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

BlueSound PULSE Soundbar & Subwoofer

BlueSound PULSE Soundbar & Subwoofer Review

The Bluesound PULSE Soundbar and Subwoofer are the latest products from the Lenbrook Group’s wireless speaker company. With much of our media consumption coming from streaming services, cloud storage, or our own local digital storage, wireless streaming speakers have become quite popular. Bluesound and competitors like Sonos seek to provide an ecosystem in your home for consuming media via their wireless amplified speakers.

MartinLogan Cadence Soundbar

MartinLogan Cadence Soundbar and Dynamo 700w Subwoofer Review

Soundbars come in many different sizes and configurations, but the new MartinLogan Cadence offers many more features that set it apart from the competition. With assistance from the MartinLogan Dynamo 700w subwoofer, the Cadence offers excellent sound quality for both movies and music. Add to that wireless network connectivity, three HDMI inputs, one HDMI out, two optical, and two RCA inputs with a sub out and you have the fixings for a veritable “Swiss Army Knife” of soundbars.

Bluesound Pulse 2 All-In-One Streaming Music System

Whole-house audio gets easier and better with each new product introduction. Today I’m looking at the Bluesound Pulse 2 All-In-One Streaming Music System. It combines a BluOS streaming player with a DirectDigital tri-amplifier, premium speakers, and support for nearly every music format including MQA. It’s the ultimate in convenience, quality sound, and high-end styling. The lifestyle audio product genre may have to shoot for a newly elevated benchmark.

Sonus faber Principia 3 Bookshelf Speakers Review

Renowned Italian speaker manufacturer Sonus faber, famous for producing stunningly beautiful (and expensive) hand-made speakers, has come to the table with their first true budget speaker line – the Principia. On hand for review here is the Principia 3, the larger of two bookshelf models in the line.

Mass Fidelity Core Review

Mass Fidelity Core Review

The Mass Fidelity Core is an attempt to bring holographic, stereo sound from a single, small speaker that connects to Bluetooth sources. Mass Fidelity utilizes advanced acoustic technology to produce outstanding sound, and smart design to deliver a whole house audio solution.

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.