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2018 Editors’ Choice Awards: Loudspeakers $2000–$3000

2018 Editors’ Choice Awards: Loudspeakers $2000–$3000

Monitor Audio Silver 300
A three-way, four-driver speaker (dual six-inch woofers, 4-inch midrange, 1-inch tweeter) housed in a cabinet that looks far too nice for this price range, the Silver 300 offers a compelling array of musical virtues. Chief among these is the Silver 300’s terrific speed on transients, effortless reproduction of dynamics, and overall sense of musical coherence. The bass is detailed and resolved, providing a clear sense of pitch. This is one very well designed loudspeaker and a great value.

Revel Performa3 M106
Revel’s M106 is cut from the same rich sonic fabric as its big brother the F206, but designed for smaller spaces. A vocal lover’s dream, the two-way M sports the same dome tweeter with acoustic-lens waveguide as the floorstander, creating a wide sweetspot, a rewarding lack of localization, and estimable composure under all sorts of dynamic fire. Even under punishing conditions this feisty compact remains linear. One of the great compacts of the last ten years.

Golden Ear Triton Three
One of the best speakers for the price, this D’Appolito floorstander is one of CM’s favorite products. The Triton Threes offer an incredible performance-to-price ratio, and are equally adept in a two-channel system or a multichannel setup. Capable of handling up to 300W, with bass that dips to 29Hz, these three-way, five-driver speakers are perfect for starter systems or home-theater needs.

Air Tight Bonsai
The tiny but mighty one-way Bonsai, also known as the AL-05, epitomizes what a single driver can do—in this case, a 4″ hand-made paper cone devised by a former JBL engineer. The Bonsai’s exemplary crossover-less design gives the speaker a full-range presence and immediacy and surprising spaciousness that all belie its petite size. Ideal for small-to-mid-sized rooms, the Bonsai’s are capable of reproducing a wide range of music with astounding coherence and emotion.

Axis VoiceBox S
Sonically this li’l two-way with the sweet ribbon tweeter is a robust and agile performer that rings true and authentic. Despite a generally lighter character, there’s still a welcome zone of midrange warmth that keeps it on balance. Imaging and dimensionality are uniformly excellent. The drivers cohere with no apparent presence dip at or around the crossover point. This is one little Aussie that could very well rattle one’s previous expectations for foot-tall two-ways in this range.

Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2
This new compact two-way hits it out of the park in sound quality, build, technology, and value. The midrange driver is based on techniques developed for the flagship 800 series, and the new tweeter sits on top of the cabinet for lower diffraction. Among its other virtues, the 705 S2 is seamless and coherent top to bottom, and has surprising dynamic punch and the ability to play loudly for its size. It is a product that few companies would have the ability and resources to match. A great performer and an outstanding bargain.

Eminent Technology LFT-8b
A floorstanding hybrid, combining sealed-box bass with magnetically driven planar membranes (dipolar drive) for midrange and treble, this is one of the lowest distortion speakers ever. The LFT-8b goes up seemingly forever, and down to very near the bottom of audibility in the bass. Ideal listening requires a position close to exactly centered, with the speakers precisely angled, but at the magic spot imaging is superb. In REG’s estimation, one of audio’s all-time amazing bargains.

Audio Physic Step Plus
Easily one of the most transparent small speakers available, the Step’s imaging and soundstaging are exceptionally specific, and tonal colors and micro-dynamics alive and focused, with a forward presentation that captures every inflection and nuance of a performance. There’s just a hint of brightness in the treble that accents the Step’s transient speed and clarity. This sprite does have physical limits, so fully recreating the weight and scale of an orchestra is a challenge. The consummate “touch” speaker.

Tannoy Revolution XT 8F
Superficially, this appears to be an ordinary two-way floorstander with an integrated spiked base. But looks, says DO, are deceiving. The star attraction here is a new 8″ coaxial driver, said to be a fresh interpretation of Tannoy’s point-source drive-unit philosophy. The coaxial woofer is allowed to work into the deep bass, augmented below 250Hz by a separate 8″ woofer. The end result is a superbly cohesive loudspeaker. Expect a colossal and transparent soundstage populated by tightly focused images. The Tannoy offers a virtuoso midrange with transient speed and timbral fidelity that are competitive with speakers approaching $10k retail. A great bargain.

Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II
This classic three-way floorstander delivers excellent top-to-bottom balance and engaging musicality. Moreover, Vandersteen’s baffle-less, time-and-phase-coherent design can suggest the spatial focus usually heard with planars. The 2Ce benefits from bi-wiring and should be placed away from walls.

Dynaudio Excite X34
Anchored by a surprising allotment of low-frequency energy and dynamic punch, this small tower achieves nearly a full spectrum of spirited output and authority, with just a hint of mid/upper-bass ripeness. Vocals are well balanced, with a good measure of chest resonance and upper-octave air. Strings could be sweeter, and violin section layering is not quite fully reproduced. But, overall, the X34 is a versatile little number that’s willing and able to get down and party with the best of them.

MartinLogan Motion 60XT
The Motion 60XT is not a perfect loudspeaker, but it does many things not only right, but magnificently, provided a suitable amplifier is used to drive it. It should come as no surprise that the upper midrange and treble are voiced similarly to ML’s ESL models, though with slightly less finesse in the top frequencies. Voices are lifelike, engaging, and captivating. An added benefit of the excellent driver and crossover matching is the realistic lower-midrange/upper-bass performance. The 60XT produces a broad soundstage that exceeds the width of the loudspeakers’ placement, with pinpoint imaging and amazing, three-dimensional depth.

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