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The $ensible Choice List: Speakers and Subwoofers.

Speakers are where it's at when it comes to audio, recordings are where it's at when it comes to music, and we just hope the rest of the stuff pretty much stays out of the way, which it pretty well does. Amplifiers sound largely the same. CD players sound largely the same. Wires are wires, differing mainly in obscenity of price. But different speakers sound different; in fact, very different!

Listed below are a number of speaker models, both full-range (or, in the case of a few, "allegedly full-range") and subwoofers, listed in ascending order of price. Price (per pair, except for subwoofers) is given in parentheses, then there is an indication of when the speaker was reviewed, and by whom, followed by a brief discussion of the speaker's performance.

Although some of these speakers have appeared in the "staff picks" lists printed in previous issues, final choices were made by the editor, and I am the one who will shoulder the blame for any glaring sins of omission:

PSB Alpha A/V ($249) Reviewed by TM in Issue 75. These speakers give new meaning to the old adage, "good things come in small packages."

Dana Audio Model 1 ($250) We have not yet auditioned the current version, but earlier versions were so good that we can still recommend this as a safe bet in this price range.

Sound Dynamics RTS3 ($280) Reviewed in Issue 72 by SGB. An over-achieving little box with performance belying its price.

Mission 771 ($400) Reviewed by GK in Issue 77. Designed for wall or shelf placement. Not much bass, but excellent midrange and treble make this speaker a solid contender in this price range.

Polk Audio RT/400 ($460) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 75. A fairly straightforward two-way reflex design with a few refinements by Polk Audio that make this a nice choice in a small floorstanding speaker. More bass energy than the more-expensive RT/600, but not as much refinement overall.

Paradigm PS1000 powered bandpass subwoofer ($519) Reviewed by TAN in Issue 59. Solid output into the mid-20s at a very reasonable price. TAN called the PS1000 "the bargain of the century."

Athena Technologies S1/P1 (S1 satellites, $275/ pr; P1 woofer, $275) Reviewed by DRM in Issue 85. This inexpensive system offers great set-up flexibility; it can be used as a sub/sat system or can be configured as a pair of towers with the purchase of a second P1 woofer. Either way, it offers excellent performance for the price.

Phase Technology Teatro 7.5 ($650) Reviewed by JTF in Issue 85. An excellent, well-balanced performer at the price.

Polk Audio RT/600 ($680) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 75. Smaller but heavier than its stablemate, the RT/400, this speaker offers surprisingly sophisticated sound for the money.

Sound Dynamics RTS9 ($700) Reviewed by SGB in Issue 72. Compact floorstanding speaker with slightly tighter bass and slightly smoother treble than the previously recommended R-616.

NHT SuperTwo ($750) Reviewed by DRM in Issue 74. Pretty good imaging and overall tonal neutrality, plus a decent amount of bass for a relatively small floorstanding loudspeaker.

Velodyne CT-150 Subwoofer ($799) Reviewed by HF in Issue 79. This is an excellent sub for its price, comparing favorably with even the best Velodyne models down to about 30 Hz, and it stacks up nicely against any subs HF has reviewed in its same price class, or even a bit more costly.

Hsu Research TN1220HO Subwoofer ($900 with outboard amplifier/crossover) Reviewed by HF in Issue 67. With a smaller footprint than even the Sunfire (albeit in a much larger package overall) and excellent performance, the cylindrical Hsu is an excellent value.

Legacy Studio ($948) Reviewed by KWN in Issue 69. Fit, finish, and cabinetry superior to its competitors, plus a sense of dynamic ease and fullness of sound that belie its small size. As a bonus, the back of the speaker contains two switches, one that can be used to tame the forward treble of some recordings, the other to switch in a high-pass filter that makes the Studio easier to mate with an outboard subwoofer.

