I heard a lot of great-sounding speakers this year, but the following four topped my list.
Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minn., builds nothing but panel (boxless) speakers. To say I was knocked out by Magnepan's new 1.7 speaker earlier this year would be an understatement; it is the best-sounding under-$2,000 speaker (a pair) on the planet. The 64.5-inch-tall design is a mere 2 inches thick! I reviewed the 1.7 for Tone Audio magazine. Magnepan prices start at $599 per pair.
The Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.5 ($6,000 per pair) is a radical update of the Gallo Reference 3.1, with new drivers. The small, 35-inch-tall floor-standing speaker projects a huge, precisely focused soundstage. The cast aluminum and stainless steel design feels remarkably solid.
Sonically, the Reference 3.5 has the ease and poise of a much larger and more expensive speaker. It's nowhere as fussy about electronics and room acoustics as the Magnepan 1.7, so the Reference 3.5 might actually be less expensive to buy and use in the long run.… Read more