BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2006 0 comments
Home Theater in a (Very Narrow) Box.

Thanks to plasma TVs, everyone is convinced that skinny and flat are where it's at when it comes to home theater—and those now-out-of-work robotic assembly lines that used to crank out CRTs by the boatload haven't been the only ones affected by the slender-is-better trend. You can't throw a crumbled-up extended-warranty brochure in an electronics store nowadays without hitting some sort of sleek, on-wall, "plasma-friendly" home theater speaker. Some manufacturers, fully embracing the slim trend, have created three-in-one (left front, center, and right front) single-cabinet on-wall speakers designed to be mounted above or below your flat-panel TV—or set on top of a rear-projection TV. Boston Acoustics, Definitive Technology, Atlantic Technology, and Mirage, for example, have all come up with their own variations of three channels coexisting in one narrow box.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 16, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $1,019 At A Glance: Time Lens time-aligns tweeter and woofer • Acoustic Lens controls tweeter response • Wireless sub eliminates interconnect cable

Through a Lens, Blackly

Compact satellite/subwoofer sets were once surround’s entry-level configuration, a smart option for those who wanted to go beyond two-channel in a small room. More recently, they’ve ended up in the middle ranks of the home theater hierarchy—below monitor-class and floorstanding speakers but above the relatively new soundbar category and built-in HDTV speakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 30, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,410 At A Glance: Middle of Polk’s three main speaker lines • Cherry or black veneers at modest price • Remote-controlled subwoofer

From Baltimore with Love

Did you know that Baltimore was the second U.S. city to achieve a population of more than 100,000, after New York? It has given us great Americans as diverse as Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, and John Waters, who will probably never serve on the Supreme Court, although I’d love to see him try. Barry Levinson based four movies in Baltimore: Diner, Tin Men, Avalon, and Liberty Heights. Six Fortune 500 companies reside in greater Baltimore. The city’s best known university is Johns Hopkins, which educated Polk Audio’s three cofounders: Matthew Polk, Sandy Gross, and George Klopfer. All of them have since moved on, although Matthew Polk maintained an active design presence until recently. Polk Audio is currently owned by DEI Holdings, which also owns Definitive Technology and the Directed Electronics car technology empire. It remains a Baltimore stalwart as well as one of the few truly distinguished speaker brands available to megachain shoppers.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • 5.1-Channel System Price: $1,286
  • Alpha B1 L/R/LS/RS: Two-driver, two-way speake r with one 5.25" metalized polypropylene woofer and one .75" aluminum dome tweeter, $279/pr.
    HWD: 4.25" x 9.75" x 6.25"
  • Alpha C1 Center Speaker: Three-driver, two-way center speaker with two 5.25" metalized polypropylene woofers and one .75" aluminum dome tweeter, $229/ea.
    HWD: 7" x 17.8": x 9.25"
  • SubSeries 5i subwoofer: 150-Watt powered, vented sub with one 10" polypropylene woofer, line and speaker level inputs, $499/ea.
    HWD: 16.5" x 12.4" x 14.8"
PSB is a stalwart brand for offering high-end performance at a price. The Alpha B1 is the latest incarnation of PSB's minor classic, the Alpha mini-monitor. The new version offers improved driver materials and a tweaked design. Make sure to check out HT's November issue for the full download on how a 5.1-channel system built around these speakers performed for us.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Listen to the violinist.

Reviewing the PSB Alpha B1 speaker system is a bit like coming home. I reviewed the original PSB Alpha for Rolling Stone back in the 1990s. Its little sister, the PSB Alpha Mini, anchored my surround system during a time when I was struggling to launch an online business, barely making ends meet, and dissipating my savings. I needed new speakers, wasn't then in a position to freeload, and didn't have much to spend. The Alpha Minis gave me what I needed—a big soundstage in a small package with no off-putting aggressiveness. The bass was just good enough to make a sub unnecessary. Let the record show that a borrowed Yamaha receiver ran the system.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 20, 2013 2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $299/pr At A Glance: Consistent off-axis response • Sub output • 20 watts times two

