BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 16, 2012 5 comments

StudioMonitor 55 Speakers
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Value
 
SuperCube 6000 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,494 At A Glance: Top-mounted, passive radiator • Dual binding posts • Enhanced phase plug

Whether you think a decade is a long or a short period of time depends on your perspective. If you’re discussing cosmology with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the word “decade” probably won’t even make it into the conversation. If you’re Apple, you crank out more than 300 million iPods in that period of time. If you’re a momma elephant with a particularly frisky elephant husband who likes to party, you might be able to birth five elephant progeny. (Although the stretch marks will simply be impossible to get rid of after that third one, no matter what exercise club you sign up with.) At the Glenmorangie distillery in the Scottish Highlands, you’re trying to decide whether or not to bottle the batch of single-malt scotch that’s been aging in the barrels for the last decade or to wait another eight years and ship out cases of Glenmorangie 18 Years Old instead. But if you’re Definitive Technology, you take your sweet time and eventually come out with…wait for it…three (as in one more than two) totally redesigned monitor speakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 26, 2012 2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $900 each At A Glance: Comprehensive bass optimization in a small cabinet • Compelling midrange • Speckle gloss finish

As a surround-oriented magazine, we rarely review speakers in stereo. But when Atlantic Technology offered a pair of its AT-2 H-PAS speaker, we couldn’t resist a listen. This loudspeaker uses an intricately constructed stand-mount enclosure to deliver bass comparable to that of an equivalent conventional floorstander. Does anyone want it?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 13, 2012 5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,745 At A Glance: Sealed design controls bass • Satin-finish MDF enclosures • Factory-direct sales enhance value

Are you one of those people who can’t resist a supermarket circular? Do you trawl the Internet looking for coupon codes that can be pasted into online purchases? Loudspeaker pricing doesn’t often indulge us with the same feeling of satisfaction that we get from buying a jumbo jar of marinara sauce or a cashmere scarf at an extremely low price. But while researching this review last December, I couldn’t help noting that Emotiva’s factory-direct speakers offered some wiggle room to the timely shopper. The XRC-5.2 LCR speaker normally sold for $299/each—not a bad price to begin with—but was momentarily going for an introductory price of $239/each.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 07, 2012 4 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,706 At A Glance: Listening fatigue immunity • Extremely solid build • Factory-direct value

SVS Sound designs its products from the bottom up. The company got its start as a subwoofer manufacturer, fascinating point-one-obsessed audiophiles with unusual (and potent) cylinder-shaped models. Check out the company’s Website at svsound.com under products and you’ll find the subwoofer category listed above speakers and systems. If you want to add an SVS sub to an existing system, the Website’s Merlin engine lets you key in the make and model of your non-SVS speakers to obtain recommendations on compatible SVS subs. Merlin will even offer suggestions for subwoofer crossovers in both surround and stereo systems.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 29, 2011 9 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,075 At A Glance: Compression Guide Technology enclosure • Top-to-bottom ease and authority • Sub controls in separate remote-controlled box

Longtime readers know I often revisit the same manufacturers in loudspeaker reviews. I like to see how speaker lines from the same crucible evolve and grow. The downside is that returning to the same brands cheats me (and you) of new experiences. So for this review, I found myself placing a call to Howard Rodgers of RSL Speaker Systems. I dialed his West Coast number at 10 in the morning East Coast time with the intention of leaving a voicemail—only to roust him out of bed, to my surprise and embarrassment. He told me a little about the company and the 5.1-channel speaker package I was about to review.

Michael Fremer Posted: Dec 27, 2011 10 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,850 At A Glance: 0 for looks • 11 on a 10 scale for sound • Smooooth air motion transformer tweeter

Although Berlin, Germany–based Adam Audio is a recent player in the American A/V marketplace, the company has produced passive and powered loudspeakers for both pro and home use for 11 years. The acronym ADAM stands for Advance Dynamic Audio Monitors. ADAM Audio USA entered the pro market here in 2002 and only recently began building a home audio distribution and sales network.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 16, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $880 At A Glance: Super-smooth-sounding top end • Spacious, big-sounding midrange • Compact form factor • Modest price

There are two schools of thought about speaker design for movies and music. The purist approach is that the fundamentals of performance affect both equally—what’s good for music is good for movies and vice versa. On the other hand, the pragmatic approach calls attention to the differing demands of movies versus music, suggesting that your choice of speaker should be optimized for one or the other, whichever you care about more.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 11, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,350 At A Glance: Smallest member of Imagine Series • Ingenious design, high build quality • Wood veneer or gloss finishes

A few decades ago, the Canadian government’s National Research Council built an anechoic—that is, non-echoing—chamber in Ottawa for the testing and refinement of loudspeakers. This investment nurtured a whole school of speaker designers. Paul Barton of PSB was among the earliest and most distinguished to emerge. Five years ago, Barton embarked on a wholesale redesign of his speaker lines, summing up his considerable experience and adding improvements made possible by the lowered cost of manufacturing in China. Yes, some manufacturers actually use China’s industrial prowess as an opportunity to improve their products. Barton regularly visits his contract manufacturers to ensure they’re delivering the quality he demands in his high-performing loudspeakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 04, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,393 At A Glance: Rethink of price/performance champ • Perfectly voiced for affordable electronics • Optional Perfect Bass Kit tunes sub

I envy the Paradigm Monitor Series 7 speakers, the latest in a durable line. Over time, the Monitors have gotten better and better, while I have only gotten balder.

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 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.

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?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 30, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $7,480 At A Glance: Two-way monitors with ribbon tweeters • High-quality parts including silver cabling • Three veneer and two lacquer finishes

No home theater system is complete without both a big screen and surround sound. But it’s no secret that the former is more popular than the latter. Surround’s Achilles’ heel is the audio/video receiver, with its peculiarly named features and labyrinthine menus. On the other hand, speakers are fairly straightforward. They usually have no controls aside from a few on the sub. Cable connection is red to red, black to black. Placement is key to performance but as much a matter of simple experimentation as knowledge. You don’t need to be a nuclear physicist to hear bass get louder when you shove a speaker toward a corner.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 26, 2011 3 comments
Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,600 At A Glance: Glossy veneer makes a great impression • Crisp, up-front, detailed sound • Bipole/dipole surround provides subtle envelopment

Veritas is the Roman goddess of truth. It’s also a distinguished speaker line from Energy. Since 1973, Energy has passed from its founders through various Canadian and American owners. In 2006, along with its stablemate Mirage, it became the property of Klipsch. Earlier this year, the Klipsch brands—Energy, Mirage, Jamo, and Klipsch itself—became the property of Audiovox. Although Audiovox also owns a couple of other ancient speaker brands (Acoustic Research and Jensen), in recent years, those brands have focused on car audio, personal audio products, small-scale video products, and accessories. That leaves the home theater niche wide open for Energy and the goddess of truth.

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