BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2007 0 comments
A budget sub/sat set for the divinely inclined.

Nowhere is the universal human desire to get something for nothing more evident than in consumer electronics. While I'm always amenable to reviewing mass-market gear that offers high value to the consumer, I also spend a large portion of my time convincing more discerning listeners that an investment in higher-priced gear is really worth it. Why, then, would I work up a froth of enthusiasm for a modest subwoofer/satellite set like the DCM Cinema2? It would be convenient simply to say that I heard it and liked it, but the truth doesn't always lend itself to a glib lead.

HT Staff Posted: Jul 18, 2000 Published: Jul 19, 2000 0 comments
A speaker that Tony Montana would definitely love.

Power is considered to be very important in our society. Tony Montana's immortal words in Scarface said it all: "First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman." Of course, Tony was talking about a different kind of power than what you or I would be interested in (drug-kingpin power is very different from a nine-to-fiver's kind of power), but possessing even a minute amount of power can electrify one's self-esteem. Granted, Tony's zeal for power led to his coked-out paranoia and ultimate demise, but other types of power can, in fact, be quite healthy.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 22, 2005 0 comments
So little, yet so big.

Flat-panel TVs—both plasma and LCD—are wall candy. I've never heard anyone say, "I'm going to buy a plasma TV because the picture looks so much better than what you get from a (fill in your favorite display technology acronym here) projection TV." Nope. People buy flat-panel TVs for one or more of three reasons: they're thin; they're cool; and, boy, do they make your friends RGB with envy. Half a millennium ago, I'm sure that people who could afford it covered their walls with the finest tapestries for exactly the same reasons. Is it any wonder then that panel after panel goes into homes with teeny, tiny, embarrassingly little home-theater-in-a-grocery-bag speakers next to them—or simply with no speakers at all? I blame the salespeople (or lack thereof). I blame the imperialistic, aggressive TV manufacturers who would have us all on bended knee in subservience to the great, glowing flat-panel on the wall. (Talk about must-see TV. . .) And I blame AM talk radio for convincing people that the idea of really good audio cohabitating with nice video is just another wacko liberal concept that will undermine this country. (Yeah, I have issues.)

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: $699 (updated 1/28/15
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.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 23, 2015 1 comments

Denon HEOS 7 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Denon HEOS 5 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Denon HEOS 3 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,148 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar audio performance
Simple, intuitive app
Minus
No desktop controller
Fewer streaming services than Sonos

THE VERDICT
It’s not the first wireless multiroom sound system, but it certainly ranks among the best.

When I asked the folks at Denon why they felt the need to develop a multiroom, streaming music system, this was the answer they gave: “Probably for similar reasons why we developed the LP turntable and didn’t continue to manufacture gramophones.” That wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for, but it was an interesting way of putting a tangible perspective on the past 100-plus years that Denon has been involved in the audio industry.

In this day and age, it’s the rare person who sits at home enjoying selections from his or her collection of bulky spinning cylinders; streaming songs is what’s popular now. In fact, our collective propensity for listening to audio from the Internet or music stored on NAS drives and computers has resulted in wireless speakers of various kinds becoming the product du jour of nearly every audio manufacturer on the planet. So the question I really should have asked was how Denon thought they could build a system that would rise above the flood of streaming music speakers and systems on the market—and, specifically, how in the world Denon thought they could compete head to head with the Goliath of streaming music systems, Sonos.

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.

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