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BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 22, 2005 0 comments
So little, yet so big.

Flat-panel TVs—both plasma and LCD—are wall candy. I've never heard anyone say, "I'm going to buy a plasma TV because the picture looks so much better than what you get from a (fill in your favorite display technology acronym here) projection TV." Nope. People buy flat-panel TVs for one or more of three reasons: they're thin; they're cool; and, boy, do they make your friends RGB with envy. Half a millennium ago, I'm sure that people who could afford it covered their walls with the finest tapestries for exactly the same reasons. Is it any wonder then that panel after panel goes into homes with teeny, tiny, embarrassingly little home-theater-in-a-grocery-bag speakers next to them—or simply with no speakers at all? I blame the salespeople (or lack thereof). I blame the imperialistic, aggressive TV manufacturers who would have us all on bended knee in subservience to the great, glowing flat-panel on the wall. (Talk about must-see TV. . .) And I blame AM talk radio for convincing people that the idea of really good audio cohabitating with nice video is just another wacko liberal concept that will undermine this country. (Yeah, I have issues.)

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 22, 2005 0 comments
There's beauty in these boxes.

When you live with something or somebody long enough (no matter how good the body—or how great the personality), it's all too easy to become complacent about how well off you are. That thought came to mind the other night when I was watching, of all things, The Blues Brothers. I had forgotten how great the music is in that movie. But then I noticed that part of what had made me rediscover my appreciation for the movie was the truly nice Triad Silver speaker system I had been living with for a little while but had stopped noticing.

Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 17, 2005 0 comments
A fresh look at form and function.

One thing you can't say about speaker designers and manufacturers is that they haven't been busy over the last 10 to 15 years making drastic changes to the standard speaker form. There may have never been another period like it in the annals of speakerdom. What you can debate, however, is what the driving force for all of this change has been. It strikes me that a good portion of it has been aesthetically and ergonomically motivated, and far less of it has been geared toward making speakers sound better. Now don't get me wrong—I'm not here to trash flat panels, in-walls, wireless speakers, or anything else. Some of these designs can sound very good, despite their inherent compromises, and they are getting better as they mature. They all have their purposes, and many of them have well served people who may not otherwise be interested in speakers outside of those in their televisions, or those folks who aren't willing to give up floor space to accommodate speakers. But special congratulations must be given to those speaker makers who, either through new technologies and designs or not, are actively trying to improve the sound quality of such designs. This quest is as important now as it has ever been.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 22, 2005 0 comments
Feed your hungry eyes and ears on an attractively entertaining meal of lean on-wall speakers and tender, choice electronics.

Whether by nature or nurture, I'm a speaker guy. I'm more captivated by speakers than any of the associated electronics in a home theater system. As a result of this singular infatuation, I've always believed, as a general rule of thumb, that you should allocate at least half of the total cost of the audio portion of your system to the speakers. I don't know why the math seems to work out that way, but, in my mind, it just does. So what am I to make of a system in which the Primare electronics cost twice as much as the Sequence/REL speaker package?

John Higgins Posted: Oct 15, 2005 Published: Oct 30, 2005 0 comments
Bouncing off the walls.

In a time when housing prices are rising at an exponential rate, making affordable square footage scarce, one of the major challenges to having a home theater system is space. The home-theater-in-a-box phenomenon has attacked this problem by packaging smaller, matched speakers together with a receiver, but there's still the issue of finding space for proper speaker placement and the messy wiring that follows. Yamaha offers the YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector to alleviate this problem.

Kevin Hunt Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
Energy takes the plunge: It's a new lifestyle.

At about the same time the Spice Girls hit number three on the Billboard charts with "Say You'll Be There" in 1997, Energy Speaker Systems was striking gold of their own with a set of tiny home theater speakers called Take 5.

Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
The international systems tour rolls on.

You may recall that I've usually tried to dip into the historical well when introducing the many international audio systems that we've reviewed lately. This at least spares you from yet another opening paragraph of worn-out exaggerations about paradigm shifts and in-your-face phrases like "in your face." I'm somewhat stumped here, though. The Japanese and English seem to have avoided pairing up, or squaring off (directly, at least), in any high-profile military conflicts. There have really been no economic or cultural wars between them. I can't even find a case where they've faced off in a major sporting event. But one place they have gotten together often is in the listening room—and I suppose that is what we're here for, after all.

