The $3,000 Speaker Derby What Do You Think?

What Do You Think?

Auditioning speakers in a Face Off is such a subjective affair. For some reason, this one was more difficult than other speaker Face Offs we've done, and I repeatedly requested that Chris go back and replay many tracks. First off, the PSBs provided wonderful imaging, and I loved them with the higher frequencies in the Holly Cole track. Next up were the fast, accurate Dynaudios. While watching Saving Private Ryan, I had to ask Chris if he was positive these weren't THX-certified (I hadn't looked at the surround channels) because they did such a fabulous job with movie-soundtrack reproduction, especially the action scenes. Next we listened to the B&Ws. These engaging speakers provided very good bass. They made the Stones' "Brown Sugar" come alive with you-are-there concert realism. Rounding out the pack were the Phase Tech speakers, which I thought were just very good all-around speakers; the words "value for the money" kept springing to mind. If I have to choose a fave, it would probably be the B&Ws. They nailed it for me with the Stones track, and watching concerts is a big part of my viewing habits. You'd be far better served to purchase any of these systems versus a puny HTIB, no matter what the sales guy pushes toward you.—Maureen Jenson

This one was very close. I'd pick the B&Ws first, mostly because I felt they weren't too bad in any one area. They weren't perfect, by any means; however, for the best compromise between music and movies, these fit the bill. I picked the Dynaudios second because their tweeter seemed to be the best in the Face Off. For movies, though, the sub just didn't have enough punch. The Phase Techs were a close third, mostly because their top end rolled off a little more than I like. They blended well with the sub, though. The PSBs probably measure quite well, but they seemed too polite and lacked bass. All in all, the speakers did pretty well for the money; depending on your sound preferences, one of these speakers could easily appeal to you. The subs, on the other hand, were far less than impressive.—Geoffrey Morrison

After three video and two audio Face Offs, I've concluded that I trust my eyes more than my ears. Not that my ears have ever failed me, but this is the second time I've participated in a Chris Lewis Face Off and not been able to pick a clear winner. Each speaker system had a specific characteristic that it handled better than the others. Overall, I'd pick the B&W system. I liked their bass on the Three Pickers selection, and I was immediately immersed during the Saving Private Ryan beach scene. Holly Cole's vocals sounded more vivid, as well.—Amy Carter

Was there one good all-around system in this Face Off? No, but I would say this: For movies, use the B&Ws; for music, the Dynaudios. The B&Ws easily had the best bass response. I could really feel the deep booms, but there was definitely a sacrifice up top. Sonically, the Dynaudios match each other incredibly well. This is great for movies, but where's the bass? I love hearing bullets whiz by, but not without bombs dropping. That said, the Dynaudios were fantastic for music, especially jazz or classical. Rock music didn't sound as good, but it was far from terrible. The delineation of instruments was clear, and the highs were clean.—John Higgins

Picking a winner is particularly difficult for me in this case, as these are four of my favorite systems at this price—which is how they ended up in this Face Off in the first place. With music, the B&Ws and Dynaudios did seem to have the advantage on this day, in this room, with these electronics behind them. That is especially impressive in the case of the Dynaudios, as they were the smallest in the group. But the PSBs, with help from the towers in front, had the most presence with music and the most spacious soundstage. The Phase Techs' musical skills are a major reason I put them in here. The results were expectedly similar with movies: The B&Ws and Dynaudios were crisp and accurate, the PSBs were the most dominating from top to bottom, and the Phase Techs put out strong, tight bass and a deep, well-developed stage.—Chris Lewis