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TOWER SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,999/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Precise, lifelike imaging
Intimate vocal sound
Well-defined and satisfying bass
Minus
Midrange slightly constricted

THE VERDICT
One of the best sub-$5K speakers you can buy

Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle. Nobody wants the middle seat in the car or on the plane. Nobody wants to be the middle child, stuck between the more accomplished older sibling and the cuter baby. And hardly anyone wants “good for the money”; we want the best or the cheapest.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 02, 2014 0 comments

Performa3 F208 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

B112 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $13,300 (with stands)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb overall performance
Impeccable fit and finish
Effective subwoofer EQ
Minus
Complex subwoofer EQ setup

THE VERDICT
While not inexpensive, the Performa3s can challenge anything out there on either music or movies, and likely come out in front.

Has it really been six years since I last reviewed a Revel speaker system? It has. That system, anchored at the front by the Ultima2 Studio2s, is still available—but combined with a five-star dinner for two, it will cost you around $40,000. Although I imagine its sales have met expectations, I suspect that system isn’t exactly flying out the doors at Fred’s High-Ende Audio Shoppe.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 24, 2013 2 comments

Triton Seven Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

ForceField 5 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE 3,594

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Deep bass extension from dual passive radiators Remarkably full midrange Rearward rake with non-parallel front and rear baffles
Minus
You’ll need to find a new home for your current speakers

THE VERDICT
The Triton Sevens provide rock-solid high-end performance for a mid-fi price.

It begins with a fairy tale (of sorts). Once upon a time (say, around 2013), a little company named GoldenEar made three bears—no, sorry, three tower speakers. The first speaker was tall and big with a deep, deep voice. But it was too big and too expensive for a hungry little girl roaming the forest—no, I mean, for some of the people shopping through a forest of tower speakers at the A/V store. The second tower was shorter and a bit smaller. Its voice was deep, too, but not quite as much as the papa tower’s voice. Sadly, it was also too big to fit comfortably in some people’s rooms, and still too big for some of their budgets. Then GoldenEar made a third tower speaker, even shorter and less expensive, and this speaker was… Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, isn’t it?

Filed under
Tom Norton Posted: Oct 16, 2013 3 comments

Monitor 11 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Monitor SUB 12 Subwoofer
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,794

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, powerful bass
Superior speaker-to-speaker timbre match
Excellent value
Minus
Slightly tipped-up highs

THE VERDICT
An immensely satisfying speaker system with both music and movies.

Canadian speaker manufacturer Paradigm makes a bewildering variety of loudspeakers. Its offerings top out at around $9,000 for a two-channel pair of Signature S8s—remarkably sensible considering the recent and alarming inflation in high-end audio prices. But while the speakers that make up the Paradigm’s Monitor Series 7, latest version of the company’s long-lived, bread-and-butter line, are far less expensive, they’re anything but an afterthought.

Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Oct 01, 2013 5 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crazy-affordable prices
Great cosmetics for the money
Minus
Sounds a little unrefined

THE VERDICT
It’s not without flaws, but the $500/pair XL7F tower delivers a surprising value.

I actually did a double-take when I added up the price of Fluance’s XL7 speaker system. Two tower speakers for the price of a good pair of minimonitors. A center speaker for the price of a cheap Blu-ray player. A pair of minimonitors for the price of … well, an inexpensive pair of minimonitors. And the whole shebang for about what most Sound & Vision readers I know would spend for a decent subwoofer. Shipping’s free, too!

