Bookshelf Speaker Reviews

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 03, 2013  |  First Published: Apr 02, 2013  |  0 comments
M25 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

MSubwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,345 At A Glance: Leather-like enclosure finish • Beefy subwoofer • Easy-listening, aggression-free treble

The question “what speakers should I buy?” is increasingly giving way to the more provocative “why should I buy stand-alone speakers at all?” Loudspeakers have to argue for their very existence in a world where consumers are logging fewer listening hours with component systems. Instead, stylish music sources such as tablets and smartphones are driving listeners toward equally stylish all-in-one wireless/docking systems and headphones. Today, the poor old loudspeaker has to work harder to attract attention. It has to convince you to buy it—oh, and one of those pesky audio/video receivers to power it.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Dec 10, 2007  |  0 comments
Personalize this.

I'm a bit reluctant to say this, but my experience with Boston Acoustics goes back a long way – to the days when the Boston Acoustics A40 and A70 speakers were the giants of the bookshelf speaker world. In fact, most of the Boston A-series speakers back then were highly regarded when it came to sound quality. Build quality was so-so but decent for late-1980s vinyl-wrap box cabinets. Just about any store that carried them sold tons of Boston Acoustics' bookshelf and floorstanding speakers, and they were proud to do it, too.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Aug 06, 2007  |  First Published: Jul 06, 2007  |  0 comments
Take it to the limit.

I've come to appreciate that, when it comes to evaluating speakers, first impressions count—big time. Immediate gut reactions typically run from, "I like them," to, "Yuck, turn them off." The latter tend to instantly put the kibosh on any prospective speaker purchase, but initial positive responses usually get revised as you hear different kinds of music and movies—something along the lines of, "Wow, the bass is amazing," or, "The imaging is spectacular." My first brush with Boston Acoustics' new Reference E Series E70 speakers took place at D&M Holdings' facility in Mahwah, New Jersey. (D&M is the parent company of Boston Acoustics, Denon, and Marantz, along with McIntosh, ReplayTV, Snell Acoustics, and a few other brands.) I saw and heard a lot of cool products that day, but I was instantly smitten with the E Series' transparent sound and sleek good looks. The E Series lineup includes the flagship E100 tower speakers ($2,500 each); two L/C/Rs, the E70 ($800 each) and E50 ($500 each); and two monitors, the E60 ($600 each) and E40 ($400 each).

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 11, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $2,900 At A Glance: Gloss finish and rounded edges enrich rectangular appearance • Custom-designed woofers and tweeter • A polite top end with fully fleshed-out midrange

Between VS and CS

In this brutal economy, it takes more than a good resume to keep you afloat. Boston Acoustics has a legendary audiophile pedigree that dates from its birth in 1979 as an independent brand. In this environment, it probably matters more that Boston is part of the D&M Holdings family, along with Snell Acoustics, McIntosh, Denon, Marantz, and Escient. This positioning has already borne fruit with pairings of Denon A/V receivers and Boston speaker packages, including the distinctive bell-shaped VS Series speakers, which I showered with well-deserved superlatives when I reviewed them last year. You really can’t go wrong with a set of VS speakers and one of Denon’s upper-end A/V receivers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 21, 2009  |  0 comments
Price: $500 At A Glance: Cabinet geometry allows front or upward firing • 2.5-inch woofer and 0.5-inch tweeter in plastic enclosure • Sub has 8-inch down-firing woofer and 100 watts

Shape’s Mightier Than Size

Gaze back into the mists of time, and you’ll find that the earliest loudspeakers were boxes with nothing but right angles. This shape lends itself to efficient manufacturing techniques and is still used for most speakers. However, speaker designers have rebelled against the box for some time. Now that they have injection-molded plastic at their disposal, they can make speakers in just about any shape. Of course, plastic speaker enclosures also lend themselves to efficient manufacturing techniques, so some of the most interestingly shaped speakers are also among the most affordable.

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  |  1 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  |  3 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  |  0 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.

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