Introduction to Speaker Reviews

Speakers, or Loudspeakers, are a most influential component of an audio system. Regardless of advances in digital signal processing and amplification, speakers will always be an inherently analogue, mechanical component. They have the potential to last not years but decades and as such a purchase decision carries more weight than that of other AV components. There is a tremendous array of speaker designs, including acoustic suspension, ported, band pass, transmission line to name but the most common. There is also diverse transducer technology. The vast majority of speakers will include a high frequency driver, called a tweeter, coupled with one or more low frequency drivers, called woofers. On more advanced models a mid-range driver may also be used. The signal sent to the speakers is divided by the crossover, a collection of electrical components which separates the high, middle, and low frequencies and sends them to the respective transducer.

Active (aka self-powered) speakers are speakers with their own integrated amplification. Active speakers have tremendous potential, when designed and executed properly, to achieve pinnacle performance for a variety of reasons. Superior results can be obtained with relatively lower amplification as compared to passive speakers because the power can be used more efficiently. The crossover will almost always come before amplification, feeding multiple amplifier channels, one for each driver within a single speaker (ie the tweeter and woofer each get their own amplifier). Further, because the speaker driver and amp characteristics are known, each can be optimized for the other (contrast this with conventional speakers where each must be designed to work well, but perhaps not ideally, with a myriad possible variations).

Most audiophiles wrongly assume that the amplification inside an active speaker couldn’t possibly be as good as giant, expensive, external boxes so active speakers don’t enjoy as much popularity in the consumer space as they should (subwoofers being the exception), but are by a wide margin the standard in professional mixing and monitoring setups.

Most active speakers will feature one or more line level inputs and at least an amplifier gain control. Better models will include contour controls and other sound tailoring features

Speakers may be designed for general use, or for more specific implementation such as a particular channel in a multi-channel audio system, or a specific frequency range such as a dedicated bass module, known as a sub-woofer.

Our focus when evaluating speakers is on accuracy, both in terms of frequency response and transient response. We use objective measurements when possible, including quasi-anechoic measurements and impedance sweeps, coupling that with subjective “real world” auditioning.

Review Categories

Speaker Reviews

Audioengine HD6 Powered Speakers

Audioengine HD6 Powered Speakers Review

The HD6’s are the newest powered speakers from Audioengine. They include a high quality internal DAC as well as a Bluetooth receiver with aptX. These beauties have real wood finished, Class A/B amplification and will surprise you with their bass response, staging and dynamics.

OPPO Sonica Wi-Fi Speaker Review

OPPO Sonica Wi-Fi Speakers Review

Sonica marks OPPO’s first venture into wireless audio speakers. With so many wonderful products produced by OPPO in the past, the Sonica carries great expectations. Today I’ll shed some light on whether Sonica is a worthy player in the high-end...

Polk Audio T50 Speakers Review

Polk Audio T50 Speakers Review

When the Secrets Team contacted me about reviewing a pair of new Polk Audio speakers I got excited because I felt like I was going to see an old friend. Back in the 1980’s I sold Polk Audio at the audio store I worked at. I have fond memories of that time. I met Mathew Polk (and Golden Ear maven Sandy Gross who was with Polk at the time) before the famous Polk SDA era. Back then the Polk 5, 7, and 10 models were a super value for audiophiles on a budget. A good, fun bunch of guys worked with Polk back then. Polk was establishing themselves as a no nonsense, give the consumer a great speaker at a great price company. So I was curious to see if the latest Polk speaker would be like a similar value of its famous predecessors.

Revel PERFORMA3 M106 2-Way Bookshelf Monitor Loudspeaker Review – Part Three

Revel PERFORMA3 M106 2-Way Bookshelf Monitor Loudspeaker Review – Part Three

A mini-monitor is an ideal solution for a small room. I look at placement issues in depth. As in the large room excellent performance requires a speaker with optimal ANSI/CEA-2034 curve sets. I show the Revel M106 achieves the same performance, matching in-room response curve of the large room. This is a result of it excellent measured performance in the ANSI/CEA-2034 curve set. Lower frequency room modes extend in-room low end...

Zvox Soundbar SB 500 Review

Zvox Soundbar SB 500 Review

The Zvox Soundbar SB 500 is a new attempt by the company that created the first soundbar to bring the promise of high performance surround sound to new levels in a single cabinet. The Zvox Soundbar SB 500 features new voice enhancing technology along with quality speaker drivers, a powerful amp, and an aluminum cabinet.

HSU Research ULS-15 MKII Subwoofer Review

HSU Research ULS-15 MKII Subwoofer Review

One of the original Internet-direct subwoofer manufacturers, Hsu Research is well-known within the home theater and audio community. For over 20 years, their products have been leaders in the realm of high performance for relatively low cost. On hand today is the new ULS-15 MKII – a sealed subwoofer with a large 15-inch driver.