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Home Theater & A/V

Best Floor Standing Speakers

Floor speakers are the most important aspect of any home theater system; realistically, they're the only speakers you could use on their own and still wind up with respectable sound. Some folks might try to get away with just a center channel like a sound bar, but it's really not the same. Some tower speakers can create enormous sound fields that approach that of full surround sound, which a lone center channel or sound bar could never accomplish. Floor speakers come in all shapes and sizes, and are designed for a variety of listening styles and intended uses; rather than looking solely at ranking or price, remember to consider how and where you will use these speakers when reading reviews. I'm sure the Focal Grande Utopia EM or Sound Lab U-1PX would sound great no matter where you put them, but they are designed for large dedicated listening spaces; smaller speakers like the Triton Two would probably sound (and look) much more appropriate in a master bedroom or smaller den.

There are two main types of floor speakers: dynamic and electrostatic. Dynamic speakers are your traditional air-moving cones with a diaphragm, they account for virtually all "normal" speakers. Electrostatic speakers utilize a charged field within which a very thin membrane vibrates to create sound waves; the resulting sound is very fast and can produce an extremely large soundstage with peerless imaging, but they have a smaller sweet spot, meaning that you should point the speakers directly at your intended listening position; the sound won't be as realistic or spacious from outside the sweet spot, which is usually big enough for 1-3 people. Dynamic speakers have a sweet spot, too, but it is usually much larger, and they sound better outside the sweet spot than electrostatics. Electrostats are usually bought by audiophiles who use their speakers mostly for music, but with a supporting subwoofer they can sound great with movies, too. If you've never owned electrostats, please try to demo before buying, as they sound noticeably different from dynamic speakers and are considered to be an acquired taste by many.

The speakers that comprise the following lists range from excellent budget models, which deliver great bang for your buck, all the way up to peak HiFi setups and the kinds of speakers used for mastering in the world’s most renowned studios. I advise most first-time buyers to start low; many non-audiophiles won't feel the need to spend more than a few hundred dollars to get very satisfying budget models, and I would bet that most people will be happy with speakers like the Pioneer FS-52 without feeling the need to upgrade. That said, you get what you pay for, and if you’re ready to shell out a thousand or more, you'll get serious audio that will make your local movie theater sound muddy and undetailed, and if you decide to roll with the big dogs and spend over $5,000, you're getting into the realm of professional-class sound and will probably never want to go back.

In the end, every speaker listed here is great for its intended purpose, and no matter what your budget, there are speakers out there for everyone. Have a good read, and prepare for a big package to show up on your doorstep soon!

Focal Grande Utopia EM Floor Standing Speakers

Focal Grande Utopia EM Floor Standing Speakers

Focal is well known throughout the high end audio industry as the producer of the world's finest speaker components, which are featured in many of the world's best setups for homes and studios alike. Their own flagship speaker, the Grande Utopia EM, is a standard against which all other speakers can be compared, and often are: their penchant for pure tonal neutrality makes them an ideal reference point for audio equipment of any kind. The level of transparency and accuracy achieved by the EM is simply unmatched, capable of betraying faults in even the best professionally produced music. However, unlike so many analytically oriented speakers, they achieve this without accentuating treble response, which allows them to retain a level of musicality and listenability that is lost on many studio-bound monitors.

The soundstage produced by two Grande Utopias is a wonder to behold. They generate a wide, spacious sonic image, within which instruments are clearly separated and independently audible, down to the finest string pluck and echo. An independent subwoofer is unnecessary; each Utopia has a 16-inch electromagnetic driver, Focal's latest innovation and the source of this Grande Utopia's EM branding, which delivers ample bass in a full, taut fashion that clearly defines the subtleties of every reverberation. This gives them a noticeably fuller sound than traditional floor standing speakers, which typically sport woofers no larger than 8 inches. The Grande Utopia will easily reproduce explosions, gunshots, helicopter blades, and any other bass-oriented effect with ease. The midrange of the EMs is similarly full, but never aggressive or overly forward, and is as close to tonal neutrality as is humanly possible. Their treble is articulate and infinitely detailed, while remaining smooth and inoffensive so long as sibilance is not present in the recording.

