BOOKSHELF SPEAKER REVIEWS

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 21, 2009  |  0 comments
Price: $3,695 At A Glance: Distinctive bell-shaped footprint offers unique look • Gleaming enclosures with top-drawer fit and finish • Great midrange and deep, confident bass

Ringin’ the Bell Curve

The Vision and Sound speakers from Boston Acoustics were in my listening room when a friend visited. He works for a competing manufacturer and has spent time on the retail floor. He said, candidly and emphatically, “Boston Acoustics has never made a bad speaker.”

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 08, 2014  |  3 comments

Bowers & Wilkins CM6 S2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Bowers & Wilkins ASW10 CM S2 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE Price: $5,850 (CM6 S2, $1,000 each; CM Centre 2 S2, $1,250 each; CM1 S2, $550 each; ASW10 CM S2, $1,500)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exceptional tonal balance
Superb sub/sat integration
Impressive bass extension from compact sub
Lovely design and finish

Minus
Expensive
No dipole/bipole surround option

THE VERDICT
Highly neutral and free of obvious coloration, invitingly listenable, and beautiful, the B&W CM S2s wear their substantial prices fairly.

B&W should need little introduction in these pages. The British loudspeaker-maker has been a force in serious audio repro practically since Noah’s flood (1965, actually), and here in the States have for two decades and more occupied an enviable market position straddling the highest of high-end to the almost-popularly-priced. So when a new generation of B&Ws take the stage, the audio world tends to pay attention, as we are doing here with the firm’s latest iteration of its next-most-affordable CM range. Named with typical British phlegm the CM S2, the new designs highlight a dozen or so interesting engineering refinements in driver, crossover, and cabinet designs (in particular a new “dual-dome” aluminum tweeter diaphragm claimed to push its resonance a half-octave or so higher, and thus extending its smooth reproducing range), but in typical B&W fashion show comparatively little in the way of visible changes.

Brent Butterworth  |  Sep 18, 2012  |  0 comments

As athletes such as Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and the whole New Orleans Saints defense have learned the hard way, even when you’re the best, it helps to be friendly. Big surround sound systems aren’t friendly to your décor or your pocketbook. Fortunately, in the last 2 years, we’ve seen major speaker companies put serious effort into designing compact 5.1 systems that deliver no-compromise performance. The Mini Theatre line from Bowers & Wilkins is the latest to make its way through my listening room.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 27, 2010  |  2 comments
Price: $14,500 At A Glance: Diamond-domed tweeter in tapered Nautilus tube housing • Center well matched to other speakers • Focused highs, controlled bass

The 800 Dynasty Continues

The world is full of B&Ws. Former and current users of the acronym include Bra & Wessels, the Swedish department store chain; Burmeister & Wain, the Danish shipyard; Boeing & Westervelt, the predecessor of Boeing; and the Black & White Audiovisual Festival of Portugal. The most notorious B&W would be Brown & Williamson, depraved tobacco pushers. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that B&W, the formidable British loudspeaker maker, has reverted to its original name—Bowers & Wilkins—even though John Bowers and Roy Wilkins are no longer in the picture.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 25, 2015  |  0 comments

Mini A Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Model A Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,785

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Coordinated on- and off-axis response
Custom drivers
Strong dual-10-inch sub
Minus
Center not fully timbre-matched
Not much to look at
Sub crossover limited to two settings

THE VERDICT
The Bryston Mini A offers refined performance and—though it’s not obvious to the naked eye—serious build quality at a moderate price.

So many audio products start as marketing necessities. But how many start as personal quests? When Bryston’s James Tanner wanted to design a one-off “ultimate loudspeaker” for his own reference system, the resulting Mini T floorstanding tower impressed his colleagues so much that it squirreled its way into the upper-echelon marketing channels usually reserved for Bryston’s formidable preamps and amps (which, incidentally, include surround-friendly three-, five-, and eight-channel models).

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 26, 2014  |  1 comments

Mini T Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Mini T Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $8,881 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sonics and dynamic ability
Impressive bass extension from Mini-T alone
Made in Canada, not overseas
Minus
Requires substantial
amplifier power for best performance
Classic boxy designs won’t thrill everyone

THE VERDICT
They’re big, boxy, and expensive, but these speakers are world-class performers, top to bottom.

Bryston’s new Mini T loudspeakers spoke to me early, even before I’d fully wrestled them out of their imposing, oversized packaging. And what they said was, “We were designed by guys who don’t give a hamster’s hindquarters for new-age cosmetics, ‘breakthrough’ transducers, or 21st-century styling: We’re old school!”

For the record, Bryston Ltd.—based in the small Canadian city of Peterborough, an hour or so east of Toronto—has for decades produced some of the world’s preeminent power amplifiers (also preamps, surround processors, and even the odd integrated amp), impeccable performers built to a standard of brick-house quality seldom bettered, and warrantied accordingly. If you wanted vast reserves of current, bulletproof design, road-ready ruggedness, and genuine craftsmanship, Bryston fit the bill.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 04, 2008  |  0 comments
Let’s face it: The French have a better shape.

To Americans accustomed to seeing other Americans waddling through shopping malls—and let me be the first to admit I’ve been doing a fair amount of waddling myself lately—the streets of Paris come as a pleasant shock. How do people who feast on duck liver and red wine stay so lean and sexy? Perhaps that eternal mystery springs from the same source as Cabasse’s fashionably thin Artis Baltic Evolution tower loudspeaker. Like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s amazing cantilevered houses, it seems to defy gravity, the sphere holding its coaxial driver array floating on a skinny diagonal slash of solid wood. I suspect that the people who designed the speaker sat down to an excellent dinner afterward.

