Sensible Sound's annual speaker recommendations

The Sensible Sound (TSS) magazine has published their annual speaker recommendations in the July/August 2002 issue, and their recommendations are listed below. There may be some readers of this forum who scoff at "TSS" as an audio publication, particularly as a high-end oracle, but IMO their evaluations have as much validity as those found in TAS and Stereophile. The one aspect of their recommendations that I found particularly interesting are the number of models by Legacy Audio that are included in their recommendations. I recently had a chance to hear the Legacy Audio Classic that belongs to a friend, and I was quite impressed. Based on that one listening experience, I hope to listen to other models when a dealer is eventually established in the Seattle area.

Without further preamble, here are the recommended speakers in order of ascending price, followed by the recommended subwoofers. I have also summarized their comments (FWIW).


1. PSB Alpha A/V ($249): These speakers give new meaning to the old adage, "good things come in small packages".
2. NHT SB-1 ($300): Combined with NHT's SW-10 subwoofer, the result is excellent overall sound.
3. PSB Image 2B ($400): Clean, supple mid-range; unaffected highs; generous helping of mid-bass. Musical, apparently gimmick-free; strengths belie their price.
4. Athena Technologies S1/P1 (S1, $275; P1 woofer, $275): Offers great set-up flexibility; excellent performance for the price.
5. NHT SB-3 ($600): Offers flat response and hint of bass in a bookshelf-sized unit.
6. Phase Technology Teatro 7.5 ($650): Excellent, well-balanced performer at the price.
7. NHT S-4 ($1,000): Outstanding treble performance, adequate bass, in a compact floor-standing system.
8. PSB Stratus Mini ($1049): Can sound dull in some systems, but fine speakers overall for the price.
9. Legacy Audio Studio ($1100): Fit, finish, and cabinetry superior to competitors; sense of dynamic ease and fullness of sound that belie small size. Also has two switches on back on speaker that can used to slightly contour sound.
10. Vandersteen 2Ce ($1300): Still sounds darned good. Not the best speaker in any particular sonic category, but very good for the money in all sonic attributes.
11. Mach One Acoustics M-Two ($1500): Very clean mid-range and treble; light but tight bass. Extremely robust construction.
12. Paradigm Monitor 90P ($1500): Built-in subwoofer offers flexibility in adjusting to room size and placement considerations.
13. Paradigm Active/20 ($1600): Accurate powered monitors that offer great flexibility in system integration and placement. Combined with Servo-15 sub, they make one heck of a powered sub / satellite system.
14. Paradigm Reference Studio/100 ($1800): Superb bottom end for a speaker of this price/size.
15. Dunlavy Audio Labs SM-1 ($2000): Clean, focused sound. If you want more bass, you will likely need a powered sub.
16. Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-II ($2500): Extremely clean and focused sound with excellent imaging characteristics of the pinpoint variety. A bit shy in the deepest bass.
17. Coincident Speaker Technology Super Conquest Series II Supreme ($2500): Lacks the power-handling and deep bass of the Legacy Classics, but counters with excellent imaging.
18. NHT 2.9 ($2500): Can sound a bit bright on some material, but capable of excellent imaging and focus.
19. PSB Stratus Gold ($2550): Not outstanding in any particular area, but very good in every performance area. Hard to beat overall, especially at the price.
20. Ohm Walsh 200 Mk-2 ($2600): Offers excellent bass performance and coherent overall sound with a wide soundstage. In the right room (medium size), can sound quite lifelike.
21. Audio Advancements Maxeen ($2700): Good imaging, decent bass, and very refined overall presentation.
22. Legacy Audio Classic ($3175): About 2/3 of the performance of the Audio Legacy Focus at just over half the price. Better bass and dynamic impact than any other full-range speaker in this list except for Legacy Audio Signature III?s, with gorgeous cabinetry.
23. Legacy Audio Signature III ($3950): Excellent bass performance that can be tailored to the room. Big sounding speaker that can work in both large and small environments.
24. Dunlavy Audio Labs Cantata ($5000): Three-way system with truly flat frequency response above 250 Hz, and adequate if not spectacular bass performance. Excellent pinpoint imaging.
25. Legacy Focus 20/20 ($6000): Outstanding dynamic capability, gorgeous cabinetry, and ability to be tailored to sound their best in nearly any room.
26. Legacy Audio Whisper ($14,500): Does not match the low bas of the Focus, but has better imaging overall, and an extremely broad horizontal "sweet spot". An extraordinary speaker system that must be heard to be believed. (This speaker was recently given a similarly outstanding commentary in a review by Anthony Cordesman in TAS.)


