Tower Speaker Reviews

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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.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 15, 2020  |  4 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $8,000 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Refined sound
Powerful, feature-rich subwoofer
Minus
Tweeter on 60XTi tower sits high off the ground
60XTi tower requires careful placement

THE VERDICT
Upgrades in style and performance take MartinLogan's Motion series speakers to the next level, while its Dynamo 1600X subwoofer is a feature-packed beast.

Ask a car guy to identify any classic American car from the 1950s or 1960s, and most would be able to pin it down to the exact year of production. Back then, the auto companies would change up styling every year, even if the mechanical stuff under the sheet metal remained essentially unchanged. The problem with that approach is that tooling up to build new models every year gets really expensive, so these days most cars have a life cycle of a few years before an all-new generation is introduced. To keep these longer-lasting designs looking fresh, at some point in the life cycle they'll give the car what's known as a facelift, replacing a few key parts like the grille, taillights, and trim to lend it a new look.

Al Griffin  |  Mar 18, 2020  |  4 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,975 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, detailed sound
High-performance center speaker
Subwoofer with room correction
Minus
Subwoofer pricey compared with competition

THE VERDICT
Monitor Audio's revamped mid-range Silver system brings notable improvements with no notable increase in price.

In 2020 many of us will get to witness the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan—on TV at least. Why do I mention that in the first line of a speaker review? Because, like the medals handed out to Olympian champs, speaker lines from Monitor Audio tend to come with names

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 12, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Natural dialogue Detailed without sounding aggressive Great Value
Minus
Limited deep bass

THE VERDICT
This Aperion Audio Novus system delivers great sound with music and, when combined with a good subwoofer or two, enough visceral thrills to keep up with the most sonically ambitious movie soundtracks.

Aperion Audio had a dilemma. Its flagship speaker line, the Aperion Verus III, costs considerably more than its entry level Intimus range, with the $2,500 flagship Verus III Grand tower selling for nearly three times the price of the $800/pair Intimus 5t tower. Both are bargains in high-end audio's accelerating race to the top, but buyers who might spend more than $800 aren't always keen about making a $2,500 commitment, not to mention the added outlay needed for a full home theater speaker setup. Enter the company's new Novus range, which at $1,400/pair for the Novus towers neatly splits the difference between the two existing ranges.

Al Griffin  |  Oct 23, 2019  |  9 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,998/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Enveloping soundstage from SDA-Pro tech
Dynamic, full-range sound
Flush-mounted elevation module option
Minus
Somewhat bulky cabinet design
Requires SDA-Pro interconnect cable

THE VERDICT
SDA-Pro, the latest refinement of Polk Audio's proprietary tech, elevates the performance of its impressive flagship speaker.

Many years ago (the early 1980s, to be precise), Polk Audio produced the first speakers to feature a technology it had developed called SDA (Stereo Dimensional Array). The idea behind SDA was to eliminate a problem called interaural crosstalk that's a necessary artifact of typical two-channel speaker configurations. Basically put, when listening in stereo, your left/ right ears hear not just sound emanating from the respective left/right speakers, but sound coming from the other speaker as well. According to Polk Audio, this has a constricting effect on the presentation, with the width, height, and depth of the stereo image coming across as a pale representation of what's actually contained on the recording.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jul 10, 2019  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,600/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate and dynamic sound
Excellent imaging depth of field
Impressive bass extension and weight
Minus
Bass balance may be less amenable to some rooms or placements

THE VERDICT
The latest tower from SVS is a top value/performance contender for full-range loudspeakers.

Certain geographies have long-held associations with loudspeaker design. Maidstone, Kent or Steyning, Sussex in Britain (KEF and Bowers & Wilkins, respectively) for example. Or Cambridge, Massachusetts (Acoustic Research/KLH/ Advent) and Los Angeles, California (JBL) here in the United States.

And Youngstown, Ohio?

Michael Trei  |  Jun 05, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $500/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clear and dynamic sound
Bargain price
Minus
Plain-Jane appearance
Limited finish options

THE VERDICT
The A170 is a refined, capable speaker that draws the best from recordings, and punches way above its bargain price.

It's funny how old impressions die hard. Remember the loudspeaker wars of the 1960s and 1970s? I certainly do. Back then, people would describe speakers as having either an East Coast or a West Coast sound, with the buttoned-down and refined east represented by brands like Acoustic Research, Bozak, and Dynaco, and the more raucous, wild west dominated by Altec Lansing and JBL.

Al Griffin  |  May 08, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,144 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive performance for price
Surround speakers provide flexible installation options
Subwoofer with app control and room correction
Minus
Basic build quality and looks

THE VERDICT
This entry-level Paradigm speaker package delivers performance reminiscent of the company's higher end models, along with a few sophisticated and well-considered features.

Canada's Paradigm offers a truly impressive range of speakers for audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike. The company makes so many speakers, in fact, that I sometimes have trouble keeping track of what's what in the Paradigm lineup. With luscious, hand-lacquered cabinets and Beryllium drivers, the Persona line is the flagship offering, one that Sound & Vision reviewed in a 5.1-channel configuration in our September 2017 issue. While we found plenty to like about that Persona rig, at $31,000 it clearly represented a luxury purchase. Fortunately, the Paradigm family also includes speakers aimed at budget-conscious listeners, such as the Monitor SE series.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 03, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,800 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral balance
Close timbral matching between models
Excellent value
Minus
Pedestrian styling
Basic finish options

THE VERDICT
PSB's long-running Alpha Series has been a value leader for more than 25 years. Now in their third generation, these speakers sound equally good with music and movies, and the value quotient is stronger than ever.

