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2020 Editors’ Choice Awards: Loudspeakers $3,000 – $5,000

Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2
This 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. 

Living Sounds Audio LSA-10 Statement
The design goal for the LSA-10 Statement was “to make a monitor that played like a tower.” Toward that end the 27-pound Statement employs a large 5″ x 7″ passive radiator that occupies the majority of its rear panel to augment its 6.5″ aluminum midrange/woofer driver and 1″ copper-beryllium dome tweeter. Suitable for either a nearfield or a room-based system, the LSA-10 delivers extremely dynamic sound with surprising bass extension for such a small package. 

Revel Performa3 F206
This three-way, bass-reflex floorstander has charisma pure and simple. With its enthusiastic musicality, dynamic energy, and imaging precision, the F206 simply commands its audience’s attention. Offering strong low-frequency dynamics, excellent upper-bass slam, lifelike midrange presence, and a treble range that is eloquent yet mercifully without the needle of tweeter localization, the F206 exceeds all expectations of performance in its price class, and well beyond. TAS’ 2013 Affordable Loudspeaker of the Year. 

Joseph Audio Prism
Audiophiles who coveted Joseph Audio’s Pulsar but found the $7000 price out of reach will rejoice in the Prism. The Prism has similar sonic qualities with an overall performance level that ranks up with the best small monitors SS has heard. Put the Prisms in a midsized or smaller room, mate them with decent electronics and a good subwoofer, and they will deliver the musical goods in that natural and articulate way that Joseph Audio loudspeakers are known for, but at a more affordable price than ever before. 

GoldenEar Technology Triton Two+
The Triton Two+ handles high frequencies via a superb Heil-type tweeter, the all-important middle frequencies via dual ultra-wide-bandwidth midrange drivers, and the low end with a sophisticated 1200-watt DSP-controlled subwoofer. Together these elements give you a slender, full-range floorstander that sounds astonishingly refined, and offers robust dynamics and spectacular 3-D imaging. 

In spite of ATC’s stellar track record, NG never expected the new and aggressively priced SCM 19 to be as good as it is. A superb and superbly defined midrange, overall tonal neutrality, broad-shouldered micro- and macro-dynamics are all in evidence. The surprise is the extent to which the SCM 19 outshines its distinguished predecessors—particularly ATC’s passive consumer speakers—in voicing and seamless inter-driver coherence. Simply one of the best compacts NG has heard. 

Revel PerformaBe M126Be
Describing the M126Be as a hot-rodded version of the two-way Performa3 M106 does not give it its sonic due. Fireworks and butt-kicking dynamics? Those Revel trademarks are still in place. But there’s a new degree of silken, shimmering refinement that’s rare in this cost-conscious segment. Thanks to a new 1″ beryllium dome tweeter, paired with a ceramic-coated, cast-aluminum, acoustic-lens waveguide, and a 6.5″ ceramic composite aluminum mid/bass, low-level resolution, timbral realism, and top-end air and speed have improved across the board. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this excellent compact is its almost eerie continuity of soundstage. Relatively easy to drive, the M126Be still craves good amplification—the more watts the merrier. 

Larsen Model 6.2
This remarkable floorstander effectively overcomes the room-interaction problems that plague conventional speakers. Specifically, the Model 6.2 is designed to be positioned against a wall rather than out into a room. Rather than coloring the sound and degrading imaging, this placement helps the 6.2 shine, producing a smooth bass balance and a superb soundstage. Even in a hotel-room demo, with the Model 6.2 flanking a dresser, the speaker threw a convincing soundstage. A smaller version of the Model 8.

Triangle Australe EZ
The Australe EX from the 38-year-old French speaker company Triangle is the largest model in the Esprit EZ range, the company’s middle line. A three-way reflex design in a 46″-tall floorstanding enclosure, the Australe looks like much more speaker than its price suggests. A high 92.5dB sensitivity makes it easy to drive, and contributes to its expressive and outgoing nature. The dual horn-loaded tweeters add a sense of liveliness and projection. 

Focal Aria 948
A three-way, bass-reflex floorstander, the 948 is the top model in Focal’s Aria 900 line. The 948 uses Focal’s unique flax-sandwich drivers—two 8″ woofers and one 6½” mid/bass in a vented enclosure—along with an aluminum/magnesium alloy, TNF, inverted-dome tweeter. These painstakingly engineered drivers enable the 948s to really strut their stuff when it comes to detail, transparency, and resolution—particularly on vocals, percussion, and strings. JM found the sense of realism they delivered downright spooky at times. Although the 948s required some set-up tweaks to avoid excess brightness, they were excellent after break-in, bringing so many musical layers to life they created a truly immersive soundscape. 

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