$200/pair Speaker Round-up for Two-Channel and Home Theater Listening
- Product Name: HVL-1, Affordable Accuracy Monitor, OWM 3, AVFR, Level 2, B4, R5Bi, FH-65b, SS-CS5
- Manufacturer: Wave Crest Audio, Philharmonic Audio, Polk Audio, Fluance, HTD, ELAC, EMP Tek, BIC America, Sony
- Review Date: July 05, 2016 09:00
- First Impression: Pretty Cool
There are quite a number of speakers on the market that are great for two-channel listening as well as home theater without breaking the bank. Some people may be overwhelmed with the variety or may not be familiar with some speaker manufacturers, in particular, the internet direct brands. Typically, ID brands tend to be on the higher priced end, as they are usually engineered and manufactured with quality products and more attention to detail. Read our Internet Direct Speaker Comparison article for more information. There are some gems out there that are accessible from big box stores, but the majority of the quality products are only available for purchase online. Some ID products are also available through third party purchase via some big box stores. We’ve narrowed down a list of speakers, in no particular order, that can be used for the budgeting audiophile for a quality two-channel desktop (or bookshelf system) and home theater system for under $1000 when a subwoofer is added.
Wave Crest Audio: HVL-1 $229/pr
These are the only speakers Wave Crest Audio manufactures. Curtis Chang, the owner, created these fine speakers with the assistance of Dave Fabrikant of Ascend Acoustics. People love the great midrange response of these speakers. These bass reflex speakers are 12”H x 7”W x 9.5”D, weigh in at 12lbs. each, and are made of 5/8 MDF with a PVC wrap. They have a 5.25” driver with a 1” tweeter. A large port below the driver allows for solid bass reproduction, and 5-way binding posts. These have an 86dB 1w/1m sensitivity, frequency response of 63Hz-20kHz, a 120w power handling, and 8ohm impedance. These are typically purchased in a pair or, for multi-channel systems, they can be purchased individually with a five-year transferable warranty.
These bass reflex speakers are originally sold as a DIY kit from Parts Express. The BR-1 kit has a 14”H x 9”W x 11”D cabinet composed of 5/8” black wood grain MDF. It comes with 5-way binding posts and weighs in at 16lbs each. It has a 11/8” silk dome tweeter and a 6.5” treated paper cone with a rubber surround. The speaker has a frequency response of 48Hz – 20kHz, an 84.5dB sensitivity, 100w power handling, and 6ohm impedance. The integral internal makeup is where the BR-1 kit really differs. Dennis Murphy, the wizard behind some of the crossover networks for Salk Sound and the man behind Philharmonic Audio from Washington DC took that DIY kit from Parts Express and modified the circuitry. He installed an 11-element crossover network that crosses over the tweeter at 1700Hz, which allows for a smoother lower treble/upper midrange response. Dennis claims that this speaker, with 48Hz on the low end, can produce considerable output down to 34Hz. I am inclined to believe him. The Affordable Accuracy Monitor speakers are sold in pairs with no warranty listed.
Polk Audio: OWM 3 $149.95/pr / OWM 5 $199.95/ea (about 1/2 price on Amazon)
Polk Audio OWM3
The OWM3s are glass-filled ABS sealed speakers that are 101/16”H x 71/16”W x 41/8”D, weighing 4lbs. each, and come with 5-way binding posts. They have a 1” Dynamic Balance silk dome tweeter and a 41/2” poly driver with rubber surround. These loudspeakers also have a frequency response of 80Hz – 25kHz, 89dB sensitivity, 100w power handling, and 8ohm impedance. This is a very versatile speaker with four 4-way keyhole slots and seven mounting options: angled wall mount, corner mount, vertical wall mount, shelf mount (using included base), horizontal shelf mount (using included bumpers), and can be used with a wall-mount bracket (utilizing the ¼-20 threaded insert). Due to their small driver and enclosure size, you definitely need a subwoofer to supplement their bass response.
