Bookshelf Speaker 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.

Al Griffin  |  Oct 15, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $269

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Warm yet detailed sound
Ultra-compact form factor
Bluetooth streaming
Minus
No front panel volume control
USB input support maxes out at 24/48

THE VERDICT
The A2+ combines audiophile-friendly sound with the convenience of Bluetooth to create a broadly appealing compact speaker package.

Audioengine is well-known for making affordable powered and passive speakers that are compact enough for desktop use. Like several of the company's previous offerings, its most recent model, the A2+, is a petite powered speaker with multiple connectivity options, including wireless aptX Bluetooth streaming. What makes it stand out from other Audioengine speakers? The price: at $269, the A2+ is the least expensive powered Bluetooth model in the company's lineup.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 25, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Remarkable bass extension and output
All-in-one solution including phono input
Noteworthy treble clarity and definition
Minus
Soundstage depth less dramatic than some designs
Tiny input labeling

THE VERDICT
With analog, digital, wireless Bluetooth, turntable, and USB computer connections, Kanto's great-sounding TUK powered bookshelf speaker is ready to rock right out of the box.

Kanto is a Canadian firm barely a decade old that specializes in powered loudspeakers. The company has established substantial cred for its active desktop and bookshelf speaker lines, both of which deliver high value and widely noted performance. Now, with a new model called TUK, the company is moving up-range in market-segment, size, and price. Also, utility: TUK is an all-in-one powered-speaker solution, with a phono-preamp, an asynchronous USB DAC, a headphone amp, preamp controls, a subwoofer crossover, and amplification all built right in.

Michael Trei  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,900 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lively and dynamic sound
Optimized for movies
Outstanding value for money
Minus
Awkward form factor
Drab cosmetic

THE VERDICT
By combining the benefits of both THX certification and Dolby Atmos, this superb high-value home theater speaker package from Monoprice knocks it out of the park.

What's in a name? If visions of $10 HDMI and iPhone Lightning cables pop into your head when you hear the name Monoprice, you should know that the company introduced the premium Monolith brand a few years back to move beyond its image as an online peddler of low-cost cables. Think of Monolith as being a bit like Genesis is to Hyundai: a fresh name free of the parent brand's bargain basement associations.

Al Griffin  |  Aug 07, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Integrated Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great value
Tidal, Spotify, and TuneIn streaming
Digital and analog inputs accommodate multiple sources
Minus
Subwoofer output
Treble-forward sound with some music
Coarse volume steps
No USB-DAC input

THE VERDICT
OSD Audio’s compact, component-based system is a great value and offers a high-er-performance alternative to many all-in-one wireless speakers.

OSD Audio is a company that seems to make everything— everything audio-related, that is. When I stopped by the company's booth at the CEDIA trade show in 2018, CEO Dave Chai took me on a guided tour of the vast array of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, outdoor speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, accessories, and cables on display, thoroughly impressing me with his ability to speak about each product in detail. While much of OSD Audio's catalog is aimed at custom installation pros, two new consumer-oriented categories for the company are bookshelf speakers and integrated amplifiers with wireless streaming capability.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 31, 2019  |  0 comments
Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,499 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean and tidy sound
Excellent tonal match between models
Superb high-gloss painted finish
Minus
Sound is a bit polite with some material
No wood finish option

THE VERDICT
This RSL CG5 system offers relaxed sound that's easy to like, impressive build quality, and great value.

Everybody loves a great comeback story. Whether it's Tiger Woods winning The Masters after a decade of disappointment, or Apple's return to global dominance after nearly going bust twenty years back, it's nice when someone or something can make a strong return.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-tier tonal accuracy and dynamic ability
Amazingly compact for performance level
On-board EQ offers flexible placement options
Minus
Relatively tight sweet spot
No on-board streaming, digital inputs, or DSP

THE VERDICT
Elac's powered-speaker is highly compact, yet capable enough to satisfy serious listeners.

