Bookshelf Speaker Reviews

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Michael Trei  |  Jun 24, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very good performance
Exceptional ease of use
Accommodates typical turntables
Minus
No remote control

THE VERDICT
The Spinbase is a fulfilling high-performance alternative to an entry-level component-based stereo system.

At first glance, almost everything about the Andover Spinbase turntable speaker system seems wrong. Why? Audiophiles go to great lengths to make sure their turntable, a delicate vibration sensor, is isolated from external sources of mechanical vibration. But with the Spinbase, you plunk your turntable on top of the worst offender in a system—the speaker. That's a bit like asking a ballerina to do a pirouette while being tackled by the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 03, 2020  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,056 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly accurate sound
Impressive stereo image breadth
Solid center-channel reproduction
Well-controlled and moderately extended low end
Minus
Towers are sensitive to placement

THE VERDICT
A handsome system that sounds very good with just about everything, and with enough bass extension to satisfy most needs.

Tall, slim speakers are certainly in fashion, and it's hard to imagine many slimmer than Definitive Technology's new Demand Series D15 towers. Despite housing three 5.25-inch drivers (two carbon fiber woofers and a polypropylene midrange), a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, and not one but two 8-inch side-firing passive radiators, the D15 measures just 6.5 inches wide and thus indeed requires its bolt-on aluminum bottom plinth to achieve stability.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 15, 2020  |  4 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $8,000 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Refined sound
Powerful, feature-rich subwoofer
Minus
Tweeter on 60XTi tower sits high off the ground
60XTi tower requires careful placement

THE VERDICT
Upgrades in style and performance take MartinLogan's Motion series speakers to the next level, while its Dynamo 1600X subwoofer is a feature-packed beast.

Ask a car guy to identify any classic American car from the 1950s or 1960s, and most would be able to pin it down to the exact year of production. Back then, the auto companies would change up styling every year, even if the mechanical stuff under the sheet metal remained essentially unchanged. The problem with that approach is that tooling up to build new models every year gets really expensive, so these days most cars have a life cycle of a few years before an all-new generation is introduced. To keep these longer-lasting designs looking fresh, at some point in the life cycle they'll give the car what's known as a facelift, replacing a few key parts like the grille, taillights, and trim to lend it a new look.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 01, 2020  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,599/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Detailed, dynamic sound
Powerful bass for a bookshelf
Compact form factor
Minus
Requires careful setup and placement for best performance

THE VERDICT
GoldenEar Tech’s compact, passive BRX proves that the company known for powered towers can also make a better bookshelf speaker.

At some point when I reviewed GoldenEar Technology's Triton Reference tower in early 2017, it hit me that the company may have backed itself into a marketing corner with its new offering. After all, how do you push the performance envelope further after developing a "Reference" speaker? The company's agenda, as it turned out, was to scale its $8,500 flagship down in order to deliver variations on the Reference experience.

Al Griffin  |  Mar 18, 2020  |  4 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,975 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, detailed sound
High-performance center speaker
Subwoofer with room correction
Minus
Subwoofer pricey compared with competition

THE VERDICT
Monitor Audio's revamped mid-range Silver system brings notable improvements with no notable increase in price.

In 2020 many of us will get to witness the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan—on TV at least. Why do I mention that in the first line of a speaker review? Because, like the medals handed out to Olympian champs, speaker lines from Monitor Audio tend to come with names

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 04, 2019  |  1 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,546 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Balanced sound with effortless treble
Solid bass extension
Impressive performance from compact subwoofer
Minus
Center speaker can sound slightly chesty when listening off-axis

THE VERDICT
DALI joins the pantheon of excellent compact, affordable 5.1 speaker packages with this system based around the overachieving Oberon 1.

Over the past 25 years, the Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries company has grown from a small and relatively obscure maker (in the U.S. market, at least) to a much more major player in the world's crowded loudspeaker arena. The Danes' latest move toward the broader marketplace is the Oberon series, an affordable range consisting of two towers, two bookshelf/standmount models, one on-wall, and one center- channel—all two-way, vented- enclosure designs.

Al Griffin  |  Oct 15, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $269

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Warm yet detailed sound
Ultra-compact form factor
Bluetooth streaming
Minus
No front panel volume control
USB input support maxes out at 24/48

THE VERDICT
The A2+ combines audiophile-friendly sound with the convenience of Bluetooth to create a broadly appealing compact speaker package.

Audioengine is well-known for making affordable powered and passive speakers that are compact enough for desktop use. Like several of the company's previous offerings, its most recent model, the A2+, is a petite powered speaker with multiple connectivity options, including wireless aptX Bluetooth streaming. What makes it stand out from other Audioengine speakers? The price: at $269, the A2+ is the least expensive powered Bluetooth model in the company's lineup.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 25, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Remarkable bass extension and output
All-in-one solution including phono input
Noteworthy treble clarity and definition
Minus
Soundstage depth less dramatic than some designs
Tiny input labeling

THE VERDICT
With analog, digital, wireless Bluetooth, turntable, and USB computer connections, Kanto's great-sounding TUK powered bookshelf speaker is ready to rock right out of the box.