Velodyne CT Series Classic Home Theater Speaker System (Full package w/CT-80 subwoofer, $978, w/CT-120 subwoofer, $1198; five-satellite speaker package, $599; CT-80 subwoofer, $379; CT-120 subwoofer, $599) Reviewed by HF in Issue 85. With the CT-80 sub, it is a system oriented toward use in small to medium-small rooms up to about 2000 cubic feet, and in that case it will satisfy some pretty discriminating people. With the CT-120 sub, the five-satellite package will work quite well in rooms that are a fair amount larger: say up to about 2500, or even as much as 3000 cubic feet.

Atlantic Technology System T70 (Five satellites, $675; subwoofer, $375; package price, $999) Reviewed by HF in Issue 85. Works well for both music and movies. Although it does not stack it up against the best of the best in a big room, it can serve as a fine, smaller-scale, practical audio and audio-video speaker array for somebody just getting started in the surround sound/home-theater game.

Hsu Research HRSW12Va Subwoofer (w/outboard amplifier & crossover, $1,000) Reviewed by RT in Issue 67. A little more performance than the 1220 for a little more money, still plenty of bang for the buck and a truly earth-shaking bargain.

B&W ASW 2000 Subwoofer ($1,000) Reviewed by HF in Issue 73. Not quite as much oomph as the Hsu, but an excellent performer that is aesthetically more pleasing to most tastes.

PSB Stratus Mini ($1,049) Reviewed in Issues 59 and 65 by TL. Can sound slightly dull in some systems, but fine speakers overall for the price.

Acoustic Research Phantom 8.3 ($1,250) Reviewed by HF in Issue 82. These slim-line speakers are quite fashionable and attractive, making quite a fashion statement; what's more, they sound pretty good for their price.

Vandersteen 2Ce ($1,295) The Vandersteen 2 series has gone through many incarnations, but the basic design remains the same, and still sounds darned good. Not the best speaker around in any particular sonic category, but very good for the money in all sonic attributes, making it a safe choice in this price range.

NHT 2.5i ($1,300) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 66. The latest version of the venerable NHT 2.5 offers a side-firing woofer like the larger NHT models. Decent full-range sound and good imaging at a reasonable price.

Bag End Infrasub 18 ($1,495) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 77. These babies don't play really loud, but they will play REALLY DEEP!

Mach One Acoustics M-Two ($1,500) Reviewed in Issue 57 by JTF. Very clean midrange and treble, light but tight bass. Extremely robust construction.

Paradigm Monitor 90P ($1,500) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 79. The built-in subwoofer offers flexibility in adjusting to room size/placement considerations.

Paradigm Reference Servo-15 Subwoofer ($1,500) Reviewed by HF in Issue 71. Robust sound (rivaling the mighty Velodyne 18-incher at a significantly lower price) and flexible controls at a reasonable price make this powered 15" subwoofer a great value.

Paradigm Active/20 ($1,600) Reviewed by TL in Issue 74. Accurate powered monitors that offer great flexibility in system integration and placement. Combined with the Servo-15, they make one heck of a powered sub/satellite system.

Velodyne HGS-10 Subwoofer ($1,799) Reviewed by GK in Issue 84. An excellent choice for a small room

Paradigm Reference Studio/100 ($1,800) Reviewed by JMC in issue 63. Superb bottom end for a speaker of this price and size.

Sunfire True Subwoofer Signature ($1,895) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 75. A bit deeper and louder than the original, and a bit bigger--but still small.

Velodyne HGS-12 Subwoofer ($2,149) Reviewed by HF in Issue 80. This is an excellent compromise sub between the miniature HGS-10 and smaller Sunfire and Energy models that apartment dwellers might prefer at one extreme, and the and the big Paradigm, Hsu, and Velodyne models at the other. In the size-vs.-performance sweepstakes, it has to be one of the front runners, if not the front runner for serious audio enthusiasts.

Legacy Audio Point One Subwoofer ($2,200) Reviewed by KWN in Issue 79. A long-throw 15" active driver driven by a 750-watt amplifier is augmented by a long-throw 15" passive radiator in a reasonably compact box.