I think of PSB's entry-level Alpha Series speakers as being the loudspeaker equivalent of the Toyota Corolla. The Alphas may not be the sexiest speakers around, but they do offer solid engineering, long-term reliability, and excellent performance at a very reasonable price. Speakers from PSB's now sadly discontinued flagship Synchrony line have served as my personal home theater reference for over a decade, so you could call me a bit of a fanboy. As you might expect, that means I'm also interested in seeing what the company can deliver when keeping costs down is part of the equation.

Al Griffin  |  Mar 27, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,747 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, dynamic sound
Easy setup and reliable wireless performance
Uses BluOS app for streaming
Minus
Utilitarian looks
Kinda pricey

THE VERDICT
DALI’s Callisto 6 C towers provide a reliable option for high-performance wireless hi-fi, as well as high-res multiroom streaming when paired with the BluOS NPM-1 module.

Active speakers that deliver sound via wireless connections have become a hot category in the hi-fi world. Sound & Vision has reviewed a wide range of them—everything from cheap, compact cylinders that sit on your kitchen counter and respond to voice commands, to more advanced systems designed to deliver stereo or 5.1 sound in a living room or home theater environment. The new Callisto line from Denmark's DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries) belongs to the latter category. You'll find no tiny drivers or molded plastic cabinets here, let alone a built-in intelligent assistant of the Google, Alexa, or Siri stripe. Instead, the Callistos merge the convenience of wireless audio with a traditional approach to high-end speaker design.

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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 06, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, full-range sound
Fine imaging
Great-looking and nicely finished
Minus
Center-channel not a perfect timbral match with towers
Subwoofer output and extension does not fully complement towers

THE VERDICT
This highly affordable Q Acoustics 5.1 package offers big, warm, dynamic stereo sound from compact towers, and good movie sound with or without the included sub.

Q Acoustics is a relatively new British loudspeaker manufacturer who has made a goodly amount of noise in the value/performance speaker arena for a dozen years now. I count the firm among the 21st-century flowering of affordable-speaker-makers catalyzed by partnerships with Chinese manufacturing firms and ever-more powerful and widely accessible computer-modeling design processes. The result of this confluence has been a bounty of excellent designs in the most competitive price ranges, from new and old names alike, that in the aggregate make the home-theater dollar go further than ever before.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 31, 2019  |  5 comments

Premier 700F Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Defiance X-12 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,700 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp detail
Big, powerful sound
Minus
Tower unstable on thick carpet
Poorly designed grilles

THE VERDICT
The Premier range is far from the most expensive in Paradigm's speaker lineup, but the performance and build quality that it offers lets it compete with speakers twice the price.

The other day a friend who's neither a videophile nor an audiophile dropped by my home to watch a movie. A pair of loudspeakers I had just finished reviewing for Stereophile, our sister publication, were sitting in a corner, waiting to be packed up. When I told him their price—$6,000/pair—he appeared shocked. Even Paradigm's affordable new 700F speakers, then as now serving as the left/right channels in my system, are pricier than he would like were he to invest in a system of his own (unlikely!).

Al Griffin  |  Dec 19, 2018  |  9 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,998/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, full-range sound
Reasonably compact form factor
Excellent value 
Minus
Nothing major

THE VERDICT
GoldenEar Technology’s scaled-down version of its Triton Reference delivers similar full-range performance as the company’s flagship speaker but does so at an even more reasonable price.

GoldenEar Technology’s Triton Reference, a model that I reviewed in the June 2017 issue of Sound & Vision, was the result of a value-oriented audio brand throwing caution to the wind to produce a cost-no-object loudspeaker. Even so, since we’re dealing with GoldenEar Tech here, the Triton Reference ended up priced at $8,498/pair—not exactly cheap, but well below what you’d pay for the flagship efforts of other speaker brands.

Michael Trei  |  Nov 21, 2018  |  6 comments
603 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
ASW610XP Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,399 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Engaging, transparent sound
Powerful, tuneful bass
Clean, contemporary look
Minus
Treble can overwhelm with some music
Center speaker tonal match could be better

THE VERDICT
The latest update to the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series brings technological improvements trickled down from the company’s 700 and 800 Series speakers. This system delivers engaging, upfront sound and good value.

Maybe it’s because our country is still young, but Americans tend to think of the British as having lots of long-standing traditions. Is that impression still valid? These days, Jaguar Cars is owned by India’s Tata Motors. Mini Cooper, Rolls Royce, and Bentley are owned by German companies. Even Marmite, that most British of toast toppings, is half-owned by the Dutch. Following that trend, it should come as no surprise to learn that a quintessentially British hi-fi company like Bowers & Wilkins is owned by a Silicon Valley, California-based startup called EVA Automation. Engineering and design still takes place at the company’s headquarters in Worthing, England, even if most of the actual production now takes place in Asia.

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