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Back in May, Ben first spoke about man’s inherent quest for improvement of the audio kind by way of his review of Aperion’s Intimus 4T Hybrid SD System. In Ben’s review he challenged us to find a better performing system for under $1,600. Always up for a challenge, this editor embarked on another type of quest for audio improvement, one less about keeping up with the Joneses and more about sticking it to them.

What follows is a how-to manual that will empower you to do just that.

After extensive research and a few recommendations, we settled on AV123. Founded by Mark L. Schifter, a long-time veteran in the audio community (who also previously founded Audio Alchemy and Perpetual Technologies), AV123 is one of the first internet direct audio companies and is based in Colorado.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better sounding system at this price range

AV123 offers multiple speaker series at different price points so, we asked Mr. Schifter himself for a few suggestions. We eventually settled on the 5.1 X-Statik package which includes the X-Statik, X-Voce, and X-Omni along with their infamous MFW-15 subwoofer. A reasonable choice, considering the boss man himself listens to X-Statiks at home.

When the speakers arrived at our Memphis office a few weeks later, just seeing the boxes was an impressive site to behold. The boxes together weighted nearly a ¼ ton and posed a daunting task of getting them up the stairs without crushing anyone or anything. Not to mention that unboxing and setting up the set provided an additional workout as each speaker came double boxed, wrapped in cotton speaker socks, and amply padded to protect the speakers from postal abuse.

AV123 X-Statik and X-Voce Speakers

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The X-Statik and X-Voce are both open baffle loudspeakers. For those of you who aren’t familiar, an open baffle loudspeaker basically allows the speakers to breathe in the space around them instead of letting the cabinet dictate the sound. Besides making my TV appear incredibly small, sitting in front of them makes you think you’re about to get blown away with sound like the old Memorex commercial. However that blast never comes as the matching open baffle design creates a seamless blend of audio perfection and envelopes you in sound.

AV123 X-Omni Speakers

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The X-Omni isn’t your average speaker either. The woofer is mounted on TOP and fires up. This position creates a soundstage that fills the room with omnidirectional sound. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Razer Mako System, but opposite. You can easily use them as a stand-alone pair but they also work incredibly well as rear speakers too. The best part of this speaker is that they’re a very forgiving speaker meaning they sound great almost anywhere you place them. Not to mention the sound stays consistent as you move from one side of the room to another. No more fighting over the sweet spot.

AV123MFW-15 Subwoofer

av123-mfw-subwoofer-gear-patrolWeighing in at 125 lbs, the MFW-15 is not a subwoofer you should take lightly. Puns aside, the MFW-15 is a beast waiting to be unleashed. Powered by a custom designed 350-watt amplifier, this sub doesn’t just go boom. It hits the low frequencies that’ll shake the room and have your neighbor filing a noise complaint. The MFW-15 isn’t a one-dimensional home theater sub either. It handles jazz and classical tunes effortlessly with clarity and finesse and doesn’t bury your favorite tracks with bass. AV123 also leaves the controls in a convenient spot for easy adjustments. The best part about the MFW-15 though is that they come in duals.

Testing Things Out

To test the setup’s musical capabilities, we played Gear Patrol’s Top 10 Essential Jazz Albums, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. The sound is balanced and overall fairly neutral, a good thing. The speakers do an exceptional job at playing a wide spectrum very evenly so when Miles rips into a trumpet solo, the sound is crisp and clear as if you were sitting in the front row of a smoky jazz bar watching him and the rest of the band on-stage playing live. Simply put, the soundstage is amazing.

As good as this system is for listening to music, home theater is where it literally blew us away and left us sitting with a silly grin. As huge fans of high-definition, we chose none other than Star Trek on Blu-ray for our initial testing purposes. In the theatre, the suspense had us on the edge of our seats but the audio just didn’t quite match the visual. At home, the open baffle design of the X-Statik and X-Voce paired with X-Omni in the rear together create an audio experience that far surpasses that of the theater. You can audibly track the photon torpedoes as they zip across the screen. Best of all, the explosions were strong and powerful and left your windows rattling. It had the kind of thump that made our previous 10” woofer seem like an oversized paper weight.

With the current holiday special, the X-Statik 5.0 system comes to you at $800 off and under Ben’s $1,600 cap. Mission accomplished. Here’s one to stickin’ it to the Joneses, Bowers. As with most internet-direct companies, you’re probably not going to be able to demo a set locally unless you live in Colorado. For that reason, AV123 offers a 30-day money back satisfaction guarantee. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better sounding system at this price range. In fact, we’re pretty confident you won’t find one this good even double the price.

Cost: X-Statik 5.0 Surround Sound Speaker System ($1,500)