Polk Audio OWM5
The OWM5s are made of the same material as the OWM3s, but are taller at 1515/16”H, a little narrower at 6.5”W, but with the same 4 1/8” depth. They weigh 6lbs. each with a frequency response of 60Hz – 25kHz, have 91dB sensitivity, 150w power handling, and have two of the same 4.5” drivers along with the same 1” tweeter as the OWM3. The OWM5 also has two more mounting options than the OWM3: a horizontal ceiling mount and a vertical 45-degree wall-mount both using the included brackets. The OWM3s are sold in pairs and the OWM5s are sold individually. They both are available in black or white and come with a five-year parts and labor warranty. Amazon sells them for about $99/ea so that's why we including them in this listing.
Fluance: AVFR $149.99/pr
Fluance AVFR Tower (left pic) ; AV Bookshelf (middle pic); SX6 Bookshelf (right pic)
The Canadian company Fluance manufactures some good quality products at a very affordable price. The particular loudspeakers mentioned here are not bookshelf or desktop friendly but can still be used in a nice two-channel setup and Home Theater setup if space allows. These 3-way ported speakers have a 1” soft dome titanium ferrofluid cooled tweeter, 4” poly-coated midrange driver, and a 6.5” poly-coated bass driver. Both midrange and bass drivers have rubber surrounds. These speakers are 33”H x 8.3”W x 9.3”D and weigh in at 28.4lbs. each. They have a frequency response of 50Hz – 20kHz, 91dB sensitivity, 120w power handling, and 8ohm impedance. They are sold in pairs with the best warranty I have seen, a full lifetime parts and labor manufacturer’s direct warranty. They also come with eight 1” floor spikes for use on hardwood or carpet. If you need the space then you can downgrade to the bookshelf version of these Classic series speakers, the AV5 ($99/pair), which come with a keyhole-mounting bracket on the rear of the cabinet. Better yet, go with their SX6 ($149/pair) which is a higher end series from Fluance in bookshelf form factor.
HTD: Level 2 bl $219/pr
This Texas based ID company have a few series of speakers that have a variety of styles from bookshelf, floorstanding, center speakers, and subwoofers. The particular speakers discussed here are a nice pair called the Level Two bookshelf speaker. They are 117/8”H x 71/8”W x 10”D, with a 1” ferrofluid cooled silk dome tweeter, a white 5.25” FCD (Fabric, Ceramic, Doping) cone driver, slot port, and 5-way binding posts. The FCD driver construction is explained in depth on HTDs website. These loudspeakers have a frequency response of 60Hz – 20kHz, 87dB sensitivity, 100w power handling, 8ohm impedance, and weigh 11lbs. each. These speakers come in two finishes: Standard black mid-gloss paint, and for an extra $30 charge, a limited edition Macassar Ebony real wood veneer. HTD’s website also sells stands and heavy duty wall-mounting brackets for their bookshelf speakers. There is a five-year warranty on all HTD products and a 30-day trial period.
ELAC: Debut Series B4 $179.99/pr or step up to the bigger B5 model ($229/pair)
Andrew Jones designed a series of speakers for ELAC called the Debut series and the upcoming Uni-Fi series. The loudspeakers presented here are the Debut series bookshelf speakers called the B4. For those who haven’t figured it out already, the “B” is for bookshelf and the “4” is for the 4” driver it has. This 2-way bass reflex speaker is 11.5”H x 7”W x 8.5”D, with a 1” cloth dome tweeter, a 4” woven aramid-fiber cone driver, and 5-way binding posts. They have a frequency response of 48Hz – 20kHz, 84.5dB sensitivity, 80w power handling, 6ohm impedance, and weigh 9.3lbs. each. They are one of the smaller speakers in this round-up, but they are most definitely not counted out among the bigger contenders here. These are sold in pairs and come with a three-year warranty on performance and workmanship.
If you've got it in your budget to spend an additional $50/pair, we highly recommend upgrading to the new Elac B5 ($229/pair) speakers which step up to a bigger 5" driver for a slight increase in sensitivity and bass extension. Basically the B5 will play louder than the B4 and blend even better with a powered sub for more seamless integration. In a home theater environment, we'd at least recommend three B5's as the front LCR's and the more compact B4's as the surrounds.
