Q: I have a Pioneer SX850 stereo receiver and Pro-ject Debut Carbon turntable with the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge (a recommendation from you that I am very happy with). I'm looking for a recommendation for quality bookshelf speakers. I currently have Bose 201 Series III speakers, and I would like to upgrade. I'm thinking of something in the $500 per pair range. The system is primarily used for my vinyl records. I listen to a wide variety of rock, country and Americana, occasionally some big band jazz.
A: The speakers are definitely the weak link in your system, and upgrading them will bring you to an entirely new level of musical satisfaction. But you don't have to spend the entire $500 to get some really super speakers.
I've loved the Polk Signature S20 bookshelf speakers since I first heard them. They have the sonic character of a classic, high-end American hi-fi speaker but sell for $299 per pair (polkaudio.com). Moving up a step on the price scale, for $339 you can get the Chane A1.4 bookshelf speakers (chanemusiccinema.com). I wrote about these speakers years ago when they were sold under the Arx brand. The A1.4 is the latest iteration, sold under a new brand name. The Chane A1.4 uses exotic technology in plain black boxes to provide incredible sound. Being so highly regarded, they can be hard to get at times because of the demand.
If you have your heart set on spending your entire budget, at $548 per pair, the Axiom Audio M3v4 axiomaudio.com is hard to beat. Handmade in Canada, they have crisp sound with tremendous clarity and make a fine addition to a vinyl-based system.
Apparently I got a little sloppy in my terminology two weeks ago when I described ZVOX's new VoiceBuds as hearing aids. Tom Hannaher, the company's CEO, sent an e-mail politely informing me that hearing aids cannot be sold over-the-counter. "The VoiceBud VB20 is being marketed as a hearing amplifier (or PSAP), not as a hearing aid," he wrote.
ZVOX has a lot of experience in helping people to hear better through their dialogue-specific TV sound bars, which enhance spoken words so they can be heard over music and special effects. Regardless of how their new product is classified, if anyone has purchased the ZVoiceBud VB20, I would like to hear from you regarding how well it works and your satisfaction with it.