1. Parts Express Subwoofer Kit ($350)
2. PSB Alpha Subsonic 5 ($449)
3. SV Subwoofes 20-39cs Passive Sub ($480)
4. Hsu Research VTF-2 powered subwoofer
5. SV Subwoofers 16-46PC ($850)
6. Hsu Research TN1220HO ($900)
7. Hsu Research HRSW12vA ($1000)
8. Bag End Infrasub 18 ($1500)
9. Paradigm Reference Servo-15 ($1500)
10. Velodyne HGS-10 ($1800)
11. Sunfire True Sub Signature ($1900)
12. Velodyne HGS-12 ($2150)
13. Legacy Audio Point One ($2400) (has highest SPL of any sub on this list)
14. Velodyne HGS-15 ($2400)
Thanks for that long informative post. Has to help lots of folk.
Let me guess Legacy advertises heavily in TSS
Thanks for the information Scott.
Nice reading!
Scott, thanks for the "list". Sensible Sound has long been an advocate of Legacy products. I will agree that the Studio is a good little speaker but after that, my preferences differ from their's. Then again, speakers are phenomenally room, set-up and personal preference dependent, so someone else might love them. Obviously, the folks at Sensible Sound like them and i know others that post here have stated such also. Buy what suits your room and tastes and forget what anyone else thinks. I know what i like and i hope you do too. Sean
Not one Alon speaker???? Come on!!!!

Brad Day
Atlanta, Ga
I am curious if you received their permission to post this information? They do not post this info on their own website. They post the table of contents and a little bit about the issue, I would assume, in the hope of getting you to buy the issue. Just as Stereophile does not post their recommended components because it is one of their best selling issues.
Nice recommendations by SS. Now for my 2002 recommendations: EX4 High Edition 3 way with Seas W22+W17+Seas 650 tweeter from Koch Audio Germany. $1500/pr.
Oh and for sub: Peerless XLS 10 or for even more go for the 12er. STUNNING! Price: bargain!
Whenever I see lists like this one (especially ones of this size), whether it's TSS or Stereophile's, I always wonder: Which were the models they listened to that year that they *didn't* like enough to recommend for the price? Obviously, a lot of other good speakers don't appear on the above list - were any of them auditioned and rejected? Or is this just basically a listing of their recently-heard speakers, omitting all those that TSS simply didn't get around to (or didn't want to get around to) listening to? This is the problem with magazines' "Recommended" lists, where they merely recommend everything they've heard, but they haven't heard everything that there is. What is a comsumer really supposed to take from such a list? With the recent hyper-inflation of the number of "Class A" recommended components in Stereophile, we may as well go back to the days of Julian Hirsch at Stereo Review, and not worry about bothering to listen critically to the gear under review at all. Just recommend 'em all!
Well said, Zaikesman.
Zaikesman is on to something here. Could be that SS is looking to find new advertising accounts. $$$$$$. It's all about the money. Like Zaikesman i chose to totally ignore "recommendation lists".
"I hope to listen to other models when a dealer is eventually established in the Seattle area." I first heard the FOCUS at Cox Music up in Bothell - (425) 402-9096. All I got was a recording when I called, but I expect they're still reps.

