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TOWER SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Michael Fremer Posted: May 18, 2012 13 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,995 At A Glance: Little brother to the Triton Two • Built-in, powered subwoofer • Folded-diaphragm tweeters

Those of us who are “the baby of the family” know the ever-living hell of growing up surrounded by older siblings. In addition to the incessant abuse—both mental (teasing, taunting, terrorizing) and physical (wedgies, wet willies, purple nurples)—there’s the oxygen-depleting cloud of expectation that swirls around your every step, especially if you’ve had a particularly zealous overachiever blazing the familial trail ahead of you. By the way, for those parents who aren’t aware of it, “Why can’t you be like your brother?” isn’t, in most cases, a terribly motivating exhortation. Unless, of course, said brother happens to be a ne’er-do-well who lives off the proceeds of an obscenely large trust fund, drinks absinthe with impunity, and eats fresh beignets heaped high with powdered sugar for breakfast (at noon) every day. (That’s my kind of role model! Bring it on, sibling rival…) Unfortunately, few of us are blessed with the kind of bottom-feeding low-life for an older brother or sister who makes you look like a shining star just for getting out of bed and watching cartoons in the morning. Instead, we’re doomed to a life of waking up knowing that the rest of the day is likely to be nothing but another disappointment to our parents, grandparents, and every ancestor who ever walked (even remotely) upright.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 31, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $5,290 At A Glance: CLS Xstat electrostatic transducer • Folded Motion XT tweeter • Dipolar panels

I hate MartinLogan.

That’s right. I hate MartinLogan with a passion that borders on the obsessive. And there’s more to it than the fact that the company’s headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas, are just a hop, skip, and a third-and-long TD pass away from KU. (As a graduate of Mizzou, I say, “Pluck the Jayhawks.”) What gets me is that every time I see those tall, translucent, slightly curved, hard-to-believe-they-actually-work panels that are the hallmark of a MartinLogan electrostatic speaker, I want a pair.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 15, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,095 At a Glance: Superior left-center-right uniformity • Excellent imaging and depth • Outstanding value

When Portland, Oregon–based Aperion Audio began selling speakers about 10 years ago, its business plan was simple: design the speakers here, build them where manufacturing costs are low (China—as with many of today’s speakers), and sell direct to buyers to avoid the middlemen—distributors and conventional dealers.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 20, 2011 1 comments
Price: $11,250 At A Glance: Silky-smooth sonics • Refined, furniture-grade cabinetry • Depth-charge deep bass

Videophile Ready

Show Vienna Acoustics’ living-room-friendly Beethoven Baby Grand system to your hesitant significant other, and you might get the long-awaited nod you’ve been looking for. This is a speaker system an interior-design-conscious, non–audio enthusiast can make peace with.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 25, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $4,000 At A Glance: Superb sound on both music and movies • Wide, deep soundstage • Outstanding value

Cue the Qs

KEF’s Q Series, improved over multiple generations since 1994, has long been the British speaker company’s bread-and-butter line. The new Qs, which began shipping earlier this year, were designed in the U.K. and are manufactured in China.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 31, 2011 13 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,495 at a glance: Folded diaphragm tweeters • Built-in 1,200-watt subwoofers with DSP • Super-slim center and surround speakers

Squeeze Me. Please Me.

Laurels can be an extremely comfortable and cushy thing to rest on. (They’re good for the environment, and they’re hypoallergenic.) Companies and individuals often rely on past successes to carry them along like giant helium-filled balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Just because you were the first to do or invent something doesn’t necessarily mean your next project or idea will be any better than a picture painted by a monkey throwing his poo at the zoo. As the investment caveat goes, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” That being said, though, how can you not be pee-in-your-pants excited when a true giant in the speaker industry says he’s going to start a new speaker company?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 17, 2011 0 comments
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Deep, powerful bass • Sweet, extended treble and uncolored midrange • Can be unforgiving at high levels

H-PAS the Bass

For the past two years, Atlantic Technology has been working on a new speaker designed around what the company claims is a revolutionary bass-loading technique. Invented by Philip Clements of Solus/Clements Loudspeakers, H-PAS (for Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System) has intrigued trade-show goers since Atlantic started sneak-peeking it in late 2009. The speaker, the Atlantic Technology AT-1, is now in full production.

