Price: $1395 per pair
Hans said: Amphion’s Ion+ is a precision instrument. Its hallmark of accuracy makes it a compelling proposition, and its size and Northern European style make it an attractive one as well.
The gist: Finnish minimonitor with a distinctive style and neutral sound.
Price: $1800 per pair
Philip said: I’m certain that the AT-2’s combination of strengths will appeal to those who want the more full-range sound of a floorstander combined with the sort of imaging usually heard only from minimonitors. If that describes you, you’ll definitely want to hear a pair of AT-2s.
The gist: Great bass, and overall pretty good.
Price: $1000 per pair
Jeff said: For speakers so small, the LV2e’s had wonderful resolution and exceptional transparency, while establishing a soundstage of impressive depth and dimension. They’re fast, delicate, and detailed, and their two-way design coherently integrates the bass, treble, and midrange.
The gist: Who wouldn't want a powered, leather-wrapped minimonitor?
Price: $4187 per pair
Doug said: All told, for its asking price, the Rhapsody 80 performed exceedingly well in my room. Color me impressed -- very impressed.
The gist: A new company producing a surprisingly good speaker for a fair price.
Price: $3760 per pair in standard finishes
Roger said: Axiom Audio’s innovative engineering and first-rate implementation in the LFR1100, including the use of 11 biamped drivers and DSP, have taken bipolar loudspeakers to the next level. Considering the quality of the cabinet and finish, and the fact that it includes a solidly built, outboard digital signal processor, the LFR1100 seems a bargain at its base price of $3760/pair.
The gist: Innovative bipolar design out of the House of Axiom.
Price: $3798 per pair
Doug said: When people ask me to recommend a top-class, midpriced, floorstanding speaker, what almost always pop to mind are various models from such stalwart brands as KEF, Paradigm, and PSB. What I heard from the Chrono SLS 780 DC means that the next time I’m asked for such a recommendation,Canton, too, will be on the tip of my tongue.
The gist: Overachieving small floorstander from Germany.
Price: $2000 per pair
Sid said: Contrast Audio’s ad copy states that their loudspeakers sound very natural, dynamic, and realistic. At least in regard to the Model One As3-Ref, I would tend to agree, and especially in terms of this speaker’s reproduction of voices. The As3-Refs imbued singers with a sense of poise and authenticity in which nuances and emotions were conveyed with a truthfulness uncommon in speakers costing $2000/pair.
The gist: Quaint little speaker from the Ukraine with some unique charms.
Price: $1198 per pair
Hans said: At $1198/pair, the Definitive Technology BP-8020ST SuperTower is a near-full-range speaker that sounds far larger than its tiny footprint would suggest. Its active bass section and high efficiency should make it an easy load for any amplifier, and it offers shocking clarity for the price.
The gist: How can they pack in so much for so little?
Price: $4900 per pair
Thom said: As befits Dynaudio’s reputation for producing excellent speakers, their Focus 260 is among the best I’ve heard. This is a speaker that brings out scads of detail, and so needs associated equipment that’s up to the task. Their modest size, perfect for many listening rooms, belies the quality of their output. With their neutral voicing and adequate but not prodigious bass, I would favor them for classical and acoustic music and small-combo jazz. If you’re into speed metal or something equally raucous, look elsewhere. But if your tastes match their impressive capabilities, the Dynaudio Focus 260s belong on your shopping list.
The gist: Dynaudio’s specialty: a solid mid-priced floorstander.
Price: $1399.98 per pair
Roger said: Let’s face it -- not everyone wants or needs a big full-range speaker. If your needs are a tad more modest, the Triton Seven will still provide the big, impressive sound that I’ve come to expect from GoldenEar’s larger floorstanding speakers, but from a smaller, less expensive package.
The gist: Big sound for relatively little money.
Price: $1499.99 per pair
Doug said: The LS50 is nothing short of a masterpiece of a minimonitor, priced so that anyone serious about audio can buy a pair -- and probably should, if only to know how great a small speaker can be.
The gist: Is there anything else to even consider at the price?
Price: $4999.98 per pair
Hans said: It has no real shortcomings, only an abundance of strengths -- and an emphatic recommendation from a writer usually allergic to such things.
The gist: Might be the best floorstander you can buy at the price.
Price: $799.99 per pair
Hans said: That a product designed from the ground up by one of the most reputable speaker companies on the planet costs so little is an achievement. It just works so well and with such ease. Call it a gourmet computer speaker, a desktop hi-fi, or whatever you like -- just understand that this is the small beginning of something significant: the future of high-end audio.
The gist: Perhaps the shape and sound of things to come.
Price: $149.99 per pair
Rad said: Logitech’s Z600 wireless Bluetooth speakers have striking looks that you’ll probably either love or hate, and play loudly enough to satisfy anyone using happy with the limitations of desktop speakers. Offering transparent sound in a stylish package, they’re simple to hook up, and the price is on the moderate side.
The gist: Cool little lifestyle stereo computer speakers.
Price: $3495 per pair
Doug said: It does this unassuming gem of a speaker from Germany something of disservice to call it one of the best two-way, stand-mounted speakers I’ve ever heard. At anywhere near its price, it’s one of the best speakers I’ve heard of any type.
The gist: Robust minimonitor from Germany.
Price: $2599.98 per pair
Doug said: In terms of appearance, build, and sound, as well as the exclusivity offered by a limited edition, and the cachet of custom features, the Paradigm Reference 30th Anniversary Inspiration is a unique and highly appealing speaker that’s tough to beat at the price.
The gist: A piece of audio history that also makes great sound.
Price: $299 per pair
Hans said: PSB’s Alpha PS1 is the perfect desktop companion, and $299 is a paltry outlay for speakers with so much engineering tucked into them. They just worked, and quite well.
The gist: Fine little powered speaker from Paul Barton and co.
Price: $2498 per pair
Tim said: The Venere 2.5’s rare combination of style, performance, and value presents an awful lot to like for a wide range of listeners. Kudos to Sonus Faber for having the guts to break with tradition and bring a unique breath of fresh air to an otherwise boxy, boring world.
The gist: Style and good sound combine seamlessly.
Price: $3498 per pair
Jeff said: At the end of the day, the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 is the speaker I would unhesitatingly recommend to any friend shopping for a pair of speakers costing up to $4500/pair. While there’s stiff competition above that -- the aforementioned KEF R900, PSB’s Synchrony One, the Paradigm Tribute -- I can’t think of any other speaker I’d rather own at the price.
The gist: High style and great sound for a terrific price.
Price: $1998 per pair
Thom said: The SVS Ultra Tower is a phenomenal accomplishment at the price; there’s just nothing I’ve heard for $2000/pair, or even for significantly more, that comes close.
The gist: A solid value in a full-range floorstander.