BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Gary Altunian Posted: Apr 27, 2009 0 comments
Price: $10,197 At A Glance: Great in-wall speaker for flat-panel displays • Excellent sonic coherence • In-wall speakers with an in-room sound quality

Transcend Music Reproduction

If you’re a home theater enthusiast or audio purist who follows the high-end speaker market, you’re probably familiar with Pioneer’s line of TAD loudspeakers and their reputation for exquisite sound reproduction. It all started with the TAD Model-1, which drew rave reviews with its concentrically aligned beryllium midrange and tweeter. Priced at $45,000 per pair, they were obtainable for only the wealthiest audiophiles.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 12, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos–enabled monitors
Laser-like focus from coaxial driver array
Minus
Just-average subwoofer performance

THE VERDICT
Andrew Jones’ excellent Atmos-enabled speakers are equally at home in a 5.1-channel footprint as they are transforming surround sound as we know it.

Dolby Atmos bids to change the landscape of surround sound at home. One thing it has already changed is my mind.

I am that 5.1 guy. I’ve spent much of my tech-writing career promoting the standard 5.1-channel speaker configuration and defending it against all comers. This has pitted me against two-channel loyalists who mistakenly believe there is no such thing as a surround audiophile. But I’ve also opposed what I deem to be useless additions to 5.1.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 30, 2006 Published: Dec 03, 2006 0 comments
Think of it as a cheat code to unlock your 360's hidden sonic levels.

The high-definition video capabilities of the Xbox 360, like those of the imminent Sony PlayStation 3, have put a renewed emphasis on the importance of the video display. And, indeed, consumers young and old continue to bring HDTVs into their homes in record numbers. But no one was more shocked than I was to discover that there are still some gamers out there with current- and next-generation consoles in their living rooms who aren't hooked up to discrete 5.1-channel audio systems. Rather than record a Sally Struthers–style public-service announcement to elicit help for these poor, unfortunate souls, I chose to investigate the options—and I came up with Pioneer's officially licensed Xbox 360 sound solution, the HTS-GS1.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Multinational speakers meet American amps.

On the battlefield of speaker design, I am the triage nurse. I walk into speaker demo rooms at trade shows, my badge sometimes inadvertently turned inward, listen for a moment, and quietly mutter to myself, "This one's a keeper," or, "He's dead, Jim." Or occasionally just, "Hmmm," because good speakers may sound iffy under bad conditions, and I respect the potential buried within an ambiguous first take. But, if my instincts tell me to pursue a review, I whip out a business card and start making arrangements on the spot.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 09, 2011 12 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $528 At A Glance: Substantial and good-sounding monitors and center • Sub of modest size and power • Jaw-droppingly value packed for the price

Andrew Jones for All

Isn’t it preposterous for the Pioneer Corporation to assert itself as a loudspeaker manufacturer? After all, the company is best known in the home theater sphere as a maker of audio/video receivers. Those with just slightly longer memories recall Pioneer’s world-class KURO plasmas as some of the best HDTVs ever made. There was a time when the Laserdisc format, which Pioneer championed, was the signal source of choice among videophiles. Pioneer was also one of the Japanese audio brands that established the stereo receiver as a staple of dorm rooms (including mine) during the 1970s. But who thinks of Pioneer in connection with speakers?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2012 7 comments

SP-BS22-LR Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
SW-8MK2 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
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.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments

“Really?” I blurted out loud when I opened the RTiA1’s box to find a substantial, beautifully made minispeaker with curved sides and a higher level of fit’n’finish than that found on any of the other speakers in this group (the Monitor Bronze BX1 perhaps excepted). I even double-checked the price, doubting that Polk could sell such a nice-looking speaker for less than $400 a pair, especially $325 a pair (or even less online).

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.

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