DESKTOP SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 20, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $249/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Inviting, carefully tailored sonics
USB computer input
Easy setup
Minus
Controls in back
Unprotected drivers

THE VERDICT
Our audio editor’s favorite budget desktop (and TV) speakers have gotten more convenient thanks to the addition of a PC-friendly USB input, making them an even better value.

We may love good sound, but we can’t completely banish bad sound from our lives. We can’t listen to vinyl and high-rez audio all the time. We’ve all got some lousy MP3 files in our music libraries, love streaming services, and endure blaring SUV ads on TV. What’s the best way to make this substandard content palatable? Audioengine has offered compelling answers for years with its powered speakers, the chunky Audioengine 5 and smaller Audioengine 2. Now they’re available in variations that can accept USB input from a computer, including the Audioengine 2+ reviewed here.
Al Griffin Posted: Apr 03, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Spacious bipolar sound
Ample bass for a desktop speaker
Stylish look
Minus
Slightly edgy midrange at high volume levels

THE VERDICT
Def Tech’s desktop speaker succeeds in bringing dynamic hi-fi sound to the home office.

Most early examples of desktop computer speakers were funny-looking, bad-sounding, cheaply constructed things. There were exceptions (models from Audioengine come to mind), but these tended to be rare. Although things have improved somewhat since then, any new desktop speaker trying to earn some respect still has its work cut out for it.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 26, 2012 7 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $600 At a Glance: 2.1 independently amped channels • Bluetooth and dock connectivity • Tweaked by Paul Barton

The NAD VISO 1 was an immediate hit in my household from the moment it was uncrated. Between my roommate and myself, it received Bluetooth input from an iPad 2, iPhone 4, and iPod touch 2G. The dock played host to two iPod nano 6Gs and two nano 2Gs in addition to the nano 5G actually used for formal demos. Though not portable in the strictest sense—it won’t slip easily into a briefcase or carry-on—the system was still movable, and eager hands shifted it from living room to bedroom to kitchen. It was pressed into service to provide music for ballet exercises, cooking, reading, and bedtime listening.

Rob Sabin Posted: Oct 02, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $600 At A Glance: Excellent tonality • Good imaging • Cumbersome WiFi setup

I've never been a big fan of paying for brand names for their own sake. Build quality? Yes. Performance? Absolutely. Aesthetics? Sure. Ease of use? Certainly. Each of those has value, and it often makes sense to pay more, even a lot more, for any one of them. But sometimes, in the course of shopping for whatever, you encounter an entry from a well-respected or even elite brand that at first glance seems so outlandishly priced you have stop and wonder: what am I really paying for here?

Suffice to say that was me when Bowers & Wilkins first suggested I take a little ride with the Zeppelin Air, the company's $600 iPod dock...

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 08, 2011 1 comments
Price: $300 At A Glance: Internet radio in attractive wood-veneer box • Also accesses music from PC or USB device • Wi-Fi or wired connection

Net Radio in a Box

This review needn’t be complicated. The product certainly isn’t. Tivoli Audio’s NetWorks Internet Radio is a little wooden box that plays Internet radio. Aside from the remote, it has only one visible control, a wheel on top. If you never deviate from a favorite station, you’ll rarely even think about the other controls.

Kim Wilson Posted: Jan 19, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $399

At A Glance: Single-box solution • Easy setup and operation • Perfect for smaller rooms, garage, and outdoors • Integrates with existing Sonos systems • Product now called Play:5

Sonos, a leader in low-cost, wholehouse audio, has made it possible to inexpensively stream audio from a computer to multiple A/V systems using one or more of its ZonePlayers. The $399 Sonos S5, the newest ZonePlayer, is completely self-contained. It incorporates its own power supply, amplification, and internal speakers, which allows audio streaming from a wide variety of sources without a dedicated sound system. It can serve as your main (or only) ZonePlayer or as an extension of an existing Sonos system.

