Demand Series D11 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value SuperCube 6000 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality PRICE 3,196 AT A GLANCE Plus Appealing neutral voicing Laterally offset tweeter Active 8-inch sub integrated in center speaker Minus D11 top radiators complicate placement of Atmos add-ons THE VERDICT The Demand Series lives up to Definitive Technology&rsquo;s pedigree with satisfying, well-balanced sound that offers loads of resolution. Nature abhors a vacuum, but wasting cabinet real estate is standard operating procedure among loudspeaker designers. With the notable exception of Atmos-enabled speakers and the occasional tweeter pod, the top panel of most speakers is a blank nothing. But does it have to be that way? Definitive Technology answered no, in effect, with its original Studio Monitor Series of bookshelf/stand-mount speakers (circa 2012) and does so again in this new update, the Demand Series.
Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value Cub Evo Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $1,299 AT A GLANCE Plus Excellent sound quality Great subwoofer/satellite integration Plays louder, cleaner than some similarly sized systems Atmos on board Minus Spring-loaded push connectors can be irritating No prepackaged 5.1.4-channel option THE VERDICT A high-performing, moderately compact, one-carton speaker solution for serious home theater&mdash;with Atmos. Focal, the French loudspeaker maker&mdash;the French loudspeaker maker (there are others, but really, name one)&mdash;is best known on these shores for the Utopia series of haute-highend ultra-towers, which, cresting at something like $185,000 for a pair, step well over what I think of as the Che Guevara line. (That&rsquo;s the line across which, following the revolution, anyone owning a pair can count on a very long vacation at state expense in a re-education camp.)
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $199 AT A GLANCE Plus Typical Sonos build and sound quality Alexa voice control Minus No Bluetooth No hi-res audio THE VERDICT Sonos was slow to deliver a voice-controlled smart speaker, but with integrated Alexa (and Google Assistant arriving soon) in what amounts to a redesigned Play:1, they've created a nearly irresistible, low-cost intro to their wireless ecosystem. The full impact of the home-based voice-actuated assistant, invented first by Amazon in the guise of Alexa, then followed by Google and now Apple with its Siri-driven HomePod, has yet to be felt. The category has loosely evolved into what we are now calling the "smart speaker," though it is not the speaker, but the microphone (or mic array) in conjunction with a network connection that imbues these devices with their extraordinary power. Sure, the speaker plays music, perhaps the simplest of its voice-controlled functions and (according to a recent study by NPR/Edison Research, the activity a smart speaker is still most frequently used for). But the opportunity presented by an artificially intelligent device that can respond to human language and trigger any number of events in our environment possesses extraordinary potential for transforming our lives. The fact that the most sophisticated of these voice interfaces to date, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, are offered in open, licensed platforms and being constantly advanced and promoted by two of the world's richest tech giants, suggests that we are on the verge of an explosion of innovation. The best is yet to come.
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $799 AT A GLANCE Plus Solid build quality Handsome fit and finish Easy setup Good overall sound quality with bountiful bass Minus No Wi-Fi streaming No tone controls Disappointing phono preamp THE VERDICT Klipsch’s beautifully crafted Sixes deliver fine sound with the bonus of onboard power, but vinyl playback is shortchanged by its pedestrian phono preamp. I’ve been talking about pulling my old turntable out of mothballs since I moved to my current home, oh…20 years ago. Which is why I jumped at the chance when asked if I had any interest in auditioning The Sixes, the latest entry in Klipsch’s Heritage Wireless series and big brother to The Three, the superb all-in-one wireless music system we reviewed in May. I know what you’re thinking: What does reviewing speakers have to do with setting up a turntable? Bear with me.
