Price: $795 per pair
Ron said: Anthony Gallo Acoustics’ Classico CL-2 is a reasonably priced, well-made bookshelf loudspeaker that, while requiring a bit more tweaking than I’m accustomed to, gave a very good account of itself, presenting a wide, spacious soundstage with very good to excellent imaging cues. Though not a detailmeister, it was quite pleasant to listen through, finding the “good” in even questionable recordings.
The gist: Classic round sound from a box speaker.
Price: $790 per pair
Hans said: It’s an attractive and thoughtfully designed package that purports to be nothing other than what it is. It forgoes deep bass to focus on producing an expansive, evenhanded sound with admirable imaging. And with its ten-year warranty on drivers and 30-day guarantee, with free shipping both ways, the interested listener can sample a pair without risk. Bearing in mind Aperion’s return rate of less than 5%, the odds heavily favor the 5T making only a one-way trip.
The gist: Very nice little floorstander for the money.
Price: $399 per pair
Hans said: In juggling many considerations in its 5+, Audioengine has contrived to not drop one. As well executed as it is well designed, this attractive bookshelf speaker is a thoroughly practical product that worked, and worked well, practically right out of the box. You could spend the same amount of money on a pair of passive bookshelf speakers and perhaps get better sound. You could invest in an identically priced pair of active speakers and get similar sound. But the 5+ combines quality sound with an attractiveness and remote-controlled, multiple-input convenience that separates it from its competitors. Emphatically recommended.
The gist: The powered monitor to beat at its price.
Price: $2998 per pair
Roger said: When I reviewed the Definitive Technology Mythos STS SuperTower loudspeaker, I was impressed by how good it sounded, especially considering its slim, good looks. I was even more impressed by the excellent performance of Definitive’s new BP-8080ST SuperTower. By any standard, both are exceptional speakers. Those who might dismiss the Mythos STS because of its “lifestyle” look will miss out on a great speaker. Those who might dismiss the BP-8080ST because of its bipolar design or other reasons will miss out on an even better one.
The gist: Big speaker, big sound, not-so-big price.
Price: $398 per pair
Roger said: The Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 45 is an excellent combination of performance and value in an entry-level loudspeaker. It offers a clean midrange, and smooth high frequencies that provide a high level of performance and musicality. It also has enough bass and power-handling capability to play loud enough when my listening sessions get a bit rowdy. All of this is packaged in an attractive bookshelf design at the ridiculously low price of $199 each.
The gist: Ridiculous value for money.
Price: $598 per pair
Philip said: If you like solid bass, clear-cut imaging, and a clean, open midrange, but don’t have the room and/or the money for bigger speakers, Definitive Technology’s StudioMonitor 55 could be what you’ve been waiting for. It does many things well for the audiophile on a budget, and doesn’t take a back seat to speakers costing even multiples of its price.
The gist: Sound quality unheard of at this price just a few years ago.
Price: $2450 per pair
Brooke said: I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Dynaudio Focus 110 A. It offered a beguiling combination of smoothness, accuracy, and transient speed with low-end extension and dynamic capabilities that belied its small size. The price of $2450/pair is reasonable for what the Focus 110 A does, but the fact that the speaker includes four channels of amplification tailor-made for the drive-units they’re connected to makes them a relative bargain.
The gist: Very good all-around powered monitor from a speaker-making powerhouse.
Price: $4900 per pair
Aron said: It has proven to be a highly dynamic, emotive model that offers a great deal of innovative technology and quality engineering in a compact package. The combination of uncanny bass control, velvety midrange, and top-end sweetness is as addictive as melted chocolate on a New York cheesecake.
The gist: Maybe Dynaudio’s greatest strength is in their mid-sized floorstanders.
Price: $2300 per pair
Jeff said: The Xeo 3 system is about functionality. It’s also an impressive technology whose time seems to have come. Dynaudio has combined excellent sound quality, good build quality, good looks, and versatility with the technical demands of the day. Listeners now have a viable option for ridding themselves of all those components and tangles of cable cluttering their entertainment centers. The Xeo 3 is a standard-setting system.
The gist: Powered, wireless, and really good.
Price: $2200 per pair
Ron said: The Elemental Designs EL8.3t impresses both visually and sonically, should earn additional points by some for having the temerity to be made here in the good ol’ US of A, is constructed with environmentally friendly materials, and is large enough that even non-audiophile friends won’t doubt that a pair is worth its eminently reasonable price of $2200.
The gist: A good basic floorstander.
Price: $469 per pair
Thom said: The Fluance XL7F is an incredible value that’s worth every cent of $469.99/pair -- and far more. In fact, Fluance could easily raise the speaker’s price by quite a bit and still be offering the deal of the year.
The gist: Just a stupid-good-value Internet-direct speaker.
Price: $1599 per pair
Philip said: The pair of them sounded wonderful with all varieties of music, and did a very good job of extracting detail without sounding too dry or analytical. If you’re in the market for new speakers and want something that will make a bold visual statement while bringing your music collection to life, listen to a pair of Focal’s Chorus 807 W Prestiges.
The gist: Trickle-down loudspeaker technology at its best.
Price: $4499 per pair
Doug said: Focal’s Chorus 836 W Prestige is a distinctively styled, wonderfully voiced speaker that offers plenty of performance for its price. It’s a very good deal.
The gist: Focal’s version of the high-value floorstander.
