Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Please send all questions to All questions sent to this e-mail address will be replied to online. If you do not wish to share your e-mail with other readers, please do not send it. But if you have a question, chances are others are wondering the same thing. Therefore, you will be helping not only yourself, but other readers as well when your question gets answered here.

To Doug Schneider,

What is the speaker on the right-hand side of your website?

Joseph Piggott

Currently, it’s the Definitive Technology Mythos ST. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

[Further to my previous letter,] I have another option as well: the Focal Chorus 807 V. Would this one be the best bet?

Lou Vigilante

We have a review of the Focal Chorus 807 W coming to our sister site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, in April. The 807 W is basically an 807 V that incorporates some technology from the company’s Utopia EM series, which are their top speaker models. That might be worth waiting for. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I greatly value your opinion on this subject matter and any advice would be greatly appreciated. I was trying to choose between the Paradigm SE 1, positioned right around the Monitor line (so Paradigm’s middle range), versus the Aperion Versus Grand Bookshelf. These will be used for music only. I was told that the type of music sometimes matters with brands. I’m not sure if that is true but just in case it is, I primarily listen to hardcore and metalcore music -- it’s very heavy with guitars and drums and vocals. If you could shed any light it would be much appreciated! The last thing is that someone told me that for that type of music perhaps the Klipsch Reference II series is a good choice. Are those good as well? Thanks very much!

Lou Vigilante

In general, any well-designed, neutral speaker will sound good with any type of music. For the most part, that’s true. The difference in this instance is that the kind of music you enjoy tends to sound best when played really loud, something not all audiophile-type speakers do well. So I’m answering this question based on the assumption that you’ll need the speaker to have high output capability. Hopefully that assumption is correct.

I suspect that the person who recommended Klipsch did so because of the company’s reputation for producing speakers that play loud and clean. From what I know of the brand, that’s true, but I can’t tell you anything more because I’ve never reviewed any Klipsch products formally. Still, they’re not the only speakers that will play loud well. Paradigm’s speakers tend to play exceedingly loud and with low distortion, mainly because they design them to play back music as well as movies, which also tend to sound better played back at high volume levels. We reviewed Paradigm’s SE 1 in SoundStage! Hi-Fi and measured it in the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council where it produced a very respectable result when we pushed the distortion test to 95dB, a very high level usually reserved for larger floorstanding designs. We also reviewed the Verus Grand Bookshelf in SoundStage! Hi-Fi and it produced excellent results as well, but we couldn’t push the distortion test as high, which is typical of smaller speakers. In other words, the Verus Grand Bookshelf won’t be able to play as loud as cleanly. If you need high output, that might sway your decision regarding these two models. If not, either will likely be suitable, since they’re excellent-sounding designs (within their limits), and you should really listen for yourself to make the final decision in terms of which one sounds the best to you. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

Who makes the best-sounding floorstanding speakers for under $1000 a pair, under $2000 a pair, under $3000 a pair, and under $4000 a pair?

Tim S.

If that question could be answered easily, we wouldn’t have any need for websites such as this one. Unfortunately, it can’t be answered simply, or even at all. The fact of the matter is that there are many companies that make outstanding floorstanding speakers in and around those prices, and which ones are the best will largely depend on who you talk to. Even our reviewers’ opinions differ. The only thing I can do is give you the brand names of the companies that I would look at if I were shopping in those price ranges (in no particular order): Paradigm, PSB, Axiom Audio, Definitive Technology, Aperion Audio, Amphion, and Polk Audio. Frankly, I probably missed quite a few companies, but these are the brands that come to mind first and have strong reputations for consistently putting out good-sounding, affordably priced floorstanding speakers. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I very much enjoy reading GoodSound! and would appreciate your input. I have B&W CDM 7SE loudspeakers and a MartinLogan Grotto i subwoofer. I also have a Pioneer Elite SC-25 receiver and an Oppo BDP-83 universal player. My listening room is approximately 20’ x 15’ x 8’. Do you think replacing the B&W speakers with Aperion Verus Grand Tower speakers would be an improvement? I listen to many types of music, though primarily rock.

I realize this may be one of those unanswerable questions, but again, I’d appreciate your opinion.
Thank you,
Richard Miller

The question is answerable, but it might not be the answer you’re looking for.