Active loudspeakers, or speakers with built-in amplification, have long been box-office poison in the U.S. market. That's because we Americans like our big receivers, choosing them based on power ratings, and then hooking them up to conventional, passive speakers using garden-hose speaker wire. When you add up the market segments that simply won't consider active speakers, including owners of receivers lacking preamp outputs and those who simply cannot get their heads around the whole powered-speaker concept, the issue becomes a non-starter.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive sound and build quality for price
Good looks
Easy to set up
Minus
Limited connection options
Analog input can be noisy

THE VERDICT
The Fluance Ai40 delivers great sound and easy setup at a stunningly low price.

The Fluance Ai40 is a good-looking and reasonably compact powered speaker system that's equally at home on the desktop and in the living room. With aptX Bluetooth and stereo RCA inputs and not much else, it's easy to set up for streaming and vinyl or CD playback. At $200, the Ai40 is also a notably affordable given the performance level it provides.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 03, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
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.

Michael Trei  |  Mar 20, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $996 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dynamic and lively sound
Good stereo and surround sound imaging
Minus
Requires careful setup for best performance
Basic black finish only

THE VERDICT
Klipsch’s R-41M speaker system amply demonstrates how a 5.1 surround package can outperform a same-priced soundbar. Enthusiastically recommended for both movies and music.

Putting together a home theater system on a limited budget can be a daunting task. That's why so many people instead take the easy route and buy a soundbar to handle audio. Sure, a one- or two-box (with subwoofer) solution is simple to shop for and a snap to hook up, but what about the sound quality? With soundbars, the amplifiers, speakers, and signal processing are all designed to work together in an integrated unit, so it's often possible to squeeze surprisingly big and powerful sound out of the bar's tiny drivers.

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.

Al Griffin  |  Jan 15, 2019  |  9 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,850/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive dynamics
Extended bass for a compact speaker
Solid build quality
Minus
Finicky about setup and placement

THE VERDICT
The Totem Acoustic Sky delivers dynamic, exciting sound for a compact speaker, though it requires careful placement and equipment-matching for best results.

Compact “bookshelf” speakers have their advocates, but I'll admit up front that they've never been my bag. I guess you could say there's something about the stateliness of floorstanding towers that appeals to my personal taste. And then there's the problem of the shelf itself: every time I've tried to listen to compact speakers installed in a place where books would typically sit, I've been thoroughly unimpressed with the sound. Flat imaging, indistinct bass—to me, those are the hallmarks of shelved speakers. Not a problem for background music, but for critical listening, stands are a must.

Rob Sabin  |  Jan 02, 2019  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral, open sound
DTS Play-Fi high-res and multiroom options
Extensive wired and wireless connectivity
Dedicated subwoofer out
Minus
Limited bass output begs for a subwoofer

THE VERDICT
SVS breaks the mold with a surprisingly versatile and great-sounding wireless speaker package.

SVS, a company that made its name selling high-performance/high-value subwoofers direct to consumers via the web, has since gone on to build similarly gifted and affordable full-range speakers. Audiophile sound quality that doesn't break the bank is in the brand's guiding DNA. So, it should come as no surprise that SVS's debut wireless product makes an audiophile statement in both its design philosophy and sonic personality.

Bob Ankosko  |  Dec 04, 2018  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,500/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, powerful sound
Robust build quality
Easy to set up
Minus
Glitchy volume control
No Wi-Fi streaming or multiroom capability
No visual feedback
No app or remote control
Expensive

THE VERDICT
The Shinola Bookshelf Speaker delivers powerful sound from a relatively compact speaker of impeccable build quality but lacks key features that would make it much easier to use.

Exquisite—that was the first thought that popped into my head when I cued up one of my go-to test tracks: a 24/96 download of Holly Cole singing “Larger Than Life” from 2007’s Holly Cole. Her rich, sultry voice was in the room, accompanied by the gentle underpinnings of an accomplished quartet. Everything sounded just right: the sparkling piano, sumptuous bass, understated brushwork, and tasteful sax fills. With the lights down and my eyes closed, it was easy to imagine sitting close to the stage in a small jazz club.

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