Surround Sound System Reviews

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 08, 2014  |  First Published: Nov 07, 2014  |  2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,748

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Versatile with movies and music
Superb build quality
Addictively listenable
Minus
Needs sub reinforcement

THE VERDICT
Like David in a world of Goliaths, Silverline Audio’s Minuet Supreme Plus is the kind of small speaker that makes listening to music an addictive pleasure.

Every January, I find myself walking down a hotel corridor lined with audio exhibitors. Sounds like the dream sequence from an audiophile movie, doesn’t it? I’m talking, of course, about the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Pretty much every year, I pay a visit to Silverline Audio, and pretty much every year, the reward is sweet, involving sound. This year, that sound was coming from Silverline’s Minuet Supreme Plus. Remarkably, it was powered by one of those tiny Class T amps you can buy on Amazon for $30. Having reviewed the original Minuet in 2008—and having loved it—I was eager to hear what its successor would sound like in my system with a better amp.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 02, 2015  |  0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,447 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very honest, very capable reproduction
Unusual, and unusually attractive, cosmetics
Excellent center-channel off-axis consistency
Minus
Ever so slightly warm balance may not please more analytical listeners

THE VERDICT
Wide-range towers and solid tonal matching make for a system that will fulfill many, even without a subwoofer.

Italian technology doesn’t get a lot of respect. (There’s a version of the old joke where in heaven the police are British, the cooks French, and the engineers German; in hell the police are German, the cooks British, and the engineers— you guessed it—Italian.) But think only of Ferrari. Or Lamborghini. Better still, think of supercar maker Pagani, for which today’s examinee, Sonus Faber, provides premium audio systems.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 28, 2021  |  1 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,296

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp detail and open-sounding midrange
Immersive 5.1 performance
Stylish and affordable
Minus
Cl center speaker has limited off-axis response

THE VERDICT
The name Sonus faber conjures up visions of exotic speakers priced at a level that will buy you a reasonably nice house in some places. But a full 5.1 package from the company's new Lumina line will cost you less than a modest patio upgrade.

Loudspeaker manufacturer Sonus faber was founded in the early 1980s by the late Franco Serblin in Vicenza, Italy. It's been known since then for offering superb sound with classic Italian attention to style, with products aimed at buyers for whom price was at most a secondary consideration. But in recent years the company has tested more affordable waters, particularly in its home theater offerings, with the latest addition to its lineup, the Lumina Collection, designed to appeal to a wider range of listeners with real-world budgets.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 05, 2013  |  0 comments

Venere 2.5 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
REL T-7 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $5,493 At A Glance: Shapely Italian styling • Exceptional soundstaging • Surprisingly affordable

Could this sleek, lacquer-finished, curvaceous new Sonus faber Venere loudspeaker have originated anywhere other than in Italy? Well, no and yes. With its soothing, elegant curves and glossy finish, Venere whispers “Italy,” but the scant $2,498/pair price tag of this 43pound, 3.5-foot floorstander shouts “China.”

In fact, this new Sonus faber speaker is truly an international product. It was designed in-house at Sonus faber’s Arcugnano factory near Venice, Italy—a building as stylish as the designs emanating therefrom—using bespoke drivers designed by Sonus faber.

The midwoofer and woofer cone material is curv, a proprietary self-reinforcing 100-percent polypropylene composite manufactured by Germanybased Propex, while the dome tweeter is of silk over which is applied a multi-layered Sonus-spec’d coating manufactured by DKM in Germany. Final driver production is done in China.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 08, 2013  |  7 comments

SS-NA5ES Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SA-NA9ES Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $19,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Scandinavian birch
enclosures
Triple tweeter array
Warm and fatigue-free
Minus
Not exactly cheap

THE VERDICT
A pricey speaker system that offers an edge to those who want the very best.

