2014 Buyer's Guide: Floorstanding Loudspeakers Under $3,000

Equipment report
2014 Buyer's Guide: Floorstanding Loudspeakers Under $3,000

PSB Image T6
The PSB Image T6s offer a very high level of sonic performance for their price: bass to below 40Hz in-room, natural warmth a little further up (where floorstanders often dip), a largely neutral midrange, and a clean treble. The T6s play more loudly, with less of the distortion or compression expected from speakers of this size. The treble is a little bit up in the 4-6kHz range, and the top treble is a little exaggerated, but all in all, the T6s sound surprisingly like actual music. The slight treble irregularities and subtle lack of midrange smoothness may make the sound a little less refined than certain more expensive models. But if you listened without knowing the price, you would likely be stunned to find that the T6s cost only $1250 per pair. psbspeakers.com

Magnepan MG 1.7
Prior to the advent of this new, all-quasi-ribbon Maggie, JV thought its predecessor, the MG 1.6, was the single best buy in an affordable high-end loudspeaker. For him, the 1.7 now takes that coveted title, improving on the 1.6 in just about every area save for the low bass (which, like that of the 1.6, isn’t really that low). From about 50Hz up, however, you will be hard put to find a more realistic transducer than the 1.7 for anything short of Magico/Wilson money. Stunning coherence, transparency, detail, timbre, soundstaging, imaging—you name it. Just be sure to bring enough amp to the party, and enough space to keep the 1.7s well away from sidewalls and backwalls. And be aware that above a certain very loud level, the quasi-ribbon drivers will begin to show audible signs of strain, though the 1.7s will fare better at low listening levels than previous Maggies. magnepan.com

Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II
The Vandersteen 2 is the classic three-way floorstander, delivering excellent top-tobottom balance and an engaging musicality. Moreover, Vandersteen’s baffle-less, timeand- phase-coherent design can suggest the spatial focus usually heard with planars. It benefits from bi-wiring and should be placed away from walls. The first-order crossovers essential to the timecoherent performance somewhat limit maximum sound-pressure levels. vandersteen.com

Sonus faber Venere Model 2.5
Hard to believe, but the Venere Model 2.5 is even more graceful-looking than the lovely Model 1.5. Though this 2.5-way, bass-reflex floorstander also bears some striking sonic similarities to the Model 1.5, in practice it’s an altogether different animal. The key distinction is its effusive “sheer abbondanza” tonal balance, which give music a firmer, more grounded sound. The Model 2.5 is dynamically lively, with a vivid midrange palette that permits music to emerge brimming with enthusiasm. A little dip in the presence range and a touch of added bloom in the bass are minor deductions in light of its overall performance. Here’s a speaker that will reward you for sticking to your budget. Bravo, Sonus faber! sumikoaudio.net

GoldenEar Triton Two
The Triton Two is a three-way, five-driver, dualpassive-radiator-equipped floorstander with a built-in powered subwoofer. Voiced from the top down, it handles high frequencies via a shockingly good ribbon, the all-important middle frequencies via dual ultra-wide-bandwidth midrange drivers, and the low end via a sophisticated subwoofer powered by a 1200-watt, DSP-controlled amplifier. The result is an elegant, full-range floorstander that sounds astonishingly refined, delivers spectacular 3-D imaging, and provides robust, full-bodied dynamics. goldenear.com