Q I currently have a pair of Polk Audio LSi7 bookshelf speakers connected to a Harman/Kardon HK 3390 stereo receiver. I'm looking for some less-expensive speakers to use in a second adjoining room. It's not my main listening room and so inexpensive is fine. I was thinking of something like the Insignia NS-B2111 for less than $100/pair, but those have been discontinued. Anything under $100 you would recommend?
-- D.N., Minneapolis
A In the past I have briefly mentioned the Dayton Audio B652, which sell on Amazon.com and parts-express.com for $52 per pair, delivered. Like the $89 Insignias, they have been reputed to "just plain sound good" and give some $300 speakers a run for their money. I finally got a pair to try and I am glad I did.
The Insignias were much more stylish and had much nicer binding posts for the speaker wire. Beyond that, I think the Daytons are a bit better. The sound is comparable to the Insignias, but the Daytons can play much louder without resonating. If you turn the Insignias up past a moderately high volume the cabinets vibrate in a way that altered the overall sound, making it sound bloated. The Daytons seem rock solid, probably by virtue of their simple, rigid boxy design. They won't win any beauty contests, but for $52 they sure can sing!
Q I have a 42-inch Panasonic ST30 plasma TV. For sound I have the Panasonic SC-HTB10 Soundbar linked to the TV through the Viera Link function. While the soundbar sounds better than the TV speakers, I was hoping for more of an improvement. Would you estimate the OontZ XL as providing a significant improvement over the soundbar or would it be merely equivalent performance?
-- J.B., Wauwatosa, Wis.
A I have not heard that particular Panasonic soundbar so I can't say for sure if I think the OontZ XL would sound better. The OontZ XL won't interface with the television as easily as Viera Link, that's for certain. If you are looking for a big improvement here I think you have to go beyond the $99 OontZ XL.
If you are going to change then invest in something guaranteed to be a night-and-day difference. The best way is to get a receiver, subwoofer and a soundbar speaker such as the Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-42 ($799) or GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema 3D Array ($999) models I have discussed in the past. This will be a dramatic improvement and will provide high-end home theater sound. If you are on a budget you can get a sub and receiver for under $550 by getting the Monoprice 12-inch powered subwoofer for $136 and the outstanding Marantz NR1403 for $399. If you don't mind spending more, the matching Definitive and GoldenEar subwoofers are worthwhile upgrades. Visit www.definitivetech.com and www.goldenear.com.
You can also get a Definitive Technology SoloCinema XTR if you want a soundbar that combines the speaker, receiver and HDMI switching in one simple package with an included wireless subwoofer. It lists for $1,999 but is on sale for $1,599 right now.
I am going to be exploring some more modestly priced soundbars in the near future and will be sure to let everyone know if I come across any gems.
Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.