BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 25, 2008 0 comments
Surround sound—friend or faux?

When Definitive Technology originally introduced its Mythos line of speakers, the slender, curved, aluminum-cabinet tower models were matched by equally svelte, under-5-inch-deep on-wall and center-channel models using the same form and style turned horizontally. A while ago, the company literally expanded the Mythos center-channel speakers by packing the front LCR speakers

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 29, 2001 Published: Dec 30, 2001 0 comments
Bass beyond belief.

There are some things you just don't expect to find together—say, peanut butter and foie gras or Anne Rice's vampire Lestat in a Garlique commercial. Other combinations may be more desirable and more elusive: a multiterm politician with integrity, for example, or computer products that not only work as advertised but do so consistently (wow, what a concept!). Rarer still is that mythical, mystical creation, immortalized in song and story and lusted after by speaker designers since the invention of the voice coil: the bookshelf speaker with bass.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
Little speakers are looking up.

Pricewise, these Definitive Technology ProCinema speakers and this Pioneer Elite A/V receiver are a perfect match. Even visual cues unite them, with the receiver's shiny-black metal faceplate echoing the satellite enclosures' black-gloss curve. In other ways, they may seem like an odd couple (or septet, rather). Wouldn't that big receiver be too much for those little speakers? No, say the specs. With the satellites rated to handle as much as 200 watts per channel, the receiver's hefty rated 140 watts are well within the acceptable range, although the speakers' 90-decibel sensitivity suggests that they'll play fairly loudly, even with a lower-powered amp. Therefore, it is legal to marry these speakers to this receiver, at least in Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Kim Wilson Posted: Aug 15, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $799 At A Glance: Exceptional sonic performance for the price • Coherent soundfield • Good fit for small rooms • Extreme volume can cause distortion • Lacks depth and punch of larger systems

The ProCinema 600 5.1 speaker system is small, compact, and unobtrusive, capable of blending into any environment. This sub-$1k system effortlessly provides a highly coherent surround field in a small room without degrading the sound quality, even at relatively high volumes. Using patented technology, the system delivers surprisingly good bass and midrange for a sat/sub system. Yes, it lacks the sheer depth, high impact, and fine details of more expensive systems with larger drivers and enclosures. But for basic home theaters in multi-purpose spaces, it not only gets the job done, it performs quite admirably for its size and cost.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 19, 2002 Published: Dec 20, 2002 0 comments
Just how does the StudioCinema 350 speaker system find that mystical balance between high performance and low price?

I used to wonder why I felt such an affinity for so many of Definitive Technology's speakers. What is it, I asked, that gives these slender, sock-smothered sirens their perennial appeal? Is it magnetism? (Well, surely, they use magnets, but that couldn't be it.) Is it the sexy allure of not being able to yank off a speaker's grille cloth to reveal what's hidden underneath? (Instead, you have to gently coax the soft sock covering down, slowly undressing the speaker. It's an act best done in the privacy of your own home after the children have gone to bed.) Maybe it's some secret, arcane knowledge inherited from the Knights Templar (promising riches, wealth, and speakers with popularity beyond reason)—or possibly it's from an earlier era, gleaned from chiseled hieroglyphics on the ancient stone walls of the pyramids at Giza (regaling in an afterlife filled with music and movies).

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 16, 2012 5 comments

StudioMonitor 55 Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
SuperCube 6000 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
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.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 04, 2008 0 comments
Ten inches woof big.

Where’s the subwoofer in this system? People, look at the picture. You’re seeing a whole quintet of 10-inch woofers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 12, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $2,650 At A Glance: Two-way monitor with silk-dome tweeter • 10-inch sub with both low- and high-pass filters • Refined performance with a touch of warmth

Sweet Silk Dome

The Dynaudio DM 2/6 monitor comes in a vinyl-wrapped mediumdensity-fiberboard enclosure. This is so traditional, it’s almost retro. At the audiophile end of the speaker market, the vinyl-MDF box is outclassed by tantalizing veneers. At the pragmatic end—which is where a lot of the innovation comes these days—the vinyl-MDF box has given way to sound-bars and sat/sub sets with curvy molded-plastic or extruded-aluminum enclosures.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 13, 2008 0 comments
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Like the dinner guest who invariably brings a bottle of fine wine and flowers for the table, Dynaudio is welcome in these pages. The suave Danish manufacturer never fails to entertain with its scintillating conversation—both musical and cinematic. Yet its products are down to earth and mindful of the fundamentals. You don’t need to be a golden-eared audiophile with years of critical listening skills to “get” Dynaudio. Nearly everyone can understand the qualities that animate products like Dynaudio’s new Excite range. They appeal to anyone who knows what a human voice sounds like, how musical instruments sound, and even what it should feel like when a car runs off a cliff and explodes.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 10, 2014 2 comments

Excite X14 Speaker System
Performance
Build Qaulity
Value

Sub 250 II Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous soundfield
Surprisingly strong bass
Gorgeous veneers
Minus
Expensive for small speakers

THE VERDICT
Dynaudio’s X14, part of the revised Excite line, earns its high-end price tag with sweet build quality and high performance, including a bottom end that is amazingly substantial for a small speaker.