The Grande Utopia series has one more feature that helps propel it to the very top of all home listening devices: it is adjustable. Depending on where you want your sweet spot to be, the Grande Utopia EM can be "aimed" to help ensure that sound is being fired right at your chair or couch.

The Grande Utopia EM is very possibly the most accurate and technically capable floor speaker ever built. If you have the money to spend, and a true appreciation for reference quality audio regardless of cost, Focal's flagship will deliver everything you ask, and likely more, provided it is properly powered and fed with the highest quality source material.

JTR Noesis 212HT Speaker

JTR Noesis 212HT Speaker

JTR may be a small company, but their sonics punch right up there with the world’s best systems. Many enthusiasts actually prefer the Noesis to more expensive, better known speakers due to their ability to be used as either floor speakers or center channels and create absolutely ridiculous SPLs without distorting. Their balanced, natural sound is rivaled by few, and while the highs on the 800 Series Diamond might be a touch more accentuated, and the speakers from Focal and Wilson are more attractive and perhaps have the edge on detail and soundstage precision with their adjustable, multi-enclosure designs, the JTRs have an incredibly addictive dynamism and are much more efficient than traditional high-end audiophile speakers. This, along with their versatility and minimalist design, featuring 3 drivers per speaker and cabinetry designed solely around acoustics without compromise for aesthetics, makes them an easy choice for those who don’t mind their utilitarian styling. Personally I see the minimalist design as a plus, as it allows them to fill the role of floor speaker or center channel without any special modification or stand.

JTRs are not for the faint of heart; some listeners may find that they lack slightly in refinement at lower SPLs. But crank up the volume, and you are in for a real treat: the dynamic range the Noesis are capable of portraying is simply out of this world. These can rock out like no other speaker in production, and it gets even better for movies: with the proper subwoofer, like JTR's Captivator, the 212HTs can recreate sounds like explosions, gun fights, and pretty much any kind of action sequence with the kind of dynamics that will have your heart pounding in your chest.

The Seaton Sound Catalysts are very similar speakers, with comparable sound, versatility, and pricing, but the Noesis are a bit cheaper and require less power, which make them incredibly easy to recommend at under $5,000 for the pair; given their versatility, price to performance ratio, and how close they come to even the Focal Grande Utopia EM in terms of overall sound quality and faithful reproduction of source material, they are an absolutely insane bargain, and probably the last speakers you will ever buy.

Sound Lab U-1PX Floor Standing Speaker

Sound Lab U-1PX Floor Standing Speaker

For lovers of naturalness of sound and coherence, there is no substitute for electrostatic speakers, and the U-1PX is the best there is, producing incredible detail, and bass notes with noticeably more authority than similar panels, including top of the range products from more prominent firms like MartinLogan and Quad. Electrostatic speakers are the delivery method of choice for lovers of a bright, detailed, well separated sound, and while most higher end units succeed in this regard, few are capable of delivering bass with the realism and authority of the U-1PX. It is definitely sufficient for most applications, but, like most floor speakers, it requires an additional subwoofer if you want to experience truly physical bass reproduction for a more realistic movie experience.

Sound Lab has a wide selection of speakers, and although they refuse to advertise publicly, they have experienced success in spreading knowledge of their products by word of mouth, and they live up to their reputation every time. The U-1PX is their flagship model, and definitely earns its place at the top of the lineup. Its sound is typical of an electrostatic speaker: clean, fast, detailed, and airy. The soundstage is incredibly spacious and well-separated, rivaling everything short of insanely expensive units from the likes of Wilson Audio and Focal. Like other electrostats, however, its major challenge is the size of its sweet spot: in order to experience its truly glorious soundstage at its best, the speakers must be placed very precisely and angled towards the same spot, and you must be sitting in that spot! The prime listening area for most electrostatic panels is usually big enough to fit 2-4 people on a couch, and the U-1PX does slightly better thanks to its size, but not by much; this is an inherent shortcoming of all electrostatic speakers, and one that any potential buyer should be prepared to accommodate. Sound will obviously still be audible outside of the sweet spot, but it won’t be as coherent and enjoyable. The U-1PX is also frankly enormous, standing exactly 7 feet tall!

