BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 12, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $2,650 At A Glance: Two-way monitor with silk-dome tweeter • 10-inch sub with both low- and high-pass filters • Refined performance with a touch of warmth

Sweet Silk Dome

The Dynaudio DM 2/6 monitor comes in a vinyl-wrapped mediumdensity-fiberboard enclosure. This is so traditional, it’s almost retro. At the audiophile end of the speaker market, the vinyl-MDF box is outclassed by tantalizing veneers. At the pragmatic end—which is where a lot of the innovation comes these days—the vinyl-MDF box has given way to sound-bars and sat/sub sets with curvy molded-plastic or extruded-aluminum enclosures.

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?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 28, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,396 At A Glance: Left and right speakers include concealed phantom center • Flat-panel form factor is ideal for wall mounting • Fabric wrap comes in black, gray, or cream

Hide the Center

What’s wrong with this word picture? A sexy flat-panel TV hangs on the wall. On either side of it are some almost equally sexy on-wall speakers, and the screen has a center speaker below it. Let’s assume that surround speakers and a subwoofer are elsewhere in the room. Surely this is a recipe for great audiovisual entertainment.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 21, 2010 0 comments
Price: $599 At A Glance: Beautifully styled satellite/subwoofer set • Keyhole mount for on-wall placement • Well-rounded sound

From England to China

Wharfedale is an Anglo-Chinese speaker brand and one of the most storied names in the high-end audio industry. The brand began in 1932 in Yorkshire, in the north of England, and it went through a few changes of ownership before it became part of the International Audio Group (IAG) in 1996. IAG is owned by two Taiwanese brothers, Bernard and Michael Chang, who made their fortune with karaoke equipment. For a decade and a half, they restored the luster to Wharfedale and its sister brand Quad.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 12, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,134 At A Glance: Extensive experience with aluminum driver diaphragms • Sub notch filter surgically removes bass bloat • Unusual bullet-shaped speaker terminals

Take Aim at Bass Bloat

Mordaunt-Short’s Aviano is a new speaker line from a British company that’s been making high-performance speakers since 1967. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of Japanese-made mass-market A/V receivers, the advent of surround sound for home theater, and lots of new speaker categories from sat/sub sets to soundbars to in-walls. On these tumultuous seas, Mordaunt-Short remains seaworthy by concentrating on the fundamentals of performance and, more recently, value.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 19, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,344 At A Glance: Between Studio and Monitor Series • PBK-1 Perfect Bass Kit fine-tunes sub’s low-frequency response • Five stand-mounts plus subwoofer

Seeing Red in a New Way

I first became interested in Paradigm speakers on the recommendation of a working musician. He was a trumpeter, and he owned a pair of Paradigm Titans. This was 20 years ago, but even today, the Titan is one of the best budget speakers in captivity. Like all Paradigm speakers, it’s gone through one generation after another, acquiring better drivers and improved parts along the way. I completed the circle by donating my pair of vintage Titans to another musician, who loved them.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 11, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,900 At A Glance: Gloss finish and rounded edges enrich rectangular appearance • Custom-designed woofers and tweeter • A polite top end with fully fleshed-out midrange

Between VS and CS

In this brutal economy, it takes more than a good resume to keep you afloat. Boston Acoustics has a legendary audiophile pedigree that dates from its birth in 1979 as an independent brand. In this environment, it probably matters more that Boston is part of the D&M Holdings family, along with Snell Acoustics, McIntosh, Denon, Marantz, and Escient. This positioning has already borne fruit with pairings of Denon A/V receivers and Boston speaker packages, including the distinctive bell-shaped VS Series speakers, which I showered with well-deserved superlatives when I reviewed them last year. You really can’t go wrong with a set of VS speakers and one of Denon’s upper-end A/V receivers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 22, 2009 0 comments
Price: $5,250 At A Glance: Ingenious wall mount • Extruded aluminum enclosures maximize cabinet volume and extend bass • Sub has convenient top-mount volume control

