Bookshelf Speaker Reviews

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Daniel Kumin  |  May 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-tier tonal accuracy and dynamic ability
Amazingly compact for performance level
On-board EQ offers flexible placement options
Minus
Relatively tight sweet spot
No on-board streaming, digital inputs, or DSP

THE VERDICT
Elac's powered-speaker is highly compact, yet capable enough to satisfy serious listeners.

Active loudspeakers, or speakers with built-in amplification, have long been box-office poison in the U.S. market. That's because we Americans like our big receivers, choosing them based on power ratings, and then hooking them up to conventional, passive speakers using garden-hose speaker wire. When you add up the market segments that simply won't consider active speakers, including owners of receivers lacking preamp outputs and those who simply cannot get their heads around the whole powered-speaker concept, the issue becomes a non-starter.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 28, 2016  |  2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,047 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Concentric mid/tweeter
Pinpoint imaging
App-driven, room- correcting sub
Minus
Extra power required
App required for sub control

THE VERDICT
Speaker designer extraordinaire Andrew Jones continues his work for German manufacturer Elac with some of the best monitor-class speakers we’ve ever heard plus a provocative, app-driven sub.

There are a lot of ways to put together a home theater system. Small speakers—or, as I call them, monitors—are among the best foundations for a multipurpose room that isn’t cavernous in size. The audio industry used to pump out so many potentially interesting passive monitors (not to mention towers) that we could barely review a fraction of them. But with the increasing emphasis today on soundbars and powered lifestyle speakers at the lower end of the market, it’s becoming increasingly hard to put together small-speaker configurations for surround sound.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Jan 26, 2007  |  0 comments
A systematic approach to speaker design.

As consumer electronics technologies continue to morph into ever more complex forms, convergence is key. Elan Home Systems was founded in 1989 in Lexington, Kentucky, and convergence is their raison d'tre. In the past, they have brought together wholehouse automation and touchpanel control of music, phones, lighting, intercoms, and TV functions. More recently, they acquired a high-end home theater electronics company, Sunfire. Four years ago, Elan jumped into the speaker business with a line of highly regarded in-walls. This brings us to Elan's new line of converging speakers, the aptly named TheaterPoint series.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 19, 2017  |  4 comments
PRICE $2,143 as reviewed

THE VERDICT
Emotiva’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’t afford them. But ask me the prices of Emotiva’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.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Dec 04, 2013  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,345

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Big sound with undistorted, low bass
Separate, built-in amplifiers for the woofer and tweeter
Controls for fine-tuning bass and treble
Rock-solid MDF cabinetry
Minus
Requires interconnects and power to each speaker

THE VERDICT
A remarkably dynamic system with solid bass, airy highs, and wide imaging—with no amplifiers needed.

At first I wasn’t sure about the prospects for reviewing Emotiva Pro’s new Stealth speakers, if only because they’re bona-fide studio monitors. But after conferring with Dan Laufman, the designer and CEO, I was eager to try them. Turns out the Stealths are easily domesticated, and since they’re internally biamplified—there’s one amp for the tweeter and another for the woofer—I didn’t need to use a receiver, power amp, or surround processor for this review.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 13, 2012  |  5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,745 At A Glance: Sealed design controls bass • Satin-finish MDF enclosures • Factory-direct sales enhance value

Are you one of those people who can’t resist a supermarket circular? Do you trawl the Internet looking for coupon codes that can be pasted into online purchases? Loudspeaker pricing doesn’t often indulge us with the same feeling of satisfaction that we get from buying a jumbo jar of marinara sauce or a cashmere scarf at an extremely low price. But while researching this review last December, I couldn’t help noting that Emotiva’s factory-direct speakers offered some wiggle room to the timely shopper. The XRC-5.2 LCR speaker normally sold for $299/each—not a bad price to begin with—but was momentarily going for an introductory price of $239/each.

Michael Trei  |  Aug 18, 2016  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
True surround sound without the wiring hassles
Quick and easy setup
Hi-res wireless audio transmission
Minus
No Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
Remote is difficult to use
Lots of wall-wart power supplies to plug in

THE VERDICT
By eliminating the hassle of running speaker cables for a 5.1-channel system, the CineHome HD delivers a true, fuss-free surround experience that no single-point soundbar can match. While its feature set is pretty basic, that simplicity will likely be a plus for its targeted customers.