PRICE $2,143 as reviewed THE VERDICT Emotiva&rsquo;s BasX surround processor, five-channel amp, and speakers offer an affordable and high-performing starter system that puts you into audio separates without breaking the bank. Surround separates are generally regarded as a step up from receivers. If you want the biggest and best, and have to ask their prices, you probably can&rsquo;t afford them. But ask me the prices of Emotiva&rsquo;s new BasX surround preamp/processor and multichannel amplifier, along with a set of compact speakers from the same series. The answers are $599, $499, and $1,045, totaling $2,143 for a 5.1-channel system of electronics and speakers. That would buy a midpriced receiver and a decent (but probably smaller) satellite/subwoofer set.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $300 AT A GLANCE Plus DTS Virtual:X mimics height/surround HDMI in and out with ARC Pleasant voicing in most modes Minus Only one video input 3D Surround mode can be slightly harsh THE VERDICT The Yamaha YAS-207, which uses DTS Virtual:X processing to simulate height and surround effects, sounds pretty good and is easy on your checkbook. When Dolby Atmos and, shortly thereafter, DTS:X made their debuts, I expected I’d soon be reviewing a flood of speaker systems and receivers supporting object-oriented surround in a 360-degree soundfield. My hope was that height-capable surround would spark renewed interest in surround speaker packages and receivers &mdash; and in home theater overall.
Arena Wireless Speaker Performance Features Ergonomics Value Festival Wireless Speaker Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE Festival, $499; Arena, $249 AT A GLANCE Plus Excellent build and sound quality Chromecast, AirPlay, Bluetooth built-in Away mode and optional battery for portability Minus Chromecast multiroom interface THE VERDICT Riva Audio continues a tradition of excellent sound quality with the WAND series, the company&rsquo;s first wireless multiroom speakers. I first met Riva Audio founder Rikki Farr and chief engineer (now also president) Don North in the fall of 2014 when they marched into Sound &amp; Vision&rsquo;s New York City conference room to demo their first product, a Bluetooth speaker called the Turbo X. North was a youthful, glasses-wearing geek who had just enough of the right credentials and tech swagger to suggest he really knew what he was doing.
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.
3000 5.1 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value 3070 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $900 AT A GLANCE Plus Sweet and smooth sats Dual 6.5-inch sub Minus Deep sub juts out from wall THE VERDICT A sweet-sounding system, with a sub worthy of the satellites, the Q Acoustics 3000 is one of the best under-$1,000 5.1-channel setups I&rsquo;ve heard. Tube amps. Mono pressings. And now, 5.1? Has bedrock surround sound indeed joined the ranks of retro audio technologies? Surround receivers beyond the most entry level nearly always have more than five channels (though their uses vary), while Dolby Atmos and DTS:X have made seven (5.1.2) the new minimum system configuration. What happens when you go in the other direction? The flood of 5.1 speaker sets that I used to review in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has tapered to a trickle. I see fewer new ones at CES and CEDIA, and plain old stereo is dominant at the rest of the domestic and international audio shows. However, the British manufacturer Q Acoustics has been marketing 5.1-channel speaker sets since the company&rsquo;s inception about a decade ago and continues to actively develop them. The brand&rsquo;s latest entry is called the 3000 5.1 Home Theatre System.
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $4,500 (plus installation) AT A GLANCE Plus Enclosure designed for walls with standard 2 x 4 construction 13.5-inch low-profile driver 1,000-watt external amp with Automatic Room Optimization Minus Retrofit install can be difficult Expensive THE VERDICT This subwoofer system does the seemingly impossible in an impossibly seeming way by hiding an amazingly shallow, high-excursion 13.5-inch woofer, along with the 70-inch-tall cabinet it requires, inside a wall having standard 2 x 4 construction, with only a driver-hiding grille screen as evidence&mdash;and it does this surprising feat without causing excessive wall vibrations. Even better, it does all that while performing like a top-end in-room sub. If I needed additional proof of how much Rob Sabin, our esteemed editor-in-chief (and part-time male stripper for the visually impaired) dislikes me, this would be it. He asks me the other day if I&rsquo;d want to review another JL Audio subwoofer, one similar to the company&rsquo;s ginormous Fathom f212, which I reviewed in 2012. I have fond memories of, bruises from, and a partial hernia caused by that 220-pound behemoth.