Surround Sound System Reviews

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Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 04, 2019  |  1 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,546 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Balanced sound with effortless treble
Solid bass extension
Impressive performance from compact subwoofer
Minus
Center speaker can sound slightly chesty when listening off-axis

THE VERDICT
DALI joins the pantheon of excellent compact, affordable 5.1 speaker packages with this system based around the overachieving Oberon 1.

Over the past 25 years, the Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries company has grown from a small and relatively obscure maker (in the U.S. market, at least) to a much more major player in the world's crowded loudspeaker arena. The Danes' latest move toward the broader marketplace is the Oberon series, an affordable range consisting of two towers, two bookshelf/standmount models, one on-wall, and one center- channel—all two-way, vented- enclosure designs.

Tom Norton  |  Apr 08, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $13,080 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Open, airy highs
Clean, tight bass
Big, generous soundstage
Minus
Setup takes patience for best results
Treble can be unforgiving

THE VERDICT
Careful trial and error with placement, and perhaps the addition of a good subwoofer for movies with crushing bass will be needed for getting the best out of the DALI Rubicons. But the best this system offers is compelling.

DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries) isn’t new to this country, but it’s relatively new as overseas loudspeaker manufacturers go. The somewhat new Rubicon range sits near the top of the company’s U.S. product offerings, topped only by the Epicon series, which it is said to most closely share technology.

Daniel Kumin  |  Aug 11, 2015  |  3 comments

Zensor 5 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

VTF-1 MK2 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,244 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral balance
Excellent center-L/R tonal match
Superb “small”-sub output and extension
Minus
Zensor 5 mini-towers are rather short

THE VERDICT
Combining DALI’s fine-performing, high-value two-way line with one of the best inexpensive 10-inch subwoofers available creates an affordable system that competes well with the many contenders in its price class.

DALI is a company that has nothing to do with surrealist art or Tibetan Buddhism. The acronym is for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, which over some 30 years has grown from a home-market specialist to a respected international brand. Despite this success, I had never gotten up close and personal with any DALI designs (trade-show demos excepted) until they shipped us a representative selection of their new Zensor entry-level series. Since the Zensor-ship currently lacks a subwoofer, we tapped one of the best size- and price-appropriate designs we know, Hsu Research’s affordable VTF-1 MK2.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 29, 2015  |  4 comments

B652-AIR Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SUB-1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $299 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Super affordable
Pleated-diaphragm tweeter
Cinema-friendly voicing
Excellent finish quality
Minus
Lively cabinets
Wire-clip speaker terminals

THE VERDICT
If you want a home theater system and you want it now, these speakers will suit a draconian budget. Let a thousand starter systems bloom.

Late last year, a Florida man walked into Starbucks and ordered a Grande Latte with 99 extra shots of espresso and 17 pumps of vanilla syrup, mocha, and matcha powder. His tab was $83.75—more than a pair of Dayton Audio B652-AIR speakers. He was a big spender, of course, but if you ordered, say, a White Chocolate Mocha every day for two weeks at $4.65 per cup, you’d still spend more than the price per pair of these speakers.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 29, 2015  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,693

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Awesome potential for clean loudness
Impressive tonal fidelity and finesse
No subwoofer required
Atmos!
Minus
Requires generous spacing and AC power
Connectivity is a bit complex

THE VERDICT
A one-stop, state-of-the-surround loudspeaker solution, especially apt for any who prefer not to accommodate a subwoofer—with the bonus of being Dolby Atmos enabled.

Definitive Technology’s BP-8060ST has remained a highlight of the Baltimore-area maker’s lineup for several years—a dog’s age in the new-and-improved, series-II world of high-end loudspeakers. The longevity suggests that Definitive considers this slim “power tower” a fully evolved design, and indeed it’s hard to argue the point.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jul 27, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $7,194 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Spacious bipole sound
Seriously full-range with powered bass section
Astounding dynamics
Minus
Big and demanding of floor space
Reflective bipolar reproduction may not suit every room, taste

THE VERDICT
A big speaker with a sound to match, Definitive Technology’s latest, Atmos-onboard, powered-tower flagship delivers the impressive imaging depth and breadth we expect from bipoles. Its response is as full-range, and its dynamic abilities as unfettered, as anything I’ve heard from a one-piece system.

Definitive Technology’s monolithic bipolar towers —which launched the brand in 1990—have been around in one form or another almost as long as that thing in 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the fourth generation bowing recently, the Baltimore-area manufacturer set us up with a full suite: BP9080x fronts, CS9080 center, a pair of smallerbut-still-huge BP9060 towers for surrounds, and the A90 elevation speakers (Dolby Atmos-enabled and compatible with DTS:X) to go on top of those surrounds; the marquee BP9080x fronts have the same elevation componentry to bounce height-channel signals off the ceiling built right into their top 5 inches.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 03, 2020  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,056 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly accurate sound
Impressive stereo image breadth
Solid center-channel reproduction
Well-controlled and moderately extended low end
Minus
Towers are sensitive to placement

THE VERDICT
A handsome system that sounds very good with just about everything, and with enough bass extension to satisfy most needs.

