BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 23, 2007 Published: Mar 23, 2007 0 comments
Trappist ale on a beer budget.

I admired the HSU Research HB-1 horn-loaded loudspeaker when I first heard it at the Home Entertainment Show in Los Angeles in June 2006. Nearby demo rooms were stuffed with megabucks two-channel gear, much of which simply didn't approach the directness of this $125 budget wonder. I blogged my first response, and it's a good thing I still feel that way, because now it's printed right on the HB-1's carton: "This speaker may become the underground bestseller of 2006." Make that 2007. Aside from the year, I stand by my original impression.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 10, 2007 Published: Mar 11, 2007 0 comments
Paradigm's back in the ring with version four.

I review stuff. Manufacturers have a right to be wary of people like me. And, when I ask for a surround receiver, the first thing they ask me is, "What speakers will you be using with it?" I tell them, "Paradigm Reference Studio 20s." The sighs of relief at the other end of the phone line are almost audible. More often than not, I get what I ask for.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Listen to the violinist.

Reviewing the PSB Alpha B1 speaker system is a bit like coming home. I reviewed the original PSB Alpha for Rolling Stone back in the 1990s. Its little sister, the PSB Alpha Mini, anchored my surround system during a time when I was struggling to launch an online business, barely making ends meet, and dissipating my savings. I needed new speakers, wasn't then in a position to freeload, and didn't have much to spend. The Alpha Minis gave me what I needed—a big soundstage in a small package with no off-putting aggressiveness. The bass was just good enough to make a sub unnecessary. Let the record show that a borrowed Yamaha receiver ran the system.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Multinational speakers meet American amps.

On the battlefield of speaker design, I am the triage nurse. I walk into speaker demo rooms at trade shows, my badge sometimes inadvertently turned inward, listen for a moment, and quietly mutter to myself, "This one's a keeper," or, "He's dead, Jim." Or occasionally just, "Hmmm," because good speakers may sound iffy under bad conditions, and I respect the potential buried within an ambiguous first take. But, if my instincts tell me to pursue a review, I whip out a business card and start making arrangements on the spot.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
Little speakers are looking up.

Pricewise, these Definitive Technology ProCinema speakers and this Pioneer Elite A/V receiver are a perfect match. Even visual cues unite them, with the receiver's shiny-black metal faceplate echoing the satellite enclosures' black-gloss curve. In other ways, they may seem like an odd couple (or septet, rather). Wouldn't that big receiver be too much for those little speakers? No, say the specs. With the satellites rated to handle as much as 200 watts per channel, the receiver's hefty rated 140 watts are well within the acceptable range, although the speakers' 90-decibel sensitivity suggests that they'll play fairly loudly, even with a lower-powered amp. Therefore, it is legal to marry these speakers to this receiver, at least in Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
A systematic approach to speaker design.

As consumer electronics technologies continue to morph into ever more complex forms, convergence is key. Elan Home Systems was founded in 1989 in Lexington, Kentucky, and convergence is their raison d'tre. In the past, they have brought together wholehouse automation and touchpanel control of music, phones, lighting, intercoms, and TV functions. More recently, they acquired a high-end home theater electronics company, Sunfire. Four years ago, Elan jumped into the speaker business with a line of highly regarded in-walls. This brings us to Elan's new line of converging speakers, the aptly named TheaterPoint series.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 31, 2006 0 comments
Amplification has its rewards.

I'm always willing to stand up for the little guy. Small speakers are my favorite kind, whether they're compact sub/sat sets or slightly chunkier bookshelf speakers. The Genelec 6020A leans more toward the sub/sat side in terms of size, but it has a significant distinction—the 5.1-channel configuration with this little speaker and the 5050A subwoofer is stuffed with 11 channels of amplification.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 30, 2006 Published: Dec 03, 2006 0 comments
Think of it as a cheat code to unlock your 360's hidden sonic levels.

The high-definition video capabilities of the Xbox 360, like those of the imminent Sony PlayStation 3, have put a renewed emphasis on the importance of the video display. And, indeed, consumers young and old continue to bring HDTVs into their homes in record numbers. But no one was more shocked than I was to discover that there are still some gamers out there with current- and next-generation consoles in their living rooms who aren't hooked up to discrete 5.1-channel audio systems. Rather than record a Sally Struthers–style public-service announcement to elicit help for these poor, unfortunate souls, I chose to investigate the options—and I came up with Pioneer's officially licensed Xbox 360 sound solution, the HTS-GS1.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 24, 2006 Published: Oct 25, 2006 0 comments
The little system that could.

