High-End Audio Buyer's Guide: Stand-Mounted Loudspeakers Under $1500

Equipment report
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Stand-mount
High-End Audio Buyer's Guide: Stand-Mounted Loudspeakers Under $1500

PSB Alpha B1

$300

One of the high end’s most venerated featherweights, the recently redesigned and curvaceous Alpha B1 combines mind-bending dynamics and rich mids in a speaker barely a foot tall. The 1" dome tweeter has been refined for greater bandwidth and smoother dispersion, the all-new woofer redesigned to reduce breakup modes. Even the midbass has a power and pitch-definition rarely found in this modest price range. Only the nebulous soundstaging is less than excellent. Ultimately, the B1 can’t move the volume of air of a larger design like PSB’s own T5/T6 or fully articulate the lowest octave, but it does a surprisingly respectable and musical job on everything else. psbspeakers.com

B&W 685

$650

If you’re looking for an affordable small speaker that offers excellent overall tonal balance, remarkable rhythmic authority, a large and open soundstage, bass response that defies its size, and extended treble response, WG’s experience suggests that the B&W 685 may be your ticket to ride. This British-designed, Chinese-made two-way plays loudly without strain and, thanks to a forward- firing port, can be mounted on a wall, shelf, or stand with good results. A slight lingering edginess in the uppermost treble makes it both exciting to listen to as well as slightly sharp with female voices. A 2007 Product of the Year Award winner. bwspeakers.com

Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus

$699

As more audiophiles embrace computer- based audio systems, the cheesy transparent plastic speakers that populate many desktops will be replaced by transducers that can actually sound like music. The Silverline Minuet Supreme is an ideal example. The Supreme retains all of the sonic strengths of the original Minuet, but adds greater dynamic range to the mix. The Minuet Supremes also do a superb job of preserving the locational cues imbedded in a recording. While they do provide a remarkable amount of lower-midrange and upper-bass energy for their size, don’t expect them to generate any low bass. silverlineaudio.com

PSB Imagine Mini

$760–$830

PSB’s tiny Mini almost looks too cute to be taken seriously. But it is actually quite capable of producing a musically valid performance— in an appropriately-sized setting. It has no low bass, limited dynamic range, and only a suggestion of recording-space ambience. Still, the mini manages to play “bigger” than expected and also sounds “correct” at a fundamental level. It can be successfully placed up to seven feet apart or in a nearfield setup. A higher volume setting than usual helps it “get going,” but when it does, it’s enjoyable, tuneful, and rarely harsh. psbspeakers.com

PSB Imagine B

$1100

Think Imagine T, subtract a midbass driver and the floor-length enclosure, and, voîlà, the Imagine B. There’s the same expressive voice in the midrange and treble and, with only minor exceptions, the same superb balance. No, it can’t quite chew on bass lines and kick drums and church organ riffs as if they were rice cakes, as the T does, but the B is still capable of surprising midbass potency. And though it’s more reserved dynamically in the upper bass, it’s also a bit lighter and fleeter of foot in the upper mids and lower treble. psbspeakers.com

Nola Boxer

$1500

The Boxer is an unassuming two-way compact in a bass-reflex enclosure. Its physical profile may be working class, but sonically it plays pure uptown with a character that’s unerringly musical—a canny balance of warmth and detail. The Boxer also exhibits the moves you’d expect of a smart two-way—vivid images and quick transients. It’s not a shy, recessed presentation, nor is the treble brittle or fatiguing. Except for the slightest presence- range dip, there’s substance to every octave with very little dynamic compression. The result is an unpretentious over-achiever that speaks nothing less than the musical truth. nolaspeakers.com

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