Bookshelf Speaker Reviews

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 14, 2014  |  3 comments

Studio 230 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Studio SUB 250P Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,630

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Efficient, high output
Vocal clarity and defined soundfield
Affordable price
Minus
Thin, accentuated top end
Best at low-to-moderate volumes

THE VERDICT
Although their bright voicing may not be for everyone, the JBL Studio 2 speakers combine high efficiency with excellent detail retrieval.

What if the solution to room-interaction problems resided in your loudspeakers? Wouldn’t that be a great alternative to the ills of receiver-based room correction systems? Those are some potentially interesting questions posed by JBL’s Studio 2 series.

For starters, who needs room correction anyway? Well, when it’s hard to catch the dialogue, and imaging smears all over the place, the room correction program in your A/V receiver can mitigate those problems (depending on the receiver and the room). But quite often, it also introduces new artifacts and errors. For my own part, in my own room, I find that many room correction systems thin out the overall tonal balance and induce fatigue. That’s why some audiophiles shun room correction and choose to live with the acoustic character of their room, for better or worse—usually both.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 25, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Remarkable bass extension and output
All-in-one solution including phono input
Noteworthy treble clarity and definition
Minus
Soundstage depth less dramatic than some designs
Tiny input labeling

THE VERDICT
With analog, digital, wireless Bluetooth, turntable, and USB computer connections, Kanto's great-sounding TUK powered bookshelf speaker is ready to rock right out of the box.

Kanto is a Canadian firm barely a decade old that specializes in powered loudspeakers. The company has established substantial cred for its active desktop and bookshelf speaker lines, both of which deliver high value and widely noted performance. Now, with a new model called TUK, the company is moving up-range in market-segment, size, and price. Also, utility: TUK is an all-in-one powered-speaker solution, with a phono-preamp, an asynchronous USB DAC, a headphone amp, preamp controls, a subwoofer crossover, and amplification all built right in.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 22, 2017  |  1 comments

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’re looking to plug your turntable directly into a good-looking and functional pair of speakers, the Kanto YU6 will make it work—and sound great.

Why shouldn’t life be simpler? If there’s one thing your studio apartment, dorm room, bedroom, or guest bedroom doesn’t need, it’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’t enough, a pair of powered speakers might make more sense. You’d have a stereo soundstage without the fuss of an outboard amp and rack.

Brent Butterworth  |  Mar 26, 2013  |  0 comments

Audio cognoscenti won't recognize the C3 ($350/pr) as a KEF because it doesn't have KEF's trademark concentric tweeter-inside-woofer design. Its 0.75-inch aluminum-dome tweeter sits above its 5.25-inch polypropylene-cone woofer in an 11.4-inch-high front-ported cabinet.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 15, 2006  |  0 comments
Go with the intergalactic flow.

Crime in New York gets more and more bizarre. The other day, someone broke into my apartment and redesigned my speakers. I'm not sure if our local burglars are capable of this. No, the KEF KHT 3005 is clearly the product of an extraterrestrial mind. Who else would reimagine a loudspeaker as a glossy-black egg? Indeed, who else would reimagine a subwoofer as a giant, staring eye?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 01, 2008  |  0 comments
Price: $850 At A Glance: Very compact sat/sub set • Fabric-wrapped subwoofer • Sats have eggs-cellent focus

Sunny Side Up

Folks buying compact satellite/subwoofer sets to complement their flat-panel HDTVs? That’s old news. Now some manufacturers are offering even more compact speakers to complement the new breed of flat panels. The focus is now on flat panels that reduce the frame surrounding the screen to an absolute minimum, so that the picture seems to float against the wall.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 07, 2004  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Follow the bouncing surrounds.

There's more than one way to skin a cat—as mine will quickly discover if he claws my armchair again—and surround sound needs skinning. I've lost count of the number of potential home theater buffs who have asked for my advice and then balked at the idea of running cables for surround speakers. Mount a flat panel to the wall or a projector to the ceiling? No problem. Run speaker cables to the back of the room? The thought makes them flinch—I can see it in their eyes even before they start equivocating—and the dark forces of stereo claim another soul.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 30, 2018  |  2 comments

Q Series Q350 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

The Kube 12b Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,150 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Atmos add-ons
Coincident Uni-Q drivers
Sub has three placement EQ modes
Minus
Grilles not included
Not as dressy as other KEF products

THE VERDICT
KEF’s Q series combined with its new Kube subwoofer line brings the trademark Uni-Q driver array and a potent bottom end to a lower price point, with reliable performance and an Atmos add-on option.