Some guys fantasize about winning the Mega Millions Lottery and driving into the sunset in a $1.25-million Bugatti Veyron 16.4 supercar. Or maybe a giddy winner would fork over heaps of cash for an ultimate home theater. The market for ultrahigh-end exotica is surging, but, while I'm waiting for my big payday, I thought I'd come back down to earth and have some fun with one of Onkyo's most reasonably priced audio/video receivers, the TX-SR504 ($300), partnered with Canton's sleek Movie CD 201 speaker system ($1,999). Budgetary constraints be damned, the little system still had to sound great in my home theater and deliver the goods in a cozy bedroom, office, or den.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 15, 2006 0 comments
Return of the bodacious woofer.

When I ran across the Klipsch RB-81—in the newly renovated Reference Series—I couldn't resist ordering a set. It's been years since I've reviewed a two-way design with a great big 8-inch woofer. The very concept brought on one of my increasingly frequent bouts of nostalgia.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
Flat and fit.

How would you feel if you woke up one day in a perfect body? You'd pull back the blanket and look down on a perfectly flat tummy (something I haven't seen in years, although heaven knows I'm trying). Combination skin is a thing of the past—you seem to have been remade in some wonderful material. Eager to check yourself out in a mirror, you cross the room to find yourself resculpted in new and slimmer proportions. And, when you open your mouth, depending on your gender, you have either the purest soprano or the noblest baritone. In fact, you have both. I think this metaphor may be getting a bit perverse.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • 5.1-Channel System Price: $1,286
  • Alpha B1 L/R/LS/RS: Two-driver, two-way speake r with one 5.25" metalized polypropylene woofer and one .75" aluminum dome tweeter, $279/pr.
    HWD: 4.25" x 9.75" x 6.25"
  • Alpha C1 Center Speaker: Three-driver, two-way center speaker with two 5.25" metalized polypropylene woofers and one .75" aluminum dome tweeter, $229/ea.
    HWD: 7" x 17.8": x 9.25"
  • SubSeries 5i subwoofer: 150-Watt powered, vented sub with one 10" polypropylene woofer, line and speaker level inputs, $499/ea.
    HWD: 16.5" x 12.4" x 14.8"
PSB is a stalwart brand for offering high-end performance at a price. The Alpha B1 is the latest incarnation of PSB's minor classic, the Alpha mini-monitor. The new version offers improved driver materials and a tweaked design. Make sure to check out HT's November issue for the full download on how a 5.1-channel system built around these speakers performed for us.
Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • 5.1-Channel System Price As Reviewed: $4,320
  • 6020A L/R/LS/RS: Two-way bi-amplified active speaker with one 4" woofer and one .75" tweeter, $545/ea.
  • 5050A Subwoofer: 70-Watt powered sub with one 8" woofer and two 8" passive radiators, balanced and single-ended line-level inputs, $1,595
Genelec is a big name in the pro side of the business and is hoping to make a name in the consumer world with small, self-amplified systems like this one. The 6020A monitors are Genelec's smallest speaker yet, but still carries an amplifier for each driver in these two-ways. The 5050A sub fills on the low-end, but does so with a footprint that's just 13" around. Check our December issue to find out how it sounds.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 17, 2006 0 comments
Two products, one look.

It wasn't until I uncrated both the Paradigm Cinema 330 speakers and the Harman/Kardon AVR 340 receiver that I realized I'd found something rare in the home theater realm—a visual match between speakers and receiver. Did some invisible hand simultaneously guide Paradigm's whizzes in Toronto and Harman/Kardon's design squad in Northridge, California? These two large companies have no connection that I know of. Yet, this month's Spotlight System is a genuine fusion of Canadian and Californian design sensibilities.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 14, 2006 0 comments
Is pure digital architecture the future of audio?

This month's Meridian Spotlight System consists of four DSP3100 monitors, a DSP3100HC center speaker, an SW1600 sub, and a G91A DVD-Audio/video player, controller, and tuner. If you want to know what happened to the amps, you'll just have to read on.

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