Tall, slim speakers are certainly in fashion, and it's hard to imagine many slimmer than Definitive Technology's new Demand Series D15 towers. Despite housing three 5.25-inch drivers (two carbon fiber woofers and a polypropylene midrange), a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, and not one but two 8-inch side-firing passive radiators, the D15 measures just 6.5 inches wide and thus indeed requires its bolt-on aluminum bottom plinth to achieve stability.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 17, 2018  |  0 comments

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’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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  May 16, 2012  |  4 comments

StudioMonitor 55 Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
SuperCube 6000 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,494 At A Glance: Top-mounted, passive radiator • Dual binding posts • Enhanced phase plug

Whether you think a decade is a long or a short period of time depends on your perspective. If you’re discussing cosmology with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the word “decade” probably won’t even make it into the conversation. If you’re Apple, you crank out more than 300 million iPods in that period of time. If you’re a momma elephant with a particularly frisky elephant husband who likes to party, you might be able to birth five elephant progeny. (Although the stretch marks will simply be impossible to get rid of after that third one, no matter what exercise club you sign up with.) At the Glenmorangie distillery in the Scottish Highlands, you’re trying to decide whether or not to bottle the batch of single-malt scotch that’s been aging in the barrels for the last decade or to wait another eight years and ship out cases of Glenmorangie 18 Years Old instead. But if you’re Definitive Technology, you take your sweet time and eventually come out with…wait for it…three (as in one more than two) totally redesigned monitor speakers.

John Sciacca  |  Mar 13, 2015  |  1 comments

W Studio Soundbar System
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
W9 Wireless Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
W7 Wireless Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
W Amp Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,295 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar audio quality
Sleek-looking components

Minus
Android app is pretty basic
iOS app very limited
Doesn’t currently support true high-res listening

THE VERDICT
The speakers sound amazing and the W Studio soundbar is a home run even without its multiroom capabilities, but the limited Play-Fi app for streaming leaves Def Tech’s W system lagging behind the best multiroom systems.

For a while, audio manufacturers seemed resigned to give it the ol’ “lie back and think of England” routine when it came to accepting Sonos as the dominant force in the wireless audio world. Sure, they might not have liked it, but they weren’t offering any compelling alternatives of their own. And while there had been some challengers in the past, most fell well short of the Sonos benchmark and quickly faded.

This tide has changed lately, however, and the war for wireless audio is heating up. Multiple systems are now offering their spin on wireless music distribution and hoping to take a bite out of the Wi-Fi audio pie. And unlike past attempts, several of these new solutions are not only good, they’re great. Darryl Wilkinson recently reviewed two top rivals for Sonos’ throne, Bluesound (S&V, June 2014) and Denon’s HEOS (S&V, January 2015). Now, well-regarded speaker manufacturer Definitive Technology is throwing its hat into the ring by embracing Play-Fi in its new Wireless Collection.

Michael Fremer  |  May 18, 2012  |  12 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 10, 2014  |  2 comments

Excite X14 Speaker System
Performance
Build Qaulity
Value

Sub 250 II Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous soundfield
Surprisingly strong bass
Gorgeous veneers
Minus
Expensive for small speakers

THE VERDICT
Dynaudio’s X14, part of the revised Excite line, earns its high-end price tag with sweet build quality and high performance, including a bottom end that is amazingly substantial for a small speaker.

The high end exists in the eye of the beholder. To some folks, a pair of mini-monitors selling for $1,500—or a 5.1-channel system at $5,100—may seem steeply priced. In fact, if you want lower-priced alternatives, you’ll find plenty among our Top Picks. But there always will be another kind of consumer who is fussy about what he or she brings into the living room. Vinyl-wrapped boxes won’t cut it; they want furniture-grade wood veneer. In the same discriminating spirit, the Danish manufacturer Dynaudio is equally fussy about materials, including drivers that the company designs and makes itself. In the recently overhauled Excite line, the result is a speaker that exceeds already high expectations in both appearance and sound. The X14 monitor and X24 center are my favorite kind of small speaker: the kind that sounds bigger than it looks.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 23, 2015  |  0 comments

Debut F5 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

S10EQ Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,470 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonics, neutral tonal balance
Decently finished, simple look
Unapproachable value
Minus
Some off-axis center-channel tonal shift
Audible thump on sub’s auto turn-off

THE VERDICT
Elac’s Debut series reintroduces a near-forgotten brand with a design by a well-known name—Andrew Jones—and a value/performance factor to be reckoned with.

As longtime S&V readers have doubtless come to understand, I believe that cheap, as Gordon Gekko definitely did not say, is good. Any $10,000 pair of loudspeakers makes me vaguely uneasy, while a $50,000 pair leaves me ready to join the Che Guevara Brigade and start lining up oligarchs. So the arrival of a new family of cheap—err, high-value—serious loudspeakers from Elac U.S., designed by tech’lebrity engineer Andrew Jones, caused a certain amount of excitement hereabouts. (For more on Elac and Jones, see “Man on a Mission”.)

Al Griffin  |  Feb 03, 2021  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,000 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean, well-balanced sound
Consistent off-axis performance
Subwoofer control app with Auto-EQ
Excellent value
Minus
Basic looks; black-only finish option

THE VERDICT
Despite its low-key exterior, Elac’s 5.1 Uni-Fi 2.0 system delivers the goods for movies/music and represents an excellent value.

Germany's Elac is a brand that has greatly expanded its presence in the hi-fi and home theater worlds over the past five or so years. While the company itself has been around for considerably longer, back in 2015 it brought on former KEF, Infinity, TAD, and Pioneer chief speaker engineer Andrew Jones to develop new product lines. First out of the gate for Jones was the Debut Series, followed by the Uni-Fi series, both affordable lines designed to pull fresh recruits into the audiophile ranks. New speakers arrived in quick succession, including the upscale but still affordable Adante passive and Navis powered models.

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.

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