GREATEST VALUE: Definitive Technology Bipolar BP-8040ST System ($2595)
While the BP-8040ST is the next-to-the-smallest member of Definitive’s latest-generation bipolar speaker series, it serves as the centerpiece of an affordable surround sound system that produces a downright huge sound. What makes this result possible is the design of the BP-8040ST (where the “ST” stands for Super Tower). The heart of the speaker is Definitive’s ingenious new asymmetrical bipolar driver array, which deliberately directs more acoustic energy toward the front of the room than toward the rear. This arrangement buys the listener a system that offers precise, well-focused imaging, yet that produces the wide, deep, spacious soundstages for which Definitive’s bipolar speaker systems are known. Augmenting the bipolar driver array is a built-in powered woofer section that includes a powered woofer, a passive radiator, and a 300-watt woofer amp. The woofer section gives the BP-8040ST system powerful and essentially full-range bass, the response-smoothing benefits of having not one but two powered subs in play, and helps makes the system easy to drive to boot. Add in a cleverly conceived, passive radiator equipped center channel speaker and a pair of matching bipolar surrounds and you’ve got a system that sounds big, full-bodied, and sophisticated beyond all proportion to its modest size and price.
BEST COMPACT SOLUTION: Paradigm MilleniaOne System ($2648)
Paradigm’s MilleniaOne sat/sub system is the smallest member of the firm’s Reference-series group, which also include the much larger and more costly Studio-series speaker family, yet it plays bigger than it looks. Build quality, as you would expect of Paradigm Reference models, is very high with the MilleniaOne satellites featuring voice-matched S-PAL (satin-anodized pure aluminum) tweeters and mid/bass drivers housed in exquisite die-cast aluminum enclosures. Indeed, seamless driver integration and relative freedom from wood-box enclosure resonances are two of the key strengths of this system. But of equal importance is the sleekly styled and ingeniously designed, 300-watt MilleniaSub, which features two oblong woofer drivers arranged in a boxer-type vibration-cancelling configuration, and that is set up for use with Paradigm’s cool optional PBK (perfect bass kit) subwoofer/room EQ package. The slender MilleniaSub will, quite simply, fit where others won’t. Put these factors together and you have, as reviewer Steven Stone put it, “a flexible system that can produce music with exceedingly high fidelity in small urban spaces.”
GREATEST OVERACHIEVER: GoldenEar Triton Cinema Two System ($3500)
The brainchild of value/performance-oriented speaker gurus Sandy Gross and Don Givogue, the GoldenEar Triton Two loudspeaker and its associated center channel and surround/FX speakers blend both exotic and familiar design elements to create a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. The entire system takes its cues from the core sound of the Triton Two towers, which are among the finest sensibly-priced high-performance speakers we have yet heard. The Triton Two, said reviewer Chris Martens, is “voiced from the top down,” with high frequencies handled by a Heil-type HVFR (high velocity folded ribbon) tweeter. To match this fast and revealing tweeter, GoldenEar created an equally fast, very wide bandwidth mid/bass driver said to offer flat response that extends up to 20 kHz. Bass duties are handled by a built-in powered subwoofer section comprised of two oblong powered woofers, two oblong passive radiators, and a 1200-watt, DSP-controller woofer amp. Acting in unison, these design features give the Triton Two a full-range sound that is at once powerful and effortless, yet remarkably nuanced and refined, and that offers added benefit of near world-class imaging. What is more, the Triton Two is quite easy to drive, thanks in part to its self-powered woofer section. Finally, GoldenEar crafted center and surround speakers that share driver technology and voicing with the Triton Two. The result, as The Perfect Vision review states, is “a true benchmark system in terms of performance per dollar.”