Signature S60 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value PSW125 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $1,600 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Excellent range and tonal balance Dramatic looks Good blend from unusually low-profile center Minus Sub doesn&rsquo;t add much to the towers alone THE VERDICT With the Signature Series, Polk successfully practices its long-held ethos of delivering high performance at affordable cost in a new, smartly designed lineup. Of the three or four speaker brands that pumped the vast majority of air throughout the hi-fi boom of the 1970s, only one&mdash;Polk Audio&mdash;is still doing what they&rsquo;ve always done (design and make loudspeakers), where they&rsquo;ve always done it (more or less), and with very much the same ethos (value/performance, with value in italics). OK, so Polks, like virtually all other mass-market speakers sold in the U.S. are now actually manufactured overseas. But they&rsquo;re still conceived here according to the old Polk standards&mdash;industrially designed in San Diego out of the corporate headquarters and engineered in Polk&rsquo;s original hometown in greater Baltimore.
CG3 5.1 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value Speedwoofer 10S Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $1,079 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Rigorously balanced sound Plays surprisingly loud Easy, excellent sub/sat blending Minus Sats can be a bit power-hungry in larger rooms THE VERDICT Given its low cost, solid dynamics, and impressive neutrality, it would be tough to find a better or more honest small speaker system for the price than RSL&rsquo;s latest. When it comes to loudspeakers, how big is big enough? How small is too small? What size is j-u-u-ust right? Speaker buyers have been asking these questions, and speaker makers have been answering them, ever since a certain Brand B shook the world years ago with micro-sized satellites employing 2.5-inch drivers that struggled to reach down to 200 hertz, mated with similarly challenged Lilliputian subs. Physics notwithstanding, buyers took to them in droves&mdash;and since then, the race to the bottom, cubicvolume-wise, has been on.
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $1,100 each; $2,200 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Powerful bass for a compact sub Performs extremely well with music and movies Minus Lacks last half-octave of deep bass you can get from larger subs THE VERDICT If you&rsquo;re limited on space but have adequate funding, this is the strongest-performing compact sub I&rsquo;ve auditioned. It&rsquo;s another American business success story. A couple of kids, Jim Birch and Lucio Proni, begin building home loudspeakers during summer break in 1975. More than 40 years later, Jim and Lucio are still going strong, having seen JL Audio become one of the most respected consumer electronics brands in the world, branching out from the home to mobile and marine applications. I&rsquo;ve experienced their products at some custom shops and have read glowing reviews of their subwoofers over the years. My favorite review was by my colleague Darryl Wilkinson, who said the company&rsquo;s Fathom f212 sub could play a 20-hertz test tone loud enough to liquefy his bowels! High praise, indeed.
PB16-Ultra Subwoofer Performance Features Ergonomics Value SB16-Ultra Subwoofer Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $2,499, $1,999 AT A GLANCE Plus Powerful, deep bass response Infrared remote and Bluetooth app control User adjustable EQ presets Minus Extremely heavy Large size can make optimal placement challenging THE VERDICT If you want foundation-shaking bass and have the floor space to accommodate one (or two) of these beasts, you&rsquo;ll be the envy of the neighborhood on movie night. I&rsquo;ve had a home theater going on 20 years now, and one thing has remained constant through those years: upgrades. It got so bad at one point that my wife had me enter into a contract with her in 2004 that my latest subwoofer upgrade would be my last for the next 10 years. Desperate to make the purchase, I reluctantly agreed and signed my name on the dotted line. Fortunately, the subwoofer just happened to be an SVS PC-Ultra, a cylindrical monster that kept my subwoofer itch scratched for a full decade. But as soon as the contract was up in 2014, I did add a second subwoofer to the mix, a Hsu VTF-15H MK2, which has been filling my room with copious amounts of bass ever since.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,499 AT A GLANCE Plus Very powerful on music Outstanding build quality Small size Minus Tepid output at the very bottom THE VERDICT One of the most musical subwoofers I&rsquo;ve ever auditioned, and it&rsquo;s damn pretty, too! Founded in 1972 in Ontario, PSB Speakers has grown from one man&rsquo;s passion for audio into an international speaker company with more than 50 distributors and approximately 1,000 dealers. Paul Barton got his start in audio when he was just 11 years old, making speakers with his father. As he became more confident with his designs when he was in high school, he started to sell his speakers to college students at the nearby University of Waterloo. From the beginning, Barton&rsquo;s goal was to create high-performance, highvalue loudspeakers for music and, eventually, for home cinema applications.