If you’re a fan of the airy, lightning-quick sound of electrostatics, the U-1PX is the best there is, and its bass performance makes it an easy choice over other high-end panels. But be prepared to engineer your entire home theater to accommodate them: between their enormous size and picky positioning, they can be a challenge to work with, but those with patience will be rewarded with some of the cleanest, most spacious sound reproduction that man can reproduce.

Seaton Sound Catalyst 12C Floor Standing Speaker

Seaton Sound Catalyst 12C Floor Standing Speaker

Seaton Sound is a very small company; you know you’re working with a home-grown business when their product information is only available on their web forum. But don’t be deceived: Seaton Sound produces some of the best speakers built today, period, and they truly have to be heard to be believed. The Catalyst 12Cs are easily some of the most dynamic speakers in production, and they reproduce both movie soundtracks and music with clarity normally reserved for speakers as much as ten times their price: they rival even the studio legend B&W 800Ds in terms of detail and separation, and sport a noticeably more dynamic and immediate sound. They sound more raw and real, and less polite, than anything made by Bower & Wilkins, and I think most people would prefer the sound of the Seatons, despite their lack of publicity outside the niche audiophile community. Their design is also incredibly versatile, allowing them to be used as floor speakers or center channels, and they can be placed and mounted in a variety of configurations due to their very simple design.

The other truly incredible feature of the Catalyst is its ability to play at high volumes. These speakers are capable of reaching literally deafening SPLs without breaking a sweat; in a smaller space, they could potentially do serious long-term damage if their full potential were to be unleashed. In fact, I don’t imagine anyone has ever bothered to try to reach the Catalyst’s full potential; it’s simply unnecessary. I imagine these speakers could easily be used for an outdoor concert and never break a sweat, so long as they are fed sufficient power; the Catalysts do pull more juice than the JTR Noesis, which should be a consideration for anyone whose HT setup is already pushing the limits of their home’s existing power supply. Short of this one drawback, the Catalyst 12cs are easy to recommend, and I’m sure they will please anyone looking for absolutely top-notch home theater audio at an extremely reasonable price.

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond  Floor Standing Speaker

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond Floor Standing Speaker

The 800 Series Diamond is B&W’s flagship speaker, and well-known in the music industry as the premier reference speaker for music production and mastering. It is an equally capable home theater speaker, capable of immersing listeners in a wide sonic landscape and delivering sonic cues with a dynamism unmatched by any traditional floor speaker. B&W is famous for giving their speakers a slight lift in treble to accentuate details, and the 800D is no exception, but its tonality is very neutral on the whole, and in this case the slight emphasis does not color any other aspect of the 800D's presentation. Bass response is taut and impactful, but doesn't have quite enough body to suffice for home theater applications on their own; a subwoofer, preferably B&W'd own DB1, rounds out the sound nicely. The midrange of the 800D is fast, detailed, and articulate, never struggling to portray complex passages and always separating instruments with sufficient space to hear every detail.

The 800Ds are optimized for studio use, but are capable of producing sufficient SPL for nearly any size of home theater, provided the inclusion of appropriate supporting surrounds and a center channel. They are very dynamic as such, but aren't as efficient as speakers like the JTR Noesis or Seaton Sound Catalyst, so if you're looking to really rock out or blow your eardrums with explosions, the 800D probably isn't for you. But if you're after ultimate refinement and analytical realism, its hard to do better than the best from B&W.