Gary Altunian  |  Jan 18, 2008  |  First Published: Dec 18, 2007  |  0 comments
Sleek style and sound.

"The only thing constant is change" is a corollary that surely applies to consumer electronics, as new technologies and products are regularly brought to market. Loudspeakers are no exception; however, it seems as though some speaker designs remain timeless. A good example is coaxial speakers that have passed the test of time because they work. The French manufacturer Cabasse produces an entire line of speakers built around the coaxial design, and their latest offering is the Eole 5.1-channel speaker system.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 18, 2014  |  0 comments

Aero 2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Aero 9 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,446

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flat BMR in lieu of tweeter
Clear sonic window into the midrange
Unusual dual-mono/bipole surrounds
Affordable price
Minus
Boxy vinyl-wrap enclosures

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio’s Aero reinvents the two-way loudspeaker in midrange-friendly fashion with excellent performance and value.

What if you needed two throats to speak? Sounds a bit cumbersome, right? But that’s how a two-way loudspeaker usually treats the human voice. Its drivers divide the midrange frequencies where the voice resides into two parts, sending higher frequencies to the tweeter and lower frequencies to the woofer. While the crossover varies from speaker to speaker, the frequencies that handle the voice usually get split right in the region where human ears are most sensitive to vocal timbre.

Of course, good speaker designers routinely surmount this obstacle to natural vocal sound, either by carefully tweaking their two-way designs or by going to three-way designs that dedicate a separate driver to midrange reproduction. But the three-way approach adds two more crossover sections, potentially leading to other troubled areas of reproduction.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 06, 2011  |  0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $850 (updated V2 system)
At A Glance: Single-cube speaker with full-range driver • Polymer and extruded-aluminum enclosure • Wireless option

Surround Cubed

The cube speaker at the heart of Cambridge Audio’s Minx satellite/subwoofer set has become an enduring form factor for people who don’t like loudspeakers. Of course, in their zeal to get speakers off the floor, some speaker-haters poke holes in their walls for in-walls. But not everyone is willing to go to that extreme. And while in-wall and on-wall speakers have no footprint, they do have what you might call a wallprint. For folks who don’t like speakers, don’t like holes in their walls, and don’t like wallprints, but do like movies and music, the cube speaker—something the size of a Girl Scout’s fist—shapes up as the least invasive solution.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 19, 2013  |  1 comments

Minx S325v2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
X300 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,449 At A Glance: Second-gen high-end compact satellites • Mix of flat and cone drivers • Incredible dispersion

Compact cube speakers are an intriguing subset of the satellite/subwoofer speaker genre. Though not invariably high performers, cubes have achieved iconic status, and some manufacturers have made a fortune marketing them to folks whose significant others look at the diminutive geometric forms and say, “Bingo. That’s what I want your speakers to look like. Now get those big tombstones out of our den.”

Cambridge Audio has tapped into the cube mystique with its Minx sat/sub sets. In fact, the Minx has done so well that it is now a separate division of the company. Part of the Minx suc- cess story is, believe it or not, performance. The first-generation Min 10 (single cube) and Min 20 (double cube) earned rave reviews all over the place, and the single- cube version found a coveted perch on our Top Picks list.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 07, 2009  |  0 comments
Price: $5,550 At A Glance: Distinctive round-edged Cantons are easy to live with • Monitors deliver superb all-around performance • Adjustable sub delivers deep bass without bloat

Brilliant at Making Things

Last year I spent my vacation in Munich, Stuttgart, and Nuremberg. Afterward I sent e-mails and pictures to friends, raving about Germany’s high-speed trains and pedestrianized shopping districts. One friend wrote back and said that I made him sad because I spent all that time in Munich without visiting BMW, and in Stuttgart without visiting Mercedes-Benz. Let’s face it, the Germans are brilliant at making things: cities, cars, trains, eyewear, clothing, sausages, and beer—all the little things that enhance our quality of life. Wouldn’t you like your loudspeakers to measure up to that standard?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 16, 2007  |  First Published: Jun 16, 2007  |  0 comments
Fussy in the front; pragmatic in the back.

Three identical stand-mounted speakers in front, two on-wall speakers in back—that's the unusual configuration I used in this review of the Canton GLE Series. Now I've got some explaining to do.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Oct 24, 2006  |  First Published: Oct 25, 2006  |  0 comments
The little system that could.

Some guys fantasize about winning the Mega Millions Lottery and driving into the sunset in a $1.25-million Bugatti Veyron 16.4 supercar. Or maybe a giddy winner would fork over heaps of cash for an ultimate home theater. The market for ultrahigh-end exotica is surging, but, while I'm waiting for my big payday, I thought I'd come back down to earth and have some fun with one of Onkyo's most reasonably priced audio/video receivers, the TX-SR504 ($300), partnered with Canton's sleek Movie CD 201 speaker system ($1,999). Budgetary constraints be damned, the little system still had to sound great in my home theater and deliver the goods in a cozy bedroom, office, or den.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 01, 2003  |  0 comments
Speaker System Small sats, a big sub, and visions of hops and sausages.

My sociological spiel about the French in my JMlab Digital Home Cinema System review (April 2003) inadvertently hit newsstands around the start of the war with Iraq, so I'll limit my wantonly idiotic cultural commentary on the Germans to food and drink references. Have you ever tried their smoked beer? I'm not joking. It's called Rauchbier, and it's delicious. I should note that, although my byline is German, my ethnic makeup is German, English, Scots, and Irish, and they all make good beer. My oft-misspelled name literally translates as "meat man" (no jokes, please), and my great-grandfather was the last in a long line of sausage-makers. After he emigrated from Germany, he continued to practice his craft in New Jersey. According to my father, his sausages were so rich that you had to wash them down with a quart of milk.

Pages

X