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BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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 Would you suspect you had suddenly plunged into an unpublished chapter of Through the Looking Glass, a strange alternate universe where boxes contain boxes?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.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 21, 2009 0 comments
Price: $3,695 At A Glance: Distinctive bell-shaped footprint offers unique look • Gleaming enclosures with top-drawer fit and finish • Great midrange and deep, confident bass

Ringin’ the Bell Curve

The Vision and Sound speakers from Boston Acoustics were in my listening room when a friend visited. He works for a competing manufacturer and has spent time on the retail floor. He said, candidly and emphatically, “Boston Acoustics has never made a bad speaker.”

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 01, 2008 0 comments
Price: $850 At A Glance: Very compact sat/sub set • Fabric-wrapped subwoofer • Sats have eggs-cellent focus

Sunny Side Up

Folks buying compact satellite/subwoofer sets to complement their flat-panel HDTVs? That’s old news. Now some manufacturers are offering even more compact speakers to complement the new breed of flat panels. The focus is now on flat panels that reduce the frame surrounding the screen to an absolute minimum, so that the picture seems to float against the wall.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 17, 2008 0 comments
Price: $999 At A Glance: Tweeter isolated in separate chamber • Aluminum drivers in satellites • Hand-applied piano black lacquer finish

Building a Better Satellite

Energy has always taken satellite/subwoofer sets seriously. The Canadian speaker brand, recently acquired by American-owned Klipsch, got into the sat/sub game early with the now legendary Take Five package. As successive Take products became steady bestsellers and proceeded through multiple generations, Energy established itself as a major name in sats and subs. It also helped turn the sat/sub set into a respectable product category. This especially applies to décor-conscious households that like to have surround sound but balk at the prospect of five to seven bulky speakers hogging a room.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 10, 2008 0 comments
Price: $3,149 At A Glance: Brilliantly ironclad build quality • Tight, tuneful sealed sub • Carver-worthy dynamics

Little Speaker Lusts for Power

My lonely battle to establish the satellite/subwoofer set as a respectable speaker category just got a little less lonely. Bob Carver, legendary designer of amps and speakers, has joined me on the space-saving speaker front. Carver first gained fame when he founded Phase Linear in 1970. He designed what the industry then considered some of the world’s most powerful amplifiers. His current company, Sunfire, has branched out into surround processors, an extensive subwoofer line, and speakers. With the HRS line, he enters the sat/sub category with a product that—like most Carver products—shows a healthy lust for power. Take these four satellites, a barely larger center, and one of Carver’s famously potent subs, and you’ve got a sat/sub set that’ll turn heads and change minds.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 13, 2008 0 comments
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Like the dinner guest who invariably brings a bottle of fine wine and flowers for the table, Dynaudio is welcome in these pages. The suave Danish manufacturer never fails to entertain with its scintillating conversation—both musical and cinematic. Yet its products are down to earth and mindful of the fundamentals. You don’t need to be a golden-eared audiophile with years of critical listening skills to “get” Dynaudio. Nearly everyone can understand the qualities that animate products like Dynaudio’s new Excite range. They appeal to anyone who knows what a human voice sounds like, how musical instruments sound, and even what it should feel like when a car runs off a cliff and explodes.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 15, 2008 0 comments
Looking like a winner right out of the box.

Producing loudspeakers at mass-market prices is a thankless task. It takes the resources of a big company like Harman International to do it right. I’ve determined in one review after another that JBL has long been a budget-speaker champ. You could even call me a JBL fan. But I was still surprised when I took the ES20 loudspeaker out of its box. Its tapered non-rectangular form announced that this was no low-end junk-in-a-box speaker, even at $399 per pair. And the surprises didn’t end there. This is the first budget speaker I’ve reviewed that boasts a super-tweeter in addition to the usual tweeter and woofer.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 25, 2008 0 comments
Surround sound—friend or faux?

When Definitive Technology originally introduced its Mythos line of speakers, the slender, curved, aluminum-cabinet tower models were matched by equally svelte, under-5-inch-deep on-wall and center-channel models using the same form and style turned horizontally. A while ago, the company literally expanded the Mythos center-channel speakers by packing the front LCR speakers

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 12, 2008 0 comments
On a different planar.

Recorded music is a cozy conspiracy between conventional speaker technology and listening expectations. Most speakers are made of cones and domes, so we’ve gotten used to their particular dispersion patterns and regard them as a normal part of music. The first experience of planar speakers, like BG’s Z-62, can come as a shock to the listener who’s never heard a planar tweeter before.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 04, 2008 0 comments
Rocky Mountain high.

One of my formative experiences as an audiophile was a visit to Michael Hobson’s showroom in a New York Soho loft. This was before Mike started Classic Records. He was selling Avalon loudspeakers and Jeff Rowland Design Group amps and preamps. How well I recall the floorstanding Avalon Ascent, fed via Cardas cables by two Rowland Model Ones operating as monoblocks. Hobson put on the adagio from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto performed by Rudolf Serkin. I went on to buy the amp and collect all of Serkin’s Beethoven piano concerto recordings.

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.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 14, 2008 0 comments
Too good to sit on the shelf.

In these pages, you’ll see small speakers referred to as monitors, stand-mounts, or—if they’re small enough—satellites. But rarely as bookshelf speakers. As I’ve often said, a bookshelf is a terrible place for a speaker. Unless it’s designed specifically for in- or on-wall use, a speaker belongs a few feet out from the wall to minimize undesirable acoustic interaction with the wall. So don’t refer to the Epos M12i as a bookshelf speaker. They’d never forgive you for it. They have an artistic sensibility, and that extends to the M8i center-channel speaker and M SUB subwoofer.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 14, 2008 0 comments
Opening a whole new can of bass.

It took two fairly determined UPS delivery men to get the SVS PC-Ultra sub off the truck, up the five steps into my building, and up to my apartment. At least it’s an elevator building. They delivered it with a sunny smile, probably visualizing the red-faced sweat that would ensue when I uncrated the 85-pound product. Wondering what demented impulse made me agree to review this 4-foot-tall monster, I waltzed the massive carton into my work space, slit it down the broad side, removed a sheet of padding, tipped over the box, and wondered what the hell would happen next. The giant cylinder-shaped subwoofer obligingly solved the problem by rolling out of the carton. This seemed to be a good omen. It cheered me up immediately.

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