Here are some of the best sound systems out this year. Whether small and affordable or bass-heavy, these devices provide professional-quality tone. Not sure what to listen to on these speakers? We’ve got that covered too.
SVS PB16-Ultra Subwoofer ($3,375)
Getting the bass right in any home audio system is a huge challenge. If you purchase some poorly-designed big box, the sound is boomy and bloated, but if you get something too small or wimpy, the powerful theatrical soundtracks or low-frequency elements of your favourite song are sliced away. Enter SVS’s flagship PB16, a 200lb beast with a 16” driver and 5000W peak amp that implausibly can provide musically delicate bass sounds when required or wall-shattering blasts when you really want to take it up a level.
With a convenient app controlled by your mobile device you can tweak all the relevant settings from your couch to satisfy any basshead’s neurotic impulses. Uncalibrated, the subwoofer is unwieldy – my preamplifier’s room correction mic incorrectly set the level way too high which resulted in a “chuffing” port noise (an obnoxious “woofing” sound of air passing through the port) and things falling off bookshelves two stories up! Taming the beast with help from fantastic customer support at SVS allowed the PB16 to perfectly integrate into an existing Atmos setup, providing enveloping, unidirectional low frequency effect signals and giving ribcage rumbling boom without causing too much bust.
The SVS flagship is more than most will ever need (the truly crazy find room for two of the 25”x21”x30” monoliths to cancel out room issues). There’s a sealed version which is a tiny bit smaller but lacks the flexibility of being able to run ported or not depending on your mood. Bottom line is this – if you’ve got the itch to piss off your neighbours while hearing what producers and sound mixers spent their time perfecting, the PB16 (or its sealed SB16) should be at the top of your list for endless fun.
DEFUNC Duo Wireless Stereo System ($199)
As music becomes more portable and many are trading in bulky speakers for portable Bluetooth options, people are missing out on one of the magical features of a proper setup – decent stereo separation. Sure, a single box with a bunch of digital signal processing (DSP) can fake a bit of soundstage, but nothing beats having your beats come from boxes separated by more than a few inches.
Enter the Duo, a clever, compact system from Swedish company DeFunc. Shipped in a paint-can-like cardboard tube, these twin drivers can either be used in “party mode” (playing the same signals) or, ideally, as a true stereo pair with left and right channels sent to the relevant pod. You can connect via Bluetooth or via a 3.5mm headphone jack, a boon for anyone that might want to use them along with anything from a phone to a TV set.
At only 12cm in diameter and 6cm high, you’re not getting a lot of bass, but the sound is clean and the sense of performance space is far better than even more expensive standalone units. In a sea of similar speakers, it’s nice to see a company with the smarts to highlight true stereo playback.
DISNEY Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4k Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD) ($34.99)
Many complained about Rian Johnson’s eighth episode in the Skywalker saga. These people are wrong. Johnson’s work is wonderful, echoing the likes of Empire Strikes Back while very much taking its own course. This is a film giving fans what they need from the saga, even if it’s not what many think they want.
At home, presented in 4K and HDR, The Last Jedi is gorgeous, highlighting the gritty 35mm photography without succumbing to an overly-glossy image. Even the title crawl looks better than you could imagine on a television screen!
With a terrific feature-length doc that follows Rian on his journey, the only thing missing is an extra disc that includes the 3D cut (only available outside North America for the stereophilic). Johnson’s commentary track dives deeply into the film, and, for those that don’t normally bother with such things, this is definitely one not to skip.
A blockbuster with a brain, this is a rich, complex film film deserving of many repeat viewings. The UHD of The Last Jedi is a gem of a title and instant reference material.