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

Revel Performa M126Be Bookshelf Speaker Review

The Performa M126Be loudspeakers are part of Revel’s popular Performa series. The Revel Performa M126Be speakers are bookshelf-sized and are intended to be stand-mounted. Although the speakers can serve as side or rear surrounds, their price and performance make it unlikely that too many will be used for that purpose. These are superior speakers for smaller rooms where articulation, detail, and imaging are the main goals.

Paradigm Monitor SE 5.0 Speaker Review

Paradigm has designed the Monitor SE Speaker Series to bring their signature sound quality to the budget-minded audio enthusiast. Much of the technology that goes into their high-end Persona series has trickled down into the Monitor SEs, such as the X-PAL™ Pure-Aluminum Dome Tweeters with exclusive Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens.

Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos® Speaker System

The Focal Sib Evo Dolby Amos Speaker System does the almost impossible - a big speaker room filling sound with small drivers. This is not an easy engineering feat, but for small to medium size rooms the Focal Sib Evo Speaker system offers 5.1.2 sound with a deep low end and those important height channels without cutting up your ceiling.

Emotiva Airmotiv T2 Floor Standing and C2 Center Channel Loudspeaker Review

Emotiva’s Airmotiv T2 towers and C2 center channel speaker are very impressive, competing favorably with products costing far more. Despite their industrial looks, the Emotiva Airmotiv T2 and C2 speakers not only excel at home theater, but the towers are some of the most articulate stereo speakers around. Two eight-inch woofers in each cabinet can energize large rooms at high volumes while producing such deep bass that a subwoofer may not even be needed. The air-motion-transformer tweeters are clean and extended without sounding strident. This level of performance at such a low price is rare.

KEF LS50W Powered Music System Review

The KEF LS50W (“W” for wireless) is a fully active set of bookshelf speakers based on KEF’s award-winning LS50 compact reference monitors. For an extra $700, the $2199 LS50W looks to add a ton of value and performance, including dual-mono bi-amplification, wireless streaming, upsampling D/A converters, full DSP controls, a dedicated app, and a remote control.

NAD T 758 V3 AV Surround Sound Receiver Review

If you need a new receiver to support Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos, you might want to check out NAD’s new T 758 V3 AV Surround Sound Receiver. For $1300 you get HDMI 2.0 with Ultra HD, Dolby Atmos, and Dirac Live room correction. Couple that with NAD’s devotion to clean, neutral sound with an honest 60 watts-per-channel times seven, and you might have just found a new anchor for your home theater or media room entertainment system.

Vizio SB4051-D5 5.1-Channel Sound Bar Review

While I love the sound quality that a full-bore home theater system offers, sometimes all a user really needs is simplicity. Whether for a bedroom system, or a small family room or den, sound bars answer the call of many users by offering good sound and great ease of use in a very cost-effective package. The Vizio SB4051-D5 Sound Bar System takes things a bit further, as it is a true 5.1 channel package with a dedicated subwoofer and real surround speakers.

NHT C3 Bookshelf Speaker Review

The NHT C3 is a compact 3-way bookshelf speaker with a dome midrange and acoustic suspension cabinet. The C3 replaces NHT's best-selling Classic Three. NHT claims the C3 offers a modest sound quality improvement over the Classic Three, along with improved serviceability and sturdiness.

Audio Physic Step Plus Loudspeaker Review

The Audio Physic Step plus combines this well-respected companies’ knowledge of building larger speakers, to offer a transducer designed for a smaller room with not just high-end aspirations, but a true high-end speaker that will satisfy discriminating users.