Magnepan MMG Revised
At just under $600, it is hard to imagine a better speaker for the money than this mini-Maggie, provided you have the space for it and a powerful-enough amplifier. Like all Maggie dipoles, the thing sounds open, airy, and unusually lifelike. Improved in overall coherence in its “revised” version, it is still not the last word in resolution, low bass, or top treble (but who cares?).
B&W’s 685 has a fine balance, tremendous rhythmic authority, an open soundstage, impressive bass, a singing treble, plays loudly without strain, and, thanks to a forward-firing port, can be mounted on a wall, shelf, or stand. A slight, lingering edge in the uppermost treble makes it both exciting to listen to as well as slightly sharp with female voices.
Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus
$699/$749 (depending on finish)
The Supreme retains all of the sonic strengths of the original Minuet, but adds greater dynamic range to the mix. It also does a superb job of preserving the locational cues imbedded in a recording. While the Minuet provides a remarkable amount of lower-midrange and upperbass energy for its size, don’t expect it to generate any low bass.
PSB Imagine Mini
$759/$829 (depending on finish)
This tiny speaker plays much “larger” than one might assume. Rolled off below 55Hz and also a bit on the very top end, the Mini still delivers commendable imaging, lively dynamics, and genuinely engaging performance.
Take KEF’s brilliant Uni-Q coincident driver, add Class AB bi-amplification, and slip in a 24-bit/96kHz USB DAC, and you’ve got a recipe for desktop distinction. This diminutive two-way, bass-reflex design is pacey, with a jump factor that should get your trackball and paperweights dancing. The X300A also has an image stability and focus that are only approached by single-driver speakers. Computer enthusiast or Old Guard high-ender, you will find it hard to resist KEF’s perky little plug-in.
GoldenEar Technology Aon 3
An “augmented” two-way design, GoldenEar’s Aon 3 combines a 7” wide-bandwidth mid/bass driver with a Heil-type tweeter, using two side-mounted passive radiators to extend bass depth and punch. The result is a monitor that provides agile, detailed, and nuanced mids and highs while serving up bass that is unexpectedly full-bodied and that matches the quality of the speaker’s midrange and treble.