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The sensible choice list: speakers and subwoofers. (Staff Picks).

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--and the same speakers can sound different, very different in different rooms or at different places in the same room.

Listed below are a number of speaker models listed in ascending order of price, followed by a listing of surround-sound package systems, then subwoofers. Price (per pair for stereo systems) is given in parentheses, followed by an indication of when and by whom the speaker was reviewed, and 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.

Stereo Pairs:

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."

NHT SB-1 ($300) Reviewed by HF in Issue 90. The replacement for the venerable Super Zero does not really have enough bass to be used full-range, but combined with NHT's SW-10 subwoofer, the result is excellent overall sound.

PSB Image 2B ($399.95) Reviewed by KE in Issue 89. Clean, supple midrange; unaffected highs; and a generous helping of mid-bass with the barest hint of deep bass. The 2Bs are musical speakers, apparently gimmick-free, whose strengths belie their price.


Athena Technologies S1/P1 (S1 satellites, $275/pr; P1 woofer, $275) Reviewed by DRM in Issue 85. This inexpensive system offers great setup 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.


NHT SB-3 ($600) Reviewed by HF in Issue 90. The replacement for the Super One offers flat response and a hint of bass in a bookshelf-sized unit.


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


NHT ST-4 ($1,000) Reviewed by HF in Issue 90. Outstanding treble performance and adequate bass in a compact floor-standing system.


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.

Legacy Audio Studio ($1,095) 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.

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.

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 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.

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

Dunlavy Audio Labs SM-1 ($1,995) Reviewed by JTF in Issue 86. Clean, focused sound. Need to be mounted off the floor. If you want to bring the bottom end of the spectrum up, you will likely need a powered subwoofer with an adjustable electronic crossover to avoid boosting the lows to an unrealistic level or extending them too high.

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 [Gold.sup.i] ($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.

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

Legacy Audio Classic ($3,175) Reviewed by TL in Issue 64 and KE in Issue 68. About 2/3 of the performance of the Focus at just over 1/2 the price. Better bass and dynamic impact than any other full-range speaker on this list short of the Signature IIIs, and gorgeous cabinetry to boot.


Legacy Audio Signature III ($3,950) Reviewed by GK in Issue 91. Excellent bass performance that can be tailored to the room with the optional ($1,195) Step One Environmental Processor, and several switches that allow the midrange and treble to be matched to the room make this a big-sounding speaker that can work in both large and small environments.

Dunlavy Audio Labs Cantata ($5,000) Reviewed by HF in Issue 87. Three-way systems with truly flat frequency response above 250 Hz and adequate if not spectacular bass performance. Excellent pinpoint imaging with well-recorded material.

Legacy Focus 20/20 ($6,000) Review by KWN forthcoming. Every driver in the Focus has been changed in this updated model, with some corresponding changes in the crossover setup, making the midrange even more open and the bass both tighter and more powerful. What has not changed is the outstanding dynamic capability, gorgeous cabinetry, and ability to be tailored to sound their best in nearly any room, especially with the optional Step One processor.

Legacy AudioWhisper ($14,500, price includes a dedicated Step One processor) Reviewed by WCH in Issue 73. Does not match the low bass of the Focus, but has better imaging overall, and an extremely broad horizontal "sweet spot." An extraordinary loudspeaker system that must be heard to be believed.

Surround-sound Systems:

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.


Atlantic Technology System 170 (5.1 system, $1,496; 7.1 system, $1,825; 171 LR [front channel], $329/pair; 172 PBM [subwoofer], $599; 173 C [center channel], $239; 174 SR [surrounds], $329/pair) Reviewed by KE in Issue 89. An affordable home theater system that does a great job of reproducing cinematic sound.

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

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 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.


Parts Express Subwoofer Kit ($350) Reviewed by JTF in Issue 90. You won't get earthshaking bass with this 10" unit, but if you are willing to do some assembly, this subwoofer can be a Sensible choice if you want to add bass to small satellite speakers for a stereo or home theater system at a low price.


PSB Alpha Subsonic 5 ($449) Reviewed by KE in Issue 88. Sporting a 10" driver powered by a 65-watt amp, this is not quite a full-blown subwoofer, but it does offer an excellent way to add bass to a small system such as those used in offices or bedrooms.


SV Subwoofers 20-39cs Passive Subwoofer ($479) Reviewed by TAN in Issue 86. A great value on a dB per-$ basis. But it's not necessarily as inexpensive as it looks on paper. You will need an amplifier and electronic filter. However, if you have a spare amplifier channel and your receiver has a built-in crossover (such as in all Dolby Digital receivers), you can get world-class bass for under $500. That's a fantastic deal.

Hsu VTF-2 Powered Subwoofer ($500) Reviewed by HF in Issue 88. A great value for a small-to-moderate room. May be as much subwoofer as many music lovers will ever need.


SV Subwoofers 16-46PC ($849) Reviewed by HF in Issue 88. In terms of maximum-output abilities and extension uniformity, it is capable of holding its own down to 30 Hz or a bit below that frequency with units such as the Velodyne F1800RII, Hsu TN1220HO, and Paradigm Servo 15. It should be able to do justice to both home-theater and musical program sources in all but the largest home-listening environments.

Hsu Research TN1220HO ($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.

Hsu Research HRSW12Va (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.

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!

Paradigm Reference Servo-15 ($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.

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


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 ($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.


Legacy Audio Point One ($2,400) Reviewed by KWN in Issue 79 (with a review forthcoming on the new metal-coned revised version). A long-throw 15" active driver powered by a 750-watt amplifier is augmented by a long-throw 15" passive radiator in a reasonably compact box. The most sheer SPL capability in this entire list.


Velodyne HGS-15 ($2,400) Reviewed by TAN in Issue 83. This (or the Legacy above) is probably all the subwoofer most music lovers will ever need, and although the box is not exactly small, it is compact and attractive.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Sensible Sound
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Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Evaluation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Previous Article:Home theater musings.
Next Article:More jazz than not. (The Music).

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