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BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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).

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 11, 2009 0 comments
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: Compact satellites with Omnipolar driver array • Eight-inch cube sub with dual 6.5-inch passive radiators • Suitable for small rooms

In a Reflective Mood

It is rare for a carton to put a smile on my face. A lot of cartons trample through my modest living and working space. They are a necessary evil in my work as a reviewer that’s redeemed only by their contents. But the carton that housed the Mirage MX satellite/subwoofer set made me grin when I picked it up in my doorway. It weighed all of 20 pounds, portending a review process without physical rigors. I deposited it in my bedroom along with the other treasures that live there—my books, my LPs, my bags of speaker cable, my collection of styrofoam popcorn and plastic bubble packing, not to mention my bed—and forgot about it until the time came for its debut in the listening room.

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.

Gary Altunian Posted: Apr 27, 2009 0 comments
Price: $10,197 At A Glance: Great in-wall speaker for flat-panel displays • Excellent sonic coherence • In-wall speakers with an in-room sound quality

Transcend Music Reproduction

If you’re a home theater enthusiast or audio purist who follows the high-end speaker market, you’re probably familiar with Pioneer’s line of TAD loudspeakers and their reputation for exquisite sound reproduction. It all started with the TAD Model-1, which drew rave reviews with its concentrically aligned beryllium midrange and tweeter. Priced at $45,000 per pair, they were obtainable for only the wealthiest audiophiles.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 20, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,400 At A Glance: 40-inch-wide soundbar speaker includes front left, center, and right channels • Surrounds and sub are extra-cost options • Refined sound

Stars and Bars and L-C-R

Two bars walk into a guy. Sorry to be so gender-specific, but that’s generally how these jokes begin. One bar says, “I’ve got 5.1 channels, including fake surround, to add to the grandeur of your studio apartment.” The other bar says, “I’ve got the front three channels of good, honest sound to accompany the luster of your flat-panel TV.” What does the guy say? Frankly, I haven’t got the slightest idea. The interesting thing is that he has a choice.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 30, 2009 0 comments
Price: $500 At A Glance: Fits under flat panels that weigh 90 pounds or less • Five 2-inch drivers, one 5.25-inch woofer • Balanced sound with minimal surround

What’s in That Black Box?

What if you opened up your home-theater-in-a-box system only to find—another box? Would you suspect you had suddenly plunged into an unpublished chapter of Through the Looking Glass, a strange alternate universe where boxes contain boxes? Would you be afraid that inside the second box, there might be a third box? And inside the third, a fourth? Was dropping acid and going to the Museum of Modern Art in 1978 really such a good idea?

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.

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