SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 05, 2013  |  8 comments

Quintet Speakers
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SW-100 Subwoofer
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Price: $1,050 At A Glance: Molded reinforced polymer enclosure • Vertically expanded Tractrix horn • Conventional sub

Compact satellite/subwoofer sets are often affordable, mate well with budget receivers, allow more speaker-placement width than soundbars, lend themselves to wall mounting—and best of all, they don’t hog the room, even if you place them on stands (which would usually produce the best sonic results). What Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote is to the Supreme Court, the spouse acceptance factor is to loudspeaker genres, and the elegant compactness of a sat/sub set just may be the tiebreaker, the factor that makes the difference between having or not having a surround system. Sat/sub sets continue to be the most underrated product category in home theater.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jul 05, 2013  |  2 comments

HD Speaker System
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Metro Subwoofer
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Price: $10,580 (standard finish, updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Folded-planar magnetic tweeters • Treble and bass trim switches • Biwire and biamp capable

Every company has its genesis story, be it the back of a napkin or something more grandiose. Apple, of course, is famous for starting out in Steve Jobs’s parents’ garage. Lutron’s backstory isn’t quite as well known, but its unassuming beginnings were in the bedroom founder Joel Spira and his wife intended to use as their first child’s nursery. (“Sorry, kid, you’ll have to sleep on the couch. Daddy’s got a solid-state dimmer to invent.”) Similar to Apple, Legacy Audio’s birthplace was in a garage; but this garage was far from Cupertino. Instead, it was located in the midst of the cornfield-filled upper Midwest where, according to Legacy, Bill Dudleston and “a stubborn Dutch craftsman,” Jacob Albright, built the company’s first speaker, the Legacy-1, in 1983. Thirty years later, though, what the heck does any of this have to do with Legacy Audio’s loudspeakers today? Really, who gives a flying flip about two dudes, a garage, cornfields, and some woodworking equipment? (Hmm…cornfields. Wasn’t there a movie about that? “If you build it, they will listen.”)

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 27, 2013  |  9 comments

Epic Midi 125 Speaker System
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EP125 v3 Subwoofer
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Price: $1,786 (updated 1/28/15)
At A Glance: Distinctive cabinet shapes • Revealing voicing • Sold factory direct

Merriam-Webster.com defines a cabal as “the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government),” or “a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues.” For the past 30 years, Axiom Audio has been part of a Canadian cabal of loudspeaker manufacturers secretly united in a plot to overturn bad sound—ironically, with government support. The Ontario-based company is one of several brands that sprouted from Ottawa’s National Research Council facilities where Axiom founder and president Ian Colquhoun learned the art and science of speaker design under the legendary Dr. Floyd Toole.

Why do we say “secretly united”? Axiom is one of those well-kept secrets of the audio world, and that’s partly our fault. The company has been designing and manufacturing its products in Canada, right under our North American noses, yet this is the first review we’ve done on an Axiom product in about 20 years, despite the accolades the brand has attracted in the interim. So we’re playing catch-up with this review of Axiom’s Epic Midi 125 5.1-channel speaker package, which includes two monitors and a center in the front, dedicated diffuse surrounds, and a subwoofer. Let’s just say the secret is out.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 21, 2013  |  0 comments

Tannoy Precision Speaker System
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Tannoy TS2.12 Subwoofer
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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.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 20, 2013  |  1 comments

V52 Speaker System
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Power FL-10 Subwoofer
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Price: $1,880 At A Glance: Innately musical monitors • Bipole/dipole surrounds • Powerful subwoofer

Phase Technology is one of the great American loudspeaker makers. The man behind that achievement was Bill Hecht, a genuine first-generation audio pioneer. This review can’t begin without noting his passing last fall at age 89, the end of a life devoted to bringing movies and music into both the public and private realms.

Hecht began his career as an expert in Cinemascope Stereophonic Sound, installing systems at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and other pleasure palaces. His company United Speaker Systems (USS) launched in 1955 as he hand-built speakers, including drive units, in his garage. USS got a boost when Avery Fisher offered a commission to build the first Fisher loudspeakers. Hecht earned several patents, most notably for developing the soft-dome tweeter. He also patented a self-damping woofer voice coil, a manufacturing process for flat piston drivers, silicon-injected drivers for resonance damping, and a basketless midrange/woofer mounting system.