Kanto is a Canadian firm barely a decade old that specializes in powered loudspeakers. The company has established substantial cred for its active desktop and bookshelf speaker lines, both of which deliver high value and widely noted performance. Now, with a new model called TUK, the company is moving up-range in market-segment, size, and price. Also, utility: TUK is an all-in-one powered-speaker solution, with a phono-preamp, an asynchronous USB DAC, a headphone amp, preamp controls, a subwoofer crossover, and amplification all built right in.

Michael Trei  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,900 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lively and dynamic sound
Optimized for movies
Outstanding value for money
Minus
Awkward form factor
Drab cosmetic

THE VERDICT
By combining the benefits of both THX certification and Dolby Atmos, this superb high-value home theater speaker package from Monoprice knocks it out of the park.

What's in a name? If visions of $10 HDMI and iPhone Lightning cables pop into your head when you hear the name Monoprice, you should know that the company introduced the premium Monolith brand a few years back to move beyond its image as an online peddler of low-cost cables. Think of Monolith as being a bit like Genesis is to Hyundai: a fresh name free of the parent brand's bargain basement associations.

Al Griffin  |  Aug 07, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Integrated Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great value
Tidal, Spotify, and TuneIn streaming
Digital and analog inputs accommodate multiple sources
Minus
Subwoofer output
Treble-forward sound with some music
Coarse volume steps
No USB-DAC input

THE VERDICT
OSD Audio’s compact, component-based system is a great value and offers a high-er-performance alternative to many all-in-one wireless speakers.

OSD Audio is a company that seems to make everything— everything audio-related, that is. When I stopped by the company's booth at the CEDIA trade show in 2018, CEO Dave Chai took me on a guided tour of the vast array of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, outdoor speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, accessories, and cables on display, thoroughly impressing me with his ability to speak about each product in detail. While much of OSD Audio's catalog is aimed at custom installation pros, two new consumer-oriented categories for the company are bookshelf speakers and integrated amplifiers with wireless streaming capability.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 31, 2019  |  0 comments
Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,499 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean and tidy sound
Excellent tonal match between models
Superb high-gloss painted finish
Minus
Sound is a bit polite with some material
No wood finish option

THE VERDICT
This RSL CG5 system offers relaxed sound that's easy to like, impressive build quality, and great value.

Everybody loves a great comeback story. Whether it's Tiger Woods winning The Masters after a decade of disappointment, or Apple's return to global dominance after nearly going bust twenty years back, it's nice when someone or something can make a strong return.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-tier tonal accuracy and dynamic ability
Amazingly compact for performance level
On-board EQ offers flexible placement options
Minus
Relatively tight sweet spot
No on-board streaming, digital inputs, or DSP

THE VERDICT
Elac's powered-speaker is highly compact, yet capable enough to satisfy serious listeners.

Active loudspeakers, or speakers with built-in amplification, have long been box-office poison in the U.S. market. That's because we Americans like our big receivers, choosing them based on power ratings, and then hooking them up to conventional, passive speakers using garden-hose speaker wire. When you add up the market segments that simply won't consider active speakers, including owners of receivers lacking preamp outputs and those who simply cannot get their heads around the whole powered-speaker concept, the issue becomes a non-starter.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive sound and build quality for price
Good looks
Easy to set up
Minus
Limited connection options
Analog input can be noisy

THE VERDICT
The Fluance Ai40 delivers great sound and easy setup at a stunningly low price.

The Fluance Ai40 is a good-looking and reasonably compact powered speaker system that's equally at home on the desktop and in the living room. With aptX Bluetooth and stereo RCA inputs and not much else, it's easy to set up for streaming and vinyl or CD playback. At $200, the Ai40 is also a notably affordable given the performance level it provides.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 03, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,800 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral balance
Close timbral matching between models
Excellent value
Minus
Pedestrian styling
Basic finish options

THE VERDICT
PSB's long-running Alpha Series has been a value leader for more than 25 years. Now in their third generation, these speakers sound equally good with music and movies, and the value quotient is stronger than ever.

I think of PSB's entry-level Alpha Series speakers as being the loudspeaker equivalent of the Toyota Corolla. The Alphas may not be the sexiest speakers around, but they do offer solid engineering, long-term reliability, and excellent performance at a very reasonable price. Speakers from PSB's now sadly discontinued flagship Synchrony line have served as my personal home theater reference for over a decade, so you could call me a bit of a fanboy. As you might expect, that means I'm also interested in seeing what the company can deliver when keeping costs down is part of the equation.

Michael Trei  |  Mar 20, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $996 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dynamic and lively sound
Good stereo and surround sound imaging
Minus
Requires careful setup for best performance
Basic black finish only

THE VERDICT
Klipsch’s R-41M speaker system amply demonstrates how a 5.1 surround package can outperform a same-priced soundbar. Enthusiastically recommended for both movies and music.

Putting together a home theater system on a limited budget can be a daunting task. That's why so many people instead take the easy route and buy a soundbar to handle audio. Sure, a one- or two-box (with subwoofer) solution is simple to shop for and a snap to hook up, but what about the sound quality? With soundbars, the amplifiers, speakers, and signal processing are all designed to work together in an integrated unit, so it's often possible to squeeze surprisingly big and powerful sound out of the bar's tiny drivers.

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