BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Jeff Cherun Posted: Jun 25, 2000 Published: Jun 26, 2000 0 comments
The Ferrari of audio.

Awhile back, I had the opportunity to be treated to what some of the world's most talented engineers have to offer. You see, I was having a drink with my friend Ron Jackson (president of Girard-Perregaux USA, a high-end watch manufacturer that has an affiliation with legendary car manufacturer Ferrari), and he suggested that I join him the following day at the Willow Springs racetrack for the U.S. debut of the new Ferrari 360 Modena. As a huge Ferrari fan, this was clearly an offer I couldn't refuse.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 08, 2013 7 comments

SS-NA5ES Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SA-NA9ES Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $19,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Scandinavian birch
enclosures
Triple tweeter array
Warm and fatigue-free
Minus
Not exactly cheap

THE VERDICT
A pricey speaker system that offers an edge to those who want the very best.

Sony has always had a sense of its own destiny that transcends any one of its multifaceted operations. To gamers, it is the guardian of the PlayStation franchise. Moviegoers know it as the owner of Sony Pictures, while music lovers know it as the home of Dylan, Springsteen, and Adele. Tech historians recall how Sony’s small transistor radios and Walkman cassette player, respectively from the 1950s and ’70s, paved the way for the iPod in the ’00s. Cutting-edge computer audiophiles are excited about the potential of Sony’s DSD file format to transform the nascent world of high-resolution music downloads.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 17, 2012 6 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.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 05, 2006 0 comments
5.1 speaker suites for every fragger.

We've long extolled the wonder and tangible benefits of 5.1 audio in the video-gaming realm. It is a major feature of the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox and is a mandatory element for all Xbox 360 games. While some folks simply drop a console into their fully equipped home theaters, many are new to 5.1, so I present here an assortment of exemplary powered speaker suites for video-game use.

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.

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 7 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 1 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 2 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.

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