Tom Norton  |  Apr 23, 2013  |  0 comments

KEF R900 Speaker System
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KEF R400b Subwoofer
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Price: $9,400 At A Glance: Sweet, clean highs • Big, generous soundstage • Flawless fit and finish

If you’ve been passionate about audio for more than a few years, or can name five loudspeaker companies with names that don’t rhyme with rose and begin with a B, you’ve certainly heard of KEF. In the late 1980s, KEF introduced a new concentric driver that placed the tweeter in the throat of the midrange cone. Dubbed Uni-Q, the design has been continually refined for over 20 years and remains the centerpiece of most KEF loudspeakers.

KEF today is part of a Hong Kong conglomerate...

Brent Butterworth  |  Apr 19, 2013  |  1 comments
Speakers are like karate. Subwoofers are like weightlifting. The quality of a speaker is determined by subtleties: well-chosen drivers, just-right crossover points and slopes, and a perfectly tuned, solidly constructed enclosure. The quality of a subwoofer is determined mostly by its muscle: the size of the enclosure, the displacement of its driver, and the power of its amplifier.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 19, 2013  |  1 comments

Minx S325v2 Speaker System
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X300 Subwoofer
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Price: $1,449 At A Glance: Second-gen high-end compact satellites • Mix of flat and cone drivers • Incredible dispersion

Compact cube speakers are an intriguing subset of the satellite/subwoofer speaker genre. Though not invariably high performers, cubes have achieved iconic status, and some manufacturers have made a fortune marketing them to folks whose significant others look at the diminutive geometric forms and say, “Bingo. That’s what I want your speakers to look like. Now get those big tombstones out of our den.”

Cambridge Audio has tapped into the cube mystique with its Minx sat/sub sets. In fact, the Minx has done so well that it is now a separate division of the company. Part of the Minx suc- cess story is, believe it or not, performance. The first-generation Min 10 (single cube) and Min 20 (double cube) earned rave reviews all over the place, and the single- cube version found a coveted perch on our Top Picks list.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 18, 2013  |  2 comments

Aon 2 Speaker System
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ForceField 5 Subwoofer
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Price: $3,000 At A Glance: Broad dispersion • Good power handling • Powerful subwoofer

A review is more interesting when it tells a story. How should the story of the GoldenEar Aon 2 begin? There’s the technology angle: The Aon 2 is among the few speakers on the market with an unusual pleated tweeter design that uses a squeezing motion (as opposed to a piston motion) to generate the changes in air pressure that we hear as sound waves. Because the benefits—wide horizontal dispersion and vivid imaging—are easy to describe, that would be a good way to begin. And then there’s the human interest angle: GoldenEar is the third brand to be cofounded by Baltimore-based loudspeaker impresario Sandy Gross, whose genuine love for audio is balanced by his love for gourmet food, Expressionist canvases, and ancient statuary. The only thing wrong with these angles is that reviewers hither and yon have used them so often in the past. That leaves the musical angle. Here I believe I have a variant that might qualify as an exclusive.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 03, 2013  |  First Published: Apr 02, 2013  |  0 comments
M25 Speaker System
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MSubwoofer
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Price: $3,345 At A Glance: Leather-like enclosure finish • Beefy subwoofer • Easy-listening, aggression-free treble

The question “what speakers should I buy?” is increasingly giving way to the more provocative “why should I buy stand-alone speakers at all?” Loudspeakers have to argue for their very existence in a world where consumers are logging fewer listening hours with component systems. Instead, stylish music sources such as tablets and smartphones are driving listeners toward equally stylish all-in-one wireless/docking systems and headphones. Today, the poor old loudspeaker has to work harder to attract attention. It has to convince you to buy it—oh, and one of those pesky audio/video receivers to power it.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 05, 2013  |  0 comments

Venere 2.5 Speaker System
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REL T-7 Subwoofer
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Price: $5,493 At A Glance: Shapely Italian styling • Exceptional soundstaging • Surprisingly affordable

Could this sleek, lacquer-finished, curvaceous new Sonus faber Venere loudspeaker have originated anywhere other than in Italy? Well, no and yes. With its soothing, elegant curves and glossy finish, Venere whispers “Italy,” but the scant $2,498/pair price tag of this 43pound, 3.5-foot floorstander shouts “China.”

