You're Surrounded!

The piercing sounds of the action/splatterfest Freddy vs. Jason showed which systems had the chops and which ones couldn't cut it.
When you consider the many "lifestyle-friendly" speakers that have sprung up over the past few years - models meant to blend neatly with their surroundings, sometimes at the expense of performance - you'd think the reigning speaker-design doctrine was that they should be heard but not seen. Well, I'm here to tell you different. There are still many systems around that were designed with not just interior-decorating concerns but ultimate audio performance in mind. And the good news is that some of these not only sound great but are relatively easy on the wallet. So if you're looking to buy a system that's actually visible to the naked eye, you're in luck.

For this report, we corralled a trio of surround sound speaker packages in the $1,500 to $2,000 range from JBL ($1,575), Sapphire Audio ($1,750), and Phase Technology ($1,925). Each system represents a different design approach: JBL's sub/sat configuration includes a pair of powered subwoofers; Sapphire Audio's rig is built around a pair of tower speakers equipped with side-firing woofers; and Phase Technology's system uses a single sub to augment its front towers. Aside from being in the same price range, what each system shares is a mission to fully surround you and rock your world when watching movies or listening to music. So let's stop talking and give them a spin.

PDF: Fast Facts