BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 25, 2013 0 comments
CL-2 Speaker System
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CLS-10 Subwoofer
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Price: $2,888 At A Glance: 180-degree cylindrical tweeter • Stable, wide-open sound • Tilted sub driver

Shape is destiny for Anthony Gallo Acoustics. The company is best known for its spherical and cylindrical speaker enclosures, made of metal and tough as tanks. But the Classico Series is the first Gallo product to use a plain rectan-gular box—for consumers, the company says, who prefer a more traditional look. Though not as curvaceous as other Gallo lines, the Classico is still available in a beautiful Cherry veneer finish, along with the more staid Black Ash veneer of our review samples. Note that the speakers are sold only through the Gallo Website: roundsound.com. The more conventional construction and factory-direct approach make the Classico models among the most affordable Gallo speakers ever.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Dec 20, 2012 1 comments

KEF made the LS50 minispeaker for lots of reasons. It’s a celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary. It’s the first affordable application of the technology developed for the $29,999/pair Blade. It’s a throwback to the LS3/5a, a beloved, BBC-designed minimonitor for which KEF made the drivers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2012 7 comments

SP-BS22-LR Speakers
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SW-8MK2 Subwoofer
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Price: $450 At A Glance: Affordable designer speakers • Second gen with improved parts • Clearer, meatier sound

Looking for a great sounding set of home theater speakers but on a tight budget? Read on and find out why Pioneer's newest speakers might be just what the doctor ordered and learn how gifted designer Andrew Jones met the challenge of building a high-performance speaker ensemble that can be had for only $500. Even he can't believe it.

Michael Berk Posted: Nov 15, 2012 0 comments

Danish manufacturer Jamo's been making a splash with the spherical speakers we saw back at the 2012 CES, and this week they've announced a pair of 5.0 setups in the appropriately named 360 Series, based around their unique architecture: the S 25 HCS ($649.99), including five of the company's S 25 speakers, and the S 35 HCS ($999.99), which groups four of the larger S 35 units with a C 35 center channel.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 19, 2012 0 comments

DX-1 HCP Speaker
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DX-1 subwoofer
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Price: $799 At A Glance: Sweet but detailed mids • High-gloss finish • Great sats, OK sub

One of your best friends calls up to announce that she is about to wed someone rich and powerful. He owns a shipyard that manufactures exceptionally luxurious yachts. You’re happy for her, but you worry, too. Would living with such a strong personality, a guy with all that money and all that power, be good for her? Would it make her stronger or weaker? A few years later you run into her, and after a few hours of conversation, you conclude that she’s in great shape internally as well as externally. There’s a serenity beneath the tan. Her husband is affectionate and faithful, a child is on the way, and she’s never been happier.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments

Like so many British (and, for that matter, American) ür-audio brands, KEF — originally Kent Engineering & Foundry — had its roots in the post- WWII technology boom. In KEF’s case, it grew inside a Quonset hut on the grounds of the aforementioned foundry. A half-century down the road the Kentish maker is still there (in Kent, not in the metal shed!), still focused on its core competency (loudspeakers), and still producing wholly excellent designs.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Oct 11, 2012 0 comments

The surest way to future success is to repeat your past successes. Like that line? I made it up. If you think it’s a lot of B.S., I present as irrefutable evidence the careers of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Also the Paradigm Millenia CT, a 2.1 speaker system based closely on the MilleniaOne, our 2011 Product of the Year.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Sep 18, 2012 0 comments

As athletes such as Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and the whole New Orleans Saints defense have learned the hard way, even when you’re the best, it helps to be friendly. Big surround sound systems aren’t friendly to your décor or your pocketbook. Fortunately, in the last 2 years, we’ve seen major speaker companies put serious effort into designing compact 5.1 systems that deliver no-compromise performance. The Mini Theatre line from Bowers & Wilkins is the latest to make its way through my listening room.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2012 0 comments

MilleniaOne Speakers
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MilleniaSub subwoofer
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Price: $2,648 At A Glance: Die-cast aluminum satellites • Flat-form-factor subwoofer • Remarkable transparency

Not often do I begin a review with an apology to readers. But I owe you one.

