BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 02, 2017 0 comments

Dôme Flax 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Sub Air Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flax cone woofer
Aluminum-magnesium inverted-dome tweeter
Wall-hugging sub
Minus
Limited bass from sats

THE VERDICT
Unique driver materials, overall quality of construction, and adroit voicing make the Focal Dôme Flax 5.1 one of the best-sounding compact sat/sub systems I’ve heard.

As the home theater milieu increasingly divides into Atmos and non-Atmos camps, the satellite/subwoofer category seems destined to remain part of the old guard, usually sold in a set of five little speakers and a sub or two. Is it possible for a satellite speaker to retain its merciful compactness if it’s also to include an Atmos-enabled upfiring driver? I’d love to review such a product, but right now it’s a figment of my imagination and hopes. Focal, the prodigious French speaker manufacturer, does now offer a 5.1.2-channel Atmos-capable sat/sub system that takes a different approach (see below), but you’ll be happy to know that plain ol’ 5.1 is still alive and supported by this and other fine speaker makers. Even now it remains the bedrock configuration of surround sound.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 14, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,599 At A Glance: Unusual shapes and many choices of color • Better build quality than most sat/sub sets • Balanced performance

From People Who Do It Right

Whenever the depravity of the human race plunges me into despair, I think of Paris. Then I feel better.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 21, 2013 0 comments

Nucleus Micro SE Speak
Performance
Build Quality
Value
TR-1D Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,614

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly compact steel sphere enclosures
Transparent sound quality
Big soundstage with no restrictive sweet spot
Minus
On-wall or near-wall placement well advised
Tricky subwoofer mating
Likes a lot of power

THE VERDICT
A sub/sat system whose great strengths are its midrange clarity, wide dispersion, and décor-friendly form factor.

The interaction between speaker manufacturers and the public they serve has changed markedly since the days when I was a longhaired college kid buying my first speakers. Back then, design ideas flowed in one direction, from the top down, from the drawing board to the sales floor—and if you bought a speaker, you nearly always bought a box speaker. Now speaker-design imperatives flow in both directions. With a greater variety of beckoning form factors, speaker buyers influence the design process simply by choosing the products that fit into our lives.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 25, 2013 0 comments
CL-2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 

CLS-10 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,888 At A Glance: 180-degree cylindrical tweeter • Stable, wide-open sound • Tilted sub driver

Shape is destiny for Anthony Gallo Acoustics. The company is best known for its spherical and cylindrical speaker enclosures, made of metal and tough as tanks. But the Classico Series is the first Gallo product to use a plain rectan-gular box—for consumers, the company says, who prefer a more traditional look. Though not as curvaceous as other Gallo lines, the Classico is still available in a beautiful Cherry veneer finish, along with the more staid Black Ash veneer of our review samples. Note that the speakers are sold only through the Gallo Website: roundsound.com. The more conventional construction and factory-direct approach make the Classico models among the most affordable Gallo speakers ever.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • 5.1-Channel System Price As Reviewed: $4,320
  • 6020A L/R/LS/RS: Two-way bi-amplified active speaker with one 4" woofer and one .75" tweeter, $545/ea.
  • 5050A Subwoofer: 70-Watt powered sub with one 8" woofer and two 8" passive radiators, balanced and single-ended line-level inputs, $1,595
Genelec is a big name in the pro side of the business and is hoping to make a name in the consumer world with small, self-amplified systems like this one. The 6020A monitors are Genelec's smallest speaker yet, but still carries an amplifier for each driver in these two-ways. The 5050A sub fills on the low-end, but does so with a footprint that's just 13" around. Check our December issue to find out how it sounds.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 31, 2006 0 comments
Amplification has its rewards.

I'm always willing to stand up for the little guy. Small speakers are my favorite kind, whether they're compact sub/sat sets or slightly chunkier bookshelf speakers. The Genelec 6020A leans more toward the sub/sat side in terms of size, but it has a significant distinction—the 5.1-channel configuration with this little speaker and the 5050A subwoofer is stuffed with 11 channels of amplification.

