Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $1,800 AT A GLANCE Plus Outstanding bass response Onboard parametric EQ Useful remote and smartphone app Uncommon form factor Minus Lacks auto-calibration Uncommon form factor THE VERDICT If floor space is an issue but you still want subterranean bass response, the PC-4000 is the perfect choice. SVS has been a staple in the home theater industry for 20 years now, and I&rsquo;ve been a proud owner of one of the company&rsquo;s PC-Ultra cylindrical subwoofers for the past 13-plus years. When I was introduced to the brand, I remember taking a lot of heat from my wife for putting a &ldquo;scratching post&rdquo; in our family room. When she heard it for the first time, though, she realized that no cat in its right mind would ever go near the beast!
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $349 AT A GLANCE Plus Superb sonics with extraordinary bass Great build quality AirPlay capable Easy setup Minus Integrated music streaming restricted to Apple Music No bluetooth More limited smarts versus competition No wired input for TV viewing THE VERDICT Apple has created the best-sounding small speaker we&rsquo;ve heard to date, but its Apple-centricity and immaturity as a smart device may deter some buyers. From conception through launch, the Apple HomePod speaker was six years in development. That&rsquo;s a long time to bring to fruition something as ubiquitous and seemingly simplistic as a wireless tabletop speaker. If we account for the many poor examples of the breed, we can acknowledge that a truly excellent wireless speaker might require some extra time to create...but six years? The HomePod was so long in coming that the &ldquo;smart speaker&rdquo; with builtin voice assistant that it eventually became hadn&rsquo;t yet been invented (by rival Amazon) when the project was begun. Which, I&rsquo;m certain, delayed it even further.
Reference Theater Pack Performance Build Quality Value R-8SWi Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $999 AT A GLANCE Plus Klipsch&rsquo;s classic horn-loaded sound at a budget price Minus Enclosure adds some coloration THE VERDICT This redesign of Klipsch&rsquo;s bestselling sat/sub system makes some compromises from its predecessors&mdash;but still produces excellent sound. Some people are just good at things. People like Rembrandt van Rijn, who could make a painted image gaze into your soul; or Meryl Streep, who can be Anna Wintour one moment and Julia Child the next; or Warren Buffett, who&rsquo;s been known to make his shareholders a dollar or two; or Billie Holiday, who could sing like Louis Armstrong&rsquo;s trumpet and fit a lifetime of hard loving into a single phrase.
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.
Performance Features Build Quality Value PRICE $480 AT A GLANCE Plus Phono, line, optical, Bluetooth inputs Subwoofer output Wide choice of colors Minus USB not PC-friendly THE VERDICT If you&rsquo;re looking to plug your turntable directly into a good-looking and functional pair of speakers, the Kanto YU6 will make it work&mdash;and sound great. Why shouldn&rsquo;t life be simpler? If there&rsquo;s one thing your studio apartment, dorm room, bedroom, or guest bedroom doesn&rsquo;t need, it&rsquo;s an audio rack with a tangle of cables. But going without music would be barbaric. So how simple do you need to get? If a bare-bones Bluetooth speaker isn&rsquo;t enough, a pair of powered speakers might make more sense. You&rsquo;d have a stereo soundstage without the fuss of an outboard amp and rack.
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 $1,500 AT A GLANCE Plus Generally neutral sound reproduction Dolby Atmos and DTS:X spatial enhancement Ample level for serious listening to both music and movies Minus No physical surround-speaker option Subwoofer-to-soundbar integration is tricky THE VERDICT Sony’s high-end soundbar-subwoofer twosome delivers natural, tightly imaged, Atmos/DTS:X-abetted sound along with striking, understated good looks. Soundbars are marching relentlessly up-market, and Sony is right there with the Dolby Atmos- and DTS:X-capable HT-ST5000, which carries a list price of $1,500 and is being widely promoted this holiday season at $1,298 from the major retailers. It checks all the latest boxes: scarily slim, seriously wireless (including a wireless subwoofer), and no-rear-speakers faux surround sound.