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BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 02, 2011 5 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,199 At A Glance: Spherical steel sats and rounded fiberglass sub • Attractive aesthetics, high construction quality • Outstanding sound quality

Life is full of strange synchronicities. Around the time my friends in the country were posting pictures of their spring mushroom harvests on Facebook, I just happened to be setting up Morel’s SoundSpot Music Theatre 2 Ultra, a 5.1-channel satellite/subwoofer set based on the adorably spherical SP-2 sat and PSW10 sub. Would Morels in my system sound as good as morels taste on pizza? In omelets or pasta? With steak or veal? With asparagus? In wine or cream sauces? In gravy?

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments

The Marimba ($349/pr) is the first speaker ever offered under the Music Hall brand, known for affordable turntables and audiophile electronics. Clearly, the sound was the focus; the Marimba's black ash vinyl wrap finish won't win any design awards. The 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and 5.25-inch, polypropylene-cone woofer are mounted in a rear-ported, 11-inch-high cabinet.

Michael Berk Posted: Nov 15, 2012 0 comments

Danish manufacturer Jamo's been making a splash with the spherical speakers we saw back at the 2012 CES, and this week they've announced a pair of 5.0 setups in the appropriately named 360 Series, based around their unique architecture: the S 25 HCS ($649.99), including five of the company's S 25 speakers, and the S 35 HCS ($999.99), which groups four of the larger S 35 units with a C 35 center channel.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 04, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,294 At A Glance: World-beating satellite with gloss enclosure • Matched drivers in satellite and center • Tall, slender sub with boundary compensation

Starting from Zero

Loudspeakers somehow have a more intimate relationship with their listeners than other audio components. They interact directly with the senses, causing changes in air pressure that the human body perceives—in this case, mainly through the ears and diaphragm. Listening to a system at reference level with a true subwoofer is a full-body experience that will induce physiological changes in the audience. So perhaps it’s fitting that whereas we buy HDTVs and A/V receivers from relatively few manufacturers, the speaker industry supports a couple dozen fairly well-known companies, even more lesser-knowns, and countless unknowns. Some people even build speakers in their basements as a hobby. NHT is one of the more pedigreed names. Unlike a lot of others, it has not only survived five changes in ownership, but it’s done so with one of its two founders in attendance.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 05, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $844 At A Glance: SuperZero 2.0 updates popular mini-monitor • Voiced to be more relaxed and forgiving • Sub packs 8-inch driver into 11-inch enclosure

Feel-Good Sensation

Consider the mini-monitor. It’s smaller than a monitor and bigger than a satellite.

If the mini-monitor in question is the NHT SuperZero 2.0, it doesn’t have much bass and therefore needs to be mated with a subwoofer. But in the surround arena, where subs are standard equipment, bass-shyness is not so much a weakness as a characteristic.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 08, 2007 Published: Sep 08, 2007 0 comments
Sats and sub and all that jazz.

One of my favorite wines is Riesling—German Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. The grape is a noble specimen dating from 1435. NHT is like that hardy grape, which thrives in cool climates and stony ground. You'd expect a company that has changed hands repeatedly since its founding in 1986 to lose its identity, buffeted by the demands and indifference of successive owners. Instead, NHT has gone from strength to strength, entering their latest relationship with the Vinci Group of Colorado with a credible product lineup that represents several extended trains of thought, as well as a few new ones.

Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 17, 2005 0 comments
A fresh look at form and function.

One thing you can't say about speaker designers and manufacturers is that they haven't been busy over the last 10 to 15 years making drastic changes to the standard speaker form. There may have never been another period like it in the annals of speakerdom. What you can debate, however, is what the driving force for all of this change has been. It strikes me that a good portion of it has been aesthetically and ergonomically motivated, and far less of it has been geared toward making speakers sound better. Now don't get me wrong—I'm not here to trash flat panels, in-walls, wireless speakers, or anything else. Some of these designs can sound very good, despite their inherent compromises, and they are getting better as they mature. They all have their purposes, and many of them have well served people who may not otherwise be interested in speakers outside of those in their televisions, or those folks who aren't willing to give up floor space to accommodate speakers. But special congratulations must be given to those speaker makers who, either through new technologies and designs or not, are actively trying to improve the sound quality of such designs. This quest is as important now as it has ever been.

