BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 23, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,144 At A Glance: Doughnut-shaped speakers fit just about anywhere • Withstands tough environments • Wireless sub makes your life one cable less complicated

Cornered and Wireless

Fade up on an open box of doughnuts. Are they Krispy Kremes or Dunkin? Leave that to the product-placement department.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 15, 2008 0 comments
Looking like a winner right out of the box.

Producing loudspeakers at mass-market prices is a thankless task. It takes the resources of a big company like Harman International to do it right. I’ve determined in one review after another that JBL has long been a budget-speaker champ. You could even call me a JBL fan. But I was still surprised when I took the ES20 loudspeaker out of its box. Its tapered non-rectangular form announced that this was no low-end junk-in-a-box speaker, even at $399 per pair. And the surprises didn’t end there. This is the first budget speaker I’ve reviewed that boasts a super-tweeter in addition to the usual tweeter and woofer.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 06, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $4,694 At A Glance: Three-way monitor with horn-loaded tweeter and super-tweeter • Ebony/mahogany side panels • Tightly focused soundfield and good bass

Two-Horned Demon

Hey you. Did you notice what I just did when I yelled at you? I cupped my hands around my mouth. That guided my voice’s acoustic output toward your ears. It also limited its off-axis response to reduce room interaction, enabling you to hear me better. You probably noticed that it also introduced an added coloration to the sound of my voice. But you heard me, didn’t you?

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Dec 14, 2004 Published: Dec 15, 2004 0 comments
Swing low, sweet subwoofer.

Curse you, JBL, for giving me yet another reason to want to move out of my apartment. As if paper-thin walls, the inability to own a dog, and the desire to dine more than 20 feet away from the toilet weren't enough, I must now contend with colder stares than usual from my neighbors—stares that coincide with the arrival of the SCS300.7 7.1-channel sub/sat system.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 14, 2014 4 comments

Studio 230 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Studio SUB 250P Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,630

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Efficient, high output
Vocal clarity and defined soundfield
Affordable price
Minus
Thin, accentuated top end
Best at low-to-moderate volumes

THE VERDICT
Although their bright voicing may not be for everyone, the JBL Studio 2 speakers combine high efficiency with excellent detail retrieval.

What if the solution to room-interaction problems resided in your loudspeakers? Wouldn’t that be a great alternative to the ills of receiver-based room correction systems? Those are some potentially interesting questions posed by JBL’s Studio 2 series.

For starters, who needs room correction anyway? Well, when it’s hard to catch the dialogue, and imaging smears all over the place, the room correction program in your A/V receiver can mitigate those problems (depending on the receiver and the room). But quite often, it also introduces new artifacts and errors. For my own part, in my own room, I find that many room correction systems thin out the overall tonal balance and induce fatigue. That’s why some audiophiles shun room correction and choose to live with the acoustic character of their room, for better or worse—usually both.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments

Audio cognoscenti won't recognize the C3 ($350/pr) as a KEF because it doesn't have KEF's trademark concentric tweeter-inside-woofer design. Its 0.75-inch aluminum-dome tweeter sits above its 5.25-inch polypropylene-cone woofer in an 11.4-inch-high front-ported cabinet.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 15, 2006 0 comments
Go with the intergalactic flow.

Crime in New York gets more and more bizarre. The other day, someone broke into my apartment and redesigned my speakers. I'm not sure if our local burglars are capable of this. No, the KEF KHT 3005 is clearly the product of an extraterrestrial mind. Who else would reimagine a loudspeaker as a glossy-black egg? Indeed, who else would reimagine a subwoofer as a giant, staring eye?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 01, 2008 1 comments
Price: $850 At A Glance: Very compact sat/sub set • Fabric-wrapped subwoofer • Sats have eggs-cellent focus

Sunny Side Up

Folks buying compact satellite/subwoofer sets to complement their flat-panel HDTVs? That’s old news. Now some manufacturers are offering even more compact speakers to complement the new breed of flat panels. The focus is now on flat panels that reduce the frame surrounding the screen to an absolute minimum, so that the picture seems to float against the wall.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 07, 2004 Published: Nov 01, 2004 0 comments
Follow the bouncing surrounds.

There's more than one way to skin a cat—as mine will quickly discover if he claws my armchair again—and surround sound needs skinning. I've lost count of the number of potential home theater buffs who have asked for my advice and then balked at the idea of running cables for surround speakers. Mount a flat panel to the wall or a projector to the ceiling? No problem. Run speaker cables to the back of the room? The thought makes them flinch—I can see it in their eyes even before they start equivocating—and the dark forces of stereo claim another soul.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments

Like so many British (and, for that matter, American) ür-audio brands, KEF — originally Kent Engineering & Foundry — had its roots in the post- WWII technology boom. In KEF’s case, it grew inside a Quonset hut on the grounds of the aforementioned foundry. A half-century down the road the Kentish maker is still there (in Kent, not in the metal shed!), still focused on its core competency (loudspeakers), and still producing wholly excellent designs.

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