High-End Audio Buyer's Guide: Floorstanding Loudspeakers Under $2000

Equipment report
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Floorstanding
High-End Audio Buyer's Guide: Floorstanding Loudspeakers Under $2000

Magnepan MMG

$595

Magnepan’s smallest planar-magnetic (available factory-direct only), the Product of the Year award-winning MMG, is one of the best buys in the Maggie line, and one of the real bargains in high-end audio. If you have enough space and amplifier, you will be hard-pressed to find a more realistic speaker than this slim, boxless Maggie, where it plays. Though it won’t plumb the depths in the bottom end and is a bit limited in the top treble and in really large-scale dynamics, it is otherwise a model of lifelike presence, tone color, texture, and imaging. magnepan.com

Paradigm Monitor 9, Series 7

$1198

A benchmark for good, affordable speakers, Paradigm’s Monitor Series is not the last word in any one sonic area but offers tremendous across-the-board performance and value. Though this compact monitor may not reach deep down, recent improvements create a fine sense of bass—fast, tuneful, and reasonably weighty—that’s quite satisfying. The latest aluminum dome tweeter is more open, dynamically free, and less bright than past versions. The midrange is reasonably open and neutral, with respectable depth imaging. A cleverly balanced and involving design that ultimately lets the music do the talking. paradigm.com

PSB Image T6

$1300

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

Monitor Audio Silver RX8

$1750

Monitor’s Silver RX8 floorstanders provide technologies drawn from Monitor’s Gold Series models, but at a significantly lower price. They make great transitional speakers for those who are seeking far better than entry-level sound quality, yet do not have huge sums of money to spend. Positive characteristics include a fundamentally neutral tonal balance, excellent transient speed, surprisingly high levels of resolution, and superb imaging. The RX8s are revealing and easy to drive, though they are, of course, sensitive to amplifier quality. Voiced for use in mid-to-large rooms, the RX8s may need their included foam port dampers installed to prevent bass overload in smaller rooms. monitoraudio.com

Magnepan MG 1.7

$1995

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

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