The Aperion Verus Grand Towers are certainly newer speakers that are very well regarded for their looks as well as their sound, but whether you’ll find them “better” than your B&Ws is another story. Aperion makes very good loudspeakers, but so does B&W, and even though the CDM 7SE is an older design, it was also very well regarded in its day. Good speakers back then tend to be good speakers today. How do they compare? You’d have to evaluate them directly to really know.

Luckily, there’s a way to do that, since the buying options available to consumers have definitely improved over the years. Aperion Audio sells their speakers factory direct with a 30-day money-back guarantee. My suggestion would be to take them up on that offer if you’re truly serious about knowing what kind of improvement might be heard. Simply buy the Aperion speakers and put them side by side with your B&Ws and listen to determine which you think are better for the types of music you listen to. . . . Doug Schneider

To Jeff Fritz,

I appreciated your review of the Aperion Audio Verus Grand speakers. I have never heard them, but I have heard the B&W 803s. I own the Legacy Focus HDs that are about 15 years old. I am shopping for another set of mains for a basement system or to replace the Focus and move them to the basement. I love the Focus but won't pay their new, much higher price tag. I have been studying the Aperion line and the Swans line. Do you have experience with the Swans speakers and do you have an opinion or recommendation? Thanks so much and I look forward to your reply.

Greg Martinette

Yours is an interesting position. Your older Legacy speakers were highly regarded in their day and the new ones also look quite good. But, yes, they are more expensive than they were back then and are also quite a bit more expensive than the most expensive Aperion loudspeaker.

Loudspeaker design -- particularly as applied to the drive units -- has undergone an evolutionary improvement process over the last 15 years of which the Aperion speakers are a fine example. For instance, their new tweeter design (the Axially Stabilized Radiator) is certainly quite a bit better than the tweeter in the old Focus you have. So I have no doubt that the Verus Grand can better your Focus in the high frequencies, and maybe mids too. My concern would be the bass. The Focus is a much larger speaker with multiple large-diameter drivers. The Aperion is still a relatively compact floorstander. I don’t think the Aperion would have the oomph in the bass that you would want. However, there is a secret weapon at Aperion: their Bravus line of subwoofers that were designed to mate well with their loudspeakers.

I'd put the Aperion Versus Grands and a well-integrated Bravus sub (or better yet, two) against the old Legacy Focus speakers any day and expect a wipe-out. If you can swing it, I think the Aperion combo will make you very happy. I have no experience with the Swans line. . . . Jeff Fritz

To Doug Schneider,

I've been looking at changing my two-channel setup (NAD 3400 integrated amp with Snell J-III speakers) to a home-theater setup. The common thought out there is that the three front speakers (left, center and right) should be the same make and model to be tonally correct. Is this really the case? I would like to keep my current speakers and add a new center. Will there be a noticeable sound difference if the center-channel differs from the left and right?


This is a topic I’ve been writing about for years and feel is quite important for high-quality movie-soundtrack playback. In my opinion, it’s imperative that the center speaker tonally matches the left and right speakers if you want to get full enjoyment from a well-produced soundtrack. If the center doesn’t match completely, then what’s radiated from the center speaker will sound distinctly different from the left and rights and you will lose the cohesive sound that a well-integrated three-speaker setup produces. The difference between a well-matched three-speaker setup and a poorly matched one isn't subtle. In fact, in the past I’ve often recommended that if someone can’t find a center-channel that integrates well with their left and right speakers, then they’re better off sticking with just the left and right speakers and setting up their receiver or processor to produce a phantom center-channel image (basically, the center-channel information is sent to the left and right speakers). A phantom center doesn’t have nearly the same image focus outside the sweet spot that a real center-channel speaker does, but it’s a lot more natural sounding than a poorly matched center speaker is. . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I have not kept up with the latest in hi-fi, but I would like to put together a new system, primarily for music. (The system I currently use consists of a vintage Yamaha CR-2020 receiver and a pair of Celestion SL600s.) My question is: Can a system achieve audiophile-quality musical performance and double as a home-theater system? It seems to me that the purposes of each are very different and the equipment should be, too. Am I in the dark ages on this point? If so, can you recommend what equipment might address both needs?