Sony has always had a sense of its own destiny that transcends any one of its multifaceted operations. To gamers, it is the guardian of the PlayStation franchise. Moviegoers know it as the owner of Sony Pictures, while music lovers know it as the home of Dylan, Springsteen, and Adele. Tech historians recall how Sony’s small transistor radios and Walkman cassette player, respectively from the 1950s and ’70s, paved the way for the iPod in the ’00s. Cutting-edge computer audiophiles are excited about the potential of Sony’s DSD file format to transform the nascent world of high-resolution music downloads.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 24, 2014  |  First Published: Dec 23, 2014  |  3 comments

Prime Satellite 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB-1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Honest, accurate, full-range sound
Painless sub/sat blending
Cheap!
Minus
Won’t match ultimate volume level of larger, more costly systems

THE VERDICT
If your criterion is un-hyped reproduction, SVS’s Prime Satellite 5.1 system is as good as it gets for $1,000.

Good-sounding small speakers no longer impress me. After all, these days, pretty much anybody with a laptop and an Internet connection can design a small two-way that’s reasonably neutral. The tools are all online (many of them share/freeware), fine-performing drivers ranging from cheap ’n’ cheerful to exotic ’n’ expensive are readily available with complete Thiele-Small parameters, and MDF and veneer are plentiful down at Lowe’s. You don’t even need to know Ohm’s law; fluency in Windows or OSX and some basic woodworking skills are probably more useful.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 07, 2012  |  4 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,706 At A Glance: Listening fatigue immunity • Extremely solid build • Factory-direct value

SVS Sound designs its products from the bottom up. The company got its start as a subwoofer manufacturer, fascinating point-one-obsessed audiophiles with unusual (and potent) cylinder-shaped models. Check out the company’s Website at svsound.com under products and you’ll find the subwoofer category listed above speakers and systems. If you want to add an SVS sub to an existing system, the Website’s Merlin engine lets you key in the make and model of your non-SVS speakers to obtain recommendations on compatible SVS subs. Merlin will even offer suggestions for subwoofer crossovers in both surround and stereo systems.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 26, 2013  |  1 comments

Ultra Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB12-NSD Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,348 At A Glance: Distinctive enclosure shapes • Strong build quality • Satisfying, balanced sound

The debut of the SVS Ultra speaker line prompts me to reconsider a question that’s been lurking at the back of my mind for years: Is SVS one of the great American speaker brands?

As a company founded in Ohio and initially operated out of a garage, SVS has all the right narrative elements of a great speaker brand. The company has built a reputation for making brilliantly unorthodox subwoofers and pretty good speakers—versus the scads of respectable brands that put most of their brilliance into speakers and treat subs as an afterthought. In the past few years, the story has added a few new chapters, with new heavy-hitter personnel in management and product design and a manufacturing move from Ohio to (where else?) China.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 21, 2013  |  0 comments

Tannoy Precision Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Tannoy TS2.12 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $4,414 At A Glance: Coaxial driver array • Pinpoint-precise imaging • Clean, wellmannered subwoofer

If you read a lot of British novels, eventually you’ll run across a reference to an announcement “on the Tannoy” in a train station or airport. In the U.K., the birthplace of Tannoy Ltd., the loudspeaker brand is a synonym for public-address system. No other speaker manufacturer in the world enjoys this distinction, though it comes at a price: The Tannoy people are constantly firing off letters to publications that make the mistake of using tannoy generically, without the proper cap-T to indicate its trademark status.

Trivia buffs may be surprised to discover that the firm was founded in 1926 as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company in England. Not until 1932 did the brand name become Tannoy, an abbreviation for tantalum alloy, a material used in the electronic guts of its early products. Tannoy relocated its design and engineering center to Scotland about a half-century later, and for the past decade has been owned by the Denmark-based TC Group.

Michael Trei  |  Oct 24, 2018  |  14 comments

Impact Monitor Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Brisance 12 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,350 (as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, dynamic sound
Excellent value
Minus
No furniture-grade finish option
Large, bulky cabinets

THE VERDICT
Tekton’s Impact Monitor Theater system lives up to its name, with performance that reflects the unique priorities of its designer.