Michael Trei Posted: Nov 02, 2007 0 comments

the listMost of us are familiar with the old saying that children should be seen and not heard. How might we apply similar thinking to loudspeakers? Just the word loudspeaker suggests something that needs to be heard clearly.

Kevin Hunt Posted: Aug 19, 2004 Published: Aug 01, 2004 0 comments
Is that all there is? The one-speaker HTIB.

Throw Niro Nakamichi's name at the iPod generation, and you'll stump the panel. To an older generation, however, Nakamichi's three-head cassette deck, the Nakamichi 1000, elevated the lowly cassette to the world of the best recording medium of the day, the cumbersome reel-to-reel tape deck. In a way, the Nakamichi 1000 was an iPod forebear in the miniaturization and portability of recorded sound. After the Nakamichi family sold the company name in 1998, Niro Nakamichi started Mechanical Research to develop big-ticket electronics like the awe-inspiring $22,000 Niro 1000 Power Engine monoblock amplifier.

Bob Ankosko Posted: Mar 28, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $299 (accessories: Air DAC Receiver, $149; iTX Transmitter, $79; uTX Transmitter, $59) At a Glance: Easy setup • Excellent wireless performance • Good sound from compact speakers

The promise was enticing: A compact wireless speaker system offering “exceptional” performance with the option of using an outboard digital-to-analog converter (DAC) to achieve a “much needed, audiophile-grade alternative to mediocre wireless sound.” Amen. The last thing the world needs is another pair of bad-sounding wireless speakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 06, 2007 Published: Jul 06, 2007 0 comments
The penny pincher wears Prada.

Break out that dusty case of champagne. Get the kids together. Give them each a bottle. No, don't do that. But yell out the window to your neighbors. Call all of your relatives. Throw a few shrimp on the barbie. Make popcorn. Stack your favorite DVDs and CDs in neat piles next to the equipment rack. If you have symptoms lasting more than four hours, alert the media. Something momentous has happened. I have found my favorite budget speakers of all time.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 12, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,098 At A Glance: Dual orbs in front, single orbs behind • Full-range drivers in steel enclosures • Rod or pedestal stand

Spherical loudspeakers are perhaps too easily dismissed: “Oh look, it’s round. Cute gimmick. Next…” That box speakers are easy to build certainly doesn’t guarantee sound quality. In fact, designers of quality speakers are constantly rebelling against the limitations of rectangular enclosures. To curb cabinet resonance, designers build bracing into the box and stuff the interior with damping material. They curve the sides to stop standing waves from developing between parallel walls. But rather than tweak boxes, some do away with them altogether. So if you think the spherical steel shells of Orb Audio’s People’s Choice satellite speakers are mere gimmicks, think again.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2006 Published: Jan 11, 2006 0 comments
Gear from the Net that demands respect.

Outlaw Audio and Aperion Audio both pursue the decidedly nonmainstream business model of selling quality surround gear directly to consumers over the Internet. Back when I worked for an Internet startup—don't fall asleep now, or I'll poke you with a stick—my now dead-as-a-doornail company caught a lot of flak for facilitating Internet sales of audio equipment. Isn't it unwise to buy something you haven't heard?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 21, 2008 0 comments
Woofer, tweeter, woofer, curve ball.

Outlaw Audio has tenaciously earned a reputation as a maker of well-thought-out surround electronics, speakers, subwoofers, and other products. The company offers a favorable performance/price ratio by selling directly to the consumer via the Internet. And once in a while, it gets downright iconoclastic, dramatically rethinking flawed product genres and pushing them unexpectedly forward. The Outlaw LCR loudspeaker is one of those.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments
The Monitor series of speakers from Paradigm is now in its seventh generation. It's always been the company's most affordable line, but it's always been designed in the same no-nonsense, engineering-focused style as the company's other speakers. The Atom Monitor 7 ($398/pr) is no exception.

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