M16 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value B10 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $4,050 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus High transparency Equalized subwoofer Wall-hanging surrounds Minus Manual sub EQ requires expertise THE VERDICT Revel draws on Harman&rsquo;s world-class engineering depth to produce immaculate high-end sound&mdash;this time, at an extremely reasonable price. Audiophiles (myself included) often point out that high-end audio is stigmatized compared with other product categories. High-end cars, high-end wine, high-end watches: All attract aficionados who don&rsquo;t mind paying a stiff premium to get the best of the best. And if an average onlooker ventures an opinion at all, it&rsquo;s &ldquo;nice watch!&rdquo; But when a bleeding-edge speaker or amp takes the stage, the applause of the cognoscenti mixes with heckling from the peanut gallery. High-end audio has long been subject to that extra measure of skepticism.
Performance Build Quality Value PRICE $2,000 pr AT A GLANCE Plus Superb sound Punches well above its price Upscale construction and cosmetics Minus A touch more top-end air would be welcome THE VERDICT With this impressive redesign of the Concerta line, Revel is more than ready to give its competition sleepless nights. Revel&rsquo;s new Concerta2 loudspeaker range consists of five models. The M16 bookshelves, C25 center, S16 surrounds, and B10 subwoofer are covered in a separate review due out shortly. There are also two tower models in the group; the F35 employs three 5-inch woofers, while the larger F36, reviewed alone here, uses three 6.5-inch low-frequency drivers. Apart from the woofer and cabinet sizes, the F35 and F36 are similar in concept.
Performance Build Quality Value PRICE $1,995 pr (assembled); $1,295/ pr (kit) AT A GLANCE Plus Remarkable, panel-speaker-like stereo imaging Neutral tonal balance Complete absence of &ldquo;floor-bounce&rdquo; thickening Minus Curtailed bass requires subwoofer support Needs custom- or auto-equalization for best performance Modest subwoofer localization THE VERDICT A genuine rarity&mdash;a truly distinct take on consumer loudspeaker design&mdash; Dayton Audio&rsquo;s Epique CBT24 delivers exceptional performance with exceptional stereo imaging. Extremely unusual looks and the need for modest equalization and a subwoofer shouldn&rsquo;t deter adventurous listeners. And now for something completely different: Dayton Audio&rsquo;s Epique CBT24. What&rsquo;s an Epique CBT24? A 24-driver, no-crossover, one-way tower loudspeaker that stands 5 feet tall yet is no more than 3.5 inches wide over its full, dramatically arched length. A tower speaker with a unique geometry, pedigree, visual aesthetic, and equally unique technical story (and even marketing plan).
Persona 3F Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value Persona SUB Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $31,000 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Beryllium tweeter and midrange drivers Hand-polished, high-gloss finish Slender, curved cabinets Minus Expensive Heavy THE VERDICT Paradigm set out to create the best, state-of-the-Paradigm-art speakers the company has ever produced, bringing together top-notch cabinet construction and finishing capabilities and advanced driver technologies in hopes of achieving something greater than the sum of its already great parts. They&rsquo;ve succeeded. Paradigm, the Canadian loudspeaker company founded in 1982, has a long and respectable history of building excellent-sounding, great-looking speakers at relatively affordable prices&mdash;not outrageously expensive but not stupidly cheap, either. Somewhere along the way, though, somebody at Paradigm accidentally said out loud at a company meeting: &ldquo;What if cost were, well, not no object, but at least less of an object? What if we combined all our best technologies and maybe threw in a bit of new stuff, too? Just how awesome of a speaker could we make? We should try that someday.&rdquo; And thus the company&rsquo;s latest and greatest-ever series of speakers was born.
ElectroMotion ESL X Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value Dynamo 1500X Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $11,395 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Excellent performance with music and movies Perfect Bass Kit for sub eases setup Compact electrostatic center speaker Minus Some timbral shift between center channel and towers Towers and center require AC power THE VERDICT MartinLogan&rsquo;s ESL X tower speakers deliver delicacy and detail&mdash;along with serious dynamics when paired with the Dynamo 1500X subwoofer. A new, more compact electrostatic center speaker sweetens the deal. As a member of Generation X, I sometimes get paranoid about being target-marketed when I see a product name appended with an &ldquo;X&rdquo;&mdash;for instance, MartinLogan&rsquo;s new ElectroMotion ESL X speaker. I, for one, would be an easy target: An eX-MartinLogan owner, I&rsquo;m very familiar with the detailed, almost eerily present sound that the company&rsquo;s hybrid electrostatic speakers deliver. Consider me a fan.