The high end exists in the eye of the beholder. To some folks, a pair of mini-monitors selling for $1,500—or a 5.1-channel system at $5,100—may seem steeply priced. In fact, if you want lower-priced alternatives, you’ll find plenty among our Top Picks. But there always will be another kind of consumer who is fussy about what he or she brings into the living room. Vinyl-wrapped boxes won’t cut it; they want furniture-grade wood veneer. In the same discriminating spirit, the Danish manufacturer Dynaudio is equally fussy about materials, including drivers that the company designs and makes itself. In the recently overhauled Excite line, the result is a speaker that exceeds already high expectations in both appearance and sound. The X14 monitor and X24 center are my favorite kind of small speaker: the kind that sounds bigger than it looks.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 23, 2007 0 comments
Little big man.

Why do people who spend for- tunes on their cars look askance at high-end audio equipment? They wouldn't be seen dead backing a budget SUV out of their driveways. But, when they choose the gear that mediates their relationship with music and movies, they condemn themselves to poverty. Audio systems are shadows to them. They're all the same, so why pay more? These sad people drive their $70,000 cars to Circuit City and pay three figures for a mediocre HTIB. I once wrote about portable audio for an outdoorsy men's magazine. When I suggested that high-end headphones are as valid as high-end hiking gear, the editor gave me a perplexed and somewhat dirty look.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
A systematic approach to speaker design.

As consumer electronics technologies continue to morph into ever more complex forms, convergence is key. Elan Home Systems was founded in 1989 in Lexington, Kentucky, and convergence is their raison d'tre. In the past, they have brought together wholehouse automation and touchpanel control of music, phones, lighting, intercoms, and TV functions. More recently, they acquired a high-end home theater electronics company, Sunfire. Four years ago, Elan jumped into the speaker business with a line of highly regarded in-walls. This brings us to Elan's new line of converging speakers, the aptly named TheaterPoint series.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 04, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,345

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Big sound with undistorted, low bass
Separate, built-in amplifiers for the woofer and tweeter
Controls for fine-tuning bass and treble
Rock-solid MDF cabinetry
Minus
Requires interconnects and power to each speaker

THE VERDICT
A remarkably dynamic system with solid bass, airy highs, and wide imaging—with no amplifiers needed.

At first I wasn’t sure about the prospects for reviewing Emotiva Pro’s new Stealth speakers, if only because they’re bona-fide studio monitors. But after conferring with Dan Laufman, the designer and CEO, I was eager to try them. Turns out the Stealths are easily domesticated, and since they’re internally biamplified—there’s one amp for the tweeter and another for the woofer—I didn’t need to use a receiver, power amp, or surround processor for this review.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 13, 2012 5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,745 At A Glance: Sealed design controls bass • Satin-finish MDF enclosures • Factory-direct sales enhance value

Are you one of those people who can’t resist a supermarket circular? Do you trawl the Internet looking for coupon codes that can be pasted into online purchases? Loudspeaker pricing doesn’t often indulge us with the same feeling of satisfaction that we get from buying a jumbo jar of marinara sauce or a cashmere scarf at an extremely low price. But while researching this review last December, I couldn’t help noting that Emotiva’s factory-direct speakers offered some wiggle room to the timely shopper. The XRC-5.2 LCR speaker normally sold for $299/each—not a bad price to begin with—but was momentarily going for an introductory price of $239/each.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 17, 2008 0 comments
Price: $999 At A Glance: Tweeter isolated in separate chamber • Aluminum drivers in satellites • Hand-applied piano black lacquer finish

Building a Better Satellite

Energy has always taken satellite/subwoofer sets seriously. The Canadian speaker brand, recently acquired by American-owned Klipsch, got into the sat/sub game early with the now legendary Take Five package. As successive Take products became steady bestsellers and proceeded through multiple generations, Energy established itself as a major name in sats and subs. It also helped turn the sat/sub set into a respectable product category. This especially applies to décor-conscious households that like to have surround sound but balk at the prospect of five to seven bulky speakers hogging a room.

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