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BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 10, 2012 2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,800 At A Glance: Three-way with coaxial midrange/tweeter • Sub with dual side-firing drivers • Laser-like focus and well rounded

Kent, in the south of England, was best known for hop farming when Raymond Cooke left Wharfedale and founded KEF in 1961. The company was named after the industrial site on which it was founded: Kent Engineering & Foundry. KEF’s numerous distinguished alumni include Laurie Fincham, who now develops next-generation audio technologies for THX, and Andrew Jones, who designs world-beating loudspeakers at a variety of price points for Pioneer and TAD. KEF has earned a reputation for making both great speaker systems and great speaker drivers, some of which were instrumental in the legendary BBC-designed LS3/5A, which KEF and other manufacturers have marketed in various forms. Roving through a New York cocktail party celebrating KEF’s 50th anniversary last year, hobnobbing with the audio elite, I found that the drive units inspired as much nostalgia as the speakers in which they were used. (To read about KEF’s history in more detail—and in a handsome coffee-table book, no less—see KEF: 50 Years of Innovation in Sound by Ken Kessler and Dr. Andrew Watson.)

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 02, 2008 0 comments
Having grown up with LPs, I fondly recall how a good jacket design could make me pick up an album, examine it thoughtfully, and struggle in vain to keep those crumpled bills in my teenage pockets. The 12-by-12-inch form factor made stars of Storm Thorgerson, who designed LP jackets for Pink Floyd; Keith Morris, who shot unforgettable portraits of Nick Drake; and Hipgnosis, the firm whose memorable designs fascinated Led Zeppelin fans. So don’t talk to me about downloads. Even compared with CDs, they offer a user experience that’s sterile and boring.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 04, 2009 0 comments
Price: $600 At A Glance: Six-inch-tall satellites with curved enclosures • Horn-loaded tweeters provide more output with less energy • Sub combines 8-inch woofer with back port

Blow Your Little Horn

There are stories we tell over and over again because they never lose their power to teach us something. For example, the story of “The Three Little Pigs” and the big bad wolf teaches us not to risk our survival on houses made of straw or sticks. If more people had taken this story to heart and made the right decisions on housing, the subprime mortgage debacle never would have happened.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 19, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $2,396 At A Glance: Redesigned horn offers 80-degree horizontal and vertical dispersion • Dark, rich Berlinia wood veneers • Sub has top-mount controls and three EQ settings

Tale of the Flower Horn

This is the story of the flower horn. It is a story of bumps and mumps. It is getting started a little cryptically. I always love it when that happens.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 05, 2013 7 comments

Quintet Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
SW-100 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,050 At A Glance: Molded reinforced polymer enclosure • Vertically expanded Tractrix horn • Conventional sub

Compact satellite/subwoofer sets are often affordable, mate well with budget receivers, allow more speaker-placement width than soundbars, lend themselves to wall mounting—and best of all, they don’t hog the room, even if you place them on stands (which would usually produce the best sonic results). What Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote is to the Supreme Court, the spouse acceptance factor is to loudspeaker genres, and the elegant compactness of a sat/sub set just may be the tiebreaker, the factor that makes the difference between having or not having a surround system. Sat/sub sets continue to be the most underrated product category in home theater.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 15, 2006 0 comments
Return of the bodacious woofer.

When I ran across the Klipsch RB-81—in the newly renovated Reference Series—I couldn't resist ordering a set. It's been years since I've reviewed a two-way design with a great big 8-inch woofer. The very concept brought on one of my increasingly frequent bouts of nostalgia.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments

Usually, a sub-$400/pair minispeaker is part of a manufacturer's entry-level line, but the RB-41 II ($299/pr) is part of Klipsch's Reference line. It uses the horn-loaded tweeter that has been a Klipsch hallmark since the 1940s - in this case, a 1-inch titanium-dome model - and a ceramic/metallic-cone 4-inch woofer in a rear-ported enclosure.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 20, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,350 At A Glance: 90-by-60-degree Tractrix horn • Extremely focused imaging • More decibels for your watts