It’s taken me an unconscionably long time to get around to reviewing the Paradigm MilleniaOne satellite speaker system and MilleniaSub. The products made their retail debuts in November 2010. Since then they’ve languished on my to-do list despite the fact that Paradigm is one of my favorite speaker manufacturers. In fact, I never fail to cite my reference speakers, the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4, in every A/V receiver review. Now that I’ve gotten an earful of the MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub, I’m kicking myself. I should have recommended these stellar satellites and innovative subwoofer to you a whole lot sooner, whether you’re in the market for a sat/sub set or not. This is the kind of high-performance sat/sub set that might make believers out of people who weren’t even interested in the product category to begin with.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Aug 23, 2012 1 comments

When I’m looking for speakers to review, I gravitate toward two types: ones that have the potential to sound great, and ones with weird designs. The former offer the potential for hours of joyous listening. The latter offer the potential for either a previously unimagined sonic nirvana or an audio train wreck, both of which are fun to write about.

Definitive Technology’s $899-per-pair StudioMonitor SM65 fits both descriptions.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Aug 23, 2012 0 comments

When the economy tanked in 2007, a funny thing happened in high-end audio: Many manufacturers prospered by creating even higher-priced products. As a speaker reviewer, I lack the economics chops to explain this turn of events, but I can tell you it has spawned some fascinating audio gear.

Take, for example, Steinway Lyngdorf ’s S-Series, built to be the Bugatti Veyron of compact home theater systems.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 10, 2012 2 comments

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Price: $6,800 At A Glance: Three-way with coaxial midrange/tweeter • Sub with dual side-firing drivers • Laser-like focus and well rounded

Kent, in the south of England, was best known for hop farming when Raymond Cooke left Wharfedale and founded KEF in 1961. The company was named after the industrial site on which it was founded: Kent Engineering & Foundry. KEF’s numerous distinguished alumni include Laurie Fincham, who now develops next-generation audio technologies for THX, and Andrew Jones, who designs world-beating loudspeakers at a variety of price points for Pioneer and TAD. KEF has earned a reputation for making both great speaker systems and great speaker drivers, some of which were instrumental in the legendary BBC-designed LS3/5A, which KEF and other manufacturers have marketed in various forms. Roving through a New York cocktail party celebrating KEF’s 50th anniversary last year, hobnobbing with the audio elite, I found that the drive units inspired as much nostalgia as the speakers in which they were used. (To read about KEF’s history in more detail—and in a handsome coffee-table book, no less—see KEF: 50 Years of Innovation in Sound by Ken Kessler and Dr. Andrew Watson.)

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 17, 2012 3 comments
Audio is not supposed to be fun. That’s why outdoor speakers are a terrible idea. Music is meant to be enjoyed in an acoustically perfect room by a single person sitting in the sweet spot. While you listen, it might be permissible to reverently handle a gatefold album jacket or dutifully edit metadata to make it absolutely perfect. But it is not permissible to swim, soak up the sun, watch the kids play with the dog, pour daiquiris from a pitcher, or hobnob with neighbors. Above all, it is never socially acceptable to barbecue while listening to music. If you are a morally upright audiophile, you may safely assume the rest of this story will be in the same vein. Go now. Retreat to your music library while I discipline the riffraff.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 12, 2012 3 comments

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Price: $1,297 (with updated X Series models)
At A Glance: Dual orbs in front, single orbs behind • Full-range drivers in steel enclosures • Rod or pedestal stand

Spherical loudspeakers are perhaps too easily dismissed: “Oh look, it’s round. Cute gimmick. Next…” That box speakers are easy to build certainly doesn’t guarantee sound quality. In fact, designers of quality speakers are constantly rebelling against the limitations of rectangular enclosures. To curb cabinet resonance, designers build bracing into the box and stuff the interior with damping material. They curve the sides to stop standing waves from developing between parallel walls. But rather than tweak boxes, some do away with them altogether. So if you think the spherical steel shells of Orb Audio’s People’s Choice satellite speakers are mere gimmicks, think again.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 16, 2012 5 comments

StudioMonitor 55 Speakers
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SuperCube 6000 subwoofer
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Price: $2,494 At A Glance: Top-mounted, passive radiator • Dual binding posts • Enhanced phase plug

Whether you think a decade is a long or a short period of time depends on your perspective. If you’re discussing cosmology with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the word “decade” probably won’t even make it into the conversation. If you’re Apple, you crank out more than 300 million iPods in that period of time. If you’re a momma elephant with a particularly frisky elephant husband who likes to party, you might be able to birth five elephant progeny. (Although the stretch marks will simply be impossible to get rid of after that third one, no matter what exercise club you sign up with.) At the Glenmorangie distillery in the Scottish Highlands, you’re trying to decide whether or not to bottle the batch of single-malt scotch that’s been aging in the barrels for the last decade or to wait another eight years and ship out cases of Glenmorangie 18 Years Old instead. But if you’re Definitive Technology, you take your sweet time and eventually come out with…wait for it…three (as in one more than two) totally redesigned monitor speakers.

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