TOWER SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 28, 2014 3 comments

683 S2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
ASW 610XP Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,300 (as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Soundstaging
Presence and immediacy
Tight bass (with subwoofer)
Minus
Top end a bit restrained
Limited subwoofer output
Pedestrian styling

THE VERDICT
It took some effort to get their best in my room, but these relatively affordable B&Ws ultimately came through with a big, immediate, and generous sound.

Bowers & Wilkins, aka B&W, has been in the loudspeaker game since the mid-1960s. I reviewed the company’s original 600 series for Stereophile Guide to Home Theater over six years ago, and I was impressed—even though I was listening to those speakers immediately after evaluating Revel’s high-end Ultima2 system. At less than 15 percent of the Revels’ price, the B&Ws couldn’t, of course, equal them. But they weren’t anywhere near embarrassed by the comparison. Now we have the 600 S2 models in house, ready to do battle. The Revels are no longer here, of course, so the 600 S2s will have to speak for themselves. We’re ready to see if they can.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 31, 2014 18 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,499 ea

AT A GLANCE
Plus
1,200-watt Class D subwoofer amplifier
IR remote control for woofer level adjustments
No support grid behind grille cloth to block midrange/tweeter array
Minus
They’re pretty heavy
Remote control coverage too narrow to reach both speakers simultaneously

THE VERDICT
Def Tech’s updated flagship is an uncannily neutral, disappearing speaker and an amazing value.

It’s hard to believe that the original Definitive Technology Mythos ST was introduced seven years ago. At the time, the Mythos styling ethos—svelte, curved-back, extruded-aluminum cabinets—had already been around for a while, so the sleek, silvery design of the Mythos ST wasn’t a dramatic departure. Sure, it was the largest Mythos speaker to come out to that point, but what made it especially buzzworthy was that the ST was the first Mythos speaker to include a powered woofer section.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 23, 2014 Published: Jul 22, 2014 1 comments

Monitor Audio Silver 10 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Monitor Audio W-12 Subwoofer
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,925 (Silver 10, $2,500 pr; Silver Centre, $725; Silver 2, $1,050 pr; Silver W-12, $1,650)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, open sound
Superb imaging
First-rate fit and finish
Minus
Two-way center channel
Limited subwoofer output

THE VERDICT
The center speaker suffers the usual off-axis quirks of a two-way design, and the small sub came up short for the deepest movie bass, but Monitor’s Silver series is a triumph, a treat to hear, and well worth seeking out for a serious audition.

Monitor Audio offers an exceptionally wide range of speakers, from the decidedly expensive (but not nosebleed high-end) to the modestly priced. In 2010, I reviewed the company’s relatively affordable Silver RX system. That line has now been completely redesigned, losing its RX moniker and morphing into the Silver series. Like the RXs before them, the Silvers were designed at Monitor’s U.K. headquarters and are built in a company-owned plant in China. For this review, we’ve selected the largest of the floorstanders, the Silver 10, along with the Silver Centre, the Silver W-12 subwoofer, and, instead of the Silver FX dedicated surround speakers, a pair of Silver 2s to serve the surround channels.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2014 37 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,000/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Three forward-firing active woofers with four side-firing passive radiators and a 1,600-watt amp
Remarkably open, balanced sound quality
Extremely dynamic
Minus
They’re really, really heavy

THE VERDICT
GoldenEar Technology’s Triton One is Sandy Gross’ magnum opus and provides an astounding performance-versus-price ratio.

It’s not an overstatement to say that Sandy Gross is a legend—a double legend, as a matter of fact, since he’s in two entirely different industries’ Halls of Fame. In high school, Gross was an award-winning racecar designer. With his best friend, Howie Ursaner, the Gold Dust Twins (as they were called) were a professional racing team that competed around the country. (At one point, Ursaner won a Corvette. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to legally drive it—because he was only 14 years old.) That was during the late 1960s and early ’70s, a time generally considered to be the Golden Age of Racing—slot car racing, that is.

Filed under
Brent Butterworth Posted: Jan 14, 2014 2 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
Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 24, 2013 0 comments

The seeds were planted at CES this past January in Las Vegas. I was ushered directly to the SSS, the Sweet Spot Seat (middle chair, second row) in GoldenEar Technology’s private suite at The Venetian. GoldenEar’s major audio domo, Sandy Gross, had been waiting patiently for my arrival so I could hear the company’s new speaker pair, the Triton Seven towers.

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
Brent Butterworth Posted: Jun 24, 2013 1 comments

Two years ago, SVS changed ownership, and you could say it’s simultaneously a remarkably unchanged yet very different firm. It’s unchanged in that many old hands are still with the company, and the concentration on high-performance home theater products remains.

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.

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