BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 12, 2007 Published: May 12, 2007 0 comments
Expect the unexpected.

What a long, strange trip it's been. I've reviewed hundreds of speakers—big towers, tiny satellites, high-end flagships, and a long run of budget models—but Sunfire's new XT Series Cinema Ribbon speaker is something different. I couldn't get over how this little thing, standing just 8.25 inches tall, can play bloody loud and project the sort of huge and still highly focused imaging I've only heard from exotic, big-bucks speakers. On well-recorded concert DVDs, like Pixies: Live at the Paradise in Boston, the Cinema Ribbons let me hear around each musician. It was as if the band had materialized, fully formed, in front of me. If I had any doubts about the pint-sized speakers' ability to handle gobs of power, rocking out with the Led Zeppelin two-disc DVD set convinced me. John Bonham's hand drumming on "Moby Dick" had the sort of tactile, palpable presence you hear in real life. With the volume cranked, I felt—and I mean felt—each whack on the floor toms. The Cinema Ribbons (with the assistance of Sunfire's True Subwoofer EQ) sounded like a set of tower speakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 10, 2008 0 comments
Price: $3,149 At A Glance: Brilliantly ironclad build quality • Tight, tuneful sealed sub • Carver-worthy dynamics

Little Speaker Lusts for Power

My lonely battle to establish the satellite/subwoofer set as a respectable speaker category just got a little less lonely. Bob Carver, legendary designer of amps and speakers, has joined me on the space-saving speaker front. Carver first gained fame when he founded Phase Linear in 1970. He designed what the industry then considered some of the world’s most powerful amplifiers. His current company, Sunfire, has branched out into surround processors, an extensive subwoofer line, and speakers. With the HRS line, he enters the sat/sub category with a product that—like most Carver products—shows a healthy lust for power. Take these four satellites, a barely larger center, and one of Carver’s famously potent subs, and you’ve got a sat/sub set that’ll turn heads and change minds.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 14, 2008 0 comments
Opening a whole new can of bass.

It took two fairly determined UPS delivery men to get the SVS PC-Ultra sub off the truck, up the five steps into my building, and up to my apartment. At least it’s an elevator building. They delivered it with a sunny smile, probably visualizing the red-faced sweat that would ensue when I uncrated the 85-pound product. Wondering what demented impulse made me agree to review this 4-foot-tall monster, I waltzed the massive carton into my work space, slit it down the broad side, removed a sheet of padding, tipped over the box, and wondered what the hell would happen next. The giant cylinder-shaped subwoofer obligingly solved the problem by rolling out of the carton. This seemed to be a good omen. It cheered me up immediately.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Dec 24, 2014 Published: Dec 23, 2014 1 comments

Prime Satellite 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB-1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Honest, accurate, full-range sound
Painless sub/sat blending
Cheap!
Minus
Won’t match ultimate volume level of larger, more costly systems

THE VERDICT
If your criterion is un-hyped reproduction, SVS’s Prime Satellite 5.1 system is as good as it gets for $1,000.

Good-sounding small speakers no longer impress me. After all, these days, pretty much anybody with a laptop and an Internet connection can design a small two-way that’s reasonably neutral. The tools are all online (many of them share/freeware), fine-performing drivers ranging from cheap ’n’ cheerful to exotic ’n’ expensive are readily available with complete Thiele-Small parameters, and MDF and veneer are plentiful down at Lowe’s. You don’t even need to know Ohm’s law; fluency in Windows or OSX and some basic woodworking skills are probably more useful.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2008 Published: Jan 04, 2008 0 comments
From Youngstown with love.

There are people who claim to read your future in your palm. Others reach conclusions about your income, taste, and character according to what type of shoes you're wearing. For my own part, I can look at your selection of loudspeakers and know exactly what kind of home theater person you are.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 07, 2012 4 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,706 At A Glance: Listening fatigue immunity • Extremely solid build • Factory-direct value

SVS Sound designs its products from the bottom up. The company got its start as a subwoofer manufacturer, fascinating point-one-obsessed audiophiles with unusual (and potent) cylinder-shaped models. Check out the company’s Website at svsound.com under products and you’ll find the subwoofer category listed above speakers and systems. If you want to add an SVS sub to an existing system, the Website’s Merlin engine lets you key in the make and model of your non-SVS speakers to obtain recommendations on compatible SVS subs. Merlin will even offer suggestions for subwoofer crossovers in both surround and stereo systems.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 26, 2013 0 comments

Ultra Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB12-NSD Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,348 At A Glance: Distinctive enclosure shapes • Strong build quality • Satisfying, balanced sound

The debut of the SVS Ultra speaker line prompts me to reconsider a question that’s been lurking at the back of my mind for years: Is SVS one of the great American speaker brands?

