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

Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master Speaker Review

Spatial Audio’s M4 Triode Master speakers deliver holographic imaging and powerful dynamics from four high-efficiency drivers mounted in a sleek panel. They are easy to drive with both low - and high-powered amplifiers, and will make engaging music with pretty much any kind of amplifier you have on hand. They are easy to place in a listening room, work well with many styles of décor, and just plain look handsome. And the qualities they deliver at their selling price are hard to beat.

Sonus Faber Sonetto VIII Speaker Review

The Sonus faber Sonetto VIII floorstanding speakers not only look like a million bucks but sound that way too. And the Sonus faber Sonetto VIII speakers aren’t even Sonus faber’s top of the line! Everyone who walked into my living room during this review had the exact same reaction to them - “Oooooooh! – What are THOSE?” Although they are quite large, they have the highest visual acceptance factor of any speakers I’ve yet reviewed, and they sound every bit as great as they look.

ELAC Debut 2.0 Home Theater Speaker System Review

How do you make a good thing better? When it comes to audio, ELAC answers this age-old question by bringing to us their recently updated Debut line of loudspeakers, now known as the Debut 2.0. What was already a widely praised entry-level series of speakers has now been thoroughly re-engineered and expanded. The goal being better overall sound, and flexibility, in a variety of installations while still providing an excellent value to the consumer.

JBL Stage A180 Loudspeaker Review

The JBL Stage A180 loudspeakers bring back the fun that JBLs have always been famous for. Tight and powerful bass, clear and articulate treble, and a presence range that “puts the singer in the room with you” are all classic JBL traits that are on display in the JBL Stage A180 speakers. Other speakers may offer more subdued frequency response and/or more polite dynamics, but they lack the fun factor of the A180. If you’re looking for a durable, well-made, and high-value speaker from one of the most esteemed names in high fidelity, look no further!

Legacy Audio Foundation Subwoofer Review

The Legacy Foundation Subwoofer has dual 12” active drivers mated to a pair of 12” super long throw passive radiators. The sub is powered by an ICEpower® Class D amp that can pump out 30 amperes of current (1,000 watts power rating). The cabinet design is like a tower which maintains a small footprint.

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.