PS - Altho the FOCUS was amazing, it was the MartinLogan SL3 that finally got me to part with the $.
I also deffinately agree with Zaikesman's post about such
lists. While I see many of these component lists in the
audio magazines; I do make a serious effort to listen to
most of the gear I'm buying before it goes into one of my
systems. And a "good" review does not necessarily put a
speaker or other component on my "must audition" list.
And as also mentioned above, out of the literally hundreds of models of speakers on the market - how many did
these people actually audition? What sort of music did they
play to evaluate these speakers? Was it string quartets or
heavy metal? Or maybe a mix of jazz vocals and/or orchestral
We all have our preferences for music and what we believe
sounds "right" and/or "true to the music". These lists are
maybe good starting points for auditioning speakers, but not
much more.
I would be willing to bet that none of you own a single piece of equipment by any of the recommended manufacturers. Those that do (me: Paradigm) like the list!
I think the list is missing some gems, but I can say that I completely agree with the Sensible Sounds' assessment of each and every speaker. RARELY, rarely, rarely, rarely (did I say rarely?) do I agree with so many reviews of speakers. Typcially, I feel that reviews either overlook some flaw, or favor some factor of a speaker that the reviewer is in love with himself. I tip my hat to Sensible Sound's ability to maintain a much better consistency in their reveiws than any of the other high end rags (Of course there will be those who wonder if they paid me to write these accolades)
Much as Ehider's praise of TSS's work may be deserved (and I admit that I wouldn't really know, as this is a mag that I only sometimes browse on the newsstand), Weedo's comment (which assumes correctly in my own case) makes me wonder: If we are to like such lists just because they include the speakers (or brand of speakers, or any other component) that we ourselves might own (and most of us, if we're being honest, would have to admit that we do in fact like such lists at least a little bit better when they do include our gear), then aren't we simply looking to "Recommended's" for exterior validation of our personal choices (assuming, of course, that we didn't actually choose it off said list in the first place)?
There was a comment in Stereophile a few years back about the fact that almost everything they review ends up on the recommended list. They replied that it is true, but it is because reviewers/editors pick out equipment to review that they think is going to be recommendable to start with, based upon hearing it at shows or manufacturer rep, and thus it generally is. A reasonable explanation, but still, oughtn't we know about the equipment to avoid too?

My theory is, audio equipment has evolved to the point where very little of it is wholly meritless once you get above a certain increasingly lower price point. I mean, one will certainly prefer some $2000 amps over others as a matter of taste in sonics, system compatibility, and features, but how many $2000 amps (or $1000 CDPs, etc.) from the big high end players can you actually say are bad and "not recommended" today?

Fifteen years ago, there were wide differences among components. Today, you sometimes have to do direct A-B comparisons with familiar recordings to really grasp a component's sonic signature. That's good, of course, because it indicates greater neutrality (and hence wider system compatibility). But it also means that the audio critics become less important, kind of like computer critics (can you even name one?).

BTW, in January 99, Fi did a recommended component list that had only 140 components, just a couple in each class, that really did have some semblence of representing the best and most recommendable stuff out there. RIP Fi.
No maggie 1.6s?...and they call themselves sensible? I dont think so...Legacy is all right...but lets be real...a majority of what you pay for is external cosmetics...i prefer to have my money spent on internal componets....something that the Vandersteen roughly half the cost...does so well....a phase-correct 3-way design that does 28hz...that is sensible
Phasecorrect: Choosing a speaker is very personal. While Vandy's may cost less than Legacy's, they are less efficient, will not play nearly as loud, will be higher in distortion at volume, etc... As such, one should buy the speaker that will work best for their specific type of listening and what their budget will support. This is NOT to say that i like Legacy better than Vandy ( quite the contrary ), but that there are trade-offs involved in most EVERY area of audio reproduction. That is where personal preference and making a decision comes into play. Sean