Here at Sound & Vision, we like to think of ourselves as hard-core home theater enthusiasts, so it’s difficult for us to fathom why average people don’t want to jump through hoops to set up a complete 5.1-channel surround system. Sure, you’d need to find space for an A/V receiver and a pile of speakers—plus you’d have to hook up a bunch of wires and thumb through a stack of onscreen menus to get everything properly configured and adjusted—but that’s all part of the fun, right?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 17, 2008  |  0 comments
Price: $999 At A Glance: Tweeter isolated in separate chamber • Aluminum drivers in satellites • Hand-applied piano black lacquer finish

Building a Better Satellite

Energy has always taken satellite/subwoofer sets seriously. The Canadian speaker brand, recently acquired by American-owned Klipsch, got into the sat/sub game early with the now legendary Take Five package. As successive Take products became steady bestsellers and proceeded through multiple generations, Energy established itself as a major name in sats and subs. It also helped turn the sat/sub set into a respectable product category. This especially applies to décor-conscious households that like to have surround sound but balk at the prospect of five to seven bulky speakers hogging a room.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 09, 2008  |  1 comments
In third generation, the Take acquires Classic status.

Here’s one more reason to love compact sat/sub sets—besides the fact that they’re affordable, easy to run with any receiver, and capable of anchoring a good-sounding surround system. They make your room look bigger.

Kevin Hunt  |  Aug 30, 2005  |  First Published: Aug 31, 2005  |  0 comments
Energy takes the plunge: It's a new lifestyle.

At about the same time the Spice Girls hit number three on the Billboard charts with "Say You'll Be There" in 1997, Energy Speaker Systems was striking gold of their own with a set of tiny home theater speakers called Take 5.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 26, 2011  |  3 comments
Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,600 At A Glance: Glossy veneer makes a great impression • Crisp, up-front, detailed sound • Bipole/dipole surround provides subtle envelopment

Veritas is the Roman goddess of truth. It’s also a distinguished speaker line from Energy. Since 1973, Energy has passed from its founders through various Canadian and American owners. In 2006, along with its stablemate Mirage, it became the property of Klipsch. Earlier this year, the Klipsch brands—Energy, Mirage, Jamo, and Klipsch itself—became the property of Audiovox. Although Audiovox also owns a couple of other ancient speaker brands (Acoustic Research and Jensen), in recent years, those brands have focused on car audio, personal audio products, small-scale video products, and accessories. That leaves the home theater niche wide open for Energy and the goddess of truth.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 14, 2008  |  0 comments
Too good to sit on the shelf.

In these pages, you’ll see small speakers referred to as monitors, stand-mounts, or—if they’re small enough—satellites. But rarely as bookshelf speakers. As I’ve often said, a bookshelf is a terrible place for a speaker. Unless it’s designed specifically for in- or on-wall use, a speaker belongs a few feet out from the wall to minimize undesirable acoustic interaction with the wall. So don’t refer to the Epos M12i as a bookshelf speaker. They’d never forgive you for it. They have an artistic sensibility, and that extends to the M8i center-channel speaker and M SUB subwoofer.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 09, 2006  |  1 comments
Trendy yet rebellious.

The audio industry seems about to leap off a cliff. Permit me to suggest that this may be a rash decision. True, component audio sales have diminished, but that's no excuse for the industry to abandon its principles and give up on sound quality. What consumers are rebelling against is not good sound but bad design. They've had enough of big, dumb, room-hogging speakers. "It doesn't suit the room, but it sounds good" doesn't cut it anymore. "It looks as good as it sounds" is the winning combination.

Chris Lewis  |  Jan 18, 2001  |  First Published: Jan 19, 2001  |  0 comments
Our not-too-expensive Center-Channel Face Off centers on Phase Technology, NHT, and Acoustic Research.

Slowly but surely (and sadly, in many ways), we've become an overly centric society. Think about it for a minute: Companies (and entire industries, for that matter) are more centralized now than they've been since the days of the robber barons. And our government—let's not kid ourselves, friends: This ain't exactly Cold War Soviet Union, but it's not the sprawling, decentralized (and power-limited) federal structure that the Founding Fathers envisioned, either. Apparently, states' rights went out of fashion with the stagecoach and the stovepipe hat. Even from a cultural standpoint, our focus seems to have shifted dramatically toward the glorification of the individual over the good of the whole. But centralization certainly has its good points, as well (sure, it's an odd segue, but hopefully I got your attention). One need look no further than one's home theater system—that bountiful refuge from the madness of unchecked bureaucracies, hostile corporate takeovers, and me-me-me self-indulgence—to realize that a little centralization can go a long way in enhancing your movie-watching experience.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive sound and build quality for price
Good looks
Easy to set up
Minus
Limited connection options
Analog input can be noisy

THE VERDICT
The Fluance Ai40 delivers great sound and easy setup at a stunningly low price.

The Fluance Ai40 is a good-looking and reasonably compact powered speaker system that's equally at home on the desktop and in the living room. With aptX Bluetooth and stereo RCA inputs and not much else, it's easy to set up for streaming and vinyl or CD playback. At $200, the Ai40 is also a notably affordable given the performance level it provides.

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