Atlantic Technology System 270 (271LR spkrs, $599/pr; 272PBM subwoofer, $799; 273C centerchannel, $449; 274SR surrounds, $549.00/pr; complete system, $2396) Reviewed by HF in Issue 75. An excellent system for music and movies.

Velodyne FSR-18 Subwoofer ($2,400) Its immediate predecessor, the F1800R II, was reviewed by HF in Issue 67. HF and TAN are both enthusiastic about this product, which has a more powerful amplifier than its predecessor.

Velodyne HGS-15 Subwoofer ($2,400) Reviewed by TAN in Issue 83. This is probably all the subwoofer most music lovers will ever need, and although the box is not exactly small, it is compact and attractive.

Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-II ($2,500) Reviewed by HF in issue 70. Extremely clean and focused sound with excellent imaging characteristics of the pinpoint variety. A bit shy in the deepest bass.

Coincident Speaker Technology Super Conquest Series II Supreme ($2,499) Reviewed by TL in Issue 78. Lacks the power-handling and deep bass capabilities of the Legacy Classics, but counters with excellent imaging capabilities.

NHT 2.9 ($2,500) Reviewed by TL and DMD in Issue 73. Can sound a bit bright on some material, but capable of excellent imaging and focus.

PSB Stratus Goldi ($2,549) Reviewed by JMC in Issue 73. Not outstanding in any particular performance area, but very good in every performance area. Hard to beat overall, especially at the price.

Ohm Walsh 200 Mk-2 ($2,595) Reviewed by BWV in Issue 82. The Ohms offer excellent bass performance and coherent overall sound with a wide soundstage. BWV found them a bit reticent in terms of dynamic contrasts, but in the right room (medium size), they can sound quite lifelike.

Legacy Classic ($2,695) Reviewed by TL in Issue 64 and KE in Issue 68. About 85% of the performance of the Focus at half the price. Better bass and dynamic impact than any other full-range speaker on this list short of the Focus, and gorgeous cabinetry to boot.

Polk Audio RMDS-1 Home Theater Audio System ($2,699) Reviewed by HF in Issue 80. This system is a true home-theater "package" arrangement that not only includes the satellite speakers and subwoofer, but also includes the amplification for all those speakers, and in addition, also includes the surround controller for the speakers and amp. All you need is a TV and video source (DVD player, LD player, VCR) for video work, and/or a CD player for audio (a tuner is built into the system).

Audio Advancements Maxeen ($2,700) Reviewed by KE in Issue 68. Good imaging, decent bass, and very refined overall presentation.

Audio Video Multimedia Solutions Home Theater System ($3,650) Reviewed by DMD in Issue 82. An attractive surround-sound package (mains, center-channel, surrounds, subwoofer) that offers excellent performance.

Legacy Focus ($5,400) Reviewed in issue #54 by KWN, follow-up review with Steradian processor ($888 if purchased with the Focus, $1,295 as a stand-alone unit) in Issue 79. Midrange performance rivaling the Quads; deep, clean, powerful bass; articulate, airy treble; outstanding dynamic capability; gorgeous cabinetry; and even without--but especially with--the optional Steradian processor, the ability to be tailored to sound their best in nearly any room.

Legacy Empire ($6,250) Reviewed by KWN in Issue 79. These dipolar units offer excellent, tight bass down to around 40 Hz and pinpoint imaging. In many respects, they are the poor man's Whispers.

Legacy Whisper ($12,900, price includes a dedicated Steradian processor) Reviewed by WCH in Issue 73. Does not quite match the low bass of the Focus, but has better focus overall, and an extremely broad horizontal "sweet spot." An extraordinary loudspeaker system that must be heard to be believed.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Sensible Sound
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Previous Article:Velodyne CT Series Classic Home Theater Speaker System.
Next Article:Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans: Know What I Mean? (JVC VICJ-60243).

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