Heavy Metal Is Good

In 1976, the United States of America celebrated its bicentennial, and Peter Snell founded the loudspeaker company that bears his name.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 21, 2009 0 comments
Price: $500 At A Glance: Cabinet geometry allows front or upward firing • 2.5-inch woofer and 0.5-inch tweeter in plastic enclosure • Sub has 8-inch down-firing woofer and 100 watts

Shape’s Mightier Than Size

Gaze back into the mists of time, and you’ll find that the earliest loudspeakers were boxes with nothing but right angles. This shape lends itself to efficient manufacturing techniques and is still used for most speakers. However, speaker designers have rebelled against the box for some time. Now that they have injection-molded plastic at their disposal, they can make speakers in just about any shape. Of course, plastic speaker enclosures also lend themselves to efficient manufacturing techniques, so some of the most interestingly shaped speakers are also among the most affordable.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 14, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,599 At A Glance: Unusual shapes and many choices of color • Better build quality than most sat/sub sets • Balanced performance

From People Who Do It Right

Whenever the depravity of the human race plunges me into despair, I think of Paris. Then I feel better.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 07, 2009 0 comments
Price: $5,550 At A Glance: Distinctive round-edged Cantons are easy to live with • Monitors deliver superb all-around performance • Adjustable sub delivers deep bass without bloat

Brilliant at Making Things

Last year I spent my vacation in Munich, Stuttgart, and Nuremberg. Afterward I sent e-mails and pictures to friends, raving about Germany’s high-speed trains and pedestrianized shopping districts. One friend wrote back and said that I made him sad because I spent all that time in Munich without visiting BMW, and in Stuttgart without visiting Mercedes-Benz. Let’s face it, the Germans are brilliant at making things: cities, cars, trains, eyewear, clothing, sausages, and beer—all the little things that enhance our quality of life. Wouldn’t you like your loudspeakers to measure up to that standard?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 23, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,350 At A Glance: Stand-mounts and center with three-way HF control and bass adjustment • Switchable bipole/dipole surrounds • Sub with front-baffle volume control

HT Roots Matter

To Atlantic Technology, home theater is not a necessary evil. This is not a loudspeaker company that specializes in two-channel audio and tosses out a few centers and subs as an afterthought. The brand has been firmly rooted in home theater from day one. The company cares about dialogue clarity, panning, surround effects, and bass dynamics. The first two alone are worth a thousand-word essay: You want to catch every word, but you also want pans to be seamless across the three front channels. How do you go about reconciling those two requirements? You do a lot of listening and experimenting. After about a third of a century, Atlantic Tech has gotten pretty good at it.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2009 0 comments
Price: $3,300 At A Glance: Unusually shaped sub with graphic equalizer • Satellite grilles present unique face to listener • Good bass, solid overall performance

Little Speakers, Big Sound

As I’ve said so many times that I’ve lost count, I’m an advocate for well-designed satellite/subwoofer sets. They usually save space, and they often bring surround into places where it previously wasn’t welcome. But to make the sat/sub concept work, you need a great sub, one that not only produces low bass, but produces high bass in the place where the sub crosses over to the sats. That’s where most affordable sat/sub sets are deficient—the sats perform well, but integration with the sub falls down on the job. I’m always on the lookout for a sat/sub set with exemplary bass performance and integration.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 03, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $4,200 At A Glance: Ring radiator tweeter civilizes high frequencies • DXT lens matches tweeter’s dispersion to woofer’s • Subwoofer includes adjustable notch filter

Lord of the Ring

Sometimes a single moment of greatness defines a person or a company, even if other moments of greatness follow. For Judy Garland, it was “Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz. For Acoustic Energy, a British loudspeaker brand, it was the AE1. The monitor took recording studios by storm when it made its debut in 1988, and it soon became a favorite among consumer-level audiophiles as well.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 15, 2009 0 comments
Price: $350 At A Glance: First soundbar to use SRS TruVolume audio processing • Operates on stereo signals • Wireless sub works with no setup hassles

High and Wide

Vizio is:
(a) a flat-panel video brand
(b) an audio brand
(c) a serotonin reuptake inhibitor
(d) a line of rimless eyeglasses
(e) a typographical error

If you guessed (a), you were wrong. The correct answer is (a)+(b).

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