Surround Sound System Reviews

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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.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 24, 2016  |  2 comments

Diamond 220 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

WH-D10 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,546 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sound for price
Bottom port cuts unwanted noise
Dressy cosmetics
Minus
Odd binding-post layout

THE VERDICT
The Wharfedale Diamond 220 speaker system looks and sounds far better than its modest price tag would suggest.

When a venerable audio brand leaves its founders behind, sometimes it loses its way. But sometimes it gets a whole new lease on life. That’s what happened when the International Audio Group (IAG, originally of Taiwan, now of mainland China) acquired a handful of British brands, including Wharfedale, Mission, and Quad. When I visited IAG’s design and manufacturing facility in Shenzhen a dozen years ago, I was surprised at how self-reliant it was. The resident speaker designer could have a custom part made and tested in 24 hours, rather than having to outsource it and wait for months, as Wharfedale’s British forebears had to do. Thus, he has the luxury of endless tweaking. Even so, Wharfedale hasn’t had a commanding presence in the U.S. market commensurate with the brand’s engineering resources and expertise. Will the new Diamond 200 series change that?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments

DX-1 HCP Speaker
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
DX-1 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: Sweet but detailed mids • High-gloss finish • Great sats, OK sub

One of your best friends calls up to announce that she is about to wed someone rich and powerful. He owns a shipyard that manufactures exceptionally luxurious yachts. You’re happy for her, but you worry, too. Would living with such a strong personality, a guy with all that money and all that power, be good for her? Would it make her stronger or weaker? A few years later you run into her, and after a few hours of conversation, you conclude that she’s in great shape internally as well as externally. There’s a serenity beneath the tan. Her husband is affectionate and faithful, a child is on the way, and she’s never been happier.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 04, 2012  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $7,197 At A Glance: Wide and deep soundstage • Clear, uncolored midrange • Superb fit and finish

The Wharfedale brand is one of the oldest and most widely respected in the loudspeaker business. Gilbert Briggs founded the company as the Wharfedale Wireless Works in Yorkshire, England, in 1932. While his name is less well known in the U.S. than, say, Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, and James B. Lansing, Briggs was also clearly one of the founding fathers of the high-fidelity business that took off big time in the 1950s.

Daniel Kumin  |  Apr 14, 2016  |  0 comments

Cinema M6 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SUB 1X12 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,494 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very dynamically capable, with high power handling, high output
Solidly integrated front stage
Impressive subwoofer output and extension
Flexible “tripole” surround speakers
Minus
Slightly forward tonal balance (but perfect for behind-screen placement)
Pricey

THE VERDICT
Reference performance for movie playback, from some unusual speaker designs.

Complete the sentence with the most appropriate choice: “Yah, I sure do love those Swedish…”

A) meatballs.
B) supermodels.
C) interior designs.
D) loudspeakers.

If you chose D), congratulations, you’re a winner! Because while Swedish loudspeakers may not be a household word, or available at IKEAs everywhere (yet), the examples before us here just might be a winner in your home theater.

XTZ defines itself as much pan-Scandinavian as Swedish per se, but the company’s home base is in the blue-with-yellow-cross zone. The speakers themselves, like so many others today, are made in China, though XTZ points out that they employ high-quality drivers from fellow Scandinavian manufacturers such as SEAS and Scan-Speak, and the drivers are housed in unusually heavy, non-resonant cabinets. (XTZ offers a wide range of other speakers, as well as Dirac DSP and measurement systems, on its Website.)

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