Playback is created by and for personal/desktop audio enthusiasts who care deeply about music and the sound quality of their systems. The only open question might involve exactly how we each would define the word “system.” For some, headphones are the music delivery vehicles of choice, while others prefer systems based on small but excellent loudspeakers designed for use in desktop (or so-called “near field”) listening environments.
Like many of you, I enjoy both headphone and speaker-based systems, but for the moment let’s focus on identifying some very good, yet not-too-expensive, desktop speaker options. As many of you already realize, the “art of the game” for desktop speakers designers is to create products that are small in stature yet that manage—in all the areas that matter most—to sound “big.”
With this thought in mind, let me draw your attention to three of Playback’s favorite over achieving desktop speakers.
Note: This article focuses on passive loudspeakers. At a later point, we also plan to release an article highlighting some of Playback’s favorites active (that is, self-powered) desktop speakers.
To read the full review: http://www.avguide.com/review/audioengine-p4-bookshelf-speaker-playback-45
What it is: The Audioengine P4 is the first passive loudspeaker from a firm that built its reputation by offering high-value self-powered desktop speakers. Why the shift to a passive design?
We’ve come up with a three-part answer. The first part involves sound vs. size: the P4 offers sound quality comparable to—and in some respects superior to—that of Audioengine’s best self-powered model (the A5), but in a somewhat smaller-footprint format. The second part involves freedom—in this case, the freedom to pick and choose your own amplifier as you see fit. The third part involves freedom of a different kind—in this instance, freedom to place the speakers exactly where you want. For example, you could wall mount the P4 if you wanted to, which would be unfeasible with the self-powered Audioengines, since they place amplifier controls on their rear panel. Bottom line: think of the P4 as a way to get the acclaimed Audioengine sound in a smaller and less costly package.
What’s the Draw? Balanced performance is the key to this speaker’s appeal—that, and a very attractive price. By balanced performance, we mean that this speaker offers a package of four sonic characteristics that harmonize beautifully. First, it manages to be very revealing and detailed yet without pushing the “transparency envelope” so hard that it becomes obnoxious or painfully fussy about program material. In short, it conveys most of the good stuff in good recordings, but without punishing you when you to choose to play not-so-great recordings, meaning its lets you pick what you want to play, rather than petulantly demanding “the good stuff or else…” Second, it offers purity of tonal colors and richness of dynamics that are quite impressive for its size and price. Third, if offer surprising robust bass extension for a speaker its size, so that—while it can’t quite do the bottom octave and a half (nothing this size really can), it sounds fine above that point. Fourth, it offers terrific imaging and soundstaging, both for up close listening and when heard at a distance. This fourth point does come with one minor caveat, though, which is that you’ll need to give the P4 plenty of run-in before it sound its best (early on, imaging at-a-distance will be fine, but it takes time for the up-close sound to bloom and unfold as fully as it can and should.
All in all, the P4 offers fine sound for music lovers who need a small-footprint speaker for desktop environments.
Hint: If your budget can handle it, do consider the way cool option of ordering your P4’s with solid, laminated, carbonized bamboo cabinets. They look great and are said to sound even better than regular P4s owing to enhanced cabinet rigidity (though the standard P4s, as tested here, sound great too).
To read the full review: http://www.avguide.com/review/monitor-audio-silver-rx1-loudspeaker-playback-29