Pioneer SP-FS52 Andrew Jones Designed Floorstanding Loudspeakers

Sporting a surprisingly natural, spacious sound for speakers costing $129 apiece, the FS52 are the speaker that perhaps best demonstrates Andrew Jones’ tremendous influence in creating high quality speakers at a price that fit within just about anyone’s budget. Pioneer has always been competitive in the realm of home audio, but the FS52 are a landmark product for the industry, offering sound quality normally reserved for speakers costing double to triple their price. They create an airy, three-dimensional sound, and the triplet 5 1/4 inch woofers produce substantial bass impact on their own; they can’t dig deep like a dedicated sub, but they have enough body to sound surprisingly realistic on their own in a smaller space. They produce a midrange that is neither pushy nor recessed, and their treble response is very smooth and natural for a budget speaer. While they are still lower end speakers, and thus not intended to produce enough volume and dynamics for larger home theaters, they should sound great in most living rooms or bedrooms; they will do well in a complete system for any space under 350 square feet or so, but over 400 might be pushing it. Overall the FS52 are an impressively detailed, spacious, and neutral speaker for a rock bottom price, and those looking to get the absolute maximum bang for MSRP buck out of their system need look no further.

JBL Studio 190

JBL Studio 190

Anyone who knows anything about speakers has heard of JBL. As the most popular and well-known brand of the Harmon group, they are known the world over for building groundbreaking speakers of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny but room-filling Flip portable Bluetooth speaker to the summit-fi titan Project Everest full-size speakers. While the Studio 190s will never match up to the Everest, they do exemplify JBL’s house sound, and will impress just about anyone who hears them short of a seasoned audiophile or music professional. They sound very dynamic and full for a floorstanding speaker, producing punchy yet well-controlled bass that makes most speakers under $1,000 a pair sound either anemic or bloated. Their signature is a bit bassier than the FS52 overall, and those looking for a more capable alternative to the budget Pioneers should look at the FS51 model, but for those seeking a less neutral, more exciting sound, the JBLs deliver. They are also very handsome, with a sleek yet refined angular design and attractive weave pattern covering the speaker’s front face.

The Studio 190s are a great pair of speakers, and while they are a solid deal at under $1,000 a pair direct from JBL, they can be had for cheaper, and they have dropped as low as $200 apiece on NewEgg. Keep your eyes open for a good deal, and you could have speakers that outshine many similar floorstanders at their MSRP for bottom dollar.

Paradigm Monitor Series 7

Paradigm’s “Classic” Monitor Series represents the company’s bid to win over entry-level buyers and future audiophiles with their house sound, and the Series 7 is their gateway model at $450 per speaker. It gives the listener an accurate taste of what the company’s higher end speakers have to offer, but doesn’t quite undercut the pricier models in the range.

While not quite as lively sounding as the JBLs, the Series 7 are more natural and effortless, and scale better with higher end equipment; they are excellent as front speakers, but also have the poise and detail to be used as surrounds to compliment truly high-end front speakers if you plan on upgrading in the future. They are balanced and neutral; while they have enough bass to be used on their own, you'll probably want to invest in a subwoofer if you want real thump. Their midrange is clean and full, with good definition and noticeably better micro-detailing than the cheaper speakers listed here. While most of these could be considered "good normal speakers," the Paradigms are entry level audiophile speakers, and the difference is obvious, both in their tonality and levels of detail presented. Their soundscape is equally impressive, creating a wide, well-separated image that sounds equally coherent for both movies and music.

The Series 7 are a step above the rest listed here, and your wallet will know it, but so will your ears. If you're just looking for a decent pair of speakers and want to be done with it, you will probably be satisfied with something a bit cheaper. But if you have the cash to really play, and want to test your toes in the audiophile waters before jumping all the way in, the Series 7 are a great place to start.

Infinity P363BK 6.5" 3-Way Passive Floorstanding Speaker (Black)

Infinity has competitive gear at nearly every price point, but the shining star in the bang-for-buck category is the P363. Sporting a prominent but well-behaved midrange, well extended bass and treble, and exceptional soundstage performance, it is an incredible performer, coming in a close second to the Paradigm Monitor Series 7 for 2/3 the price. With a comparably wide soundstage, and only slightly more noticeable grain, the P363 punches well above its sticker, sounding closer to most speakers double what Infinity asks. Its presentation is noticeably bigger and better separated than the cheaper speakers listed here, as well as showcasing more accurate positioning cues and a generally more refined note presentation than most speakers costing under $1200 a pair. They scale very well with better equipment, too, and like the Monitor Series 7, the P363 can be used as surrounds to support higher end front speakers in the event that you decide to upgrade. On the whole they aren't quite as refined as the Series 7, but for 2/3 the cost they come respectably close. If you want a taste of high end sound, but can't stretch for the Paradigms, the P363 delivers most of their performance for a very reasonable price; keep an eye out for sales, too, as they have been seen on newegg.com and at Fry's Electronics for as low as $200 for a pair.

