SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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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.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 31, 2019  |  5 comments

Premier 700F Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Defiance X-12 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,700 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp detail
Big, powerful sound
Minus
Tower unstable on thick carpet
Poorly designed grilles

THE VERDICT
The Premier range is far from the most expensive in Paradigm's speaker lineup, but the performance and build quality that it offers lets it compete with speakers twice the price.

The other day a friend who's neither a videophile nor an audiophile dropped by my home to watch a movie. A pair of loudspeakers I had just finished reviewing for Stereophile, our sister publication, were sitting in a corner, waiting to be packed up. When I told him their price—$6,000/pair—he appeared shocked. Even Paradigm's affordable new 700F speakers, then as now serving as the left/right channels in my system, are pricier than he would like were he to invest in a system of his own (unlikely!).

Michael Trei  |  Dec 26, 2018  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,099.95

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Versatile configuration options
Excellent iOS/Android control app
Music and movie optimization modes
Minus
Wireless module costs extra
Only available in black finish

THE VERDICT
The Dynamo 1100X subwoofer's impressive performance is enhanced by room correction, flexible setup options, and an excellent control app.

When I was a kid, the closest thing my family had to a remote control was me. As the youngest child, it was my job to get up off my butt and turn the knob if someone wanted to watch a different TV channel. Today, it seems that just about any device that plugs in can be remotely operated with a clicker from the comfort of your chair, but a subwoofer? Isn't that the kind of set-and-forget product that completely takes care of itself? As it turns out, remote control adjustment, a key feature of MartinLogan's revamped Dynamo line, can be a really handy feature in a subwoofer, but we'll talk more on that in a bit.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 15, 2018  |  0 comments
It’s about freaking time. Amazon has just released the Echo Sub’ a subwoofer that pairs with a single or stereo pair of Echo smart speakers to finally address the bottom line. It’s a fact: small speakers can’t produce impactful bass, so the Echo Sub does the job. The past few years have seen an influx of small smart speakers that are certainly convenient, but not a single one had a decent bass response. Finally, Amazon has addressed the problem, and in my opinion, hit it out of the park.

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.

David Vaughn  |  May 10, 2018  |  21 comments

Monolith 15"
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value

Monolith 12"
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $800, $1,300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean, copious, and articulate bass
Outstanding build quality
Five-year replacement warranty
Minus
No parametric equalizer
No app control
Extremely heavy

THE VERDICT
Entry into the crowded internet-direct subwoofer market is a bold move from Monoprice, but the performance of these subs will surely make some waves and breed some fierce competition.

Reproducing a movie soundtrack in a home environment isn’t an easy task. At your local cinema, the theater will hopefully have sound dampening so you don’t hear outside noise. And if you’re lucky, the system will be calibrated properly and provide enough headroom so there’s no clipping or distortion during the dynamic portions of the soundtrack.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Apr 26, 2018  |  1 comments

In-Wall Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SuperSub X Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $7,250 (10-piece system as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rotatable pleated tweeter for horizontal orientation
2½-way design
High performance-to-cost ratio
Minus
Horizontal installation requires modification of wall stud

THE VERDICT
With the Invisa Signature Point Source in-wall speakers, GoldenEar Technology has introduced an in-wall speaker with a performance-to-price ratio that rivals in-room competitors.

Just as not everyone prefers to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, there are some people who don’t like to have tower speakers standing at attention (and drawing attention) in their family’s living room. At our family’s traditional Thanksgiving chow-down (at Christmas, we have a ho-ho-hoedown), we serve baked ham as an alternative to the delicious, funny-looking bird the rest of us enjoy. (Those who don’t like either choice get bread and water.)

David Vaughn  |  Apr 23, 2018  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding bass response
Onboard parametric EQ
Useful remote and smartphone app Uncommon form factor
Minus
Lacks auto-calibration
Uncommon form factor

THE VERDICT
If floor space is an issue but you still want subterranean bass response, the PC-4000 is the perfect choice.

SVS has been a staple in the home theater industry for 20 years now, and I’ve been a proud owner of one of the company’s PC-Ultra cylindrical subwoofers for the past 13-plus years. When I was introduced to the brand, I remember taking a lot of heat from my wife for putting a “scratching post” in our family room. When she heard it for the first time, though, she realized that no cat in its right mind would ever go near the beast!

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.)

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 19, 2017  |  3 comments

M16 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

B10 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,050 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High transparency
Equalized subwoofer
Wall-hanging surrounds
Minus
Manual sub EQ requires expertise

THE VERDICT
Revel draws on Harman’s world-class engineering depth to produce immaculate high-end sound—this time, at an extremely reasonable price.

Audiophiles (myself included) often point out that high-end audio is stigmatized compared with other product categories. High-end cars, high-end wine, high-end watches: All attract aficionados who don’t mind paying a stiff premium to get the best of the best. And if an average onlooker ventures an opinion at all, it’s “nice watch!” But when a bleeding-edge speaker or amp takes the stage, the applause of the cognoscenti mixes with heckling from the peanut gallery. High-end audio has long been subject to that extra measure of skepticism.

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