, driven by industrial grade NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) rechargeable batteries, which exceed the performance of conventional AC power supplies.

The Vienna Acoustics Kiss speaker takes a unique turn on industrial design. It's modular and its top and bottom elements pivot to accommodate room acoustics. The 95-pound speaker may look like a two-way design, but the top driver is actually a "coaxial" midrange/tweeter design; the lower cabinet houses the Kiss' woofer, making it a three-way speaker. Vienna Acoustics is based in, you guessed it, Vienna, Austria, but it's available here through a good number of U.S. dealers.

The Vienna Acoustics Kiss speaker Vienna Acoustics