The floorstanding F5 leverages the strengths of the compact B5—its warm, relaxed and responsive midrange, surprising bass extension and tunefulness, and strong sense of musical truth—then significantly builds on them. What really distinguishes the F5 is the sheer volume of air that its additional woofers can move. The F5 created nicely weighted orchestral scale and scope, and vocalists of all genres were fully formed and fleshed out, with chest resonance, weight, and bloom. A veritable gift to budget-conscious audiophiles and the younger audience. While not flawless, the F5 is as faultless as a speaker is likely to get at this price.
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?
Bowers & Wilkins 685 S2
B&W’s 685 S2 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
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 supplies a remarkable amount of lower-midrange and upper-bass 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.
The Epos K1 is the smallest of the British brand’s very affordable three-model K Series. The 2-way compact embodies the values every budget-minded audiophile is seeking with a sonic character that’s open, dynamically engaging, and tonally the better part of neutral. Its spectral balance is lighter overall as befits its pint-size, but the K1 is no lightweight sonically. There’s balance and poise on small-to-medium-scale music, yet the K1 can also rise—within limits—to the challenge of full-range symphonic pieces. Fundamentally a potent little speaker that pretty much doesn’t know the meaning of the word “uncle.”
From one of England’s most venerable speaker-makers, this two-and-a-half-way floorstander with aluminum Uni-Q coincident midrange/tweeter, 5.25" aluminum woofer, and two 5.25" passive radiators is one of the most articulate loudspeakers DM has listened to, with an extraordinary ability to reproduce low-level information accurately in the presence of high-level signals close in frequency. Though it would benefit from the addition of an output control that allows the Uni-Q driver to better match the woofers, the Q500 offers noteworthy value for overall quality at its price point.
GoldenEar Technology Aon 3
An “augmented” 2-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.