Micca Covo-S Review (Updated 6/24/2015)

Micca COVO-S Compact 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers -$39.95

These speakers are tough to review for me. On the one hand, as speakers to listen to music on, by themselves, these fall far short of offering something compelling. As a feat of engineering and getting all they could for $40 in a tiny speaker, it is fairly remarkable. So, starting at the conclusion, the Micca Covo-S is suitable only in an extremely compromised position, when you need both a cheap and a small speaker. They could work as a soundbar alternative or in a cheap surround sound setup.

One interesting thing about these speakers, is, in order to make them small, the tweeter is physically inside the woofer. That’s pretty neat by me.

When I listen to music, the problems with these speakers are quickly evident. The low end is a complete mess and non-existent. The very high end is surprisingly missing. The middle frequencies are actually pretty good. This makes them completely unacceptable for listening to music. As far as playing surround sound tracks, they will do just fine at whizzing bullets and spaceships. I also listened to some television programming, and they handled dialog and such just fine.

So, when would I recommend the Micca COVO-S? If you can’t afford a better small speaker, and are using them in an exclusively living room setting. That is to say, I can only recommend them in particular situations and then with reservation.

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Micca MB42X Review

Micca MB42X Bookshelf Speakers with 4-Inch Carbon Fiber Woofer and Silk Dome Tweeter, Black – $89.99

When someone first gets into audio, they are often looking for an affordable, small speaker that doesn’t compromise on performance. The Micca MB42X fills that role admirably. If you’re looking to buy a pair of speakers for under $100, these are your best bet.  Speakers like these sound much better than any soundbar in the same price range. You really will be getting a big step up in performance versus what you get from a typical soundbar.

These speakers are significantly smaller than the Dayton B652 and Dayton B652 AIR, and also offer a flatter frequency response, but with less bass. All-in-all these speakers are really nice at their price point.

I found these speakers enjoyable to listen to when I tested them. They did a nice job with music and voices. They seem to have been designed to handle the typical movie soundtrack and dialog quite well. It shows a real synergy between the marketing and engineering teams in my opinion. A speaker that costs $90 can only do so much. By focusing on a specific problem: making the speaker sound as good as possible on a typical TV show or non-action film soundtrack, they deliver a speaker which is quite good for most of the population and use cases. This isn’t going to be the centerpiece of an exquisite music listening setup, no $90 pair of speakers would be, and the designers didn’t try to make it for that role, to their credit.

My main complaint while listening to them is they are begging to be paired with a subwoofer to give you something even better. This is hardly surprising. They’ve got 4.5″ drivers so physics dictates they won’t have good bass. That said, if you want to get the most out of these, buy a subwoofer. This one should do the trick.

Even when you upgrade your speakers later, these are the kind of speakers you will always find a place for in your house. You’ll use them in other rooms, for parties, your workshop, even with your computer. They are incredibly flexible, and unless you plan on using them for an outdoor event or in a large hall, they will satisfy your needs.

The biggest marketing point to these speakers is they have a well made crossover circuit inside. The Micca MB42 does not, and costs less than half the price. The circuit is a big deal. Dayton Audio’s B452, B652 and B652-Air have very minimal crossovers. A crossover is a circuit that splits the sound and sends part to the tweeter and part to the woofer. The MB42X properly splits the signal between the two which accounts for much of the cost of the speaker, as well as the reason behind its higher quality sound than the Dayton speakers.

To reiterate, these are fairly small speakers, less than 6 inches wide, so they should find a place wherever they are needed. You can put them on their side and underneath a TV, and that should work pretty well.

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Dayton T652 Review (Updated 6/24/2015)

Dayton Audio T652 Dual 6-1/2″ 2-Way Tower Speaker Pair – $118.50+$9.95 shipping

The last set of Dayton’s I’ll be reviewing for a bit are the oddball of the family. While the B652-AIR fixed the treble issues with the B652s, the T652 takes the B652 design and turns it into a tower. It is louder, and extends deeper, though at a steep cost in size and price. The T652 sounds big, fills up a room, and is in no way worse than the B652.

However, the problem with the T652 is I have trouble deciding when I would recommend them. The B652’s are probably already pushing the limit of what someone who just wants some speakers for the living room are willing to accept size wise. And at $120+, there are much better choices for quality.

That leaves the segment of people considering these to just people who are putting together dedicated home theaters on a severe budget. In a big home theater room, towers are usually the best choice for your front stereo pair, as these speakers do the heavy lifting, and you want them to be loud and cover a wide range of frequencies.  The next tier in tower speakers are more than twice the price, but still only $260. I’ll be reviewing these soon. The thing is, if you’re investing enough in your home entertainment to dedicate a space big enough to warrant towers, you probably don’t want to be buying speakers that are just the minimum passable speaker. You want something that sounds impressive. So while the T652 has a market segment all to itself, I’m not really sure who is in that market.

One last point about these speakers before we look at measurements is that while I’ve talked about how they are bigger than most people would want in a non-dedicated room, they are also not tall enough to use without a stand. I put 6″ risers underneath these to listen to. It’s obviously not a big deal, but it is a consideration.

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Dayton B652-AIR Review (Updated 3/23/2016)

Dayton Audio B652-AIR 6-1/2″ Bookshelf Speaker Pair with AMT Tweeter – (wait until its $59.90)

Most speakers are easy to find and never sell out. The Dayton Audio B652-AIR’s are an exception because they combine the low price and quality woofer of the Dayton Audio B652 with a much improved tweeter. Instead of a cheap, but flawed speaker, you have a speaker which behaves like a lower quality version of expensive models.