EMP Tek: R5Bi compact bookshelf
Tek, a division of RBH based out of Utah, also carry some nice speakers in
their line-up. The R5Bi bookshelf
speakers, part of the Impression series, are 123/4”H x 67/8”W
x 8”D, with a 1” fabric dome tweeter, a 5.25” aluminized poly-matrix driver, 5-way
binding posts, and weigh 7.5lbs. each.
They have a frequency response of 60Hz – 20kHz, 85dB sensitivity, 100w
power handling, and 8ohm impedance. They
also come in two finishes: High-gloss
Black Ash and High-gloss Red Burl veneer.
The sides of the cabinet have a slight curve that taper from front to
back. On the back of the speaker is the
port and ¼ - 20 threaded insert for attaching to wall brackets or other
mounting devices. These speakers can be
purchased in a pair or individually. They
have a five-year warranty on the cabinet and drivers and a one-year warranty on
the electronics. Check out our reviews of the Impression series speakers to get an idea of their performance.
BIC America: FH-65b $219/ea (about 1/2 price on Amazon, Best Buy Marketplace, etc.)
You may not think Sony would be included in a list such as this, but the SS-CS5 bookshelf speaker is something we took a gander at. What we found is something to be considered for a decent budget system. These loudspeakers are 13.3”H x 7”W x 8.66”D, with a 1” dome tweeter, 0.75” wide-dispersion super tweeter, a 5” MRC (mica-reinforced cellular) cone driver, and 5-way binding posts. They have a frequency response of 53Hz – 50kHz (which is due to the “super” tweeter), 87dB sensitivity, 100w power handling, 6ohm impedance, and weigh 9.4 lbs. each. These are sold in pairs and can be purchased at a couple of big box stores or online. They have the least desirable warranty at one year limited, but you can option for an extended warranty, for example, at Best Buy.
Tabulated below is a comparison of specs among the speakers in this round up.
|Make/Model||Wave Crest Audio HVL-1||Philharmonic Audio Affordable Accuracy Monitor||Polk Audio OWM3||Polk Audio OWM5||Fluance AVFR||HTD Level Two Book shelf||ELAC B4||EMP Tek||BIC FH-65B||Sony SS-CS5|
|Dimensions H x W x D||12” x 7” x 9.5”||14” x 9” x 11”||101/16 x 71/16 x 41/8||1515/16 x 41/8 x 41/8||33” x 8.3” x 9.8”||117/8 x 71/8 x 10”||11.5” x 7” x 8.5”||12.75” x 67/8 x 8”||17” x 9” x 8.5”||13.3” x 7” x 8.66”|
|Freq. Response||63Hz – 20kHz||48Hz – 20kHz||80Hz – 25kHz||60Hz – 25kHz||50Hz – 20kHz||60Hz – 20Hz||48Hz – 20Hz||60Hz – 20Hz||40Hz – 23kHz||53Hz – 20kHz|
|Impedance||8 ohm||6 ohm||8 ohm||8 ohm||8 ohms||8 ohms||6 ohms||8 ohms||8 ohms||6 ohms|
If you are in the market for a start in high-end audio or just want a speaker upgrade in either your two-channel or a 5.1 Home Theater system and you are on a $1000 budget, then you should consider the products listed in this round-up. This list is just a sample of what you can find out there to get a great quality sound experience at a truly affordable price. Pair any of these speakers up with a number of quality subwoofers like the Hsu Research: STF-2, VTF-2 mk4, ULS-15 mk2; BIC America: V1220, F12, PL-200; SVS: SB-1000/2000, PB-1000/2000, PC-2000; Rythmik: L12, LV12R, LVX12, F12; or the Power Sound Audio 15S. Any of these combinations would give a budding audiophile a killer two-channel system or Home Theater system and still be under $1000. If you own any of the products mentioned above, please let us know and share your experiences.
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Recent Forum Posts:
Mest30, post: 1153036, member: 79962Try them both if possible, RBH has excellent return policy and amazing reviews
Does anyone know how the AAs are against RBH Sound R5BiR bookshelves? They are on amazon for $220.
Mest30, post: 1153036, member: 79962I'd bet that the crossover work on the AAs will be much more reveling. I'm sure both sound well and the finish of the RBH is a little better.
Does anyone know how the AAs are against RBH Sound R5BiR bookshelves? They are on amazon for $220.