In my endless search for affordable audiophile and home theater products I recently happened upon a familiar face in Insignia's new NS-B2111 bookshelf speaker. The reason I refer to the Insignia as a "familiar face" is because it appears, at least on the surface, to be similar if not the same as another affordable loudspeaker I reviewed some time ago from then manufacturer Radiient Technologies -who has since moved on to wireless home theater technology and is no longer selling loudspeakers. I wanted to find out if my assumptions were correct so I picked up a pair for $87.98 from my local Best Buy, the only place Insignia is sold, for a little weekend audition.
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The Insignia bookshelf speakers are rather attractive looking with their tapered cabinet a-la Paradigm Signature loudspeakers and high gloss front panel. Unfortunately the visual ties to Paradigm end there for the build quality and materials used throughout are nowhere near equal to that of the Canadian speaker manufacturer. The speakers themselves measure roughly 14 inches tall by nine inches wide and 12 inches deep and tip the scales at a scant 13 pounds. The vinyl wood wrap comes only in a black ash finish, making the Insignia's presentation a decidedly monochromatic affair.
Behind the rather flimsy speaker grille rests a six and a half inch bass/midrange driver, which Insignia calls a "subwoofer" made from Carbon fiber. Sadly neither of these claims is true for it's not a subwoofer, it has no built-in amplifier for one, nor do I think it's made from Carbon fiber. Sitting dead center of the Insignia's "subwoofer" is a one-inch silk dome tweeter. Below the drivers is a large forward firing bass port, which helps give the Insignia its reported frequency response of 50Hz -20kHz, which is hardly a frequency response indicative of a loudspeaker featuring a built-in subwoofer. If anything, the Insignia bookshelf speaker is one speaker that will outright require a subwoofer for full-range music and/or movie playback. Along with its rather pedestrian frequency response, the Insignia has a reported impedance of eight Ohms with a sensitivity rating of 90dB, which makes it pretty much ideal for budget AV receivers such as those sold by Insignia.
If I thought the Insignia's outward appearance looked familiar, its sound was an immediate blast from the past. I'm not going to lie and say that I had high hopes for the Insignia - after all it's one of the cheapest loudspeakers I've ever seen, but then again so is Paradigm's Atom bookshelf speaker and it manages not to suck. The Insignia's entire performance is heavily colored by its cabinet and shoddy build quality, resulting in a hollow, hole-y tone that just isn't all that natural. The midrange sounds hollow and distant and the high frequencies are downright shrill. There's no real bass to speak of and what is present is decidedly two-dimensional. About the only thing positive that I can say about the Insignia bookshelf speaker is that it does have a pretty strong center image and some semblance of a soundstage - albeit small. However, all of that goes away in a hurry if you turn up the volume, for the Insignia has little true dynamic capabilities.
Read about the highs and lows of the NS-B2111 bookshelf speaker on Page 2.