Finding surround-sound speakers that sound great isn't that difficult. Of course, if you want them to be small and inexpensive, those criteria raise the bar significantly. That's why the Energy Take Classic is a doubly impressive product. The 5.1 speaker package is a "remake" of Energy's much beloved Take 5 system from the 1990s. The Classic keeps the same overall design: four compact satellite speakers (under 7 inches high), a dedicated center channel (just over 10 inches wide), and a modestly sized 200-watt sub sporting an 8-inch woofer. Pair the Take Classic with any … Read more
Back in November, I asked the question, "What's the best midpriced AV receiver?"--but had to confess that we hadn't reviewed as many as we would've liked. Since then, Senior Associate Editor Matt Moskovciak and resident Audiophiliac Steve Guttenberg sequestered themselves in the CNET listening room and put several models to the test.
When the smoke cleared, the Sony STR-DG920 was at the top of the heap, with the Pioneer VSX-1018AH and Onkyo TX-SR606 impressing us as well. The Denon AVR-1909 sounded great and was packed with features, but that model's confusing remote control … Read more
Truth be told, sound bar speakers don't sound very good.
That hasn't stopped them from selling like gangbusters. People happily buy the fantasy of single-speaker surround sound, mostly because they don't want to deal with all the wires and hassles of a bona fide 5.1-channel home theater.
I don't blame them. Even stereo, HT 2.0 systems are too intrusive for some buyers. Enter Canton's nifty CD 90 SB sound bar, it looks and sounds terrific.
I have to admit sound bars can look pretty slick mounted under a flat screen display, but there is the tricky matter of mounting the thing and running wires through walls. I suppose that's why most sound bars wind up sitting on a shelf under the display.
My real beef with sound bars is they don't sound all that good. The worst offenders are the ones that try to do some sort of fake surround sound. True, the better ones spread the sound well out to the sides of the room. Some project sound forward, towards the listener. But it's never as good as real 5.1.
Most sound bars' "surround" is only heard when you're sitting directly centered relative to the display and speaker; once you're over to the left or right the surround effect fades away. Worse yet, the sound quality of these things is iffy: it's either harsh or dull (most sound bars don't have tweeters). Mind you, sound bars aren't cheap: the better ones sell for between $1,000 and $1,800. For that much dough you could buy a really decent 5.1 speaker/subwoofer package with way better sound.
Granted, sound bar sound is passable when you're watching a movie, but try listening to music, and you'll realize just how lame the sound is. … Read more
As we mentioned in our CES 2009 home audio preview, the trend in home audio over the last few years has been toward simplicity, and sound bars have promised to deliver the full surround experience from a single speaker. In reality, it never quite sounds that good, but the Polk Audio SurroundBar systems are generally better than most. The newly announced SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater aims to improve on previous models by making the speaker even smaller and adding a wireless subwoofer. Here are the details.
Key features of the Polk Audio SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater :260 watts … Read more
Philips doesn't have a big presence at CES this year but it does appear to have some noteworthy products, especially when it comes to its new line of home-theater sound bars. The company's announced four new sound-bar packages, each geared to a slightly different target consumer.
Here's the rundown of the various products:
Model: The HSB2351
*All-in-one sound bar features integrated DVD player and subwoofer with 300 watts of total power
*Space-saving sleek design fits easily on an entertainment center or can be mounted on the wall
*Dolby Virtual Speaker for theater audio experience and HDMI 1080p … Read more
We've seen our fair share of surround-sound headphones, but the Psyko 5.1 PC gaming headset goes about it in a unique way. Instead of loading separate audio channels in each ear cup, the Psyko 5.1 places them on the unit's headband and it's the ear cups that house the actual subwoofers.
With the speakers located on the top of your head, the Psyko 5.1 relies on the strategic positioning of the channels in the headband to create the surround sound effect. Currently the Psyko 5.1 is only available for PC, but the company … Read more
Excuse me a moment while I brush the stars out of my eyes. I just spent the better part of my lunch hour chilling with a bunch of Monster executives and rapper Ludacris, who creates some of my favorite workout-friendly and anger-releasing tracks. OK, so maybe I only spent 5 minutes one-on-one with the guy, but it was enough to ascertain that he's not only a talented artist, but also an exceedingly nice and polite guy. He also has no idea what an MP3 player is. Well, now he does. But when I asked him what MP3 player he … Read more
Let's face it, setting up a home theater with five speakers and a subwoofer is a hassle.
Home-theater-in-a-box systems ease the pain somewhat, but you still have to run wires to five speakers and a subwoofer. Single-speaker sound bar systems? Sure, they eliminate the tangle of wires, but they're just glorified stereo bars and never really sound all that good. You can get much better sound from a decent set of stereo speakers.
You could put together a much better sounding system with Integra's DSR-4.8 DVD/AV receiver ($600) and a nice pair of speakers and possibly a subwoofer. It's a stereo receiver with 50 watts per channel with a built-in DVD/DVD-Audio/SACD player; video connectivity includes a 1080p HDMI output, one HDMI input, and two composite inputs. (You can multiply the usefulness of that single HDMI input by adding an inexpensive HDMI switcher that multiplies the number of available outputs.)
Let's compare and contrast an Integra DSR-4.8 based system with Yamaha's YSP-4000 single-speaker surround system ($1,800). The Yamaha is self-powered so it doesn't need an AV receiver, but it doesn't make much bass. So, you'll need to add a subwoofer, like Yamaha's YST-FSW150 ($280) and a DVD or Blu-ray player.
Fifty watts may not seem like much, but Integra components sound pretty good; pair the DSR-4.8 with efficient speakers you'd get a big sound. Klipsch's RB-61 bookshelf speakers ($499/pair) would be ideal and make better and more powerful bass than the YSP-4000, so some of you won't have to get a sub. But if you're thinking about going whole hog, I like Klipsch's Sub-12 subwoofer ($500). That's all together a $1,600 MSRP system, so it's at least $500 less expensive than the Yamaha system.
The Integra/Klipsch system would be way, way more dynamic, with vastly greater clarity for movies and music (single-speaker systems never quite sound right for music). To be fair, the Yamaha big claim to fame is its ability to produce a facsimile of surround sound from the single speaker, and it's the best of its type (I've reviewed a ton of single-speaker surround systems for CNET--both units with built-in video connectivity and those without--so I should know). The Integra/Klipsch is strictly stereo, but it'll be really good stereo. Big and wide, with a great sense of depth and spatiality.… Read more
When earbuds just aren't enough to keep the distracting masses from interrupting whatever it is you're preoccupied with at the time, portable headphones are the next step.
On Thursday, Ultrasone announced the HFI-15G headphones. Deemed the smallest headphones in Ultrasone's line--although exactly how small is unclear--the HFI-15G features Ultrasone's patented S-Logic Natural Surround Sound technology. What exactly is the big deal about that?
Well, according to the company, the technology reduces sound pressure on the eardrum by up to 40 percent. It's supposed to result in a safer listening experience for the user. The S-logic … Read more
Update (February 12, 2009): Check out our follow-up story, with full reviews of all the products mentioned here.
I receive a lot of e-mail asking why we haven't reviewed many AV receivers in recent months. First off, let me say: mea culpa. Reviews coverage of this category has suffered, mostly because AV receivers are among the most time-consuming products to analyze (because they now need to be examined in detail for their audio and video performance). But enough of the excuses; here's what we're doing to remedy the situation. … Read more