Sony SS-B1000 Loudspeaker Review

It's my opinion--without reservation--that a loudspeaker system is one of the hardest things to review accurately.

Everyone hears things differently, and everyone's perception of what “sounds good” differs. If you're not convinced, just look at all the different kinds of music that are out there today. How many of them do you like? (Editorial comment: I remain unconvinced that anyone actually likes rap music outside of those people who drive by your house at 3 AM in a car whose sound system has more horsepower than does the engine...and even then I think it's the rattling body panels adding that special something to the music. The same is true of almost anything played primarily on bagpipes, although I don't know what purpose it would serve.)

Okay...I'll stop. This is supposed to be a serious review, not a commentary on types of music that I don't like. Seriously, I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, from country to 50s/60s/70s rock to instrumentals, movie scores, “classical” music and even a few entries from the “alternative” genre. If I think it sounds good, I'll listen to it.

I don't claim to be an audiophile (primarily because so many of them are, well, nuts) but I was blessed with good hearing and I really do like music. Today, at 27 years of age, I still have no problem picking up the high pitched switching whine of a PC power supply from across a decently sized room and over the other noises that are coming from the rest of the computer. I can perceive the imperfections that are present in many otherwise perfectly good compressed digital audio recordings. They don't ruin the music for me. I just know that they are there.

With my recent purchase of an Insignia NS-R2000 stereo receiver, I started to test it with some speakers that I had kicking around, thinking that I might buy some better speakers later on. I mentioned this to my dad, and before I knew it, he'd picked up the very speakers I'd been looking at: the Sony SS-B1000 bookshelf speaker set.

With a street price of $50 or so, some people might already be looking down their nose at these speakers, wondering how they could possibly be any good at all. After all, a person can easily spend thousands of dollars on stereo speakers, and at that price, they surely must be a LOT better than what $50 can buy. That's not necessarily so. A well engineered, thoughtfully designed product doesn't have to cost a fortune.

The SS-B1000 speakers are rated at eight ohms impedance and will accept up to 120 watts of input power. I drove them from the already mentioned Insignia NS-R2000 stereo receiver, which manages 100 watts of power delivery with everything cranked wide open, probably a fair amount of distortion and perhaps with a little help from a following wind. This doesn't matter a whole lot, as most listening takes place at relatively low output wattage. Even with things really cranking, you might be surprised if measurements of the power output were taken.

These Sony speakers come highly recommended. Not only do they fit into a tight spot (they'd sit very comfortably on a small bookshelf), but they produce very good sound. The highs are clear but not overpowering, midrange has a solid presence and bass is a lot better than you'd expect. They don't look like anything that would rock the neighborhood, but I will assure you they could comfortably support the listening levels of a moderately sized party in your house. I was able to use the stereo receiver to drive them well into the territory of unwise loudness, and they took it very well.

Some people would add a subwoofer to complement these speakers, but I don't think it is necessary. It won't hurt, but you don't have to.

No matter what I listened to, the speakers gave a very good account of themselves. However, when I listened to a favorite radio program of mine, the speakers did make one flaw evident. I could hear the announcer overloading things a bit and causing a bit of clipping, seemingly at the point of the station's equipment.

I don't believe this was the stereo receiver or speakers, as I retrieved a cheap radio and gave it a listening to around the same time. I had to listen harder to hear it, but it still seemed to be there. And that's one of the problems with a good set of speakers—they can bring out things that you didn't notice being there, things that might detract from your enjoyment of the music.

Of course, that statement comes with a disclaimer. People smarter than I (or at least better versed in product testing methodology and research theories) state that it's easy to fool yourself into believing something is (or isn't there) if you're so inclined. So all I can say is with any degree of certainty is that I thought the same clipping distortion was there on the cheaper radio, and that it was just hard to find, so much so that I hadn't noticed it before.

All things considered, however, these speakers are a steal at the price. If you need a decent set of stereo speakers and don't have a ton of cash to spend on them, these are for you.

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Copyright 2010 William R. Walsh. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this material or to use any part of it in other creations, so long as the following terms are met: attribution to this page and its author must be supplied, no part of this page may be displayed along advertising content of any sort, no fee may be assessed to provide access to this information (except as reasonably necessary to cover connection time or printing supply expenses) and no part of this material may be used in creations that are illegal, dangerous or derogatory. Created 03-29-2010.