In fact, this new Sonus faber speaker is truly an international product. It was designed in-house at Sonus faber’s Arcugnano factory near Venice, Italy—a building as stylish as the designs emanating therefrom—using bespoke drivers designed by Sonus faber.

The midwoofer and woofer cone material is curv, a proprietary self-reinforcing 100-percent polypropylene composite manufactured by Germanybased Propex, while the dome tweeter is of silk over which is applied a multi-layered Sonus-spec’d coating manufactured by DKM in Germany. Final driver production is done in China.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Feb 12, 2013  |  7 comments

MartinLogan Motion 40 Speaker System
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Dynamo 1000 Subwoofer
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Price: $4,550 (updated 3/10/15)
At A Glance: Folded Motion tweeters • Dual 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers • Custom five-way bi-wire tool-less binding posts

A couple of years ago, I took a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont. Whilst there, I heard the tour guide refer to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as super-premium. I was intrigued because: 1) I’m thinking about using it as a nickname for myself; 2) I’d never heard the term used in reference to ice cream before; and 3) I wondered if there were additional levels of premium-ness. (Ultra-super premium? Super-duper premium? Maximum-ultra-super-duper premium?) I was disappointed to discover that, although the FDA sets standards for the use of nutrient descriptors. Less air and more butter fat promotes higher premium-ness—all the way up, I assume, to the heart-valve-clogging, airless, 100-percent pure, frozen-block-of-butter-fat variety.

In the case of loudspeakers, it’s the opposite. More air and less fat—no one likes tubby bass—results in super-smooth, premium sound.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 25, 2013  |  0 comments
CL-2 Speaker System
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CLS-10 Subwoofer
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Price: $2,888 At A Glance: 180-degree cylindrical tweeter • Stable, wide-open sound • Tilted sub driver

Shape is destiny for Anthony Gallo Acoustics. The company is best known for its spherical and cylindrical speaker enclosures, made of metal and tough as tanks. But the Classico Series is the first Gallo product to use a plain rectan-gular box—for consumers, the company says, who prefer a more traditional look. Though not as curvaceous as other Gallo lines, the Classico is still available in a beautiful Cherry veneer finish, along with the more staid Black Ash veneer of our review samples. Note that the speakers are sold only through the Gallo Website: roundsound.com. The more conventional construction and factory-direct approach make the Classico models among the most affordable Gallo speakers ever.

David Vaughn  |  Jan 06, 2013  |  12 comments

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Price: $1,599 At A Glance: Outstanding value • Powerful deep bass response • Built-in parametric EQ

Since I was a little kid, I always loved going to the movie theater. I guess it started in 1977 when I watched Star Wars for the first time in Modesto, California (yeah, the place where George Lucas grew up—nice coincidence). Over the next 20 years, you’d find me at the theater at least once a week enjoying the latest blockbuster with a few friends and a bucket or two of good popcorn—the stuff that was popped in coconut oil, not the crap they sell today. Fast-forward to 1996 as I was walking through my local Circuit City and witnessed a demo of the Twister DVD on a 50-inch rear-projection television with a rudimentary surround system. Wow, was I sold in that instant! The next day, I dragged my wife to the store for the demo and informed her that we needed to start putting money away for a new TV and one of them fancy surround systems for our house.

Brent Butterworth  |  Dec 25, 2012  |  0 comments

Audiophiles know Sonus Faber as the creator of beautiful speakers handcrafted in Italy. The very name is Latin for “artisanal sound.” But as anyone who has ever visited Whole Foods Market knows, “artisanal” usually means “expensive” — and indeed, Sonus Faber speakers have always been expensive. Until now.

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