Magnepan MMG Floor Standing Speaker

Magnepan MMG Floor Standing Speaker

While they aren’t as full and natural sounding as many folks designing a home theater might like, those who plan to use their speakers for both movies and music, or who simply prefer the lighter sound of electrostatic speakers, will love the Magnepan MMGs. Offering serious bang for buck when it comes to detail, speed, and overall clarity, these budget-oriented electrostatic speakers don’t require a subwoofer, with a stated frequency response of 50-24,000 Hz, but without one, they may sound a bit anemic to some listeners. Lovers of AKG or Etymotic headphones, on the other hand, will feel right at home with the MMGs on their own: their bass is present and punchy, but not what one would call full or very impactful.

Imaging and positioning, on the other hand, is out of this world, as is true of most electrostatics. The MMG’s ability to place and separate instruments is simply out of this world compared to most speakers in their price range. The MMGs image like $2,000+ speakers; better, in some cases, and the acuity of their treble response highlights this aspect of the sound in a way that will definitely please lovers of a brighter, detail-oriented signature more than anything in the price range.

Sound Lab U-1PX Floor Standing Speaker

Sound Lab U-1PX Floor Standing Speaker

For lovers of naturalness of sound and coherence, there is no substitute for electrostatic speakers, and the U-1PX is the best there is, producing incredible detail, and bass notes with noticeably more authority than similar panels, including top of the range products from more prominent firms like MartinLogan and Quad. Electrostatic speakers are the delivery method of choice for lovers of a bright, detailed, well separated sound, and while most higher end units succeed in this regard, few are capable of delivering bass with the realism and authority of the U-1PX. It is definitely sufficient for most applications, but, like most floor speakers, it requires an additional subwoofer if you want to experience truly physical bass reproduction for a more realistic movie experience.

Sound Lab has a wide selection of speakers, and although they refuse to advertise publicly, they have experienced success in spreading knowledge of their products by word of mouth, and they live up to their reputation every time. The U-1PX is their flagship model, and definitely earns its place at the top of the lineup. Its sound is typical of an electrostatic speaker: clean, fast, detailed, and airy. The soundstage is incredibly spacious and well-separated, rivaling everything short of insanely expensive units from the likes of Wilson Audio and Focal. Like other electrostats, however, its major challenge is the size of its sweet spot: in order to experience its truly glorious soundstage at its best, the speakers must be placed very precisely and angled towards the same spot, and you must be sitting in that spot! The prime listening area for most electrostatic panels is usually big enough to fit 2-4 people on a couch, and the U-1PX does slightly better thanks to its size, but not by much; this is an inherent shortcoming of all electrostatic speakers, and one that any potential buyer should be prepared to accommodate. Sound will obviously still be audible outside of the sweet spot, but it won’t be as coherent and enjoyable. The U-1PX is also frankly enormous, standing exactly 7 feet tall!

If you’re a fan of the airy, lightning-quick sound of electrostatics, the U-1PX is the best there is, and its bass performance makes it an easy choice over other high-end panels. But be prepared to engineer your entire home theater to accommodate them: between their enormous size and picky positioning, they can be a challenge to work with, but those with patience will be rewarded with some of the cleanest, most spacious sound reproduction that man can reproduce.

JTR Noesis 212HT Speaker

JTR Noesis 212HT Speaker

JTR may be a small company, but their sonics punch right up there with the world’s best systems. Many enthusiasts actually prefer the Noesis to more expensive, better known speakers due to their ability to be used as either floor speakers or center channels and create absolutely ridiculous SPLs without distorting. Their balanced, natural sound is rivaled by few, and while the highs on the 800 Series Diamond might be a touch more accentuated, and the speakers from Focal and Wilson are more attractive and perhaps have the edge on detail and soundstage precision with their adjustable, multi-enclosure designs, the JTRs have an incredibly addictive dynamism and are much more efficient than traditional high-end audiophile speakers. This, along with their versatility and minimalist design, featuring 3 drivers per speaker and cabinetry designed solely around acoustics without compromise for aesthetics, makes them an easy choice for those who don’t mind their utilitarian styling. Personally I see the minimalist design as a plus, as it allows them to fill the role of floor speaker or center channel without any special modification or stand.