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
Thinking outside the box.

Who says you have to sacrifice performance to create a small, affordable speaker system? Not Atlantic Technology. With the new $899–$999 System 920, they set out to prove that we can and should expect more than we're currently getting from most tiny sub/sat and HTIB speakers. I put their claim to the test for this Spotlight review by mating the speakers with Onkyo's brand-new $300 TX-SR503 A/V receiver. Add an inexpensive universal disc player to this combo, and you've got a complete home theater system for about $1,400.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
Born in the U.S.A., Snell would love to build a set just for you.

Snell's new LCR7 speaker system stopped me in my tracks at last year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The look was so new and fresh, yet elegant, and there was just something about the way their aluminum ends set off the speakers' curves that spoke to me. Yeah, I'm a sucker for style; but, when I learned that the legendary speaker designer Joe D'Appolito had a hand in creating these snazzy Snells, I was hooked. I doubt there's another designer with more name recognition—he lent his name to the ubiquitous woofer-tweeter-woofer arrangement—a.k.a. D'Appolito array—way back in the early 1980s. His goals for this new generation of Snells were disarmingly straightforward: to have them play loud with low distortion, provide an amplifier-friendly load, and produce razor-sharp imaging. Even a cursory audition of an LCR7 speaker will prove that Joe D'Appolito isn't resting on his laurels.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
From Portland's mouth to your ear.

Aperion makes a big deal out of selling direct. Frankly, this implied criticism of large chain stores has the fishy odor of opportunism. There are many worse places to buy speakers than a huge electronics store. You might, for instance, buy them from the back of a van in a parking lot, as our editors once did. Or you might leave a thick wad of bills on the sidewalk, using a rock as a paperweight, then come back the next day to see if anyone has left any speakers there. When you've exhausted all of those opportunities, call Aperion and say, "Help me, please. I'm not tough enough for the retail environment." You wouldn't be the first.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
A little Danish for your sonic sweet tooth.

Flat-panel TVs—and the speakers that love to be with them—receive such obsessive attention from the press that you'd think all other forms of video display—and the speakers that love to be with them—had disappeared. Jamo has fed the trend with their remarkable 2F speaker system, which teams perfectly with a plasma display. But rear-projection sets are still around. In fact, with DLP-, LCD-, and CRT-based models to choose from, they're taking on slimmer shapes, waxing in both cool factor and diversity.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Apr 17, 2005 0 comments
A definite cut above the ordinary.

There are many different approaches to home theater, which is one of the reasons why this magazine is as burly as it is, month after month. The stereo speakers built into many modern televisions are nirvana for some, while carefully matched loudspeakers, preamplifiers, processors, and amps are the only solution that others would ever consider. Somewhere between those two polar extremes are the ubiquitous home-theater-in-a-box systems and novel products like the ZVOX 315 Sound Console. The idea here is simple, and noble, offering your TV a painless upgrade to the inadequate audio it was born with.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 17, 2005 0 comments
Small-speaker virtuosity trickles down.

Speakers needn't be big. Smaller speakers are better candidates for wall-mounting, they're less-visually intrusive on stands, and they're more-harmonious mates for flat-panel displays.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
It's three omnidirectional speakers in one.

Here's a tip for home theater newbies: Don't shop for speakers using just your eyes. That advice holds true for any speaker, regardless of size or price; when it comes to what we euphemistically refer to as "lifestyle" speakers, though, please try to listen before you make a purchase, or you'll deserve what you get. Lifestyle-inflicted design compromises too often exact a toll on performance—skinny towers can sound undernourished, wall-mounted speakers can produce pancake-flat imaging, and pint-size satellites can come up short.

Chris Lewis Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
The Canadians and the Brits are at it again.

If you know your history, then you already know that the Canadians and the English can do some good things when they get together. While we were taking care of our business down at Utah and Omaha, the Canadians and the Brits were giving the Germans a pretty good working-over of their own up the beach at Normandy. They even teamed up rather effectively against us during the American Revolution and War of 1812, managing to hang on to Canada despite our various efforts to take it and, in the process, preserving one of England's last real toeholds in the New World.

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