Price: $968-$1474 per pair, depending on finish
Philip said: A speaker like Axiom’s M5HP is proof that you can get incredible sound, superb engineering, and fantastic build quality at a reasonable price.
The gist: Re-evaluate what you think great speakers cost.
Price: $2500 per pair
Hans said: No, the smallest tower model in B&W’s new 700 Series is a beautiful, well-built loudspeaker that sounded sensational with the right material, and never failed to keep me engaged, whether as reviewer or as listener. It’s not for everyone, but I suspect that for certain listeners it will be enduringly satisfying.
The gist: Not flat, but good-sounding speaker if you like what it offers.
Edgar said: In fact, Definitive Technology’s engineering chops have produced somewhat of a rare freak: a truly affordable, high performing, beautifully finished, constructed and styled speaker that possesses the indisputable inherent cachet a sizable speaker-producing concern can provide.
The gist: Edgar was super impressed with the sound, especially for the price.
Price: $749 per pair
Hans said: Definitive Technology’s Demand D9 is a bona fide bargain. Partner it with some high-quality electronics and you’ll be rewarded with sound quality usually obtainable only at two or even three times its price of $749/pair.
The gist: Right up there with the benchmark: KEF’s LS50.
Price: $2999 per pair
Doug said: I had a bit of a rough start with the Special Forty, but it wound up being one of the most transparent-sounding two-way speakers I’ve ever heard.
The gist: If anyone can make a great stand-mounted two-way, it’s Dynaudio.
Hans said: Edifier’s S350DB is a killer little system.
Read the SoundStage! Access review.
The gist: Maybe no better 2.1-channel speaker system for the price.
Brent said: When and if Microsoft decides to get serious about making Cortana a digital assistant for the home, the Invoke could be a compelling product.
The gist: Sound was good, but needs better software to truly compete.
Price: KEF Q150 Loudspeakers ($550 per pair); KEF Kube12b Subwoofer ($700 each)
Kevin said: Music is meant for stereo, and the Q150s and Kube12b delivered music in heaping bucketsful of stereo sound.
The gist: Affordable-yet-refined sub/sat system for the music lover.
Price: $1499.98 per pair
Hans said: It’s one of the most neutral transducers I’ve ever heard, and for the money offers staggeringly transparent sound. I fed it a steady diet of male and female singer-songwriters, and was always satisfied with the authenticity of what I heard. It’s not exactly a looker, but it’s well engineered, and sounds far more expensive than its price suggests.
The gist: What Hans would buy with 1500 bucks in his pocket for speakers.
Price: $1599 per pair
Al said: It conveys music in a detailed manner, with pinpoint imaging and surprisingly powerful bass for its size.
The gist: Great sub-$2k speaker choice for rock music.
Price: $1500 per pair
Philip said: If you’ve been considering bookshelf speakers but want the additional fullness of sound that towers can offer, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t audition the Silver 200.
The gist: Nice little floorstander for bookshelf money.
Price: $2000 per pair
Hans said: It’s a loudspeaker for the listener who values dynamics more than sterling neutrality, and who wants to move rather than sit and listen with stern solemnity. While it may be impossible for any $2000/pair speaker to “do it all,” the Silver 300 comes admirably close, and looks damn good doing it.
The gist: Speaker for everyman.
Price: $298 per pair
Hans said: The highest compliment I can pay Paradigm’s Monitor SE Atom is that I was unable to hear in its sound a single concession made to meet its low price point.
The gist: Super-well-balanced budget bookshelf.
Price: $1598 per pair
Jeff said: In the Prestige 15B, Paradigm has built a speaker that looks fantastic. But in hi-fi, looks are secondary to sound, and the sound of the 15B is second to no other bookshelf speaker I’ve heard near its price point.
The gist: Sophisticated sonically and aesthetically.
Price: $2400-$2750 per pair, depending on finish
Doug said: And I got one more thing that can’t be underestimated: great overall sound. For the many months the M4s were in my system, I always enjoyed listening to music through them.
The gist: Good bass, rich mids, sweet highs.
Price: $4999 per pair
Hans said: From the ashes, the legendary Japanese manufacturer has produced a beguiling musical transducer that is not only well engineered but built like a brick house.
The gist: The new Technics produces another winner.
Price: $2650 per pair
Jason said: The Totem is a winner in large part due to its extremely refined treble, which strokes the ear rather than poking at it in the name of detail. Add in the million-mile depth of the Signature Ones’ soundstages, their tight and authoritative bass, and their disappearing-act imaging, and your $2650 buys you a lot of speaker in two little boxes.
The gist: Worthy successor to the venerable Totem Acoustic Model 1.
Price: $2250 per pair
Philip said: I found the Sky Tower eminently musical -- it’s a speaker likely to keep you up far too late playing your most cherished albums. In addition to the warmer tone and the captivating way the Totems reproduced voices, I was equally impressed with their big sound -- a pleasant surprise that belied their small size.
The gist: Makes all the right sounds in the areas where it counts.