JTRs are not for the faint of heart; some listeners may find that they lack slightly in refinement at lower SPLs. But crank up the volume, and you are in for a real treat: the dynamic range the Noesis are capable of portraying is simply out of this world. These can rock out like no other speaker in production, and it gets even better for movies: with the proper subwoofer, like JTR's Captivator, the 212HTs can recreate sounds like explosions, gun fights, and pretty much any kind of action sequence with the kind of dynamics that will have your heart pounding in your chest.

The Seaton Sound Catalysts are very similar speakers, with comparable sound, versatility, and pricing, but the Noesis are a bit cheaper and require less power, which make them incredibly easy to recommend at under $5,000 for the pair; given their versatility, price to performance ratio, and how close they come to even the Focal Grande Utopia EM in terms of overall sound quality and faithful reproduction of source material, they are an absolutely insane bargain, and probably the last speakers you will ever buy.

Quad ESL 2912 Floor Standing Speaker

Quad ESL 2912 Floor Standing Speaker

Quad is one of the oldest names in the game when it comes to electrostats, and they have mastered their sonic flavor over the years, tuning their sound to match the favored flavors of their customers. The ESL 2912 is their latest masterpiece, and it delivers the airy quickness typical of electrostats that will please even the pickiest listeners with mind blowing levels of detail and incredible imaging. This is the classic electrostatic sound: perfectly coherent, smooth integration of all instruments and effects, with top notch transparency and nearly pitch-perfect tonal balance. It doesn’t have the extra low end extension of the U-1PX, but the sound is slightly fuller in the low mids and upper bass, giving it a touch of warmth compared to the Sound Labs flagship.

As usual, imaging and coherence are absolutely fantastic, and the ESL 2912 will definitely be the speaker of choice for those who desire smoothness and coherence above all; while the U-1PX is superior from a technical standpoint, I believe many will find the 2912 to have a more natural sound. The U-1PX is more exciting, with better bass response, which is rare in an electrostat, but those who want that classic old-school electrostat sound are probably better off with the Quads.

Quad always makes top notch electrostats, and their latest flagship is no exception. They adhere to the traditional electrostat recipe: light on bass, big on detail, coherence, and imaging. Those who are new to electrostats, or like their presentation but still find them lacking in bass, will probably prefer the U-1PX, but if you really want the most intimate, natural sound experience, only Quad can deliver what you are really after, especially if you plan to feed your speaker with an analog source - this is where the Quads really shine. If you want to keep it old school, the 2912 can do no wrong.

Tekton M-Lore Floor Standing Speaker

Tekton M-Lore Floor Standing Speaker

The Tekton M-Lore justify their reasonable price tag with one of the most versatile and musical presentations of any speaker under $2,000. Capable of reaching deafening sound pressure levels without breaking a sweat, these speakers have a very forward, “live” sound that isn’t the most spacious, but has timbral accuracy that far exceeds most speakers in the price range. It’s sound is plenty dynamic - strong bass hits can practically come out of nowhere - The M-Lore shares some characteristics of studio monitors, namely that its sound field is not the widest or best separated as a result of its generally forward presentation, but nonetheless it manages to sound very realistic and coherent without overwhelming the listener with an artificially wide soundscape. This might be seen as a drawback by some, but to those who prefer a “live” sound to a more clinical reproduction will appreciate the presentation; lovers of Grado headphones would likely be fans of the M-Lores. The instrument separation is also not the cleanest; the M-Lores have a somewhat blended presentation, which lends to their “live” sound; it can detract from clarity on occasion, but given the overall dynamic prowess, timbral accuracy, and levels of detail achieved by the M-Lores at the $1,000 price point, these are easily forgivable faults.