Ken C. Pohlmann Posted: Dec 03, 2007 0 comments

Having worked in and around recording studios for 30 years, I cut my teeth on professional gear before broadening my horizons to the vast consumer audio/video world. In studios, you quickly learn that trustworthy monitors are essential. Every tracking and mixing decision hinges on what your monitors tell you; if they mislead you with any inaccuracy, your recording will suffer.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 18, 2013 2 comments

Aon 2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

ForceField 5 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,000 At A Glance: Broad dispersion • Good power handling • Powerful subwoofer

A review is more interesting when it tells a story. How should the story of the GoldenEar Aon 2 begin? There’s the technology angle: The Aon 2 is among the few speakers on the market with an unusual pleated tweeter design that uses a squeezing motion (as opposed to a piston motion) to generate the changes in air pressure that we hear as sound waves. Because the benefits—wide horizontal dispersion and vivid imaging—are easy to describe, that would be a good way to begin. And then there’s the human interest angle: GoldenEar is the third brand to be cofounded by Baltimore-based loudspeaker impresario Sandy Gross, whose genuine love for audio is balanced by his love for gourmet food, Expressionist canvases, and ancient statuary. The only thing wrong with these angles is that reviewers hither and yon have used them so often in the past. That leaves the musical angle. Here I believe I have a variant that might qualify as an exclusive.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 20, 2011 9 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $1,750 At A Glance: HVFR folded diaphragm tweeter • Dual woofers in slim enclosure • High sensitivity

There are no second acts in American lives,” F. Scott Fitzgerald gloomily mused. Don’t tell that to Sandy Gross. Having cofounded Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, he has recently formed a third Baltimore-based loudspeaker company called GoldenEar Technology. I’ve asked Gross more than once why he’s launched a third speaker brand when the first two have left him at a pinnacle of material success. He always starts his reply with a broad smile that says it all.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2010 0 comments
Price: $999 At A Glance: Sleek, simple-looking satellites with removable pedestals • Small, sealed sub with 8-inch driver

Undercover Operative

When agents for the federal government’s most secretive intelligence agencies take up their sensitive duties, they are outfitted with trench coats and fedoras so that they can blend in with the general population. That’s what I thought of when I uncrated the Harman Kardon HKTS 30 satellite/subwoofer system. To look at these speakers, you’d hardly suspect that they form a package that retails for just a buck shy of a thousand dollars. The look is strictly utilitarian, like something you’d see packaged with a less costly system. Yet under the metal grilles there lurk some nice silk-dome tweeters. And the speaker terminals aren’t the flimsy plastic-tab wire clips you’ll find in the cheapest speakers. Instead, Harman Kardon opts for a sturdy all-metal terminal, a spring-loaded cylinder of a type often seen in better-quality sat/sub sets. Clearly, there’s more to this system than meets the eye.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments

Hsu Research ranks high on home theater enthusiasts' "most favored brands" list, largely because of its high-performance, low-priced subwoofers. Indeed, the HB-1 MK2 ($318/pr) seems to be designed primarily as a home theater bruiser: At 15.4 inches high, it's the largest speaker in this roundup, and its 6.5-inch, polypropylene-cone woofer gives it more bass real estate than any but the Axiom M3v3.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 23, 2007 Published: Mar 23, 2007 0 comments
Trappist ale on a beer budget.

I admired the HSU Research HB-1 horn-loaded loudspeaker when I first heard it at the Home Entertainment Show in Los Angeles in June 2006. Nearby demo rooms were stuffed with megabucks two-channel gear, much of which simply didn't approach the directness of this $125 budget wonder. I blogged my first response, and it's a good thing I still feel that way, because now it's printed right on the HB-1's carton: "This speaker may become the underground bestseller of 2006." Make that 2007. Aside from the year, I stand by my original impression.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 07, 2004 Published: Nov 01, 2004 0 comments
Infinity's CAI: constant acoustic improvements.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
Flat and fit.

How would you feel if you woke up one day in a perfect body? You'd pull back the blanket and look down on a perfectly flat tummy (something I haven't seen in years, although heaven knows I'm trying). Combination skin is a thing of the past—you seem to have been remade in some wonderful material. Eager to check yourself out in a mirror, you cross the room to find yourself resculpted in new and slimmer proportions. And, when you open your mouth, depending on your gender, you have either the purest soprano or the noblest baritone. In fact, you have both. I think this metaphor may be getting a bit perverse.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 13, 2015 1 comments

Infinity Reference R162 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Infinity Reference SUB R12 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Detailed high frequencies
Proprietary drivers
Curved enclosure
Minus
Can be too revealing
More finishes needed

THE VERDICT
The new Infinity Reference series has superb top-end transient detail and a commendably subtle sub, turning even familiar material into a fresh experience.

“Attention to detail.” That was my mantra when I hired and trained people to write product descriptions for an e-commerce site. It’s a pretty good rule to live by in general, and I try my imperfect best to practice it myself, both personally and professionally. It came back to me when I pulled the grille off the Infinity R162, part of the big brand’s new Reference series. When I saw a tweeter waveguide unlike any I’d previously seen, I knew I was communing with a kindred spirit, a lover of detail—though one with access to far greater resources than I command as a mere reviewer. Infinity’s parent corporation, Harman International Industries, has the kind of facilities and personnel that many speaker companies can only dream of. Harman pays a whole lot of talented people to attend to detail.

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