There are speakers…and then there are speakers. Speakers that are sexy, powerful, sleek, big even. Speakers that throw caution to the wind and risk pissing off your interior designer. Speakers that are towering works of art. Speakers that laugh at the thought of being hidden in a wall. Speakers that might just kick your ass if you don’t give them the proper respect. We love them paired with their shorter, but mighty henchman, the subwoofer.
But then again we do love a good design-oriented solution–something that blends into the decor. In a perfect world, you can have the best of both performance and aesthetics. Here are the speakers we will be quietly coveting this year (glowering in a corner even), and feel provide the perfect mix of both art and audio–even the monolithic floor-standing models. We’ll hope you’ll join us in our jealousy.
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 18
The BeoLab 18 ($6,590/pair, an additional $1,390 for oak) was launched in September, and is a tribute to the company’s popular BeoLab 8000 speaker in form factor. While we are attracted to the speaker for it’s gorgeous Nordic-inspired wood construction, it is also pretty marvelous from a technological perspective. It features an acoustic lens that spreads sound evenly through the room in a 180-degree horizontal arc. It’s also wireless (though you’ll still need to plug it into the wall) and WiSA-certified, meaning that the speakers can be used with any other WiSA products without question. Oh, and Sir Paul McCartney loves them–not a bad endorsement.
MartinLogan Crescendo Airplay
MartinLogan‘s reputation for amazing speakers goes, way, way back–especially the company’s monolithic electrostatic models. Now, MartinLogan’s Crescendo speaker system brings the company firmly into the era of wireless sound, with the ability to connect via Bluetooth and listen to music via AirPlay. The Crescendo not only looks stunning sitting on your desk, kitchen, or burled tree trunk shelf (shown above), but has a 24-bit-48kHz-digital-signal-processing-based preamplifier that produces detailed sound. “The signature Folded Motion tweeters utilize extremely low mass diaphragms that ‘squeeze’ air, and require significantly less excursion than the typical 1-inch dome tweeter, which drastically minimizes distortion while providing a lightning fast response time,” says the company. While that may sound like technical mumbo-jumbo to most, it translates to solid sound from a single chassis. These beauties will run you $900 each and are available in piano black and walnut.
ClearView Audio Clio
We’ve mentioned these speakers before after being much impressed by them at this year’s CES, and they definitely deserve a spot in our sexy speakers roundup. ClearView Audio’s Clio wireless Bluetooth speaker ($349, available in March) looks like a minimalist work of art in its own right, but the clear acrylic glass acts as a transducer. The speaker is designed so that if you put them on a bookshelf, they won’t block whatever is behind them, be it a collection of design books or a work of art. When we talked with ClearView, they said they had plans to develop a similar acrylic-glass sound bar. Cool. For now, we’ll look forward to trying out these clear speakers to see if the audio is equally transparent. From what we heard at CES, it was.
Meridian Special Edition Loudspeakers
Honoring the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the world’s first digital loudspeaker, 2014 will see Meridian launch a new Special Edition series of DSP Digital Active Loudspeakers, featuring a beryllium domed tweeter, new electronics and driver clamp rings to deliver the highest-performing Meridian DSP Digital Active Loudspeaker available, according to the company. At CES, Meridian was previewing these gargantuan speakers, which are certainly not shy about their large-and-in-charge-ness. The DSP8000, DSP7200 and DSP5200 were all on display in really slick Meridian Select custom colors. When the speakers launch in March, they will be available in standard black or white piano gloss, with Select colors costing a bit more. Prices are unavailable as of yet.