1. VIZIO SmartCast SB3621N-E8 2.1 Speaker System – Wireless Speaker
VIZIO SB3621N-E8 – Sound bar system – 2.1-channel – wireless – Bluetooth – black, silver, Upgrade to premium audio with VIZIO’s 38″ 2.1 channel home theater sound bar. Best in class audio performance delivers up to 100 dB of room filling, crystal clear sound with less than 1% total harmonic distortion, Bluetooth allows for wireless streaming of music from a smartphone, tablet, computer or music player etc. Simply pair your device with the sound bar, then sit back and DJ from the comfort of the couch.
The Pros The Vizio SB3621 offers excellent performance for an ultra-budget sound bar with great movie sound and toe-tapping music playback. The sound bar offers a decent selection of inputs including Bluetooth and will decode both Dolby and DTS. The sound bar and wireless sub feature excellent build quality and a seamless setup.
The Cons The LED display is not very helpful, and the WAV-file-only USB port is a little weird.
The Bottom Line The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best sound bar under $300 we have ever heard. If you want better TV sound, it’s the new budget benchmark.
- This soundbar makes it a lot easier to watch tv and sounds great. I like the sound out of the speakers. However, I had one problem when watching amazon prime video. I started getting a loud Buzzing noise when I closed a movie or while I watched. Then the sound started cutting out and buzzing all the time. I wanted to write this review in case others have the same problem. I went to Audio Format and changed the setting to PCM. I found this solution on line and this solution totally fixed the problem. Thank you Internet.
- Got this at Costco for $129. Great sound for both TV and music. Sub woofer provides good bass. I listened to this, the Yamaha YAS-107 and the samsung k-450 and this had the best sound. The Samsung was tinny. This has a warmer tone and crisp bass. I’d recommend it for this price point. I agree 100% with the CNET review.UPDATE…My son plays World of Tanks and it sounds amazing. Tanks sound like they’re coming through the wall and when they shoot the house shakes!
2. Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speaker Pair
- Award-winning design heritage to shelf or stand mount to fit seamlessly into your chosen listening room, Larger cabinet increased cabinet volume from previous models delivering a larger scale sound and deeper bass
- P2PTM bracing – helps keep the enclosure extra quiet through computer aided placement of internal bracing, Uses a 22mm decoupled High Frequency Driver with wide surround creating a wide even dispersion of stereo
- New low profile binding posts have been incorporated with sockets deep enough to accept 4mm (0.16 in) Banana Plugs
- Enclosure Type: 2-way reflex, Bass Driver: 125 mm (5 in), Tweeter: 22 mm (0.9 in), Frequency Response: 64Hz – 30kHz, Impedance: 6Ohms, Minimum Impedance: 4Ohms, Sensitivity: (2.83 [email protected] m) 88dB, Power Input: 50-125W, Cross-over Frequency: 2.4kHz, Dimensions (WxHxD): 170x278x282 mm, Weight: 5.5kg
- What’s in the box: 2 x 3020i bookshelf speakers, 2 x Speaker Grilles, 2 x Foam Bungs, 1 x User Manual, 1 x Handling Gloves.
The Pros The affordable Q Acoustics 3020i give smooth, rich sound in a relatively compact design. The speakers are well built, look sweet and are available in a number of attractive finishes.
The Cons Despite simplified speaker connectors, the 3020is are not suited to wall-mounting. The Elac Debut B6.2 offer better performance for the same money.
The Bottom Line The Q Acoustics 3020i bookshelf speakers combine cutting-edge design with excellent sonics and are suited to systems with tight space requirements.
- These speakers are excellent value for money. You have to step up considerably to surpass them. I would add that they have benefited from high quality stands filled with metal sand and a good amp. I went with the Naim 5si which is excellent, but you can certainly go with something a bit lower and still get a lot out of these speakers. I experimented with them in my living room and in my bedroom and ended up going with the living room (as my wife hates my vintage JBL speakers in the living room). They don’t have sharp treble at all, and some may feel the treble is rolled off a bit. I think it is probably better off this way, since some of the lower and mid-bass is weak, due to the size of these speakers, and the smooth treble keeps them in tonal balance. They aren’t going to do very well with hip-hop or bass-heavy genres, unfortunately. However, I listen to a lot of jazz and have found them adequate for my tastes. Voices are particularly clear.
- Bought this from QA website
Had last years 3020 for my son. Upgraded this for my son’s room.
As another reviewer noted, much improved over last year.
I auditioned Elac B6 2.0, Emotiva B1, QA 3020i
While they all are good speakers, the QA stood out with its clarity/detail. In addition, this has to be one of the most beautiful speakers you can buy under $500…heck maybe even under $1000
Sometimes I just like looking at it.
Low end isn’t best, not bad, Elac has a little more, but I’ve learned this you can add bass artificially by subwoofers
However, you can’t add clarity/detail artificially so these were an easy choice.
3. ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 Bookshelf Speakers
Improving on the b6-a speaker with accolades from the global press and awards from industry professionals-was not an easy task. But constant improvement is what we do at ELAC, and the Debut B6.2 raises the bar for bookshelf performance higher than ever before. Any competition it has starts at many times its price.
The Pros The affordable Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 offers class-leading sound along with excellent build quality and attractive looks. The front-facing bass port allows them it be placed close to walls.
The Cons Big, boxy design compared to some competitors. Not as easygoing or forgiving as its predecessor.
The Bottom Line The Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 is one of the best speakers at this price, with great sound and excellent build quality.
- I just dug out my old stereo (not cool vintage, just early 2000) which I hadn’t used in years, and decided to upgrade the speakers (a pair of Sonys stolen from a big all in one system). After a lot of consideration and discussion, ended up with these. Fit and finish was excellent on my pair. I have them on 24 inch stands. Out of the box, I thought they were a little thin sounding, but after about 5 hours of use (Mostly while I wasn’t home), I felt like the bass depend quite a bit. They are not going to rattle your windows or anything, but the bass is tight, punchy, and musical without a sub, and very musical. Great for rock and jazz. Maybe not as much as some people would like for hip hop or classical. But all of that is pretty subjective. I am a bass player, and fairly picky about my low end sound, but these fit very much with the kind of sound I like for the music I listen to.
- Well, this was a blind buy for me after lots of research. These replaced some Yamaha NS-A638’s, which still after 20yrs., sound spectacular. Upon opening the box, I was ready to send them back. They are dramatically smaller, going from a 3-way design with an 8in woofer to these, I thought there’s no way I’ll get that full bodied sound, but ohhhh was I wrong. Yes they are puny to look at, but the design makes them sound twice as big, and the clarity and projection are leagues better. You’ll probably need some extra oomph from your amp to get the full benefit as they are 6ohm speakers. I am running them on a Sony at 140wpc( 80wpc should suffice), and the louder you get, the better they sound. And this is probably the only weak point of the small design, they don’t sound great at low volume, more “tinny”. You can run them without a sub, there is ample bass even from a 6.5, but I reccomend a sub for complete range. Take the Pepsi challenge, hook them up to a good amp and play:
1. John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” (great punchy rock!)
2. The Vines’ “Autumn Shade” (lo-fi hi-fi)
3. Christopher Cross “Sailing” (unbelievable chime/percussion clarity)
If one of these songs doesn’t make your arm hair stand at attention, send em on back an stand on your head, because there’s no satisfying you. Andrew Jones is THE MAN.
4. All-new Sonos One – The Smart Speaker for Music Lovers
- Start and control your music with your voice. Amazon Alexa built right in.
- Play songs, check news and traffic, control your smart home and enjoy all those other helpful Amazon Alexa skills using a single Sonos speaker.
- Ask Alexa to Play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM. Listen to hundreds of other streaming services with the Sonos app.
- Connect wirelessly with other Sonos Home Sound System speakers to play music in any or every room.
- Enjoy surprisingly rich, room-filling sound from a smart speaker.
The Pros The Sonos One integrates full-fledged Alexa voice control, just like an Amazon Echo speaker but with better sound quality. It offers most of Alexa’s smart home controls and its far-field microphone performs similarly to an Echo. The Sonos One works seamlessly as part of a Sonos multiroom system, and can pair with another One for stereo sound. Apple AirPlay 2 is now supported and Google Assistant is coming too.
The Cons The One costs twice as much as the new Echo. It cannot form a stereo pair with an existing Sonos Play:1. Google Assistant may not arrive until 2019. It doesn’t work how you’d expect if you have an Echo within earshot. There’s no Bluetooth.
The Bottom Line The Alexa-powered Sonos One is the first smart speaker that actually sounds good with music — and even more new features will be coming to it in the months ahead.
- I am a 70 year old struggling to keep up with technology because, well it’s important. Like many my ability to check out new tech with the systems administrator or a Millennial colleague came to an abrupt end along with my final paycheck. Since I think it’s important that you know the perspective with which a review is written let me briefly tell you what this Sonos One was meant to replace.
Our basic music needs were being met by a 10 year old Sony “shelf system”; a radio tuned only to the local classical music station with a CD player that no longer worked. We have access to Amazon music and recently bought a little Bluetooth speaker that worked very nicely. The downside here is that my wife has no notion of how to use the app to make Amazon music work. We have Sirius XM in the car, love the variety and often wished we could get that at home.
Based on the specs and reviews it looked like Sonos One had the potential to be our new best music friend.