You can definitely set up a system that plays back music and movies equally well, but you have to select your components from companies that produce products that perform this double-duty task. Not all companies produce products that do both things well, which is where the confusion about whether music and movies can co-exist in one system comes in.

I would imagine that you don’t have an unlimited budget, so I would steer you to the following electronics brands first: Anthem and NAD. There are other brands, but that’s a good start, since their products are generally good and their prices are reasonable. With speaker systems, there are many more brands to look at. These are the ones at the top of my list: Paradigm, Axiom, Aperion, PSB, Definitive Technology, and Revel. I hope that helps. Start shopping! . . . Doug Schneider

To Doug Schneider,

I recently purchased a Yamaha RX-A1010 A/V receiver and am connecting my legacy components to it, but I do not see an input/output for my Yamaha KX-W321 dual cassette deck.  Does this mean that I can no longer play my old cassettes as this technology has been bypassed in these new A/V receivers?


You should have no trouble connecting your cassette deck or any other analog source to the RX-A1010. In fact, the RX-A1010 appears to have a phono stage, so it will accommodate a turntable if you have one. The RX-A1010 doesn’t have an analog input specifically marked Tape, but it has several other analog inputs that should work fine with your cassette deck. From the RX-A1010 back-panel shot I found online, it looks to be Audio 3 or Audio 4, but consult the manual just to make sure. . . . Doug Schneider

To Thom Moon,

I have a 7.1 Sony home-theater speaker system, Sony STR-DN 1000 A/V receiver, and want to install a good FM antenna in my attic above the receiver. I live about 25 miles northwest of midtown Manhattan. Do you have any suggestions and reviews?

Steve Wolff

So long as you don’t have foil-faced insulation in your attic, that will be a good place to install it. However, before you mount the antenna permanently, move the antenna around the attic (both vertically and horizontally) to find the best reception -- FM signals are odd creatures that can vary in strength by 50 percent or more over the distance of two or three feet. Multipath interference also can vary greatly over a short distance.

At your distance from Manhattan, you have a number of choices. You probably can get away with a simple omni-directional antenna such as Winegard’s HD-6010 or Antennacraft’s FMSS. You'll need about 5.5'-diameter clear to mount either unit. Each antenna is between $25-$30 plus another $10-$20 for mounting hardware. With these, you'll also need to purchase some RG-6 coax and F connectors.

If your space is limited on the horizontal plane, but you have a rather tall attic, you could go with one of the vertical omni antennas such as the Magnum Dynalab ST-2 or Fanfare FM-2G. Both require little room around them; they do need some vertical space, though, as both are about 56" high. However, each runs about $110, so they are a lot more expensive. On the plus side, both appear to come with 25' lengths of terminated RG-6 coax.

Less satisfactory than either of the above types is the passive “antenna in a box,” typified by the Godar FM-1A. Its trapezoidal shape is compact: 17” x 9.5” x 1”. It’s not as sensitive as the dipole or vertical types but it takes up very little room. According to the map, you location seems to be about 140’ above sea level and appears to have a shot to the transmitting antennae on the Empire State without any obstruction, so the Godar might work. It costs about $60; you'll also need RG-6 coax. . . . Thom Moon

To Doug Schneider,

Which do you feel are the superior speakers: the Aperion Verus Forte Towers or the Axiom M60s? The price is about the same but there is 14% duty to import the Aperions to Ontario. Does it just come down to ordering both and keeping whichever sounds better to me? (Wood veneer over vinyl for sure.) Expert reviewers and owners say both of these speaker brands are excellent. I’m considering the Paradigm Monitor 9s also.

Thank you!

Don Newhook

Aperion, Axiom, and Paradigm are all excellent brands, and the speaker models you’ve chosen are great ones in their lines. But here’s the thing: they all have their pluses and minuses and the one that’s best for you is something you’ll have to ultimately decide. Luckily, picking won’t be that hard. Aperion and Axiom are both factory-direct sellers that offer money-back guarantees. Obviously, that greatly reduces the chances of making a mistake. Paradigm is one of the best-known speaker brands in the world with a huge dealer base. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding a dealer that’s quite close by that will allow you to listen.

My advice at this point is to put any reviews aside and let your own ears (and eyes, since the appearance of the speakers you have to live with is important as well) decide. . . . Doug Schneider