Surround Sound System Reviews

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Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 12, 2012  |  0 comments

PSB Imagine T2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
PSB SubSeries 300 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $7,140 (updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Independent ported chambers for each woofer • Dual five-way gold-plated binding posts for biwiring or biamping • Five-way transitional design

Paul Barton is a nutcase. Oh, sure, he’s soft-spoken, ultra-smart, and intensely passionate about sound. (In the late 1960s, 11-year-old Barton started building speakers with his dad in their workshop because other speakers “didn’t sound natural.”) But that’s just a cover. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that Mr. Barton (the “P” and “B” of PSB Speakers—with his wife, Sue, providing the “S”) has spent so much of his life locked away in the anechoic chamber and testing/listening labs of Canada’s federally funded National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, according to PSB, although folks from other speaker companies (such as Paradigm, Energy, Mirage, Snell, and Aperion, to name a few) have traipsed through the NRC’s Acoustics and Signal Processing Department’s doors, since the late 1970s, Barton “has spent far longer in the chamber and lab than any other speaker designer.” So rather than skiing, hunting, fishing, playing hockey, and/or drinking beer all day like real Canadians do, Barton chose to play in an anechoic chamber. As I said, he’s a nutcase.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Sep 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Automatic speaker discovery and channel assignment • Uncompressed 24-bit wireless digital audio • No AVR needed

Not long ago, FedEx deposited a 7.1channel HTIB from Aperion Audio outside my door. It’s not really fair to call it a home theater in a box because the system actually comes in seven boxes and sells for $3,499. But since it includes source switching and amplification, it technically qualifies as an HTIB, albeit a rather unusual one. Aperion Audio prefers the term preconfigured home theater system. Normally, setting up this sort of home theater package would entail speaker wires crisscrossing the floor accompanied by the requisite grumbling, stripping of wires, and fumbling with speaker terminals. In this case, though, the Aperion speakers—a pair of towers, a center channel, a subwoofer, and two pair of satellite speakers—come out of their boxes, get placed in their appropriate spots in the room, have each one’s power cord plugged into the nearest AC outlet…and that’s it.

Brent Butterworth  |  Sep 18, 2012  |  1 comments

As athletes such as Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and the whole New Orleans Saints defense have learned the hard way, even when you’re the best, it helps to be friendly. Big surround sound systems aren’t friendly to your décor or your pocketbook. Fortunately, in the last 2 years, we’ve seen major speaker companies put serious effort into designing compact 5.1 systems that deliver no-compromise performance. The Mini Theatre line from Bowers & Wilkins is the latest to make its way through my listening room.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 14, 2012  |  0 comments

MilleniaOne Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
MilleniaSub subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,648 At A Glance: Die-cast aluminum satellites • Flat-form-factor subwoofer • Remarkable transparency

Not often do I begin a review with an apology to readers. But I owe you one.

It’s taken me an unconscionably long time to get around to reviewing the Paradigm MilleniaOne satellite speaker system and MilleniaSub. The products made their retail debuts in November 2010. Since then they’ve languished on my to-do list despite the fact that Paradigm is one of my favorite speaker manufacturers. In fact, I never fail to cite my reference speakers, the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4, in every A/V receiver review. Now that I’ve gotten an earful of the MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub, I’m kicking myself. I should have recommended these stellar satellites and innovative subwoofer to you a whole lot sooner, whether you’re in the market for a sat/sub set or not. This is the kind of high-performance sat/sub set that might make believers out of people who weren’t even interested in the product category to begin with.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 04, 2012  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $7,197 At A Glance: Wide and deep soundstage • Clear, uncolored midrange • Superb fit and finish

The Wharfedale brand is one of the oldest and most widely respected in the loudspeaker business. Gilbert Briggs founded the company as the Wharfedale Wireless Works in Yorkshire, England, in 1932. While his name is less well known in the U.S. than, say, Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, and James B. Lansing, Briggs was also clearly one of the founding fathers of the high-fidelity business that took off big time in the 1950s.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 10, 2012  |  2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,800 At A Glance: Three-way with coaxial midrange/tweeter • Sub with dual side-firing drivers • Laser-like focus and well rounded

Kent, in the south of England, was best known for hop farming when Raymond Cooke left Wharfedale and founded KEF in 1961. The company was named after the industrial site on which it was founded: Kent Engineering & Foundry. KEF’s numerous distinguished alumni include Laurie Fincham, who now develops next-generation audio technologies for THX, and Andrew Jones, who designs world-beating loudspeakers at a variety of price points for Pioneer and TAD. KEF has earned a reputation for making both great speaker systems and great speaker drivers, some of which were instrumental in the legendary BBC-designed LS3/5A, which KEF and other manufacturers have marketed in various forms. Roving through a New York cocktail party celebrating KEF’s 50th anniversary last year, hobnobbing with the audio elite, I found that the drive units inspired as much nostalgia as the speakers in which they were used. (To read about KEF’s history in more detail—and in a handsome coffee-table book, no less—see KEF: 50 Years of Innovation in Sound by Ken Kessler and Dr. Andrew Watson.)

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 12, 2012  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,297 (with updated X Series models)
At A Glance: Dual orbs in front, single orbs behind • Full-range drivers in steel enclosures • Rod or pedestal stand

Spherical loudspeakers are perhaps too easily dismissed: “Oh look, it’s round. Cute gimmick. Next…” That box speakers are easy to build certainly doesn’t guarantee sound quality. In fact, designers of quality speakers are constantly rebelling against the limitations of rectangular enclosures. To curb cabinet resonance, designers build bracing into the box and stuff the interior with damping material. They curve the sides to stop standing waves from developing between parallel walls. But rather than tweak boxes, some do away with them altogether. So if you think the spherical steel shells of Orb Audio’s People’s Choice satellite speakers are mere gimmicks, think again.