Magnepan MMG Floor Standing Speaker

Magnepan MMG Floor Standing Speaker

While they aren’t as full and natural sounding as many folks designing a home theater might like, those who plan to use their speakers for both movies and music, or who simply prefer the lighter sound of electrostatic speakers, will love the Magnepan MMGs. Offering serious bang for buck when it comes to detail, speed, and overall clarity, these budget-oriented electrostatic speakers don’t require a subwoofer, with a stated frequency response of 50-24,000 Hz, but without one, they may sound a bit anemic to some listeners. Lovers of AKG or Etymotic headphones, on the other hand, will feel right at home with the MMGs on their own: their bass is present and punchy, but not what one would call full or very impactful.

Imaging and positioning, on the other hand, is out of this world, as is true of most electrostatics. The MMG’s ability to place and separate instruments is simply out of this world compared to most speakers in their price range. The MMGs image like $2,000+ speakers; better, in some cases, and the acuity of their treble response highlights this aspect of the sound in a way that will definitely please lovers of a brighter, detail-oriented signature more than anything in the price range.

GoldenEar Triton Two Floor Standing Speaker

GoldenEar Triton Two Floor Standing Speaker

The Triton Two is Sandy Grossmans current flagship with GoldenEar, and while its no match for flagships from the biggest names, it gives everything in its price range, and well above, a run for its money. The Triton Two is an ideal solution for those who want serious sound but cant afford to spend too much expanding into a 2.1 or 5.1 system: even without a dedicated subwoofer in tow, the Triton Two delivers serious bass impact and body, and can reach deep into subbass territory if they are fed by a powerful amplifier. Grossman quotes the Twos as reaching all the way down to 16hz, an insane spec for tower speakers on their own; most dedicated woofers dont even reach this low.

The Twos also sport an extremely impressive soundstage on their own, even without surrounds. Their impressive dynamic presence, thanks in part to the excellent bass performance, gives them a very full, open sound, and while cues wont quite surround you fully if youre paying attention, their spaciousness is sufficient to watch movies and not really miss a full surround system. They perform very well with music, too: they have a tasteful warmth that many old school audiophiles will appreciate.

The Twos impressive soundstage performance is due, at least in part, to their redesigned HVFR tweeter, a folded ribbon design that differs slightly from that used by most speakers in that it pressurizes air in its folded design instead of merely firing directly outward. This creates a wider field of dispersion and, in this case, a smoother response that is a real asset to the Twos presentation, keeping treble away from harshness and giving excellent dimensionality to the overall sound.

The Triton Twos are an outstanding buy at under $3,000 a pair, and share many characteristics with speakers many times their price. Between their impeccable performance, incredible value, and unprecedented versatility, the Triton Twos are likely the best you can do for under $5,000, making even Revels F208 sound slightly closed-in and a bit thin in comparison. These are very, very serious speakers at a great price, and considering that you wont need a subwoofer unless youre a serious basshead, the deal is even sweeter than it looks.

Revel Performa F208 Speaker

Revel Performa F208 Speaker

The F208 is my top choice in midrange dynamic speakers for those who want their speakers for both music and movies. It is easily the most technically capable speaker in this review: while its bass doesn't punch as hard as the RF7-II, it is more natural, carries more realistic weight, and extends deeper. And while it doesn't sound quite as airy and spacious as the Electromotion ESL, its presentation is notably more realistic, as its dynamic drivers avoid the occasionally artificial feel that the emphasized speed and hyper-accentuated detail of electrostatic panels.

The midrange is beautiful, maintaining near-perfect neutrality and sporting seriously impressive levels of detail. Instruments like saxophone and electric guitar sound positively romantic, and are given a pleasant fullness by the F208's stellar bass performance. Its treble is exceptionally smooth, more so than any speaker on this list, and still manages to highlight details in a manner comparable to more expensive high-end kit. It isn't an extremely spacious sound, and soundstage junkies will probably choose electrostats every time, but the F208 does everything else better than almost any other sub-$5,000 pair.

If you are looking for a taste of true high-end, but can't stretch over $5,000, the F208 is an excellent choice and will do everything you ask of it: movies, music, and ambience are all handled with ease by Revel's top Performa3 speakers.

