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We first reviewed the Dayton Audio B652 stereo speakers back in 2010, and were thrilled to note the bookshelf speakers' sound went toe to toe with speakers that sold for three or four times its rock bottom $40 (for the pair) price. Now, joining the Dayton line we have the smaller B452, so we were eager to compare the two speakers side by side.
At about $30 USD (plus $8 shipping), this is about as cheap as you'll ever see a set of decent bookshelf speakers. They're not available in the UK (though the price would translate to around £20), and there is a not-so-subtle "Antipodean tax" for Australian consumers, who can find them closer to AU$86.
While we love the $40 Dayton Audio B652 , if you find it to be too big, this smaller and cheaper B452 is a great alternative. Each B452 measures 9.5 inches by 5.5 inches by 5.7 inches (24 cm by 14 cm by 15 cm), while the larger B652 is 11.8 x 7.1 x 6.6 inches.
The B452 is a sealed-box design, so it doesn't have a rear bass port. That frees up placement possibilities compared with ported speakers. You can put the B452s right up against a wall if need be, but we'd still recommend leaving at least a few inches of clearance between the wall and speakers for best sound. Impedance is rated at 8 ohms.
It's worth noting that the B452 has a 4.5-inch woofer and a 0.6-inch polycarbonate dome tweeter; we regularly test sound bars and bases that sell for 10 times more than these speakers that make do without any tweeters! Meanwhile, you get a nice cosmetic touch, too: The B452's black cloth grille is removable.
The speakers come with a pair of color-coded, 10-foot (3-meter) lengths of wire. That's fine, but the B452 uses spring-clip speaker wire connectors that don't produce as secure a grip on the wires as binding posts do. That won't affect day-to-day performance, as long as you don't move the speakers too much. Which is to say, whenever you pick up the speakers, check to make sure the wires didn't slip out.
Starting by just focusing on vocals, the B452 proved its mettle; the sound was surprisingly natural and full. It's a spunky little speaker that will do well in small to medium rooms. Overall clarity is decent; nothing's overtly amiss. At low to moderate volume levels the sound is laid-back and rather sweet. We used a $189 Emotiva Mini-X a-100 integrated amplifier (2 x 60 watts) for all of our listening tests.
Placed on speaker stands 3 feet out from the wall behind the speakers, the B452's bass reached down to 55 Hertz -- that's deep for a speaker of its size. Closer wall placement will help the little guys produce an even fuller, bassier sound. We imagine most buyers will never be tempted to add a subwoofer.
With the Beastie Boys "The Mix Up" album, the B452s sounded less clear than the $10-more Dayton B652s , and not by a small amount. That speaker makes more bass, and has brighter treble.
Dawn of Midi is an all-acoustic jazz trio, and their "Dysnomia" album kicked butt on the B452s. The interplay of piano, bass, and drums' rhythms was lively and downright exciting, turning up the volume only heightened the experience. But the B652s sound bigger, more in control, smoother and easier to listen to when played loud, they sound more open, less boxy. The piano transients sounded markedly cleaner over the B652, it's a better speaker, and for not much more money it's strongly recommended.
Once we settled down and just listened to the B452 we had no complaints -- and that's a huge compliment for speakers that sell for around $30 a pair. We also tried listening in the "nearfield" with the B452s placed just a few feet away, and if anything we liked them better. The speakers threw a large soundstage with a nice sense of depth. Set up on a desktop these speakers would be a radical upgrade over most inexpensive computer speakers.
Yes, you'll find better-sounding alternatives -- including the step-up Dayton B652s -- available for just a little more money. But for their size and price, the Dayton Audio B452 stereo speakers are impossible to beat.