Price: $4,494 At A Glance: Distinctive angular form makes for an un-boxy look • All drivers utilize Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragms • Subwoofer has bloat-killing EQ and wireless option
Where ideas are concerned,” the late George Carlin said, “America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.” Many loudspeaker manufacturers tend to follow one of these two trains of thought, with results that range from staid to disheartening. But there is a third path, the one that Infinity Systems follows, and it will take more than a sentence to summarize, period, enter, tab.
I'd like to admit something up front—I'm the sort of reviewer who's easily swayed by the sight of attractive gear. There, I said it, and I feel a little guilty about it. Sadly, I may have missed out on some great-sounding but drab-looking products over the years, including a number of Boston Acoustics speakers. So I was pleasantly surprised by the company's gorgeous new VS Series speakers when they were unveiled in New York City a few months ago.
Price: $3,769 At A Glance: Three-way center for superior dialogue intelligibility • Awesome room-filling surrounds • Classy good looks
Life’s Too Short for Bad Shoes
Buy a pair of shoes online that don’t fit quite right, and it’s easy enough to box them back up for the round-trip refund. You wouldn’t think you could say the same about a 70-pound speaker like the Aperion Intimus 6T, but mailorder company Aperion Audio makes it almost as easy. The Portland, Oregon–based company manufactures in China and purports to pass the savings on to you. Aperion wants you to be 100-percent satisfied, so it gives you 30 days to try the speakers at home. The company will even pick up shipping costs both ways if you decide not to keep the speakers. So even if you can’t go to a store to listen to them, Aperion speakers are a no-risk purchase. Still, six boxes full of speakers worth almost $4,000 is hardly an impulse buy like a $39 pair of Converse All Star Sailor Jerry high tops on eBay, so listen up.
Founded in 1972, UK-based Monitor Audio has long produced speakers that offered good value, from its low-end Bronze line, starting at around $325 for a pair of two-way bookshelf models and extending up to $4500/pair for the company's priciest Gold Signature model. Even that is not an outrageous price for an upscale design in today's speaker market. The number of current speaker lines topping out at over $20k/pair, however, would be alarming if it weren't counterbalanced by excellent speakers selling for a fraction of that price.
Dynaudio is, first and foremost, an audiophile speaker company, but one that also makes superb home-theater speakers. Wait, that implies it makes separate audiophile and home-theater lines, which is not really true. Dynaudio speakers excel with music and home theater.
Price: $15,195 At A Glance: Gorgeous custom finishes • Pure beryllium tweeters deliver incredible detail • Outstanding dynamics
Paradigm Elevates the Art
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a demonstration of Paradigm’s Signature Reference Series at its quasi-premiere at Definitive Audio in Bellevue, Washington. I’d been a long-time fan of Paradigm’s Reference line of loudspeakers, and I was excited to see its new flagship paired with Anthem’s Statement products.
German products are usually associated with precision performance and high quality. When you think of brands such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz cars or Rolleiflex cameras, meticulous attention to detail and quality construction are probably the first impressions that come to mind. A budget price not so much.
Nowadays, it seems like I can't write a review without acknowledging the impact of flat-screen TVs on speaker design. Today's speakers have a tough assignment—they better be super-model thin and still have what it takes to belt out heavyweight home-theater sound.
I've reviewed hundreds of speakers, and back when I was selling high-end audio, I auditioned many hundreds more. Summing up those experiences, here's what I've learned: They all sound different, but some sound more "right" than others.
The world is full of loudspeakers and their manufacturers. Try as I might, I can’t review them all, and normally I have no problem with my limitations. But where Mordaunt-Short is concerned, a feeling of having missed the boat haunts me. Given the quality of the Alumni sat/sub set I reviewed in March (my first review of a Mordaunt-Short product), how could I have missed out on such a stellar company, especially one with a 40-year pedigree?
Every audio reviewer thinks back on specific products and sometimes wishes that he or she bought them following the review. For me, one such product was the Polk RT3000p. The two-piece speaker featured a powered subwoofer, with the mid-tweeter section perched on top in a separate cabinet. The system had a gutsy, meaty quality to it that beautifully suited movie soundtracks.
Not long ago, large floorstanding speakers were preferred—practically required—to get the sonic performance demanded by audiophiles and home-theater fans. Smaller speakers simply couldn't adequately reproduce the wide dynamic range and clarity of today's high-resolution digital sources.
The home-theater market's love affair with big displays and skinny speakers hasn't peaked just yet—screen girths are still expanding and speakers are on the verge of anorexia. The folks at EMP (Engineered Music Products) were hip to that fact when they cooked up the seriously svelte HTP-551T speaker package.
Speakers come and go in my listening room—as I persist in calling it, although it also includes a front-projection system, an LCD HDTV, and my home office. But there’s one review I relive every day. And that’s my rave review of era’s Design 4 speaker system, which appeared in our April 2006 issue. Why? Because I have only to look at my desk, where of course I’m typing this now, and there they are, the Eras, on either side of my recently and joyously installed 24-inch NEC monitor. When I do YouTube, this trusty pair of the Design 4 does the honors, along with an Onix OA21S integrated amp and a Pinnacle Baby Boomer sub.