Bookshelf Speaker Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 20, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,000/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean, uncolored sound with solid bass
Cool vintage looks
Three-way switch to modify mid- and high-frequency output
Minus
Best sound with grilles off

THE VERDICT
The new, re-imagined KLH Model Five represents an exceptional update to an iconic speaker design.

KLH was originally founded in 1957 as the KLH Research and Development Corporation by three partners: Henry Kloss, Malcolm S. Low, and Josef Anton Hofmann. Today, the best-known of that trio is the late Henry Kloss. A true A/V renaissance man, Kloss was instrumental in establishing four loudspeaker companies: Acoustic Research, KLH, Advent, and Cambridge SoundWorks. In the mid-1970s, he also founded a short-lived company to market his then-revolutionary Advent VideoBeam projection system. Kloss further worked to improve FM radio and brought Dolby B noise-reduction to the consumer audio cassette.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 12, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,500 (pair)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Serious all-in-one streaming solution
Remarkable tonal and dynamic range
Excellent ergonomics and app
Roon Ready Certified
Minus
High volume level slightly reduces resolution

THE VERDICT
KEF's wireless speaker package is an ergonomic marvel that delivers true audiophile performance—especially when paired with the company's complementary KC62 subwoofer.

We live now in wireless world, and the major loudspeaker makers have been quick to embrace it with serious-performance, near-full-range designs. But each seems to have a different idea of what a "wireless speaker" should entail. Some simply connect to an existing component stack via a supplied small wireless transmitter. Others incorporate the whole smart-speaker thang, with full multiroom audio system and Alexa-Google-Siri voice control integration.

Al Griffin  |  May 05, 2021  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,195 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, near full-range performance
R900 module delivers immersive sound
Impressive build quality for price
Excellent value
Minus
Revealing sound can be slightly bright with some sources

THE VERDICT
Packed with tech developed for Polk Audio’s flagship Legend series, this Reserve series speaker package delivers dynamic and immersive sound at a budget-friendly price.

Back in 2019, Polk Audio rolled out its Legend series speakers. For a brand known to maintain a laser-like focus on value, the Legends, with their finely constructed cabinets (featuring real wood veneer) and fully redesigned driver complement, not to mention an enhanced version of the company's SDA (Stereo Dimensional Array) technology in the line's flagship L800 tower, seemed an atypically cost-no- object offering.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 31, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $700/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superbly accurate tonal balance
Remarkable bass extension
Highly adaptable onboard EQ options
Onboard auto room correction
Minus
Finite output may not suit far-field listening
No auto on/off
No built-in sub integration option

THE VERDICT
IK Multimedia’s powered monitor is a great desktop audio option, and it also delivers sufficient output for far-field listening in small-size rooms.

With few of us straying far from home these days, or from our computer with its constant stream of information, entertainment, hope, and fear, desktop audio is having a moment.

For this reason, many are discovering a need for some- thing better than the crappy 2.1-channel "computer speaker" systems we bought back in the early 'aughts. What we need is an ultra-compact active monitor—like IK Multimedia's iLoud MTM.

Al Griffin  |  Feb 03, 2021  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,000 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean, well-balanced sound
Consistent off-axis performance
Subwoofer control app with Auto-EQ
Excellent value
Minus
Basic looks; black-only finish option

THE VERDICT
Despite its low-key exterior, Elac’s 5.1 Uni-Fi 2.0 system delivers the goods for movies/music and represents an excellent value.

Germany's Elac is a brand that has greatly expanded its presence in the hi-fi and home theater worlds over the past five or so years. While the company itself has been around for considerably longer, back in 2015 it brought on former KEF, Infinity, TAD, and Pioneer chief speaker engineer Andrew Jones to develop new product lines. First out of the gate for Jones was the Debut Series, followed by the Uni-Fi series, both affordable lines designed to pull fresh recruits into the audiophile ranks. New speakers arrived in quick succession, including the upscale but still affordable Adante passive and Navis powered models.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 23, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $700/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good bass extension
Excellent midrange balance and accuracy
Pluggable port yields flexible placement and performance
Impressive fit and finish
Minus
Slightly bright sound with some recordings

THE VERDICT
This anniversary edition Bowers & Wilkins compact bookshelf combines good looks with intelligently balanced sound.

There are quite literally hundreds of small, two-way loudspeakers you can buy priced from under $100 to well north of $10,000 per pair. To this throng British stalwart Bowers & Wilkins now adds the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition (the anniversary commemorated is the company's launch of its first 600 Series designs 25 years ago). Whether or not the world desperately needs another small two-way may be up for debate, but B&W's authority to add one is not: the ranks of fine small speakers marching forth from the south coast of the UK over the past half-century has been illustrious.

Bob Ankosko  |  Jul 23, 2020  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Versatile
Easy to set up
Solid construction
Good sound with powerful bass

Minus
No tone controls

THE VERDICT
The Fives accommodate a variety of audio setups without the need for an outboard amp or receiver and deliver pleasing sound with rich, powerful bass.

I’m all about simplicity so I welcomed The Fives with open arms. A follow-up to The Sixes Klipsch introduced a couple years ago, the new speakers are smaller and take connectivity to the next level with the addition of an ARC (audio return channel)-enabled HDMI port. If I had to pick one word to describe this system, it would be versatile.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 22, 2020  |  7 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Build Quality
Features
Value
PRICE $20,500 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb overall performance
Impeccable fit and finish
Relatively compact
Minus
Pricey

THE VERDICT
It may be pricey, but this PerformaBe system offers sublime performance with both music and movies.

I've reviewed many Revel surround speaker packages over time, but it's been six years since my last Revel review, a system centered on the Performa F208 tower speaker. At around 13 grand, that system could still be considered an affordable option compared with a full surround package built around the company's flagship Ultima range. Now, with its PerformaBe line, Revel has a mid-price speaker offering to help bridge the gap.

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  |  2 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  |  1 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.

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