Sony SS-B1000 review: Sony SS-B1000

The Sony SS-B1000 speakers may not quite win the budget bookshelf-speaker battle, but they deliver excellent sound for the money.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

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Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks and Nook e-books, as well as audiobooks.

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Sony isn't usually considered a bargain brand, but when it comes to the company's SS-B1000 Bookshelf Speakers, it's hard to complain that they're overpriced. They carry a list price of $70 per pair, but you can find them online for closer to $60 shipped online. (In weeks past, they were going for under $50 on Amazon.)

Sony SS-B1000
7.1

Sony SS-B1000

The Good

The <b>Sony SS-B1000 Bookshelf Speakers</b> are attractively styled and deliver impressive sound for their modest price.

The Bad

Sound could be more detailed, with better-defined bass.

The Bottom Line

The Sony SS-B1000 Bookshelf Speakers may not quite win the budget-bookshelf-speaker battle, but they do deliver quite decent sound for the money.

The caveat -- if there is one -- is that these are good old-fashioned passive speakers, so you'll need to connect them to an amplifier, such as an AV receiver. But bargain hunters can rest easy: pair them with Lepai's $25 LP-2020A+ stereo integrated amplifier, and you've got yourself a quality rockin' mini stereo system for less than $100. And, unlike a similarly priced iPod speaker dock or Bluetooth speaker, using separate speakers means you can deliver true stereo separation, with speakers at each side of the room.

The Sony speakers' build quality seems decent enough and their design is straightforward yet elegant, with a faux wood-grain finish and removable speaker grilles. Each speaker measures 10.7x7x6.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.4 pounds.

Remove the grille and you'll find a 5.25-inch polypropylene cone woofer and 1-inch Nano Fine balanced dome tweeter. There's no bass port on the back, just a set of plastic spring-clip wire connectors. The speaker's impedance is rated at 8 ohms.

Sony throws in some standard speaker wire, so you can link the speakers up to your amplifier of choice (as mentioned above).

The speaker has a 5.25-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter.

Budget speaker comparison

In a mini shoot-out, we put these Sonys up against the Dayton Audio B652 bookshelf speakers, which are popular among budget-minded audiophiles. That speaker pair lists for $52 but can be had for even less online. CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg reviewed the B652s and said that there's nothing about their appearance that "screams cheap." I wouldn't disagree with that assessment, but sitting next to the Sonys, the Daytons look like the cheaper of the two speaker sets. The plasticky vinyl finish may have something to do with that.

The Sonys measure an inch shorter but their dimensions are otherwise very similar to the Daytons'. Sony's step-up SS-B3000 speakers are significantly larger, measuring 20 inches tall. The SS-B3000 speakers feature three drivers (woofer, tweeter, and midrange) and are priced at less than $100 online, so if you can deal with their added size, they're arguably the better deal.

In our evaluation, we started by hooking up the SS-B1000s to the $25 Lepai LP-2020A+, a 20-watt-per-channel amplifier. We started with Neil Young's "Live at Massey Hall" CD and The Dirtbombs' raucous "Party Store" CD. I later hooked up my iPhone to the Lepai and ran more contemporary fare through the speakers, everything from Flo Rida to The National to Adele. We also hooked the speakers up to an Onkyo TX-NR616 receiver.

Before hearing the Dayton speakers, we were fairly impressed by the Sonys. By "fairly impressed," I mean that we didn't expect a whole lot from $65 speakers and the SS-B1000s managed to deliver decent sound with reasonable clarity and good bass for their size. The Daytons were a little bit better-balanced, with a bit more detail. While they had a little less bass, the bass was more well-defined.

Looking for a word to describe the Sonys, I decided they were slightly congested. OK, that's two words, but one of them is a modifier.

Steve expanded on that in his review of the Daytons, saying the Sonys' "dynamic impact was scaled back and the treble was muffled and less clear than that of the B652s. The Sony sounds acceptable for a budget speaker, but the B652 is definitely a step up on the performance scale."

The fit and finish were quite good, considering the speakers' modest price point.

Conclusion: A reasonable choice
When you're reviewing a $65 speaker, your reviewing criteria tend to change. In my book, anything at this price point that sounds decent -- or even halfway decent -- puts it in "good value" territory. The Sony SS-B1000s certainly fit that description, and although we felt the Dayton B652s sounded better for the money, the Sonys weren't far off and offered better aesthetics and arguably slightly better build quality.

I agree with my co-reviewer's assessment that speakers from Aperion Audio, Boston Acoustics, and Definitive Technology sound significantly clearer, but they also cost significantly more (three times as much in many cases).

At $20 more than the Daytons, the Sony SS-B1000 Bookshelf Speakers may not qualify as an exceptional value, but perhaps they'll dip down into the $50 range again in the future. In the meantime, they're a very good bargain nevertheless.

Sony SS-B1000
7.1

Sony SS-B1000

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Value 8