“Giant Killer” speakers for home theater and music

My recent post on the Ohm speakers made me come to realize this column did not make it to the archive when I was creating the site. So, from all the way back in 2004, here it is! It was nice to see that the Ohm, Polk and Axiom speakers are all still available in pretty much the same form as they were back then. Rather than be discontinued, the Ohms and Axioms were upgraded and refined and the Polk LSi series has carried on unchanged. Why mess with success?

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Friday, April 23, 2004

By Don Lindich
Q: I was really intrigued by the $16,000 Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 5 speakers, but I think my wife would shoot me if I spent that much. I’d like to spend under $8,000 if possible, particularly if the $2,000 speakers sound just as good (which is of course what any review of the latest greatest $2,000 speakers will promise, so maybe the $8,000 ones should really be as good as $32,000 speakers?).

-Ben Humphrey, Seattle

A: Bang & Olufsen recently introduced the $3,000 BeoLab 3, a very small speaker that uses some of the technology from the BeoLab 5.

Though the speakers are very small, they produce a very “big” sound that is musical, detailed and very transparent. They do not wow me the way the Beolab 5s did, but they don’t cost $16,000, either.

As for $2,000 speakers sounding as good as $8,000 speakers, this is often true. This is a testament to some exceptional performers at lower price ranges, and some real junk peddled in the higher price ranges.

The important thing to remember is that speakers are subjective, and you should buy what appeals to you. You can use reviews as a starting point; but do not let anyone tell you that you are wrong when you say what you like.

I receive more e-mails about speaker suggestions than any other subject. The speakers I most commonly recommend are from my own list of “giant killers,” products that to my ears sound much better than other speakers at the same price point, as well as those that often cost considerably more. Some of them are available only factory-direct, but come with a money-back guarantee.

If you have read this far, you are probably wondering … what are these “giant killers,” my top recommendations?

Ohm Acoustics Walsh series: These are what I have in my home theater, my living room and my bedroom. Using them myself is about the best endorsement I can give!

The Ohm Walsh speakers use a special inverted cone driver that reproduces incoming electrical signals much more accurately than conventional speaker drivers.

The end result is wonderful sound quality presented in 3-D that seems so real you feel like you can reach out and touch the performers.

The Walsh series sells for between $750 and $5,000 and comes with a 120-day money back guarantee. No reader who ordered a pair upon my recommendation has ever returned them. (www.ohmspeakers.com)

Polk Audio LSi9 and LSi15: For years audiophiles considered Polk one of the better mass-market brands, but not competition for expensive high-end speakers.

This has changed with Polk’s LSi series. Polk Audio is an extremely successful business with tremendous financial resources, and they used these resources to develop the LSi series, which has received much acclaim in the high-end audio press.

These are one of those $2,000 speakers that sound better than many $8,000 speakers.

I use the bookshelf-sized LSi9s in my home office and am continually amazed at what Polk has wrought for around $1,000. The LSi15 towers sell for around $1,700/pair.

Center and surround speakers are offered to build a complete LSi home theater system. Besides the great sound, Polk’s service and customer support is a model for the rest of the industry. See them at www.polkaudio.com.

Axiom Audio: My top recommendation for people on a tight budget, this Canadian manufacturer sells only direct and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The $255 M2i, the $400 M22Ti, and the $1,100 M80Ti are the standouts in this line. Their home theater packages are exceptional values. Check out Axiom’s excellent products at www.axiomaudio.com.

If you have lots of money, check out the Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 5s, speakers from Nestorovic Labs, and the larger speakers from Revel.

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