One of the headlines I considered for this review was “What Becomes a Legend Most.” It’s a poignant song from Lou Reed’s New Sensations. Before that, it was an advertising slogan that sold mink coats in ads featuring Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Somehow, it fits KEF, the British speaker manufacturer responsible for numerous driver-related innovations, including the Uni-Q coincident array. KEF’s Muon and Blade towers have the fragrance of luxury about them.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 16, 2012  |  1 comments

Like so many British (and, for that matter, American) ür-audio brands, KEF — originally Kent Engineering & Foundry — had its roots in the post- WWII technology boom. In KEF’s case, it grew inside a Quonset hut on the grounds of the aforementioned foundry. A half-century down the road the Kentish maker is still there (in Kent, not in the metal shed!), still focused on its core competency (loudspeakers), and still producing wholly excellent designs.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 10, 2012  |  2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,800 At A Glance: Three-way with coaxial midrange/tweeter • Sub with dual side-firing drivers • Laser-like focus and well rounded

Kent, in the south of England, was best known for hop farming when Raymond Cooke left Wharfedale and founded KEF in 1961. The company was named after the industrial site on which it was founded: Kent Engineering & Foundry. KEF’s numerous distinguished alumni include Laurie Fincham, who now develops next-generation audio technologies for THX, and Andrew Jones, who designs world-beating loudspeakers at a variety of price points for Pioneer and TAD. KEF has earned a reputation for making both great speaker systems and great speaker drivers, some of which were instrumental in the legendary BBC-designed LS3/5A, which KEF and other manufacturers have marketed in various forms. Roving through a New York cocktail party celebrating KEF’s 50th anniversary last year, hobnobbing with the audio elite, I found that the drive units inspired as much nostalgia as the speakers in which they were used. (To read about KEF’s history in more detail—and in a handsome coffee-table book, no less—see KEF: 50 Years of Innovation in Sound by Ken Kessler and Dr. Andrew Watson.)

Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 13, 2019  |  2 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $10,200 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Sweet, clean highs
Superb dialogue clarity
Detailed but not aggressive sound
Minus
Slightly limited treble diffusion
R3s make for pricey surrounds

THE VERDICT
With a sweet balance on music and potent, but not aggressive, manner with movies, KEF’s R-series system delivers all-around outstanding performance.

KEF'S R Series speakers have long occupied the middle range of the British manufacturer's offerings. While the previous R Series was starting to get a bit long in the tooth, I found the performance of those speakers to be superb, having reviewed the last generation R700 for Sound & Vision's sister publication Stereophile in 2014.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 02, 2008  |  0 comments
Having grown up with LPs, I fondly recall how a good jacket design could make me pick up an album, examine it thoughtfully, and struggle in vain to keep those crumpled bills in my teenage pockets. The 12-by-12-inch form factor made stars of Storm Thorgerson, who designed LP jackets for Pink Floyd; Keith Morris, who shot unforgettable portraits of Nick Drake; and Hipgnosis, the firm whose memorable designs fascinated Led Zeppelin fans. So don’t talk to me about downloads. Even compared with CDs, they offer a user experience that’s sterile and boring.
Mark Fleischmann  |  May 04, 2009  |  0 comments
Price: $600 At A Glance: Six-inch-tall satellites with curved enclosures • Horn-loaded tweeters provide more output with less energy • Sub combines 8-inch woofer with back port

Blow Your Little Horn

There are stories we tell over and over again because they never lose their power to teach us something. For example, the story of “The Three Little Pigs” and the big bad wolf teaches us not to risk our survival on houses made of straw or sticks. If more people had taken this story to heart and made the right decisions on housing, the subprime mortgage debacle never would have happened.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 19, 2010  |  0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $2,396 At A Glance: Redesigned horn offers 80-degree horizontal and vertical dispersion • Dark, rich Berlinia wood veneers • Sub has top-mount controls and three EQ settings

Tale of the Flower Horn

This is the story of the flower horn. It is a story of bumps and mumps. It is getting started a little cryptically. I always love it when that happens.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 05, 2013  |  8 comments

Quintet Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
SW-100 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,050 At A Glance: Molded reinforced polymer enclosure • Vertically expanded Tractrix horn • Conventional sub

Compact satellite/subwoofer sets are often affordable, mate well with budget receivers, allow more speaker-placement width than soundbars, lend themselves to wall mounting—and best of all, they don’t hog the room, even if you place them on stands (which would usually produce the best sonic results). What Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote is to the Supreme Court, the spouse acceptance factor is to loudspeaker genres, and the elegant compactness of a sat/sub set just may be the tiebreaker, the factor that makes the difference between having or not having a surround system. Sat/sub sets continue to be the most underrated product category in home theater.

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