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 05, 2013 1 comments

HD Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Metro Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $10,785 ($9,675 in standard finish) At A Glance: Folded-planar magnetic tweeters • Treble and bass trim switches • Biwire and biamp capable

Every company has its genesis story, be it the back of a napkin or something more grandiose. Apple, of course, is famous for starting out in Steve Jobs’s parents’ garage. Lutron’s backstory isn’t quite as well known, but its unassuming beginnings were in the bedroom founder Joel Spira and his wife intended to use as their first child’s nursery. (“Sorry, kid, you’ll have to sleep on the couch. Daddy’s got a solid-state dimmer to invent.”) Similar to Apple, Legacy Audio’s birthplace was in a garage; but this garage was far from Cupertino. Instead, it was located in the midst of the cornfield-filled upper Midwest where, according to Legacy, Bill Dudleston and “a stubborn Dutch craftsman,” Jacob Albright, built the company’s first speaker, the Legacy-1, in 1983. Thirty years later, though, what the heck does any of this have to do with Legacy Audio’s loudspeakers today? Really, who gives a flying flip about two dudes, a garage, cornfields, and some woodworking equipment? (Hmm…cornfields. Wasn’t there a movie about that? “If you build it, they will listen.”)

Filed under
Tom Norton Posted: Apr 23, 2013 0 comments

KEF R900 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
KEF R400b Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $9,400 At A Glance: Sweet, clean highs • Big, generous soundstage • Flawless fit and finish

If you’ve been passionate about audio for more than a few years, or can name five loudspeaker companies with names that don’t rhyme with rose and begin with a B, you’ve certainly heard of KEF. In the late 1980s, KEF introduced a new concentric driver that placed the tweeter in the throat of the midrange cone. Dubbed Uni-Q, the design has been continually refined for over 20 years and remains the centerpiece of most KEF loudspeakers.

KEF today is part of a Hong Kong conglomerate...

Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 05, 2013 0 comments

Venere 2.5 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
REL T-7 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $5,493 At A Glance: Shapely Italian styling • Exceptional soundstaging • Surprisingly affordable

Could this sleek, lacquer-finished, curvaceous new Sonus faber Venere loudspeaker have originated anywhere other than in Italy? Well, no and yes. With its soothing, elegant curves and glossy finish, Venere whispers “Italy,” but the scant $2,498/pair price tag of this 43pound, 3.5-foot floorstander shouts “China.”

In fact, this new Sonus faber speaker is truly an international product. It was designed in-house at Sonus faber’s Arcugnano factory near Venice, Italy—a building as stylish as the designs emanating therefrom—using bespoke drivers designed by Sonus faber.

The midwoofer and woofer cone material is curv, a proprietary self-reinforcing 100-percent polypropylene composite manufactured by Germanybased Propex, while the dome tweeter is of silk over which is applied a multi-layered Sonus-spec’d coating manufactured by DKM in Germany. Final driver production is done in China.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 12, 2013 7 comments

MartinLogan Motion 40 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 

Dynamo 1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $4,345 At A Glance: Folded Motion tweeters • Dual 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers • Custom five-way bi-wire tool-less binding posts

A couple of years ago, I took a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont. Whilst there, I heard the tour guide refer to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as super-premium. I was intrigued because: 1) I’m thinking about using it as a nickname for myself; 2) I’d never heard the term used in reference to ice cream before; and 3) I wondered if there were additional levels of premium-ness. (Ultra-super premium? Super-duper premium? Maximum-ultra-super-duper premium?) I was disappointed to discover that, although the FDA sets standards for the use of nutrient descriptors. Less air and more butter fat promotes higher premium-ness—all the way up, I assume, to the heart-valve-clogging, airless, 100-percent pure, frozen-block-of-butter-fat variety.

In the case of loudspeakers, it’s the opposite. More air and less fat—no one likes tubby bass—results in super-smooth, premium sound.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 25, 2012 3 comments

802 Diamond Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
W DB1 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $32,000 At A Glance: Clear, sparkling highs • Tight, extended bass • Broad, deep soundstage • Stunning fit and finish

If you’re unfamiliar with the British speaker company Bowers & Wilkins, perhaps that’s because it’s more commonly known simply as B&W. Founded in the mid-1960s by John Bowers and Roy Wilkins, it’s now one of the most respected loudspeaker manufacturers in the world, with products ranging from budget-priced to Olympic.

