Like many small speakers, this tiny, jewel-like mini-monitor trades bass extension and wide dynamics for midrange purity. Through the mids, the CM1 is magical, with a timbral realism, freedom from grain, palpability, and lack of coloration that many five-figure loudspeakers don’t deliver. Stunning on vocals and acoustic music.
Paradigm Reference Studio 10
Paradigm’s diminutive Studio 10 is inherently warm and full, with a remarkably large presentation that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. It’s not the most transparent design, but is nevertheless lively and involving. This front-ported two-way can sit on a shelf, but performs best on a rigid stand placed somewhat into the room. Bass isn’t bad, but some will want to add one of Paradigm’s subwoofers to fill out the bottom end.
PSB Imagine B
Think Imagine T minus a mid-bass driver and a floor-standing enclosure. There’s the same voice in the expressive midrange and treble and, with only minor exceptions, the same superb balance. The B can’t quite chew on bass lines like the T can, but as if to compensate the B seems a bit lighter and fleeter of foot in the upper mids and lower treble.
This affordable two-way quasi-ribbon brings you remarkably close to the best performance Magnepans are capable of. When it is properly placed—around 3' from walls—its clarity is addictive, with a wide deep soundstage and terrific transient response. The MG12 performs satisfyingly down to about 50Hz, and because of its larger panel has a slightly bigger soundfield than the amazing bargain basement MMGs.
Sonus faber Venere Model 1.5
$1198 (stands $398)
This compact Italiano two-way with a narrow, slotted front port, swooping top panel, and curvilicious enclosure has Sf tradition stamped all over its sound. There’s an espresso rich and robust midrange that makes vocals shine and keeps dynamics lively, as well as superior mid-bass response, minimal colorations, and big-speaker dynamic composure. Venere—Latin for Venus—is love at first sight and irresistible for the money.
PSB Image T6
Paul Barton’s latest creation again sets a standard for performance in this class. The T6’s dual 6.5" woofers deliver realistic bass down to 35Hz (–3dB) coupled to a very clean, pure, and transparent midrange. The bass tends toward the warm and “bloomy” rather than dry and tight side. The treble is clean and extended, albeit with a bit of excess energy. Imaging is outstanding.
The two-way EBS-1 impresses with its top-to-bottom coherence and ability to “speak” with a single voice. Dynamic scaling, transient speed, and image focus are also strengths. The speaker’s okay but not great with soundstage depth, and of course its bass won’t shake the house with large-scale music. It works well on a stand or shelf, thanks to tiny foam port plugs supplied for the latter application.