Price: $999.98 per pair
Doug said: Through clever engineering, the GoldenEar designers have created a speaker that plays bigger than its compact enclosure suggests, and sounds far more natural, detailed, and refined than most would think possible, given the low price and disparate drivers. I could praise many of the Aon 3’s qualities -- its effortless highs and ample bass, its finely detailed and natural midrange, its astonishingly spacious soundstage -- but what bowled me over was how well the outputs of its tweeter, midrange-woofer, and passive radiators integrated to create a big yet sophisticated sound that can compare with those of well-designed speakers at much higher prices.
The gist: An affordable stand-mount speaker that sounds like something larger and more expensive.
Price: $2000 per pair
Hans said: With a peach of a folded-ribbon tweeter and a powered bass section that should obviate the need of a subwoofer for all but the most depraved bass junkies, the Triton Three is as forgiving of low-powered amps as of harsh recordings. It won’t move heaven and earth in quite the manner that some other reviewers have claimed, but for $2000/pair, I’m not sure you can buy a more complete loudspeaker.
The gist: Solid-value speakers for two grand.
Price: $2599.98 per pair
Doug said: The KEF R500 is a great-sounding loudspeaker by any measure. The fact that its price is so low simply makes it all that much better.
The gist: Profound performance for the price.
Price: $2195 per pair
Hans said: The ElectroMotion ESL is the gateway product to MartinLogan’s more expensive electrostatic designs, and it’s easy to hear why they’ve stubbornly stood by the design, much in the way Mazda stood by its idiosyncratic rotary engine. Like the Wankel, the ElectroMotion isn’t perfect, but its qualities are manifest to my ears. There is no other product like it at or near its $2195/pair price. I suspect that many listeners who hear it will then find more traditional speaker designs to be irrelevant.
The gist: If you can’t afford a larger ‘Logan.
Price: $1900 per pair
Philip said: The Motion 40 is an exciting speaker, due in no small part to its upfront sound, meaty bass, and clear highs. While some listeners might not appreciate that kind of character, others will enjoy the fact that it holds nothing back, and has an amazing ability to grab the attention with its more in-your-face sound. Combine that with its wonderful fit and finish and nice attention to detail, and I expect MartinLogan’s new Motion 40 will generate considerable interest in the under-$2000 market.
The gist: Gateway-into-MartinLogan-sound-type product.
Price: $2195 per pair
Philip said: Not only does the GX100 look like a piece of fine furniture, it sounds superlative from top to bottom. Based on my experience, it is a true reference product; that is, someone will have to spend significantly more for only small improvements in performance. I found its sound highly engaging, and capable of holding my interest. I was able to sustain my utter enthusiasm for its sound for long periods without ever getting fatigued.
The gist: Superbly finished ribbon-based minimonitor.
Price: $239 per pair
Rad said: If you don’t spend that much time at the computer, the Classic One might entice you to do so. You can’t judge Orb speakers by their sizes. They have a lot to offer, and at prices most people can afford. It’s champagne on a beer budget. A big thumbs up!
The gist: Better than your average computer speaker.
Hans said: For one who abhors hyperbole, I’m left with only one conclusion: Paradigm’s Millenia CT is exceptional. This conveniently sized and carefully conceived system doesn’t merely hint at high-end sound -- it actually provides it. If what I’ve written thus far isn’t convincing enough, then perhaps my actions will speak more clearly: I’m buying my review sample.
The gist: Compact yet powerful 2.1 system that’s priced right.
Price: $1499.90 per pair
Roger said: With the LSiM703, Polk has rediscovered their audiophile roots. Not only does it sound very good; it’s also well built, its curved cabinet is attractive in its real-wood veneer, and it’s available at a reasonable price for all that it offers. If you’re in the market for a high-quality, full-size bookshelf loudspeaker, the Polk LSiM703 deserves your consideration.
The gist: New-generation Polk line is their best yet.
Price: $2999.90 per pair
Ron said: The Polk LSiM705 is a very good loudspeaker that, at $2999.90/pair, is also a high-value bargain, especially in terms of craftsmanship, build quality, and pleasing visual design. I found it also to be, more often than not, a very good-sounding speaker
The gist: New-generation Polks may be the best from them yet.
Price: $760 per pair in Walnut, Dark Cherry, and Black Ash veneers; $830 per pair in High Gloss Black and High Gloss White
Roger said: Supremely refined sound at a reasonable price: the PSB Imagine Mini is an incredible audio bargain.
The gist: Little guy with a big heart.
Price: $3500-$3850 per pair, depending on finish
Doug said: Don’t let the Imagine T2’s modest cabinet size fool you: In my large room, the PSBs had a big, spacious, fleshed-out sound that belied their size, along with bass reach that could put to shame larger speakers at much higher prices. I was also taken with their superb imaging and the vast soundstage. But what most impressed me was the T2’s supersmooth midrange, in conjunction with very extended and airy highs that never sounded fatiguing.
The gist: A class-leading small floorstander at a very fair price.
Price: $699 per pair
Sathyan said: With their faithful midrange reproduction, accurate imaging, and small size, the little Minuet Supreme Pluses could easily find a niche as hi-fi replacements for computer speakers, as well as in traditional stereo, multichannel, and home-theater systems.
The gist: Another good monitor speaker.
Price: $2400 per pair
Jeff said: The D4M was superlative with tubed and entry-level solid-state amplification, with CDs and with lossless digital files. I heard no flaws: It managed to retrieve the maximum amount of information from each recording, and deliver music with a flowing, nonfatiguing continuity, song after song after song.
The gist: Big monitor, factory direct, really good sound.