Performance Build Quality Value PRICE $8,498/pair AT A GLANCE Plus Powerful, full-range sound Great looks Easily driven by modest-power amps Minus Price may seem high to non-audiophile civilians Large, space-dominating size THE VERDICT With the Triton Reference, GoldenEar Technology has delivered their finest loudspeaker yet. It looks great, sounds great, and represents an exceptional value in high-end audio. When I reviewed GoldenEar Technology&rsquo;s debut loudspeaker, the Triton Two, shortly after the company launched in 2010, co-founder/president/polymath Sandy Gross indicated that it would be the first of many to come. He wasn&rsquo;t exaggerating. New entries arrived thereafter in quick succession, including powered towers, passive towers, soundbars, subwoofers, bookshelf models, and in-ceiling speakers. And in 2014, the company introduced the Triton One. Priced at $2,500 each or $5,000 for the pair, it represented the pinnacle of GoldenEar&rsquo;s mission to combine high performance with high value.
Performance Build Quality Value PRICE $48,000 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Audyssey MultEQ XT Pro room equalization Variable-axis soft-dome tweeters on surrounds All speakers are biamped or triamped Minus Expensive Status LEDs on amplifier are bright and can&rsquo;t be dimmed Requires professional installation THE VERDICT When it comes to the evolution of loudspeakers, Phase Technology has an enviable pedigree filled with innovation. The company&rsquo;s newest dARTS speaker/amp package is a spectacular achievement that mitigates the effects of room acoustics and creates a highly theatrical, intensely musical experience that&rsquo;s extremely rare. One day last summer, I found myself grumbling more than usual as I stood staring at 550 pounds of speakers and amps that Phase Technology had shipped to my house. (Actually, because the gravel road I live on is very unfriendly to tractor-trailers, I had to drive to the depot, load a couple of pallets of heavy boxes into two vehicles, drive home, and then unload it all.) The gear makes up the top-of-the-line version of the company&rsquo;s new, second-generation dARTS system.
Verus II Grand Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value Bravus II 12D Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $5,005 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Tight, detailed bass Excellent tonal balance Spacious, cohesive soundstage Minus Sub has limitations in very large rooms Narrow tower can be unstable on carpet THE VERDICT With modest but significant improvements to their flagship speaker line, Aperion Audio has again hit the jackpot in offering the sort of value that&rsquo;s rare in today&rsquo;s increasingly pricey audio marketplace. Six years ago, I reviewed the first version of Aperion Audio&rsquo;s then new Verus Grand speaker line. While this was a considerable step up from the internet-direct manufacturer&rsquo;s previous, well-regarded budget-priced models, it still offered incredible value. As I concluded at the time: &ldquo;If [the Verus Grand] impresses you as much as [it] impressed me, you&rsquo;ll ultimately be a winner.&rdquo;
Performance Build Quality Value PRICE $1,177 AT A GLANCE Plus Neutral balance with fine imaging Very good center-channel performance, integration Superb value Minus Towers may require substantial tilt-back THE VERDICT Emotiva&rsquo;s new passive loudspeakers combine serious audio design and refinement with sufficient construction and finish quality to establish unprecedented value. There&rsquo;s been plenty of ink spilled, print and digital, in Sound &amp; Vision and elsewhere, about Tennessee&rsquo;s direct-to-consumer brand Emotiva and the disruptive pricing the company has brought to various audio categories. To date, this has been mostly focused on electronics, where power amps, preamps, pre/pros, and DACs have been offered up for surprisingly small sums that seem to belie their inherent engineering and build quality. Corner company founder Dan Laufman about how he does it, and he&rsquo;ll enthusiastically share his prior life as an OEM for other audio brands (many of which you know well) and how he&rsquo;s learned a few tricks about where and how to stretch raw material costs in the most meaningful ways.
Imagine X Speaker Performance Build Quality Value SubSeries 200 Sub Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $3,443 as reviewed AT A GLANCE Plus Brilliant octave-to-octave balance for musical playback Exceptional center-channel timbral match Effective and adaptable Atmos module design Minus Short towers may require tilt/angle manipulation Limited subwoofer extension A bit expensive relative to some recent debuts THE VERDICT Though it&rsquo;s got some stiff competition at and even below its price, the Imagine X series trickles the magic of PSB&rsquo;s near-perfect tonal balance down to a more attainable price while adding the option of object-based surround sound. It&rsquo;s a fact that good loudspeakers sound more alike than different. After all, they&rsquo;re trying to accomplish the same task: reproduce the recording presented to their inputs with as little change, whether reduction or addition, as possible. PSB speakers are good loudspeakers. Thus, thanks to the transitive property we all learned in middle school, one PSB model should sound very much like another PSB model, with allowances made for size, price, and range. It follows that PSB&rsquo;s new mini-tower in their Imagine X series, the X1T, should sound like the full-sized and vastly more expensive Imagine T3 (Sound &amp; Vision, September 2015, and soundandvision.com).