The 800 Diamond series is the third generation of Bowers & Wilkins’s most sophisticated range, with iconic looks that date back to the late 1990s. The 802 Diamond is one step down in price from the company’s current flagship, the $24,000/pair 800 Diamond. And while B&W’s lower-priced speakers, like most, are manufactured in China, the 800 is built in the company’s facilities in England.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 12, 2012 0 comments

PSB Imagine T2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
PSB SubSeries 300 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,650 At A Glance: Independent ported chambers for each woofer • Dual five-way gold-plated binding posts for biwiring or biamping • Five-way transitional design

Paul Barton is a nutcase. Oh, sure, he’s soft-spoken, ultra-smart, and intensely passionate about sound. (In the late 1960s, 11-year-old Barton started building speakers with his dad in their workshop because other speakers “didn’t sound natural.”) But that’s just a cover. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that Mr. Barton (the “P” and “B” of PSB Speakers—with his wife, Sue, providing the “S”) has spent so much of his life locked away in the anechoic chamber and testing/listening labs of Canada’s federally funded National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, according to PSB, although folks from other speaker companies (such as Paradigm, Energy, Mirage, Snell, and Aperion, to name a few) have traipsed through the NRC’s Acoustics and Signal Processing Department’s doors, since the late 1970s, Barton “has spent far longer in the chamber and lab than any other speaker designer.” So rather than skiing, hunting, fishing, playing hockey, and/or drinking beer all day like real Canadians do, Barton chose to play in an anechoic chamber. As I said, he’s a nutcase.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 20, 2012 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Automatic speaker discovery and channel assignment • Uncompressed 24-bit wireless digital audio • No AVR needed

Not long ago, FedEx deposited a 7.1channel HTIB from Aperion Audio outside my door. It’s not really fair to call it a home theater in a box because the system actually comes in seven boxes and sells for $3,499. But since it includes source switching and amplification, it technically qualifies as an HTIB, albeit a rather unusual one. Aperion Audio prefers the term preconfigured home theater system. Normally, setting up this sort of home theater package would entail speaker wires crisscrossing the floor accompanied by the requisite grumbling, stripping of wires, and fumbling with speaker terminals. In this case, though, the Aperion speakers—a pair of towers, a center channel, a subwoofer, and two pair of satellite speakers—come out of their boxes, get placed in their appropriate spots in the room, have each one’s power cord plugged into the nearest AC outlet…and that’s it.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 17, 2012 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $950 At a Glance: Folded Motion tweeter • Custom five-way biwire/biamp binding posts • Aluminum cone drivers

For the first 20 years or so, MartinLogan was just a geeky, tweaky speaker company that made electrostatic speakers—that’s just as in Stephen Hawking is just a physicist—with a few very serious (and very hexagonal) subwoofers in the lineup to take over the job of reproducing the lowest bass frequencies that even the best electrostatic panels simply don’t have the wherewithal to generate on their own. During that time, admission to the MartinLogan electrostatic club was never cheap. That, as you can imagine, put the dynamic, open, and airy sound that is a signature aspect of an electrostatic speaker out of reach for lots of people.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 04, 2012 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $7,197 At A Glance: Wide and deep soundstage • Clear, uncolored midrange • Superb fit and finish

The Wharfedale brand is one of the oldest and most widely respected in the loudspeaker business. Gilbert Briggs founded the company as the Wharfedale Wireless Works in Yorkshire, England, in 1932. While his name is less well known in the U.S. than, say, Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, and James B. Lansing, Briggs was also clearly one of the founding fathers of the high-fidelity business that took off big time in the 1950s.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 30, 2012 2 comments

LSiM707 Surround Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
DSWmicroPRO3000 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $9,600 At A Glance: Excellent dynamic range • Solid imaging and depth • Could use more top-end air

Polk Audio has a proud history stretching back to the early 1970s. Its products have leaned more to the familiar and affordable rather than to the expensive and esoteric, but there have been exceptions. The SRT series, introduced in 1995, was a surround system with seven separate speakers encompassing 35 active drivers, including two subwoofers said to be capable of 120 decibels at 30 hertz. It corralled its fair share of buyers willing to pony up the $10,000 asking price.

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