Out of the box the set up was VERY easy. I dread the day when I buy a new piece of tech and have no clue how to make it work. That was not a problem for this guy. Download the app and follow the simple steps. The only exception here is in a tuning process that involves waving your iPhone while you walk around the room. It kept failing, telling me I was making too much noise. My wife actually has this same complaint and, as with my marriage the app eventually suggested we just move on.
The Sonos app connected seamlessly with Amazon Music. We had discovered that Sirius XM now offered an app based streaming version of their service which also connected easily with a little switching back and forth between the apps. And the biggest bonus, our local classical music station is among the many radio stations that can be added.
The sound is spectacular. Keep that perspective thing in mind. We are obviously not audiophiles but to our aging ears the Sonos is a huge upgrade over what we had and fills our room with deep, rich sound.
The Alexa thing was our biggest surprise as both wife and I were skeptical and had put Alexa in the broad category of “things we will never have.”
Alexa’s default play for us will be something from Amazon Music. The more specific your request the better. There’s a bit of learning curve in finding what gets Alexa’s motor running. For example, after a number of fails we looked at the app and noticed that our local classical music station was titled Classical Public Radio. That worked and now my wife can get her old friend playing at 6am without using any apps. In the interest of fairness I must say that Alexa does not seem to recognize Sirius XM and even told me it was not installed. Of course all of the music can be accessed without problem on the app.
I have asked Alexa the time; asked her to set an alarm and to tell me a joke. I even told her I loved her. “That’s sweet” was her response. I’ve read here that the Alexa function is not great on the Sonos, but again that depends on your needs and perspective.
The Sonos One with Alexa gets the Double Senior Discount Seal of Approval from this household.
- Music regularly skips and/or stops completely. I have the fastest Internet speed available, my router is new (2017) and located in the same room as two of the speakers that frequently cut out (although they all do).
Sometimes, speakers disappear from my account completely and I have to individually re-add them.
These are common, known issues on which Sonos’ will blame your router—either being too outdated or too new.
5. ELAC Uni-fi UB5 Bookshelf Speaker
Space constraints should never compromise great sound, and the Uni-Fi UB5 is the perfect solution when floor space is at a premium, but demand for audiophile sound is not negotiable. Using the same outstanding driver and crossover components of its bigger brother, this compact, 3-way, bass-reflex monitor delivers the sonic signature of Uni-Fi in a smaller package.
- The perfect speaker for both home theater and music lovers alike ; Nominal impedance: 4 Ω ; minimum 3.4 Ω
- True 3-Way Design delivers more accurate sound than more traditional 2 -way designs. Frequency response – 46 to 25,000 Hz. Sensitivity – 85 dB at 2.83 v/1m
- Custom designed concentric driver provides much better imaging and performance compared with standard configurations used by our competitors
- Dedicated 5 ¼” aluminum woofer delivers powerful bass in a small package. Recommended amplifier power: 40 to 140 wpc
- A sophisticated crossover design combined with a sturdy braced cabinet helps deliver an audio experience far beyond its price point.
The pros The ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 loudspeakers offer the best performance of any speaker we’ve seen for the money. They deliver deep, tight bass; an effortless midrange and sweet highs. The soundstage is wide and unexpectedly deep.
The Cons The speakers’ vinyl finish isn’t all that durable. Low sensitivity and low impedence mean they may require an expensive, high-quality amplifier to sound their best.
The Bottom Line Paired with high-quality components, the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 sounds much better than you have any right to expect from a speaker of this size and price.
- I bought these on a whim when my much more expensive speakers (from Raidho) were blown by an anomaly in my power amp. I also bought the Bluesound Powernode 2 (I promise a separate review for that little gem!) to power them. I had heard Andrew Jones’ original ELAC speakers at The Show Newport years ago. The room was packed every day of the show, and there’s a reason why: you can’t buy better quality, better sounding speakers at ELAC’s price points. I was so smitten by the sound of these stand mount monitors that I also bought one of ELAC’s very reasonably priced subs (a 10-inch Debut S10EQ) as well. I spent about an hour or so dialing everything in (the sub has incredible flexibility, all adjusted by an app you install on your smartphone!).
I’m a diehard audiophile. My reference loudspeakers cost 30x more than these ELACs.
I can say without hesitation that this speaker is the best bang for your buck. One piece of advice: spend a lot of time with speaker placement. These are rear-ported bass reflex speakers and placement is EVERYTHING. Also consider putting isolation footers under whatever stand you buy. And don’t skimp on the cost of a good set of isolation footers!
Addendum: I bought the Uni-fi UB5 Slim version of the UB5’s. They cost $200 more than the “standard” UB5’s, but I believe it’s money well spent. They are indeed “slimmer” and the finish is a beautiful satin black, which is WAY sexier IMHO! I purchased the VIVO Premium Universal Floor Speaker Stands for Surround Sound & Book Shelf Speakers (STAND-SP03B) which is the best $45 you can spend on a budget speaker stand!