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $50 AT A GLANCE Plus Easy to install Tames unwanted vibrations Minus Why aren&rsquo;t these standard issue? THE VERDICT If you have touchy neighbors who complain about vibrations from your subwoofer, you need these in your system. I love bass, always have, always will. The same can&rsquo;t be said for my wife, who constantly tells me, &ldquo;Turn it down. You&rsquo;re going to wake the dead, or worse, go deaf!&rdquo; Part of my problem is that my home rests on a raised foundation with a wood subfloor underneath my carpet, which means my dual-subwoofer setup transmits plenty of vibrations from the subwoofer to the floor, which then resonate through the rest of the house. In fact, on certain low-frequency scenes in movies, you can literally see my windows vibrating. But is this really a problem?
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $399 AT A GLANCE Plus Exemplary value Clean, punchy bass Optional wireless transmitter works like a charm Minus Doesn&rsquo;t go quite as deep as the big boys THE VERDICT When I heard I was going to review a budget $399 subwoofer, I dreaded the month I&rsquo;d miss my reference subs. I couldn&rsquo;t have been more wrong! There are two things that I really love in life. The first is the entrepreneurial spirit that grows within someone and inspires them to take a chance with an idea, create a company, and do their best to make it succeed. The second is great bass. As longtime readers know, I&rsquo;m a bass-oholic&mdash;and if my wife would let me, I&rsquo;d have four (or more) subwoofers in my media room, because there&rsquo;s no such thing as too much bass!
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $999 AT A GLANCE Plus True bass from truly tiny sub Highly flexible setup, including wireless option Beautifully made and finished Minus Finite upper-volume limits Display too small to discern easily THE VERDICT If you demand real bass from a really small subwoofer (and you have $1,000 to pay for it), Artison&rsquo;s got your micro-sub. Ever since the first hominid bashed another hominid over the head (with the femur of a third hominid), humankind has pursued one arms race or another. From the atlatl to the AR-15, man&rsquo;s competitive genius always finds a way to up the ante. One rather more constructive expression of this innate drive can be seen in the long-standing contest to extract more and more bass out of smaller and smaller boxes.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,750 AT A GLANCE Plus Small form factor is d&eacute;cor friendly Satisfying bass response Minus Can&rsquo;t deliver the sonic impact of a bigger sub Better values can be found in the market THE VERDICT Given the Sunfire&rsquo;s dainty size, I didn&rsquo;t expect much, but it delivers in spades with music and should be adequate with movies for many listeners. My name is David Vaughn, and I&rsquo;m a bass-a-holic. There isn&rsquo;t a 12-step program to cure me of this disease&mdash;and even if there were, I&rsquo;d avoid the treatment like the plague. There&rsquo;s nothing like feeling the thump in your chest when an explosion rocks the room in the latest Hollywood blockbuster or hearing the windows rattle to some classic rap from the early 1990s. (Hell, who would have ever thought that &ldquo;classic&rdquo; and &ldquo;rap&rdquo; would go together in the same sentence?)
Zensor 5 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value VTF-1 MK2 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $2,244 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Neutral balance Excellent center-L/R tonal match Superb &ldquo;small&rdquo;-sub output and extension Minus Zensor 5 mini-towers are rather short THE VERDICT Combining DALI&rsquo;s fine-performing, high-value two-way line with one of the best inexpensive 10-inch subwoofers available creates an affordable system that competes well with the many contenders in its price class. DALI is a company that has nothing to do with surrealist art or Tibetan Buddhism. The acronym is for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, which over some 30 years has grown from a home-market specialist to a respected international brand. Despite this success, I had never gotten up close and personal with any DALI designs (trade-show demos excepted) until they shipped us a representative selection of their new Zensor entry-level series. Since the Zensor-ship currently lacks a subwoofer, we tapped one of the best size- and price-appropriate designs we know, Hsu Research&rsquo;s affordable VTF-1 MK2.