13 Famous Speaker Brands - Part One - UK
Today we’ll be talking about some popular speaker brands in a 3-part series. We’ll briefly discuss the history and key achievements of some of the most legendary speaker companies in the United States and Europe. Our goal is to familiarize you with some of our favorite speaker brands and give you some insight into the evolution of great speakers!
The U.K. brings some luxurious brands to the table including Tannoy, B&W, Mission, Wharfedale, KEF, and Monitor Audio just to name a few. Some of the highlights of these British speaker companies is their attention to detail in music performance, an excellent manufacturing process, and a knack for excellent symphonic playback.
Tannoy is a world-famous loudspeaker manufacturer founded in 1926. Guy R Fountain founded the company to pursue creating radios that could be powered by alternating current instead of relying on batteries, which was the current standard. Guy registered his small garage company as “Tannoy” after the successful production of a rectifier made from Tantalum alloy. Immediately following the success of the rectifier, he started producing driver units as well as sound equipment including loudspeakers, microphones, test equipment becoming a well-known brand in Europe. One notable achievement in the audio world from Tannoy is the coaxial speaker. With an ideal phase characteristic, the coaxial speaker has remained virtually unchanged in concept for almost 80 years. Tannoy may be best known for the Fusion 4. It consists of two 6.5” woofers that provide extended and dynamic bass response while the 1” tweeter gives the listener a smooth and delicate frequency response, up to 20kHz, while maintaining a lively wide midrange.
Bowers & Wilkins has a long history of astonishing audio products. John Bowers began assembling speaker systems in his garage in the 1960’s and soon started his own speaker company. In 1966, they produced the P1 loudspeaker, which earned the company enough profit to invest in high quality calibration systems. Dubbed the BMW of the speaker world, B&W is known for producing amazing sound performance with an avant-garde design. The Nautilus is the masterpiece of B&W and is highly respected by critics all over the world, hailed as “the best speaker and hard to buy even with money.” Nautilus set a new standard for sound reproduction and opened a whole world for later loudspeaker designs.
Mission was founded in 1977 and could be considered a newcomer in the speaker world. The 770 series loudspeaker launched in 1978, which was one of the first to adopt the polypropylene speaker cone. Mission accomplished several other firsts in the audio industry including the introduction of the DC coupling singing arm and inverted unit loudspeaker in 1979, the first stage of DC power supply in 1981, and the fastest (at that time) transient MOSFET amplifier followed shortly after by the Sorbothane shock absorber development in 1983. Towards the end of the 1980’s, Mission had amassed a great amount of technology and adopted the polypropylene baffle design to produce the Mission 760 series. 1993 brought the introduction of the 75 series with the groundbreaking 753 floor-to-ground speakers. The 753 brought the horizontal folding box technology into full play winning numerous awards and becoming a milestone of tower style speakers. In 2001, Mission’s flagship product came to the table. The Pilastro features a 3-way 13-unit design that shocked the audio industry at its release. Since then, Mission has dedicated itself to producing superior yet more affordable products including its Elegante Series.
Wharfedale dates to 1932 when Gilbert Briggs built his first loudspeaker in the basement of his home in Yorkshire, England. Yorkshire is in the valley of the Wharfe River, so Wharfedale seemed to be a fitting name. A brand symbolic of high quality and technological advancement was born. Wharfedale played a large part in the development of driver units as well as the two-way speaker, Braided-loop bass unit, the foam folding bass unit, the rubber folding bass unit, the frequency divider, the ultra-thin loudspeaker electromagnetic assembly along with many other achievements. In 1964, Wharfedale produced the Neutral balanced series that featured the most accurate neutral tone and balance and brought the sound from the recording studio into the listener’s home. The Diamond series arrived in 1982 and featured a special streamlined box design and drive unit, quickly taking off as a hot seller around the globe with its refined, elegant, and efficient design. The following Sapphire and Emerald series were designed for the different levels of consumer home audio, which feature log boxes designed by computers.
Former BBC director of Engineering and Technology, Mr. Raymond Cooke, founded KEF or Kent Engineering & Foundry in 1961. KEF prides itself on its four pillars of success, which are quality, honesty, concentration, and innovation. The 1970’s brought the birth of the Reference series, a highly praised series of speakers that is still assembled by dedicated technicians. The Reference series demonstrates a rigorous attitude towards KEF’s quality control. Despite founder Raymond Cooke’s passing in 1996, the people of KEF continue to maintain the quality and creativity of their speakers.
These exceptional English speaker brands have advanced many areas of the loudspeaker industry. Their products and research and development have proven to stand the test of time with highly sought-after vintage speakers and created a new era of excitement in consumer and professional audio. Check back next week for part two where we will discuss Danish speaker companies including Dynaudio, Dali, and Jamo!