The story of Klipsch is often told, but the storytellers, myself included, typically fail to mention two of the three key principals. Every audiophile has heard of Paul W. Klipsch. He founded the loudspeaker company that bears his name in 1946 and spent several decades patiently perfecting his use of horn-loaded drivers to provide—and here I’ll just quote the Klipsch mantras—high efficiency, low distortion, controlled directivity, and flat frequency response. Paul was also known to take notes during sermons so that he could grill the minister afterward on the fine points of theology.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Nov 10, 2003 Published: Nov 01, 2003 0 comments
Feeling blah? I've got the cure.

My friend Gene is a professional musician. Back in the early '80s, he used Klipsch Heresys as PA speakers in clubs. One hot August afternoon, I dropped by his Greenwich Village apartment. Just for fun, he set up the Heresys at home. Hot damn, I was absolutely floored! The first LP (remember, this was in the pre-digital era) he played was the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street. Oh man, I thought I knew that record inside out, but not like that—the Klipschs sounded like a mini version of a concert system. We listened at extremely high levels, easily 100-plus decibels. Gene's neighbors must have thought Mick and the boys were gigging in his apartment.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 05, 2011 1 comments
Price: $1,307 At A Glance: Horn-loaded tweeter draws on long Klipsch tradition • Tweeter surround allows more piston-like movement • High sensitivity suits any A/V receiver

Toot Your Horn

Surround sound is an indispensable part of home theater. But some people still have difficulty making the leap from two-channel to 5.1-channel-plus. One question that comes up is: Doesn’t going from two speakers to five or more place a strain on the amplifier? After all, an amp driven into clipping suffers from harshness and compression, and that’s never pleasant to listen to.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 14, 2004 Published: Dec 15, 2004 0 comments
Hallelujah! A custom-installation speaker package even an audiophile can love.

Klipsch's new THX Ultra2 speaker system boldly goes where poseur speakers fear to tread. Let's face it, the speaker industry is obsessed with producing ever skinnier and sleeker designs; you know, the sort of trendy speakers that look cool straddling plasma TVs. For their new high-end line, Klipsch's product planners took a different approach: The THX Ultra2's raison d'étre is the rapidly expanding custom-installation market. No doubt most of these big-'n'-brawny speakers will be tucked out of sight or flush-mounted in a posh home theater, but I'd bet a bunch of these systems will be sold to performance-oriented buyers. They're that good.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 23, 2010 0 comments
Price: $5,385 At A Glance: Ultra-thin bar for skinny flat panel display • Passive sub can fire forward or down • Sub amp offers lots of adjustability

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

There’s one basic truth about home theater that I can never repeat often enough: It is the union of big-screen television and surround sound. They do not operate in isolation from each other. Instead, successive waves of video technology have affected the way people think about audio for video.

David Vaughn Posted: Jun 18, 2014 5 comments

S300 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

X12 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $17,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Realistic, dynamic sound
Outstanding build quality
Carries on the fine M&K tradition
Minus
Expensive

THE VERDICT
M&K’s system is perfect for the movie lover and extremely capable for the discerning audiophile.

It was in February 2000 when I was in a hi-fi store looking at some new electronics and stumbled upon a salesman giving a speaker demonstration to a married couple. I decided to listen in to see if anything piqued my interest. The salesman went through a number of different speakers, and I didn’t hear anything remarkable until his last demo: M&K Sound S150s coupled with an MK350 subwoofer. I don’t recall the exact track he played, but my jaw dropped when I heard the sound emanating from the speakers. It was as if the entire wall came alive, and I couldn’t pinpoint which speakers were active. Much like the wand picking the wizard in Harry Potter, these speakers picked me, and I knew I’d have to own them.

Sadly, it took me three years to convince She Who Must Not Be Crossed to give her blessing, but I’ve been in audio bliss for over 10 years now with a trio of S150s across the front soundstage and four SS150s across the rear of my home theater.

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