Question: It appears that Best Buy doesn't carry the Insignia NS-B2111 bookshelf speakers anymore. Do you have any replacement recommendations?
Answer: Though the NS-B2111 has been discontinued for more than a year now, I still get asked this question a great deal. Unfortunately, I am still looking for a great-sounding bookshelf speaker for under $100 and I hope the NS-B2111 doesn't turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime product.
Speakers are the most important part of a sound system and are worthy of a significant investment. A high-quality pair of speakers will last 20 years or more, making them a better long-term investment than any computer, television or digital camera. The sweet spot for high-quality bookshelf speakers is around $250 to $350, so I will start at the rock bottom and go up to there. The direct sales brands all have money-back guarantees.
Monoprice: This speaker is a conditional recommendation meant for those on a very serious budget. Monoprice sells bookshelf speakers with 6-inch and 8-inch woofers for $28.03 and $54.33 per pair, respectively. I heard them at the Consumer Electronics Show last year and they sounded a bit shrill at high volumes, but some treble adjustment could tame that a bit. For less than $30, you can get sound in your garage or utility room or background music in an office or bedroom -- www.monoprice.com
Pioneer: The SP-BS41LR is the closest thing to an Insignia successor I have yet to find. These Pioneer bookshelf speakers sound a bit better than the Insignia NS-B2111 and can play at louder volumes, so I would rate their performance as superior though I preferred the looks of the Insignias. The SP-BS41LR list for $179 per pair but can be found online for under $115 if you shop around. The Pioneer SP-FS51LR towers are an even better buy at $199, and you won't need stands -- www.pioneerelectronics.com
Arx from The Audio Insider: If you want to get a taste of the GoldenEar Technology Aon 3 speakers I have raved about in the past (and now own) but you don't want to spend $1,000, check out the $299 Arx A1b speakers from The Audio Insider. Arx speakers use exotic driver technology for the woofers and the planar magnetic tweeters and yield a very detailed, natural sound with just the right touch of warmth. They do not produce the bass impact or incredible, airy detail of the class-leading GoldenEar speakers, but when you hear them and know you only spent $299 you will feel like you got away with something -- www.theaudioinsider.com.
Axiom Audio: The $328 M2v3 from Axiom Audio is the latest update of one of my favorite bookshelf speakers. Axiom devotes a lot of engineering resources into its products, and you can tell by the very precise, accurate sound of their speakers and the perfectly-formed notes they produce. Axiom's custom finish shop allows you to create your own look from dozens of possibilities -- www.axiomaudio.com.
Wharfedale: This storied British manufacturer has a new focus on the North American market, spearheaded with its acclaimed Diamond 10 series. I recently tested the Diamond 10.1 ($350) and loved the looks; warm, very British sound; and solid bass impact from a very compact speaker -- www.soundimport.com.interact
Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.