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Christmas Gift Guide

Radialstrahler MBL 101 E MKII

KEF Blade Two

Zellaton Stage

Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3

Technics SB-C700

Magnepan 3.7i

Magico S1 Mk II

JBL Everest DD67000

Focal Grande Utopia EM

Harbeth 40.2

Avalon Acoustics Idea

Vandersteen Model Seven Mk. II

Reference 3A MM de Capo BE

Wilson Sabrina

Harbeth Super HL5Plus

This best-of list is by no means complete. It's the best speakers I've reviewed or know very well, and that are currently in production.

Chances are, you've never seen or heard anything like this German super speaker. Lucky me, I have many times, and since the sound radiates in a 360-degree pattern, a pair of 101 E MKIIs fill a listening room like nothing else. So they sound remarkably less like speakers, and more like the real thing.

Caption by / Photo by MBL

Even before you hear the Blade Two you know it's not going to sound like any other speaker. It's big all right, but the Blade Twos disappear as sources of sound, they deliver music's big dynamics with ease, and yet preserve the subtlest of details.

Caption by / Photo by KEF

If Mercedes-Benz made speakers, they would probably look and sound like the Zellaton Stage. This German beauty has a commending presence, unlike any other high-end speaker -- it's that good.

Caption by / Photo by Zellaton

The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3 is one of the best stand-mounted speakers you can buy. It combines immaculate, made-in-England build quality and sumptuous good looks. The speakers can unleash a wide and deep soundstage with excellent articulation and dynamic heft.

Caption by / Photo by Bowers & Wilkins

This handsome "bookshelf" beauty doesn't add false fullness or romance; that's not this speaker's job. Rather, it sounds like a small recording studio monitor that consumers will love.

Caption by / Photo by Technics

The Magnepan 3.7i is a 71-inch (180cm) tall flat panel, but it's a mere 1.6 (40mm) inches deep! Once you hear what a panel speaker sounds like, returning to traditional box speakers will be a letdown. You've been warned.

Caption by / Photo by Magnepan

This "baby" Magico tower looks, feels and sounds like the real deal. There's resolution galore, a huge soundstage and oodles of clean, fast sound. An Audiophiliac review is in the works.

Caption by / Photo by Magico

The Everest represents the "peak" of current JBL speaker design. This three-way speaker features dual 15-inch (380mm) three-layer cone woofers, a 4-inch (100mm) pure beryllium compression midrange driver, and a 1-inch (25mm), pure-beryllium ultrahigh-frequency driver. The Everest will rock your world like no other speaker.

Caption by / Photo by JBL

The Grande Utopia EM is big, but when I heard a pair in a huge room playing a Beethoven symphony, my jaw hit the floor. No other speaker gets as close to reproducing the scale of an orchestra.

Caption by / Photo by Focal

The 40.2 is a large monitor speaker I enjoyed so much, it was hard to stop listening to it. Familiar recordings all sounded better than I thought they could.

Caption by / Photo by Jim Holden

Clarity, sweetness, and smooth tonal balance are all part of what makes this speaker, which is made in Boulder, Colorado, great. Avalon's cabinets are impeccably crafted; they're works of art.

Caption by / Photo by Avalon Acoustics

The designer of this speaker, Richard Vandersteen, has been perfecting his craft for 40 years. He's obsessed with "time alignment," meaning the sounds of the woofer, midrange, and tweeter all arrive at your ears at the same time. All Vandersteen speakers are made in California.

Caption by / Photo by Vandersteen

To put the MM de Capo BE's sound in perspective, it wasn't as pure or vivid as what I hear from Bowers & Wilkins' 805 D3 speakers. The MM de Capo BEs sounds hearty and rich, while the 805 D3 is tonally leaner but more accurate.

Caption by / Photo by Reference 3A

The Wilson Sabrina's sleek, swept-back cabinet has a classic yet modern look. The well-rounded sound is easy on the ears, but resolution is first-rate.

Caption by / Photo by Wilson

The Harbeth Super HL5Plus took me way back, to the time when I first fell in love with British monitor speakers in the 1970s. Some said they were too "polite" or reserved, but to my ears, they were musical and natural.

Caption by / Photo by Steve Guttenberg/CNET
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