Released a couple of years ago, Sony's SS-B3000 Performance Bookshelf Speaker carved out a solid niche amongst bargain hunters. Its cool lineage back to the original SS-3000, Kevlar reinforced woofer, and big, beefy cabinet screamed value and continued Sony's cute reputation of occasionally producing pure, simple audio products that speak more to its past than present.
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Well, Sony also produces a baby brother to the SS-B3000, even more affordable and with some interesting features. The $49.99 (MSRP per pair) SS-B1000 employs a 5.25-inch H.O.P. (Highly Oriented Polyolefine) woofer, coupled to a 1-inch Nano Fine® dome tweeter. Sony claims H.O.P. is stronger than the more commonly used polypropylene. Missing was the Kevlar used to reinforce the woofer in the 3000, but we can't be greedy (in fact, don't even think that word when listening to $50 speakers). Sony claims its Nano Fine® tweeter plays out to 50 kHz. Checking in at 6.6875 inches wide by 10.0625 inches high by 7.0625 inches deep and about 6.5 pounds, the SS-B1000 offers dimensions and weight much more like a bookshelf speaker, unlike its brother, which didn't at all. The SS-B1000 employs a front-firing port with a slightly protruding lip, and provides plastic push-pin connectors. The SS-B1000 is finished in black vinyl and looks and feels pretty good, with the semi-clear woofer exuding a hint of sophistication.
The SS-B1000 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with an 87dB efficiency. The speaker needed better quality power to perform its best, but squeezed out enough good sound to represent a more than good enough match with entry-level receivers and amplifiers.
The SS-B1000 sounded lively and crisp, but needed warmth and heft. The soundstage had a surprising amount of depth and width, but imaged a bit fuzzy overall. The top end veered towards a little edginess on rock and electronic tracks, but presented classical and jazz with a more neutral balance. This quality also moved into the midrange, with an overall lightweight and shallow tonal balance that needed warmth and body on most material. The SS-B1000 sounded like its size in these areas. The bass didn't warm things up enough, and the 1000 moved away from the 3000 in this area. The bigger model tended to sound big but flabby, whereas the smaller model lacked fullness and weight. But, like the 3000, the 1000 held together wonderfully throughout, presenting a solid coherence and musicality that masked its flaws rather than exposing them. The lightweight tonal balance made things tighter, minimizing the lack of weight and instead exposing the quick pacing and peppery bass. The SS-B1000 also didn't like playing loudly as much as did the 3000. Against a wall, things remained status quo, with the balance remaining lightweight overall (the front porting probably didn't help matters here). In individual areas, the SS-B1000's performance comes up short in varying degrees. But the speaker still sounds good overall, and, of course, when factoring in its absurb price (which you must do), the decision is made.
• The SS-B1000 provides a good level of musicality in a tight package.
• The SS-B1000 offers a lightweight tonal balance that cries out for a subwoofer.
• The SS-B1000's performance significantly degrades when played loudly.
• The SS-B3000 only provides push-pin connectors, and offers no on-board mounting hardware.
• The SS-B3000 only offers a one-year parts and labor warranty.
The Sony SS-B1000 upholds its big brother's solid rep, if not quite as dramatically. Its lightweight tonal balance really needs a subwoofer, but offers a surprisingly high level of coherence that somewhat masks its zippy treble, shallow midrange, and light bass. For the almost-hysterical $50 price, they really deliver a nice level of musicality and overall quality, and certainly don't come across as typical "budget" loudspeakers. When combined with their super small size, it's almost like 'Why not?'. Just like their big brother, you throw out the box and smile, knowing you can always use them somewhere.