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Subwoofer deep bass from a small speaker?

The Clue -- that's the name of the speaker -- will shake your room with gusto!

Sjofn Hi Fi of Seattle, Wash., makes an amazing little speaker, the Clue. When I heard it at the New York Audio & AV Show last week I could not believe that something that small could sound that big.

The Clue speaker Sjofn Hi Fi

The Clue has a proprietary, made-in-Denmark 5.5-inch woofer and an 0.8-inch silk dome tweeter. The heavily braced, medium-density fiberboard cabinet is beautifully finished in real maple, cherry or piano black. The cabinet is made in China, but the rest of the speaker is assembled in Sjofn Hi Fi's garage in Seattle. The Clue measures a tidy 14 by 8 by 10.5 inches and it weighs 16.5 pounds. The speaker is sold with a six-year warranty.

The Clue's sound at the show was so big and brawny I assumed there was a subwoofer somewhere in the room. There wasn't; the Clue delivers solid 28Hz bass that I literally felt when they played an organ recording. That's not all: the Clue's dynamic range and impact were exceptional, though I was less impressed with the speaker's treble detail; the Clue's high frequencies are somewhat reserved and mellow. Depending on your tastes, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

What's the catch? The Clue is a demanding little speaker; it must be placed within an inch or two of the wall behind it, it needs to be used with 19- to 22-inch-tall floor stands, and the room must be smaller than 2,500 cubic feet. If you can meet those requirements, the Clue will produce astonishing results. If you can't, all bets are off, and Sjofn Hi Fi wouldn't recommend buying the speaker. That sort of honesty is refreshing; few speaker companies are that specific about what's required to produce optimum sound quality.

Sjofn Hi Fi sells the Clue for $999 a pair, shipping is free in the U.S., and there's a 30 day in-home trial period when you buy direct from Sjofn Hi Fi. Its dealers sell the speakers for the same price.