“A Book of Verses Underneath the Bough/A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou.” So runs the most famous translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The essence of the quotation is we need only a few basic things to attain happiness, and the Persian poet seems to imply that the fewer, the better. So what does it take to make you a happy listener? Does an audio system invariably have to follow the traditional model of speakers, amp, and source components?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 11, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,350 At A Glance: Smallest member of Imagine Series • Ingenious design, high build quality • Wood veneer or gloss finishes

A few decades ago, the Canadian government’s National Research Council built an anechoic—that is, non-echoing—chamber in Ottawa for the testing and refinement of loudspeakers. This investment nurtured a whole school of speaker designers. Paul Barton of PSB was among the earliest and most distinguished to emerge. Five years ago, Barton embarked on a wholesale redesign of his speaker lines, summing up his considerable experience and adding improvements made possible by the lowered cost of manufacturing in China. Yes, some manufacturers actually use China’s industrial prowess as an opportunity to improve their products. Barton regularly visits his contract manufacturers to ensure they’re delivering the quality he demands in his high-performing loudspeakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 17, 2014 4 comments

Imagine XB Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
SubSeries 125 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,846

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clarity and evenness
Compact, tuneful sub
Affordable price
Minus
Dynamic limits of small sub

THE VERDICT
PSB’s Imagine X series refreshes a popular speaker line with reliably excellent sound.

A small but growing number of my younger readers care more about headphones than loudspeakers—but might eventually want to own both. That’s why I’m about to use headphones as the starting point in a speaker review.

There are names that evoke loudspeakers: Bowers & Wilkins, GoldenEar, KEF, Klipsch, MartinLogan, Paradigm, Wilson, Definitive Technology. Then there are names that evoke headphones: AKG, Audeze, Beyer, Grado, Koss, Sennheiser, Stax. However, though several speaker manufacturers have dabbled in headphones, it’s hard to think of many brands known equally well in both categories.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 09, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,350 At A Glance: 41-inch-wide soundbar contains three front channels • Remote-controlled sub with presets • A smooth, warm, unhyped, high-fidelity sound

Genius Bar

Quad is one of those great speaker companies whose pedigree encapsulates some of the fascinating and significant parts of audio history. The name is an acronym for Quality Unit Amplifier Domestic. Born in London in 1936, the company first produced publicaddress equipment, then moved into hi-fi after World War II. It eventually became known for producing relatively thin electrostatic floorstanding speakers that are considered classics—heirlooms, even—and are still produced today. That our sister publication Stereophile named the Quad ESL-2805 Product of the Year for 2007 should indicate how much Quad’s current owner, IAG, venerates this Anglo-Chinese brand. It produces its products at a state-of-the-art factory in Shenzhen and ardently defends its historic reputation. Have I mentioned that Quad also produces both tube and solid-state electronics for the two-channel market? Now get ready to change gears.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Dec 26, 2011 0 comments

Emotiva made its name by offering high-end audio electronics that look like they cost thousands but actually cost hundreds. With the X-Ref line, it’s trying to do the same in speakers. The company has offered speakers in the past, but X-Ref is its first concerted effort to deliver a broad line of speakers at prices low enough to attract budget-minded-yet -serious home theater enthusiasts. The line includes two tower speakers, two LCR (left/center/right) speakers, two bookshelf speakers, one surround speaker, and two subwoofers.

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.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Jul 03, 2013 1 comments

In my career as a reviewer, I've always focused totally on home and portable products, because other speaker categories seemed so different and I figured I couldn't be good at everything.

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: Aug 16, 2011 0 comments

Since time immemorial (or at least the late 1980s), designers of compact subwoofer/satellite speaker systems have struggled against The Hole.

The Hole is the gap between the lowest note the satellites can play and the highest notes the subwoofer can play. The Hole can make voices sound thin, and can rob gunshots and other sound effects of their dynamic impact. But the usual methods for filling The Hole can cause worse problems than The Hole itself.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Dec 22, 2011 0 comments

It’s been a dream of audio engineers and enthusiasts for decades: Create a compact speaker system that performs like a big one.

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