A few years ago, Best Buy got into the consumer electronics market with their in-house brand Insignia. Like Wal-Mart’s “Sam’s” brand or Costco’s “Kirkland” brand, Best Buy hoped to find contract manufacturers in Asia to develop value priced electronics. Their mission was to offer the lowest priced product in its price range while still offering significant value. Most of Insignia’s product line has been lackluster – not because they’re actually bad, but because most of us would rather spend a little extra money to get something with more premium features.
This about to change with the Insignia NS-B2111 6.5” Bookshelf Speaker.
It just takes one quick glance at these Insignia speakers to see that they're not your ordinary budget speakers. The curved enclosure helps to reduce internal sound reflections that generate standing waves that ultimately produce resonant sound. Although the use of non-parallel walls is an important feature of many high-end speaker designs, the enclosure shape alone isn't responsible for the sound. That said, it's a definite cosmetic bonus. Of course, the front panel is also finished in a superb deep black piano-gloss finish. The finish used in the NS-B2111 is actually better than the high-gloss finish of speakers such as the first-edition Polk LSi 7 speakers ($700/pair).
The other interesting design feature is that the NS-B2111 adopts a time coherent coaxial design. At first glance, it looks like the NS-B2111 just has a single speaker driver. Even then, it's a cool 6.5" woven carbon-fiber driver. Look a little closer, and you'll see that there's a 1" silk-dome tweeter in the center of the speaker. The theory behind this design is that it's easier to generate a time-coherent design in which the high frequency and low frequency audio reaches your ear at the same time. Again, this isn't the only design that achieves this result – a well designed crossover can do the same thing. Nonetheless, it is a cosmetic bonus in having a speaker that can be the focus of discussion among techie friends.
The enclosures are made from MDF although the enclosure is still resonant and could be stiffer. Even the binding posts show significant attention to detail with a WBT-like design. You can use bare-wire, pins, spades, or banana plugs. From a cosmetic stand-point, the 12-lb Insignia NS-B2111 is superb. If any corners were cut to make this speaker $50, it certainly wasn't in the exterior appearance.
Setup and Use
The Insignia is a passive bookshelf speaker, so you’ll need a receiver or integrated amplifier to power them. Any receiver will do since these are 8 ohm speakers (easy to drive) although a good budget model is the $30 Sonic Impact 15Wx2 amplifier.
The first sign of cost-cutting measures comes when you set up the speaker. The NS-B2111 is not magnetically shielded. It turns out that this isn't such a bad feature. You only need magnetically shielded speakers if you're planning to place the speakers close to a conventional CRT monitor or television. Magnetic shielding isn't important for LCD flat panels or DLP/LCD rear-projection TVs… In addition, if you were serious about video shielding these speakers, there are some options that are available… but more on that later.