BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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.

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Feb 01, 2004 0 comments
The TSS-750 speaker system adds a new chapter to the entry-level guidebook.

Ah, the life of an audio reviewer is a glamorous one indeed. Lugging around speakers and subwoofers. Continually connecting systems, checking levels, tweaking placement, checking levels again, yada yada yada. Spending hours sitting in a room listening to movie and music tracks that you've watched and listened to so many times, your brain is suffering from burn-in. Yep, with all of this glamour, it might come as a surprise for you to learn that even we audio reviewers fall into the dreaded rut now and then.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 18, 2008 Published: Dec 18, 2007 0 comments
Harman conjugates their contours.

Like a master linguist conjugating a verb, Harman International has a way of reusing original ideas to good advantage in different settings. So, it's not exactly a surprise to find a family resemblance between Infinity's high-end Cascade speaker line, circa 2006, and the TSS-800 set, circa 2007. They share a unique extruded-aluminum form that's tapered at both the top and bottom, for starters.

Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
The international systems tour rolls on.

You may recall that I've usually tried to dip into the historical well when introducing the many international audio systems that we've reviewed lately. This at least spares you from yet another opening paragraph of worn-out exaggerations about paradigm shifts and in-your-face phrases like "in your face." I'm somewhat stumped here, though. The Japanese and English seem to have avoided pairing up, or squaring off (directly, at least), in any high-profile military conflicts. There have really been no economic or cultural wars between them. I can't even find a case where they've faced off in a major sporting event. But one place they have gotten together often is in the listening room—and I suppose that is what we're here for, after all.

Michael Trei Posted: Mar 05, 2003 Published: Mar 06, 2003 0 comments
Yah mo b there.

Having lived in Denmark for a couple of years as a kid, I guess I've learned a little about the Danish mindset. Many Danes display a self-effacing modesty, to the extent that Carlsberg will only say that theirs is "probably the best beer in the world." Yet, in their typically understated way, this little country (with a population about equal to that of Missouri) has made deeper inroads into the lives of Americans than most people think. Just don't blame them the next time you step on one of your kid's Lego blocks.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
A little Danish for your sonic sweet tooth.

Flat-panel TVs—and the speakers that love to be with them—receive such obsessive attention from the press that you'd think all other forms of video display—and the speakers that love to be with them—had disappeared. Jamo has fed the trend with their remarkable 2F speaker system, which teams perfectly with a plasma display. But rear-projection sets are still around. In fact, with DLP-, LCD-, and CRT-based models to choose from, they're taking on slimmer shapes, waxing in both cool factor and diversity.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 23, 2007 0 comments
The inverted bottle meets the custom virtuoso.

At some point in the evolution of home theater, someone noticed that the phrase includes the word home. At that point, weird and wonderful things began to happen. Speakers morphed into smaller, more rounded, and occasionally more imaginative shapes. The surround receivers that fed them maintained their black-box identities but moved discreetly into closets. Back panels began to sprout extra jacks, the better to interact with touchscreen interfaces, second zones, and other niceties that have become staples of the connected home.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 17, 2006 0 comments
Xtremely good on the desktop.

What you are about to read is partly a review of the JBL speakers known as CONTROL 1Xtreme, partly an essay about how I rediscovered stereo, and partly a tale of audiofool upgrade fever run amuck.

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