As a company founded in Ohio and initially operated out of a garage, SVS has all the right narrative elements of a great speaker brand. The company has built a reputation for making brilliantly unorthodox subwoofers and pretty good speakers—versus the scads of respectable brands that put most of their brilliance into speakers and treat subs as an afterthought. In the past few years, the story has added a few new chapters, with new heavy-hitter personnel in management and product design and a manufacturing move from Ohio to (where else?) China.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 21, 2013 0 comments

Tannoy Precision Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Tannoy TS2.12 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $4,414 At A Glance: Coaxial driver array • Pinpoint-precise imaging • Clean, wellmannered subwoofer

If you read a lot of British novels, eventually you’ll run across a reference to an announcement “on the Tannoy” in a train station or airport. In the U.K., the birthplace of Tannoy Ltd., the loudspeaker brand is a synonym for public-address system. No other speaker manufacturer in the world enjoys this distinction, though it comes at a price: The Tannoy people are constantly firing off letters to publications that make the mistake of using tannoy generically, without the proper cap-T to indicate its trademark status.

Trivia buffs may be surprised to discover that the firm was founded in 1926 as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company in England. Not until 1932 did the brand name become Tannoy, an abbreviation for tantalum alloy, a material used in the electronic guts of its early products. Tannoy relocated its design and engineering center to Scotland about a half-century later, and for the past decade has been owned by the Denmark-based TC Group.

Brent Butterworth Posted: May 09, 2012 0 comments

If there’s any speaker spec that’s routinely bogus, it’s bass response. You see a lot of little speakers rated to deliver bass below 40 Hz, but that measurement is almost always taken at -10 dB, instead of the industry standard of -3 dB. Even if the little speaker does hit, say, 36 Hz at some level, it almost certainly can’t deliver any usable volume at that frequency.

There are ways, though, to get legit sub-40 Hz response from a little speaker. One is H-PAS, or Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System, invented by Solus-Clements and now used and licensed by Atlantic Technology.

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.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Jun 06, 2013 2 comments

Physicists have long postulated that an ideal sound reproducer would behave as a pulsating sphere. Ever since, the wish being father to the thought, speaker designers have been cramming transducers into balls, as if making the cabinet round would somehow magically make the sound spherical.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Feb 13, 2013 0 comments

Everybody loves small speakers, and why not? Smaller is — often — easier to afford, easier to schlep home, easier to place, and easier to live with. Smaller also has certain acoustical advantages in achieving smooth response and in yielding the broad, even spread of sound that favors good imaging and an open, believable tone color.

But how small is too small? Some say there’s no limit, and at least one manufacturer (Bose) has had success with subwoofer/satellite designs whose sats are smaller than a pepper mill, let alone a breadbox. But as the front satellites of a speaker system become smaller, their ability to reproduce bass low enough to bridge effectively with the practical upper limits of a single subwoofer, at around 150 Hz (and ideally lower), becomes questionable.

Klipsch thinks it has found the sweet spot with its HD Theater 600 system

Brent Butterworth Posted: Apr 12, 2011 0 comments
Glancing over the stylish, diminutive Paradigm MilleniaOne speaker, you might assume it’s nothing more than a flimsy plastic housing packed with 25-cent drivers scavenged from a parts bin somewhere in the bowels of Guangdong Province. But besides its cute looks, the MilleniaOne has nothing in common with the typical “lifestyle” speaker.
Brent Butterworth Posted: Oct 16, 2011 0 comments

Romantics see Italy as a place of rich history and sophisticated culture. Not me. As a non-romantic, I can think of Italy only as the birthplace of the Fiat 128 that often left me walking instead of driving, and the location of a honeymoon in which I fought frenzied traffic and struggled to find a decent meal.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 21, 2012 0 comments

It seemed that audio companies had surrendered the home-theater-in-a-box concept to the TV manufacturers.

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