Several years ago, Best Buy had a wonderful bookshelf speaker sold under their Insignia brand, the NS-B2111. They were introduced at $59.99 per pair and had beautiful, warm and crisp sound that you would not expect to come from such an inexpensive speaker. It had a coaxial driver with a kevlar-fiber woofer and soft-dome tweeter that looked like it came from a high-end KEF model. Pair it with a decent small receiver like the Onkyo TX-8020 and you had the basis of a respectable Hi-Fi sound system for under $250. It was one of my best recommendations ever, and recently a reader sent me some fan mail that mentioned them. He said between him and his friends, they bought 10 pairs! You can read what I had to say about the NS-B2111 on my original website. These days, a working pair of these speakers sell for about $150 on eBay, more than they sold for new.
Best Buy discontinued the NS-B2111 after several years, at which time the price has risen to $89. Even then, it was a tremendous bargain and I think one of the reasons it was discontinued is it was cannibalizing sales of more expensive speakers next to them in Best Buy stores.
Since the NS-B2111 there hasn’t been a really great speaker for around $100/pair. The Dayton B652 and B652-AIR are nice for those on an extreme budget, but not in the same league of the NS-B2111 in terms of looks and sound quality.
I have finally found an inexpensive speaker to get excited about, and the Sony Core SS-CS5 bookshelf speakers are that speaker. This is a 3-way design, very uncommon at this point but is extremely well done. It uses a woofer made of a special Mica-Reinforced material, mimicking the use of fancy materials found in the NS-B2111. Materials aside, the speakers sound great for $99 and don’t have any aggressive tendencies that make then fatiguing to listen to for a long period of time. Like The Insignias, when you hear them you won’t believe how little you paid for them. I am looking forward to recommending them in print, and I have already used them to start specifying systems for readers on a budget looking to build an affordable sound system. Nice job, Sony!