• Cambridge Audio S70 towers: bigger brothers to the S30 monitors, above. Very affordable (under $600/pair).
• Canton GLE 470 towers.
• Focal Chorus 814: A new, affordable entry in the Chorus family (any color you want, as long as it’s black).
• Focus Audio FC9: wonderfully balanced and refined sound—especially so for this price class.
• King Sound Queen II hybrid electrostats. Terrific treble purity, but caution: might be too bass-shy for some.
• Mordaunt-Short Mezzo 6 towers feature the firm’s very distinctive and highly effective, rear-vented “aspirated” tweeter, plus signature aluminum mid-bass drivers.
• Paradigm’s new Reference Studio 60 v. towers: the fifth-generation version of one of our perennial favorites in the world of affordable loudspeakers. The v.5 models feature distinctive new elliptical driver surrounds and greatly improved enclosures. The Studio 100 looks very promising, too, but is priced outside of our ~$2k/pair window.
• Rega RS Three and Five floorstanders. The transmission line-equipped RS Seven tower looks very promising, too, though it is priced well outside our ~$2k/pair window.
• Usher SW520/S520 two-piece floorstander. Usher showed a clever new passive subwoofer designed to complement the firm’s award-winning S520 mini-monitor (as reviewed in Playback). The result: a very attractively priced, two-piece, full-range speaker.
• Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference Strada satellite/monitor with matching TR-3 subwoofer. Hands down the best sat/sub system I heard at CES and, in my view, a remarkable engineering achievement.
• Focal Dôme 2.1 sat/sub system. An amazingly compact and affordable way to tap in to full-range Focal sound.
• NuForce’s three-piece system comprising S-1 desktop monitors, optional W-1 subwoofer, and matching Icon desktop integrated amplifier with built-in USB DAC (would make a great starter system).
Single-Enclosure Surround Systems
• B&W Panorama: an ambitious and surprisingly refined entry in this category.
• Canton DM70: a wonderful first sound bar from the German speaker maker, and one whose surround effects are more effective than most.
• Niro SSS (Spherical Surround System). OK, I fibbed; it’s actually a compact three-enclosure system, but man, does it ever work well!
• Phase Technology Teatro PC30 sound bar with EVT (Enhanced Voice Technology).
• Cue Acoustics r1 iPod speaker/table radio with matching s1 extension speaker. The two-piece format gives this system more of a “real” stereo system feel than most iPod speakers.
• Kanto Zed compact iPod speaker
• Paradigm Edge iPod/DVD/table radio system.
Earbuds & Headphones
• Audio-Technica ATH-ANC3 noise-cancelling in-ear headphones.
• Beats by Dre Tour in-ear headphones: to my way of thinking these handily outperform the original Beats by Dre over-the-ear headphones (as reviewed in Playback). Watch for a separate CyberListener blog on these, soon.
• Monster Cable Turbine in-ear headphones: truly excellent earbuds at a very fair price. Watch for a separate CyberListener blog on these, soon.
• NuForce NE-7M and NE-8 in-ear headphones: Folks, you won’t believe how good these are, and for ridiculously reasonable amounts of money.
• Sennheiser HD800: Many people regarded Sennheiser’s previous flaghship, the HD650, as one of the best headphones around, but the new HD800 is significantly better, combining the best elements of dynamic and electrostatic sound. My one word summary on both the sound and the $1400 price tag of these new ‘phones: Wow!
• Shure SE115 in-ear headphones slot in between the SE110s (as reviewed in Playback) and the more expensive Shures. The SE110s continue in the line, but at a new, reduced price.