Thomas J. Norton  |  May 30, 2012  |  2 comments

LSiM707 Surround Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
DSWmicroPRO3000 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $9,900 (updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Excellent dynamic range • Solid imaging and depth • Could use more top-end air

Polk Audio has a proud history stretching back to the early 1970s. Its products have leaned more to the familiar and affordable rather than to the expensive and esoteric, but there have been exceptions. The SRT series, introduced in 1995, was a surround system with seven separate speakers encompassing 35 active drivers, including two subwoofers said to be capable of 120 decibels at 30 hertz. It corralled its fair share of buyers willing to pony up the $10,000 asking price.

Michael Fremer  |  May 18, 2012  |  12 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
Darryl Wilkinson  |  May 16, 2012  |  4 comments

StudioMonitor 55 Speakers
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Value
 
SuperCube 6000 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,494 At A Glance: Top-mounted, passive radiator • Dual binding posts • Enhanced phase plug

Whether you think a decade is a long or a short period of time depends on your perspective. If you’re discussing cosmology with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the word “decade” probably won’t even make it into the conversation. If you’re Apple, you crank out more than 300 million iPods in that period of time. If you’re a momma elephant with a particularly frisky elephant husband who likes to party, you might be able to birth five elephant progeny. (Although the stretch marks will simply be impossible to get rid of after that third one, no matter what exercise club you sign up with.) At the Glenmorangie distillery in the Scottish Highlands, you’re trying to decide whether or not to bottle the batch of single-malt scotch that’s been aging in the barrels for the last decade or to wait another eight years and ship out cases of Glenmorangie 18 Years Old instead. But if you’re Definitive Technology, you take your sweet time and eventually come out with…wait for it…three (as in one more than two) totally redesigned monitor speakers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 13, 2012  |  5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,745 At A Glance: Sealed design controls bass • Satin-finish MDF enclosures • Factory-direct sales enhance value

Are you one of those people who can’t resist a supermarket circular? Do you trawl the Internet looking for coupon codes that can be pasted into online purchases? Loudspeaker pricing doesn’t often indulge us with the same feeling of satisfaction that we get from buying a jumbo jar of marinara sauce or a cashmere scarf at an extremely low price. But while researching this review last December, I couldn’t help noting that Emotiva’s factory-direct speakers offered some wiggle room to the timely shopper. The XRC-5.2 LCR speaker normally sold for $299/each—not a bad price to begin with—but was momentarily going for an introductory price of $239/each.

Brent Butterworth  |  Mar 21, 2012  |  0 comments

It seemed that audio companies had surrendered the home-theater-in-a-box concept to the TV manufacturers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 07, 2012  |  4 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,706 At A Glance: Listening fatigue immunity • Extremely solid build • Factory-direct value

SVS Sound designs its products from the bottom up. The company got its start as a subwoofer manufacturer, fascinating point-one-obsessed audiophiles with unusual (and potent) cylinder-shaped models. Check out the company’s Website at svsound.com under products and you’ll find the subwoofer category listed above speakers and systems. If you want to add an SVS sub to an existing system, the Website’s Merlin engine lets you key in the make and model of your non-SVS speakers to obtain recommendations on compatible SVS subs. Merlin will even offer suggestions for subwoofer crossovers in both surround and stereo systems.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 30, 2012  |  0 comments

It seems like there have been Paradigm Monitor-series speakers roaming the earth since shortly after Rice and Kellog patented the dynamic loudspeaker as we know it in 1924. (The original practical design was by Peter Jensen, co-founder of Magnavox, some years earlier.) And as the arrival of its “Series 7” might suggest, the Canadian maker’s Monitor family does in fact date back a couple of decades. Like the speakers that preceded them, Paradigm’s new Monitor models are benchmarks of performance/value quotient in the best Canadian-speaker tradition: rationally priced, excellent-performing, technically advanced designs that compete very effectively with some far more costly “high-end” designs.

So what has changed for Series 7? According to Paradigm, the answer is smaller, deeper, broader: The new models are smaller in size (and so more décor-friendly), yet thanks to redesigned waveguides and the adoption of aluminum bass/mid cones and tweeter domes, they offer improved low-frequency extension and smoother, wider off-axis response. In other words, just like before — but more so.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 27, 2012  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,195 (updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Little brother to the Triton Two • Built-in, powered subwoofer • Folded-diaphragm tweeters

Those of us who are “the baby of the family” know the ever-living hell of growing up surrounded by older siblings. In addition to the incessant abuse—both mental (teasing, taunting, terrorizing) and physical (wedgies, wet willies, purple nurples)—there’s the oxygen-depleting cloud of expectation that swirls around your every step, especially if you’ve had a particularly zealous overachiever blazing the familial trail ahead of you. By the way, for those parents who aren’t aware of it, “Why can’t you be like your brother?” isn’t, in most cases, a terribly motivating exhortation. Unless, of course, said brother happens to be a ne’er-do-well who lives off the proceeds of an obscenely large trust fund, drinks absinthe with impunity, and eats fresh beignets heaped high with powdered sugar for breakfast (at noon) every day. (That’s my kind of role model! Bring it on, sibling rival…) Unfortunately, few of us are blessed with the kind of bottom-feeding low-life for an older brother or sister who makes you look like a shining star just for getting out of bed and watching cartoons in the morning. Instead, we’re doomed to a life of waking up knowing that the rest of the day is likely to be nothing but another disappointment to our parents, grandparents, and every ancestor who ever walked (even remotely) upright.

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