As is typical with Dayton Audio speakers, it comes with lengths of speaker wire. This is something people new to the world of audio will appreciate.

It should be noted that because of the new tweeter design, the speakers should not be placed on their side for listening.

Everything there is to dislike about these speakers is excusable by the price point.

It may seem like a small thing, but changing the tweeter increased the price of the speaker by 50%. If you’ve read my review of the Dayton Audio B652, you know this change goes after the biggest flaw with those speakers. Now that’s been improved, and this speaker is something to behold as a result.

These speakers can be hard to find, they are sold out from time-to-time at Parts Express, and Amazon only offers them through Parts Express or third parties selling at a markup. That’s a testament to how the audio community feels about these speakers.

After writing this review, I’ve used them myself. They aren’t small speakers, but they fit in a canvas bag with a small amplifier. I brought them to a house some friends and I had rented for a weekend at the beach. These worked great as speakers for listening to music in the garage.

As I’ve said, these speaker took the ugly sounding treble regions from the original model and have changed them into something as good as the rest of the speaker. The only change is replacing the aluminum tweeter with an air motion transformer tweeter. On these cheap speaker models, that kind of upgrade is all it takes.

My only complaint when I’m listening is that the speaker is clearly “bright”.  The speakers always sound like someone has turned up the treble. I don’t mind this aesthetically, but it is not ideal.

While I think this is a great speaker for the money, it is important to remember that caveat “for the money”. More expensive speakers will get you better performance. But for journeyman speakers, these are a great choice.

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Interpreting My Measurements

Measurements are an important part of any speaker review. They give us something to talk about besides my own subjective opinions of sound quality. They help to verify with some degree of confidence that my ears aren’t lying to me, and they allow a quantification of speaker performance. Of course, they are also very hard to do. Not only do you need the appropriate gear, you need the appropriate software and appropriate room to do it all correctly. Right now, I have none of those things. I do have a good microphone, and a room which is acoustically “not horrible”. There are bookshelves in three corners,  a desk in the other, curtains on three walls and an open door on the other. The ceiling has a fan and the floor is carpeted. The loudest reflections and standing waves are pretty mitigated here.  There are plenty of room nulls as you will see, but they do not distract from understanding the sound of a particular speaker at the level of nuance we deal with here. However, in order to make sure the direct path from the speaker dominates by enough, I keep the microphone 2 meters away from the speaker.  Software, on the other hand, is something I can take care of. By education and profession, designing the types of software a procedures to generate these kinds of measurements is second nature to me. If some of that went over your head don’t worry, I’m just trying to say I’m doing the best I can with a difficult problem.

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Dayton B652 Review (Updated 3/21/2016)

Dayton Audio B652 6-1/2-Inch 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker Pair – $39.80

When you’re looking to buy a set of speakers on a tight budget, it is important to squeeze as much performance as possible out of them. You want something that will sound pretty good that you can use for playing music at parties or for taking your first steps towards an awesome system for your TV, but at the same time won’t cut into your monthly budget.

These speakers are my choice of speakers for you if you’re looking for something which does a reasonable job for playing music, playing video games, or watching movies, and want to spend as little money as possible.  Dayton Audio is a company which makes a wide range of audio products, many of which I review here. They are a company which regularly puts out great bang-for-your buck products. You have to be careful and read reviews though, because some are better than other.

That said, at $40, these are necessarily pretty cheaply made speakers and it shows. The box is made of Plywood. While this is better than the common plastics used in other cheap speakers, it isn’t the first choice of material. The speaker design is what is called a sealed box design, which doesn’t extend the bass as well as more intricate designs, but is less sensitive to manufacturing variations. A single capacitor on the tweeter (the top, high frequency driver) serves as a crossover, which prevents the tweeter from breaking, but doesn’t create a smooth transition from the big 6.5″ woofer to the tweeter.

However, the speaker does include wires to hook it up to an amplifier, which most speakers do not. It is a nice inclusion for $40 speakers that makes these a much nicer buy for people who aren’t comfortable cutting your own speaker wire from a spool. (NB if you are confused by this paragraph and are wondering why you need an amplifier, check out my post on an inexpensive stereo build.)

I took some time to listen to my favorite songs and some Netflix shows with these speakers. I was honestly quite impressed with the quality of the sound you get for the price. They sound much better than mass marketed audio products at two or three times the price.

Most people will think these sound pretty good in a typical living room space. They are so much better than what a majority of people have in their houses, you’ll impress your friends and family even at this low price. So if you’re looking to get something reasonable sounding at a low price, this is the speaker to go with. Its why I included it in my build for my inexpensive stereo build.

When I listened with a critical ear, I keyed in on one major flaw, and that is the high frequency response. Voices and higher frequency instruments just don’t have the realistic, natural sound I’m used to hearing on high quality speakers. This leads to instruments a bit muddled versus higher quality speakers as well. The measurements that follow really highlight that point.

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Inexpensive Stereo Build: $60

Many of you may be coming here looking for the cheapest possible stereo system to play some music or outperform the speakers built into your TV or something to buy in lieu of a soundbar. This is the build for you. Reviews are forthcoming, but all of the items on this page I have personally tested. All of the items listed here can be purchased at my store.
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