Surround Sound System Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 23, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,100 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean-sounding dialogue
Silky detail
Big, open presentation
Minus
Limited deep bass (without sub)

THE VERDICT
Elac’s new Uni-Fi Reference series can hang with many far larger and pricier loudspeakers. Just add a subwoofer or two to this system for movies, and you’ll be good to go.

German speaker company Elac has had quite a run over the past few years, with designer Andrew Jones turning out new models on an annual basis after setting the audio world on its ears in 2016 with the Elac Debut. Following the Debut's launch, the company came out with the pricier Uni-Fi. A three-way bookshelf design, the Uni-Fi incorporated a coincident midrange-woofer that positions the tweeter at the apex of the midrange cone where the dust cap usually sits.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 12, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,410 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very accurate, natural tonal balance
Impressive bass extension
Remarkable center-channel off-axis consistency and timbral match with towers
Minus
Towers are sensitive to placement
Some non-linearities at loudest playback levels
Generic looks (grilles-on)

THE VERDICT
With its impressive accuracy and peerless price, this Monolith by Monoprice Encore System is the new speaker value champ.

The story of how Monoprice parlayed its success as a humble purveyor of computer peripherals into its current status as a direct-to- consumer A/V gear powerhouse will have to wait for another day, mostly because I don't know it. But I do know this much: the torrent of ultra-high-value speakers and electronics, desktop audio, and even pro audio designs that have bubbled up from the Monoprice spring over the past few years is all but unprecedented in my decades in the audio/video world.

Al Griffin  |  May 05, 2021  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,195 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, near full-range performance
R900 module delivers immersive sound
Impressive build quality for price
Excellent value
Minus
Revealing sound can be slightly bright with some sources

THE VERDICT
Packed with tech developed for Polk Audio’s flagship Legend series, this Reserve series speaker package delivers dynamic and immersive sound at a budget-friendly price.

Back in 2019, Polk Audio rolled out its Legend series speakers. For a brand known to maintain a laser-like focus on value, the Legends, with their finely constructed cabinets (featuring real wood veneer) and fully redesigned driver complement, not to mention an enhanced version of the company's SDA (Stereo Dimensional Array) technology in the line's flagship L800 tower, seemed an atypically cost-no- object offering.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 28, 2021  |  0 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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Solid headphone-surround
Impressive Dolby Atmos, DTS:X effects
Long battery life
Minus
Substantial vocal tonality shifts
Uneven bass presentation

THE VERDICT
JVC’s Exofield XP-EXT1 delivers an impressive rendering of effects in immersive soundtracks, but it comes up short as an all- around wireless home theater headphones solution.

True surround sound from headphones has been an audio holy grail for decades, but with the ever-increasing power and value of digital signal processing, we're now getting closer to drinking from that particular chalice. JVC's latest effort is the XP-EXT1 Personal Home Theater System, a set of wireless over-the-ear cans with a slim processor/transmitter that uses the company's Exofield DSP processing to digitally rejigger surround-encoded soundtracks, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, for your in-head listening pleasure.

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.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 20, 2021  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE (as tested): $4,010

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Affordable price
Detailed overall sound
Good envelopment with Atmos soundtracks
Minus
Towers have limited deep bass
Ordinary cosmetics

THE VERDICT
Monitor Audio's Bronze 6G system is a remarkable testament to how much speaker you can get today for a reasonable price.

Britain-based Monitor Audio offers a wide range of loudspeakers at prices spanning from the bargain basement up to the penthouse that are cleverly named for a variety of metals: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze. The company must have run out of suitable metallic names when its Monitor series was introduced a few years ago— Steel or Aluminum (or Aluminium!) clearly wouldn't do. But while that budget-priced series represents the entry point to the Monitor Audio's offerings, our saga here covers the next step up: Bronze 6G, the sixth generation of the Bronze line.

Rob Sabin  |  Aug 26, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000 (system bundle, minus installation; $4,000 as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonics
WiSA wireless connection for surrounds and sub
Integrated Savant automation platform
Control via app or touchscreen remote
Minus
No Dolby Pro Logic or other stereo surround mode
No HDMI-ARC connectivity
No processing for lossless surround formats

THE VERDICT
Savant's smart soundbar may be a gateway to home automation, but it distinguishes itself first through its excellent sound quality.

Sound & Vision readers will know Savant as one of two upstarts that, along with Control 4, arrived in the early 2000s to challenge Crestron and AMX in the emerging home automation market. Today, some 15 years after its founding by tech entrepreneur/billionaire Bob Madonna, Savant continues to expand its Mac-based smarthome solution, and with some recent acquisitions, to broaden its market reach. Most notable is the high-profile purchase this year of GE Lighting.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 22, 2020  |  7 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Build Quality
Features
Value
PRICE $20,500 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb overall performance
Impeccable fit and finish
Relatively compact
Minus
Pricey

THE VERDICT
It may be pricey, but this PerformaBe system offers sublime performance with both music and movies.

I've reviewed many Revel surround speaker packages over time, but it's been six years since my last Revel review, a system centered on the Performa F208 tower speaker. At around 13 grand, that system could still be considered an affordable option compared with a full surround package built around the company's flagship Ultima range. Now, with its PerformaBe line, Revel has a mid-price speaker offering to help bridge the gap.

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.

Rob Sabin  |  May 13, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy, app-driven automatic setup
Good audio quality via hi-res wireless WiSA platform
Simple and intuitive control app
Minus
Lack of A/V switching may be an issue for some systems
No included remote control or learning feature
No decoding or full-resolution transmission of DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD bitstreams

THE VERDICT
Enclave's THX-certified wireless system delivers highly dynamic and enjoyable surround sound in an easy-to-install and use package...though it comes at a price.

When I was a trade reporter many years ago, I wrote an article about the skyrocketing sales of packaged home theater audio systems. Inside each box was a rudimentary A/V receiver, five or six speakers (typically compact satellites in plastic cabinets), color-coded speaker cables, and graphic instructions to get things hooked up. The article's big takeaway was that the brands selling these (Sony, Panasonic, et. al. ) had discovered that many buyers either left the rear surround speakers in the box or wired them up and placed them on top of the front left- and right-channel speakers.

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.

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.

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