Scott Wilkinson Posted: Feb 09, 2010 0 comments
When I profiled the B&W Zeppelin and Zeppelin Mini iPod sound systems in my Ultimate Gear blog, I got several requests for a real review. So I contacted B&W, which sent me both units to play with, and I'm happy to report that they both live up to the company's considerable reputation—once you get the settings right.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 21, 2008 0 comments
Plant a seed, grow an iPod docking system.

My first impression of the mStation was that it had grown out of the ground. Having just uncrated it, I knew it hadn’t really sprung out of the carpet, of course. Yet somehow it seemed more like a young stand of trees than a floorstanding iPod docking system. If I waited long enough, would this self-contained trio of cylinders erupt in branches and leaves? No, and yet there was something organic about it. The pair of metal speaker tubes seemed to rise up from the base, while the subwoofer drum suspended between them seemed to levitate in midair. In addition to having a whiff of the arboreal, it also resembled a headless robot.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 11, 2006 0 comments
The biggest bang for the box.

I was smitten with Polk's I-Sonic tabletop system when I first laid eyes (but no hands-this was a prototype) on it at a Polk press conference. The strong fixation, no doubt, grew out of my need to replace an aging Bose Wave radio that had served me well but was clearly at its watts' end. I was also enticed by the unusually swanky set of features (a built-in DVD player, XM capability, and HD Radio). And then, of course, there was the fact that I couldn't get my hands on one; exclusivity is often enticing.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
Start your engines.

The increasing iPod-centricity of the audio industry has not prevented one brave manufacturer from releasing a product without the omnipresent iPod dock. Why would Audioengine do such a thing? Their Website explains: "There are so many iPod-dock products on the market right now, so we made a decision early on to spend our development budget and time on audio quality and other features (like USB charging). We feel that Apple docks are the best, so why waste resources trying to redesign a nearly perfect dock? We were also able to keep Audioengine pricing much lower without integrating a 30-pin dock system."

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 05, 2006 1 comments
Hearing the world in black and white.

I'm equally happy with my iPod nano and my IBM Windows PC. So, please don't mistake me for one of those sycophants who never has a bad word to say about Steve Jobs or a good one to say about Bill Gates. The little iPod nano has earned my admiration simply by being a good companion. When I'm not plugged into it, I hardly notice it. When I am, it's easy to get along with and rather entertaining.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 31, 2006 Published: Jan 01, 2006 0 comments
The Pod person when he's at home.

Shortly after Steve Jobs became a music mogul, the iPod became something of a home audio server. This brilliant left turn has made everyone's favorite white object of desire a doubly useful device that entertains whether you're at home or on the go. Although a Mac is something of a technological island unto itself, the iPod is a more pragmatic creature. It's on speaking terms with not only—shock, horror!—Windows PCs, but with a variety of other devices, from staid-black surround receivers, to far-flung multizone empires, to slick standalone compact systems like Monitor Audio's i-deck.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 21, 2005 0 comments
Let's face it, i-anything is pretty hot now that the iPod has become the fastest-growing product in consumer electronics. Sales of MP3 players shot up by 255 percent during the first eight months of 2005, and you can bet Apple's smallest and prettiest child was the driving force behind that dizzying growth. Enter Klipsch, one of the few good speaker brands you're likely to find in a national chain store. Now that the the company's iGroove is playing on my desk, I'd say Klipsch deserves its piece of the pie.
Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Oct 28, 2005 Published: Jul 28, 2005 0 comments
At home, in the car, or on the go, there's a satellite radio product for you.

I learned two important things at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. One, you can slap an LED into just about anything and market it as a consumer electronics product. Two, satellite radio has hit full stride. Both XM and Sirius reported huge increases in the number of subscribers during 2004: XM added 1.8 million subscribers last year, for a total of 3.2 million—with more than 50,000 people signing up on Christmas Day alone. Sirius, meanwhile, grew from around 300,000 to 1.14 million subscribers. If you're starting to feel like you might be missing something, guess what. You are. If you're ready to do something about it, read on.

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