For a company known for its dedication to producing outstanding home theater speaker systems (its 8200e system won a 2008 Home Theater Award), launching what is, at present, essentially a standalone two-channel model might seem a bit odd. But Atlantic is so pumped about the potential of this design approach that the effort to get the AT-1 to market has been highly focused.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Jan 26, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,997 At A Glance: Forward Focused Bipolar Array provides spectacular soundstage, imaging, and focus • Built-in powered subs bring the bass slam for movies and music • Big speakers, big sound, small footprint

Bipolar, Refocused and Refined

Living bipolar isn’t an unfortunate state of mind at Definitive Technology; it’s a chosen philosophy. And stretching further, it’s perhaps even a reason for being. Founded in 1990, Definitive is a stalwart brand and a staggering success story in the CE business. Definitive has made compelling entries in the speaker market in recent years with speakers as diverse as its flat, sexy Mythos XTR-50 on-walls and its ultraslim, floorstanding Mythos STS. But the bipolar Super Towers, which include built-in powered subwoofers, are still the flagship line. To this day, much of Definitive’s brand identity is those tall, sleek, and big-sounding black towers. The reason you’re reading this review is that the bipolar Super Tower series has now been completely redesigned and reborn.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 24, 2011 4 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $21,480 At A Glance: Highs to die for, uncolored midrange, tight bass • Cinematic soundstage • Flawless build quality

Going for the Beryllium

Focal first became a household audio name in the 1980s. Located in Saint-Etienne, France, the company furnished driver units for a number of well-known speaker manufacturers, among them Wilson Audio Specialties. Wilson continues to use an exclusive version of a Focal inverted titanium-dome tweeter. With that exception, Focal has long since kept all of its driver production in-house for its own complete lineup of loudspeakers for the consumer, professional, automotive, and multimedia markets.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 29, 2010 1 comments
Price: $58,390 At A Glance: Huge dynamics • Enormous, transparent soundstage • Foundation shaking, boom-free, tuneful bass • Exquisite musical delicacy

Painting Pictures With Sound

To produce room-filling sound, a speaker has to move a lot of air—even in a relatively small room. Moving a lot of air, particularly in a big room, necessitates a large woofer placed in an even larger box. Refrigerator-sized speakers were commonplace in audiophiles’ living rooms back in the 1950s. When stereo arrived and required two large expanses of wood-framed grille cloth, significant others objected. Downsizing began, aided in part by Edgar Villchur’s invention of the sealed-box acoustic-suspension woofer.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 06, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $4,400 At A Glance: Clean, open, natural detail • Enveloping soundstage • Outstanding fit and finish

Bringing Home the Silver

One benefit that comes from the development of flagship products like Monitor Audio’s Platinum PL300-based speaker system (HT, October 2009) is that the technology often filters down into less expensive models in the manufacturer’s line. Of course, it won’t surprise you to hear that the ribbon tweeters, sculpted cabinets, and leather trim found in that $25,000-plus Platinum set haven’t made it into the $4,400 Silver RX8 system under review here. But refinement, elegance, and most importantly, high value and superb performance are still very much part of the package.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Jun 01, 2010 0 comments
Price: $18,790 At A Glance: Unique design with proprietary components • Seamless topto-bottom coherence • Wide dynamic contrast • See-through transparency and clarity

Defining the Possibilities

Speakers sometimes remind me of cars. The marketing campaigns are built around uniqueness, but in a larger sense, most are far more similar than different. Most cars have combustion engines, four wheels that go around, and options that are more distinguished by the jargon that describes them than by their functionality. These days, many speakers are assembled from materials that are purchased from a handful of well-known source component companies. They often have much more in common with each other than people are led to believe.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 26, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $2,625 At A Glance: Sweet sounding yet detailed • Wide dynamic range • Big soundstage • Limited subwoofer extension

More for Less

The new Image line of speakers from Canadian manufacturer PSB follows on the heels of two other PSB ranges: Synchrony and Imagine. While they aren’t exactly blue-light specials, the Images provide an intangible quality that today’s speaker buyer demands: value. And with the increasing costs of domestic manufacturing, value most often means overseas production. All of PSB’s new models, including the Imagines, are engineered in Canada but made in China. This is an increasingly common practice in the speaker industry.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 11, 2010 0 comments
Price: $7,250 At A Glance: Clean highs, neutral mids • Mid- and upper-bass prominent • Small but potent subwoofer

Well Centered

These days, most major speaker manufacturers know how to produce a good speaker. But only a few manage to hit all the marks simultaneously: great engineering, great sound, and fair pricing. British speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins has long been a leader in that hunt.

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