MartinLogan Electromotion ESL RMS Speaker

MartinLogan is easily the best-known manufacturer of electrostatic panels, and over the years they have begun to respond to consumer demands at lower price points and more diverse listening styles. The Electromotion ESL represents their most recent effort, utilizing a slim design along with curved panels and integrated woofers on each speaker to expand the notoriously narrow sound field inherent in electrostatic tech, and appeal to a broader range of listeners by adding a bit of bass to.

The curved panels allow them a slightly wider sound field than traditional electrostatics, but the sweet spot is still noticeably smaller than that of most dynamics. Likewise their bass performance exceeds most similar models, but still cant render satisfying subbass on its own; like any speaker in this review, it could use a hand from a dedicated subwoofer, but the ESLs own smaller woofers are integrated well enough that its overall tone is noticeably fuller than most electrostats. Transients and speed are top notch, as is expected in electrostats, and the ESLs definitely put out noticeably more detail than dynamic speakers in their price range.

The Electromotion ESL makes a great first electrostat: it is still bright, fast and airy, but the fullness added by its woofers help make it a less polarizing speaker. It also excels in home theater applications compared to most similar panels due to the wider sound field. These two factors combine to make it a very safe choice as far as electrostats go, and a great way to try something new.

Tekton Pendragon Floorstanding Loudspeaker

Tekton Pendragon Floorstanding Loudspeaker

The Tekton Pendragon is about as good as it gets under $5,000 for home theater. They are large speakers, and pair best with a large room and large display, but those with smaller rooms on a budget should take note: the Pendragon's size allows it to house serious woofers, which can produce enough bass for most tastes if the space isn't too large, making it a great option for anyone looking to skip on a subwoofer.

The Pendragon sports a fantastic presentation for its price range: it's soundstage showcases width, depth, and even height that is normally reserved for speakers double its price or more. It even puts pricier electrostatic panels to the test in this regard, although it isnt quite a match for the GoldenEar Triton Two.

The Pendragon is fantastically neutral and uncolored: it neither adds nor subtracts any warmth from the sound, and is impressively transparent to whatever source feeds it. This makes it an excellent choice for listening to music, too; it is exceptionally good at recreating the dimensionality and "realness" of live performances. For this reason, lovers of a more neutral sound may prefer it to the Triton Twos, especially if they will be used in a full 5.1 system.

The Pendragon would be a great speaker even at double its MSRP, but at $2500 it represents what is easily one of the best values in this price bracket; its a bit large, but the sound is truly unreal for the price.

Klipsch RF-7 II Floorstanding Speaker

When buying speakers for home theater, some people look for speakers that have the biggest soundstage, to truly recreate epic scenes in their living room. Some want as much detail as possible in order to pick out the tiniest nuances that help make films feel so lifelike that you could reach out and touch the actors. Others want a fast, dynamic sound to really overwhelm the senses and immerse them in the movie.

But really, when most people look for speakers for a home theater, most just want it to sound like a movie theater, and thats how Klipschs Reference speakers are designed to sound: like a really awesome movie theater. Their bass-heavy, mid-forward sound represents an enhanced version of what most folks are used to hearing when they go to see movies on the big screen; rest assured that the RF7-II will portray much more detail and texture in your movies than you would ever hear in a normal theater. Dialog from Klipschs horn-loaded drivers is forward, detailed, and exceptionally clear, unlike other bassy systems which can overpower the midrange and obscure important plot content. But dont worry, the RF7-II have bass in spades: with two 10 inch woofers on each speaker, these babies put out enough low-end grunt to satisfy some listeners needs even without a subwoofer, especially in a smaller room. They showcase impressive dynamic presence, and will probably scare your pets off at high volume.

For the majority of non-audiophile home theater enthusiasts, the RF7-II is an excellent, well-buit product at a non-unreachable price. It delivers at least 75 percent of the sound quality of truly high-end speakers of its type, and had the kind of sound signature that will impress movie buffs and casual listeners alike. If you want to recreate that movie theater experience at home, there is no better choice than Klipsch.

Bestcovery Staff
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
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