BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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: Jun 09, 2008 1 comments
In third generation, the Take acquires Classic status.

Here’s one more reason to love compact sat/sub sets—besides the fact that they’re affordable, easy to run with any receiver, and capable of anchoring a good-sounding surround system. They make your room look bigger.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 02, 2008 0 comments
Having grown up with LPs, I fondly recall how a good jacket design could make me pick up an album, examine it thoughtfully, and struggle in vain to keep those crumpled bills in my teenage pockets. The 12-by-12-inch form factor made stars of Storm Thorgerson, who designed LP jackets for Pink Floyd; Keith Morris, who shot unforgettable portraits of Nick Drake; and Hipgnosis, the firm whose memorable designs fascinated Led Zeppelin fans. So don’t talk to me about downloads. Even compared with CDs, they offer a user experience that’s sterile and boring.
Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 12, 2008 0 comments
Sonic sorcery.

Jim Thiel must be a magician. At least that’s what I thought when I first heard his newest speaker, the SCS4. I was listening to an a cappella band, and the guys were all there—not just the voices, but I felt like the Persuasions were in the room with me. The sound was so utterly natural; it was as if the speakers weren’t doing anything.

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: May 12, 2008 0 comments
Can the all-in-one soundbar really replace a dedicated home theater system?

The emergence of the soundbar audio genre can be traced to two trends: 1) consumers’ desire to buy slender, space-saving speaker systems to match their slender, space-saving flat-panel HDTVs; and 2) consumers’ hatred of running speaker wire around the room. Studies show that people either leave their surrounds at the front of the room, which wreaks havoc with the soundstage, or they simply don’t hook them up at all, which is just a shame. To address the former, speaker companies began to incorporate the front three channels of a 5.1-channel system into one slender bar you could place above or below your TV. To address the latter, they took it one step further, putting all five channels into a single bar and using acoustic manipulation to create a sense of surround envelopment. It seems like every major speaker manufacturer is now jumping on the soundbar bandwagon, but does the technology really work? Can one speaker honestly re-create a 5.1-channel soundfield, and what kind of sacrifices must be made to do so? To find out, we brought in the latest soundbar models from Philips, Marantz, Yamaha, Denon, and Polk.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 04, 2008 0 comments
Ten inches woof big.

Where’s the subwoofer in this system? People, look at the picture. You’re seeing a whole quintet of 10-inch woofers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 04, 2008 0 comments
Let’s face it: The French have a better shape.

To Americans accustomed to seeing other Americans waddling through shopping malls—and let me be the first to admit I’ve been doing a fair amount of waddling myself lately—the streets of Paris come as a pleasant shock. How do people who feast on duck liver and red wine stay so lean and sexy? Perhaps that eternal mystery springs from the same source as Cabasse’s fashionably thin Artis Baltic Evolution tower loudspeaker. Like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s amazing cantilevered houses, it seems to defy gravity, the sphere holding its coaxial driver array floating on a skinny diagonal slash of solid wood. I suspect that the people who designed the speaker sat down to an excellent dinner afterward.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 27, 2008 0 comments
The best way to spice up a dull, dark, soundless day.

Here’s how Edgar Allen Poe opens his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”: “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.” Although trade shows are hardly soundless, and I don’t navigate them on horseback, Poe evokes a bit of the feeling I get slogging through them. But the Usher exhibit didn’t seem all that melancholy when I stumbled on it at the 2007 Home Entertainment Show. In fact, hearing a pair of the Be-718s in action made me want to review them.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 31, 2008 0 comments
Speakers for the psychedelic revolution.

It was 40 years ago today (well, just about) that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. What a year 1967 was! It was also the year of Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix, Disraeli Gears by Cream, Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd, Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane, The Doors by the Doors, and that album with the banana on the cover by the Velvet Underground. A scan of Rolling Stone magazine’s “40 Essential Albums of 1967” also turns up Moby Grape, the Hollies, James Brown, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Arlo Guthrie, the Beach Boys, Tim Buckley, the Kinks—please, a sustained round of applause for the Kinks—Van Morrison, Dionne Warwick, Buffalo Springfield, the Moody Blues, Love, the 13th Floor Elevators, and (a previously undiscovered gap in my listening life) the Serpent Power. Thank God I wasn’t into drugs then. Look at what I would have missed.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 18, 2008 0 comments
Sense and sensibility and connectivity.

One of the home theater industry’s greatest sins is modesty. If excessively modest people hide their lights under a bushel, speaker and receiver manufacturers go them one better, hiding their achievements in boxes. Boxes with drivers on the front, boxes with buttons and knobs that sit in a rack—boxes. True, surround speaker packages that break away from the boxy norm are slowly making inroads into the conservative milieu of home theater, just as some clever surround receivers boast digital amps and slim form factors. This month’s Spotlight System does none of those things. To divine what’s special about it, you’ll have to look deeply into its soul.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 19, 2008 Published: Jan 20, 2008 0 comments
Don't underestimate the little guy. Guys.

One of the annual highlights of my career as an audio/video scribe is the Home Entertainment Show. The 2007 edition took place at the Grand Hyatt in New York, practically on top of the gorgeously renovated Grand Central Terminal. It was there that I became interested in Silverline, a California-based speaker maker that was displaying both their Minuet mini-monitor (say that ten times fast) and the slender, floorstanding Prelude. The temptation to try five Minuets in a surround system proved to be overwhelming.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2008 Published: Jan 04, 2008 0 comments
From Youngstown with love.

There are people who claim to read your future in your palm. Others reach conclusions about your income, taste, and character according to what type of shoes you're wearing. For my own part, I can look at your selection of loudspeakers and know exactly what kind of home theater person you are.

Gary Altunian Posted: Jan 18, 2008 Published: Dec 18, 2007 0 comments
Sleek style and sound.

"The only thing constant is change" is a corollary that surely applies to consumer electronics, as new technologies and products are regularly brought to market. Loudspeakers are no exception; however, it seems as though some speaker designs remain timeless. A good example is coaxial speakers that have passed the test of time because they work. The French manufacturer Cabasse produces an entire line of speakers built around the coaxial design, and their latest offering is the Eole 5.1-channel speaker system.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 18, 2008 Published: Dec 18, 2007 0 comments
Harman conjugates their contours.

Like a master linguist conjugating a verb, Harman International has a way of reusing original ideas to good advantage in different settings. So, it's not exactly a surprise to find a family resemblance between Infinity's high-end Cascade speaker line, circa 2006, and the TSS-800 set, circa 2007. They share a unique extruded-aluminum form that's tapered at both the top and bottom, for starters.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 10, 2007 0 comments
Personalize this.

I'm a bit reluctant to say this, but my experience with Boston Acoustics goes back a long way – to the days when the Boston Acoustics A40 and A70 speakers were the giants of the bookshelf speaker world. In fact, most of the Boston A-series speakers back then were highly regarded when it came to sound quality. Build quality was so-so but decent for late-1980s vinyl-wrap box cabinets. Just about any store that carried them sold tons of Boston Acoustics' bookshelf and floorstanding speakers, and they were proud to do it, too.

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