Bookshelf Speaker Reviews

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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.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 22, 2018  |  1 comments

Adante AS-61 Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SUB3070 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,500/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Detailed, clean highs
Superb vocal reproduction
Bloat-free bass
Minus
Relatively low sensitivity
Limited bass extension

THE VERDICT
Elac's step-up AS-61 standmounter gets most everything right. Combined with the company's well-matched SUB3070 subwoofer, it makes for a highly appealing, high-performance speaker package.

Germany-based ELAC was well known in the 1960s and 1970s for its automatic (Miracord) turntables. The company disappeared from North America in the ensuing decades while transitioning into a major European loudspeaker brand. A few years ago, it decided that the time was right to return to the U.S. market. To produce new designs for that move they lured veteran speaker designer Andrew Jones away from his extended gig at TAD/Pioneer. The ELAC Debut line (now in its second generation) came first and seriously shook up the budget speaker sector. That was followed not long after by the pricier, but hardly pricey, Uni-Fi series.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 30, 2018  |  2 comments

Q Series Q350 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

The Kube 12b Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,150 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Atmos add-ons
Coincident Uni-Q drivers
Sub has three placement EQ modes
Minus
Grilles not included
Not as dressy as other KEF products

THE VERDICT
KEF’s Q series combined with its new Kube subwoofer line brings the trademark Uni-Q driver array and a potent bottom end to a lower price point, with reliable performance and an Atmos add-on option.

One of the headlines I considered for this review was “What Becomes a Legend Most.” It’s a poignant song from Lou Reed’s New Sensations. Before that, it was an advertising slogan that sold mink coats in ads featuring Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Somehow, it fits KEF, the British speaker manufacturer responsible for numerous driver-related innovations, including the Uni-Q coincident array. KEF’s Muon and Blade towers have the fragrance of luxury about them.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 27, 2018  |  0 comments

Reference Theater Pack
Performance
Build Quality
Value

R-8SWi Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Klipsch’s classic horn-loaded sound at a budget price
Minus
Enclosure adds some coloration

THE VERDICT
This redesign of Klipsch’s bestselling sat/sub system makes some compromises from its predecessors—but still produces excellent sound.

Some people are just good at things. People like Rembrandt van Rijn, who could make a painted image gaze into your soul; or Meryl Streep, who can be Anna Wintour one moment and Julia Child the next; or Warren Buffett, who’s been known to make his shareholders a dollar or two; or Billie Holiday, who could sing like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and fit a lifetime of hard loving into a single phrase.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 17, 2018  |  0 comments

Demand Series D11 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SuperCube 6000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
PRICE 3,196

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Appealing neutral voicing
Laterally offset tweeter
Active 8-inch sub integrated in center speaker
Minus
D11 top radiators complicate placement of Atmos add-ons

THE VERDICT
The Demand Series lives up to Definitive Technology’s pedigree with satisfying, well-balanced sound that offers loads of resolution.

Nature abhors a vacuum, but wasting cabinet real estate is standard operating procedure among loudspeaker designers. With the notable exception of Atmos-enabled speakers and the occasional tweeter pod, the top panel of most speakers is a blank nothing. But does it have to be that way? Definitive Technology answered no, in effect, with its original Studio Monitor Series of bookshelf/stand-mount speakers (circa 2012) and does so again in this new update, the Demand Series.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 03, 2018  |  0 comments

Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Cub Evo Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound quality
Great subwoofer/satellite integration
Plays louder, cleaner than some similarly sized systems
Atmos on board
Minus
Spring-loaded push connectors can be irritating
No prepackaged 5.1.4-channel option

THE VERDICT
A high-performing, moderately compact, one-carton speaker solution for serious home theater—with Atmos.

Focal, the French loudspeaker maker—the French loudspeaker maker (there are others, but really, name one)—is best known on these shores for the Utopia series of haute-highend ultra-towers, which, cresting at something like $185,000 for a pair, step well over what I think of as the Che Guevara line. (That’s the line across which, following the revolution, anyone owning a pair can count on a very long vacation at state expense in a re-education camp.)

Bob Ankosko  |  Dec 27, 2017  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Solid build quality
Handsome fit and finish
Easy setup
Good overall sound quality with bountiful bass
Minus
No Wi-Fi streaming
No tone controls
Disappointing phono preamp

THE VERDICT
Klipsch’s beautifully crafted Sixes deliver fine sound with the bonus of onboard power, but vinyl playback is shortchanged by its pedestrian phono preamp.

I’ve been talking about pulling my old turntable out of mothballs since I moved to my current home, oh…20 years ago. Which is why I jumped at the chance when asked if I had any interest in auditioning The Sixes, the latest entry in Klipsch’s Heritage Wireless series and big brother to The Three, the superb all-in-one wireless music system we reviewed in May. I know what you’re thinking: What does reviewing speakers have to do with setting up a turntable? Bear with me.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 22, 2017  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $480

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Phono, line, optical, Bluetooth inputs
Subwoofer output
Wide choice of colors
Minus
USB not PC-friendly

THE VERDICT
If you’re looking to plug your turntable directly into a good-looking and functional pair of speakers, the Kanto YU6 will make it work—and sound great.

Why shouldn’t life be simpler? If there’s one thing your studio apartment, dorm room, bedroom, or guest bedroom doesn’t need, it’s an audio rack with a tangle of cables. But going without music would be barbaric. So how simple do you need to get? If a bare-bones Bluetooth speaker isn’t enough, a pair of powered speakers might make more sense. You’d have a stereo soundstage without the fuss of an outboard amp and rack.

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