With A Phalanx of 38 drivers pointed directly at my ears, it was with some trepidation that I reached for the remote control to start listening with Tekton Design’s Impact Monitor Theater system. After all, I normally subscribe to the less-is-more approach to speaker design, where simpler usually means better. Tekton laughs at this type of thinking, however, throwing more drivers into its designs than there are plot twists in a David Lynch movie.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 13, 2013  |  0 comments

Everybody loves small speakers, and why not? Smaller is — often — easier to afford, easier to schlep home, easier to place, and easier to live with. Smaller also has certain acoustical advantages in achieving smooth response and in yielding the broad, even spread of sound that favors good imaging and an open, believable tone color.

But how small is too small? Some say there’s no limit, and at least one manufacturer (Bose) has had success with subwoofer/satellite designs whose sats are smaller than a pepper mill, let alone a breadbox. But as the front satellites of a speaker system become smaller, their ability to reproduce bass low enough to bridge effectively with the practical upper limits of a single subwoofer, at around 150 Hz (and ideally lower), becomes questionable.

Klipsch thinks it has found the sweet spot with its HD Theater 600 system

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 30, 2012  |  0 comments

It seems like there have been Paradigm Monitor-series speakers roaming the earth since shortly after Rice and Kellog patented the dynamic loudspeaker as we know it in 1924. (The original practical design was by Peter Jensen, co-founder of Magnavox, some years earlier.) And as the arrival of its “Series 7” might suggest, the Canadian maker’s Monitor family does in fact date back a couple of decades. Like the speakers that preceded them, Paradigm’s new Monitor models are benchmarks of performance/value quotient in the best Canadian-speaker tradition: rationally priced, excellent-performing, technically advanced designs that compete very effectively with some far more costly “high-end” designs.

So what has changed for Series 7? According to Paradigm, the answer is smaller, deeper, broader: The new models are smaller in size (and so more décor-friendly), yet thanks to redesigned waveguides and the adoption of aluminum bass/mid cones and tweeter domes, they offer improved low-frequency extension and smoother, wider off-axis response. In other words, just like before — but more so.

Brent Butterworth  |  Jun 24, 2013  |  3 comments

Two years ago, SVS changed ownership, and you could say it’s simultaneously a remarkably unchanged yet very different firm. It’s unchanged in that many old hands are still with the company, and the concentration on high-performance home theater products remains.

Brent Butterworth  |  Mar 21, 2012  |  0 comments

It seemed that audio companies had surrendered the home-theater-in-a-box concept to the TV manufacturers.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Aug 06, 2015  |  0 comments

InRoom Bronze LR-H Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

InWall Bronze/4 SlimSub
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $11,050

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos enabled
Natural, open character
Superb match with InWall Bronze/4 SlimSub
Minus
Atmos operation limits use in cabinets or behind a screen

THE VERDICT
Awesome for Atmos and awesome at most everything else.

Nine out of 11.4 people (approximately) reading this report are thinking, “Who the hell is Triad?” (Hopefully, fewer folks are asking, “What the hell is Atmos?” If you’re one of them, hang in there. I’ll get to Atmos in a bit.) To answer the original question, Triad is a Swiss Army Knife-like manufacturer of custom-installed speakers. That is, regardless of the particular application, Triad has a blade—er, speaker—designed and built for it (in the U.S. of A., by the way). You need in-room, in-ceiling, or in-wall speakers? Check. Invisible in-wall speakers? Ditto. OK, what kind of subwoofer do you want? The standard in-room or an in-wall design? Yes and yes. (Yawn.) Why not try something a little less common, like one of Triad’s on-wall, in-cabinet, or in-ceiling subwoofers? Then there’s Triad’s esoteric and rather sinister-looking FlexSub, which includes an expandable, flexible tube that channels the bass output from the hidden subwoofer cabinet to a remotely located grate or grille.

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