Until some enterprising soul invents a software-defined virtual speaker, designers of real speakers will keep trying to make them less obtrusive. That's certainly the idea behind Boston Acoustics' P400, star of the company's Plasma Series.
Bowers & Wilkins CM6 S2 Speaker System
Performance Build Quality Value
Bowers & Wilkins ASW10 CM S2 Subwoofer
Performance Features Build Quality Value
PRICE Price: $5,850 (CM6 S2, $1,000 each; CM Centre 2 S2, $1,250 each; CM1 S2, $550 each; ASW10 CM S2, $1,500)
AT A GLANCE Plus
Exceptional tonal balance
Superb sub/sat integration
Impressive bass extension from compact sub
Lovely design and finish
No dipole/bipole surround option
Highly neutral and free of obvious coloration, invitingly listenable, and beautiful, the B&W CM S2s wear their substantial prices fairly.
B&W should need little introduction in these pages. The British loudspeaker-maker has been a force in serious audio repro practically since Noah’s flood (1965, actually), and here in the States have for two decades and more occupied an enviable market position straddling the highest of high-end to the almost-popularly-priced. So when a new generation of B&Ws take the stage, the audio world tends to pay attention, as we are doing here with the firm’s latest iteration of its next-most-affordable CM range. Named with typical British phlegm the CM S2, the new designs highlight a dozen or so interesting engineering refinements in driver, crossover, and cabinet designs (in particular a new “dual-dome” aluminum tweeter diaphragm claimed to push its resonance a half-octave or so higher, and thus extending its smooth reproducing range), but in typical B&W fashion show comparatively little in the way of visible changes.
Mini T Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value
Mini T Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value
AT A GLANCE Plus
Outstanding sonics and dynamic ability
Impressive bass extension from Mini-T alone
Made in Canada, not
amplifier power for best performance
Classic boxy designs won’t thrill everyone
They’re big, boxy, and expensive, but these speakers are world-class performers, top to bottom.
Bryston’s new Mini T loudspeakers spoke to me early, even before I’d fully wrestled them out of their imposing, oversized packaging. And what they said was, “We were designed by guys who don’t give a hamster’s hindquarters for new-age cosmetics, ‘breakthrough’ transducers, or 21st-century styling: We’re old school!”
For the record, Bryston Ltd.—based in the small Canadian city of Peterborough, an hour or so east of Toronto—has for decades produced some of the world’s preeminent power amplifiers (also preamps, surround processors, and even the odd integrated amp), impeccable performers built to a standard of brick-house quality seldom bettered, and warrantied accordingly. If you wanted vast reserves of current, bulletproof design, road-ready ruggedness, and genuine craftsmanship, Bryston fit the bill.
Old joke: Heaven is the place where the police are British, the cooks are French, the lovers Italian, bureaucrats Swiss, and the engineers German. Hell is the place where the cooks are British, the engineers Italian, bureaucrats French, lovers Swiss, and the police German.
For decades, you could walk into most electronics stores and find speakers that were small and good, or small and cheap - but rarely all three. Times have changed. With advances in acoustics and the advent of computer-aided design for speaker drivers and enclosures, today you can get great sound from plenty of small, inexpensive speakers.
While computer algorithms, given adequate input, have generated more-or-less recognizable Bach counterpoint in two and even three voices, the synthesis of an entire, musically coherent two-part invention, let alone a form as complex as a Bach-style Fugue, appears to remain beyond them…for now.