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DESKTOP SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 20, 2014 2 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.

Michael Trei Posted: May 09, 2013 0 comments

Most of us who write about technology tend to become the go-to guy when friends and family seek gear recommendations. Last Christmas, my 16 year old niece wanted to know about speakers to use with her iPod Touch. When I asked whether she wanted a dock or something that used a cable to connect, the look she shot back told me that I might as well have asked if she wanted 8-Track or cassette.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments

Audioengine is the darling of the desktop audio set, producing mostly small, affordable powered speakers that tend to be used on desks and credenzas. The P4 is the company’s sole passive speaker, with a 0.75-inch silk-dome tweeter, a 4-inch Kevlar-cone woofer, and a front-slotted cabinet. At 9 inches high, it’s the second most compact model in this roundup.

Michael Berk Posted: Nov 29, 2012 0 comments

Vacuum tube electronics may be "obsolete," but like other enduring vintage technologies (think vinyl), those glowing glass cylinders still have a place in many an audiophile heart, and lately there's been something of a rennaissance in small, affordable tube products, with old school technology finding its way into everything from headphone amp kits to do-it-all docks from major CE firms. There's a tube solution, it seems, for almost everybody.

Blue Aura's v30 Blackline system ($549) is a little different, a luxury desktop system meant to evoke the sound, look, and feel of old-school gear, but designed by a young British firm with a focus on wireless and desktop products to serve a computer-audio savvy consumer. While the amp clearly looks back, through a warm glow, to a simpler era of audio componentry, it sports a USB input too, and it's companion speakers are conveniently sized to fit alongside a computer monitor.

Does it belong on your desk?

Michael Berk Posted: Sep 28, 2012 0 comments

You might have noticed that we were very enthusiastic about the Paradigm MilleniaOne speaker system - it did, after all, end up as our Product of the Year for 2011. Well, Paradigm's continued on developing that line, applying the MilleniaOne's tech to a couple of 2.1 systems (dubbed CT for "Compact Theater") meant to answer the challenge of the current crop of soundbars. And we've gotten our hands on one of them - the Paradigm Millenia CT - to give away to one of you lucky readers.

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.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 12, 2012 0 comments

Were we to travel to, say, Jupiter, and abduct its leading audio engineer (turnabout is fair play, after all), we might want to ask him (or it) this question: what’s the very best way to design a loudspeaker for the reproduction of high-fidelity music?

There’s no doubt in my mind as to how our Jovian guest would answer: “Active/powered!”

Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 30, 2012 0 comments

Focal has flipped me the bird. The company is hardly the first to have done so (even just among audio manufacturers) and is unlikely to be the last. But none before has done so quite as elegantly or enjoyably.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Oct 26, 2011 0 comments

Just three years after the iPod ruled the audio industry, manufacturers are starting to look on it as a quaint “legacy device,” one they have to accommodate for customers who just aren’t with it. The iPod’s being replaced as our primary music source by all sorts of wireless stuff, like smartphones, Bluetooth-equipped computers, and routers connected to network-attached storage (NAS) drives.

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.

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