Q I'm building a sound system and researching speakers. Which brands do you recommend I check out?


A There are lots of good speakers out there, but these are my top recommendations:

Definitive Technology (www.definitive tech.com): The ProCinema series provides full sound from small speakers, and the Mythos SSS is the best single-piece surround speaker I have heard. Definitive is sold at specialty audio stores.

Monitor Audio (www.monitoraudio.com): The British speaker maker -- known for warm, clean sound and great styling -- is pricey, but its products sound great.

Paradigm (www.paradigm.com): Sold at specialty retailers, Paradigm is one of the most celebrated names in audio. Its compact Cinema series and Monitor line are affordable, and its Signature speakers are used by many well-heeled audiophiles.

Polk Audio (www.polkaudio.com): Polk has good speakers for any budget, but special praise goes to its SurroundBar. Its LSi speakers provide some of the sweetest sound you are likely to hear, but they require powerful, high-quality amplifiers.

Best Buy (www.bestbuy.com): The retailer deserves special mention for its Insignia NS-B2111 bookshelf speakers, which sound wonderful, for $88 a pair.

Acculine (www.theaudioinsider.com): Sold online, Acculine speakers use exotic planar leaf tweeters usually found only in expensive speakers to provide great detail and clarity. Under its current sale, you can get a pair of A3 towers for $319.

Axiom Audio (www.axiomaudio.com): Axiom's engineering-driven philosophy shows in the great sound and innovative designs of its wide variety of systems. Axiom has one of the best websites of any manufacturer, and honest, expert advice is available free by phone. Its custom shop offers a wide array of finishes.

Ohm Acoustics (www.ohmspeakers.com): These limited-production, high-end speakers use patented technology that reproduces almost 100 percent of the audio spectrum from a single driver, creating sound that must be experienced to be appreciated. They are not cheap at $800 a pair and up, but this is my top high-end pick if you can afford it -- a lifetime investment well worth the money.

The Speaker Company (www.thespeaker company.com): If you need compact speakers, I highly recommend the $299 TSAT1000 system, which sounds fantastic and has an impeccable, hand-rubbed high-gloss finish. For under $1,000, the T-Series towers with matching center and surround speakers allow you to build a high-quality surround system that works in a large room.

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