Insignia NS-B2111 6.5" Bookshelf Speaker
Jamo AVR-793 7.1 Surround Receiver
Monster Power MP-HTS1000 MKII Power Conditioner
Belden 1585a speaker cable
Burr Brown-Japan PCM2702 USB DAC
Monster Cable THX analog interconnect
Reference System A
Polk LSi 9 (Series 2)
Standesign speaker stands
Denon AVR-4802R THX Ultra2 Receiver
Panamax MAX 5410 Pro Signature Power Conditioner
Custom silver-plated copper, Teflon-dielectric speaker cable (bi-wired)
Custom silver-plated copper, Teflon-dielectric flat topology interconnect
DC-powered Burr Brown PCM1704-K/DF1704 external DAC
Envy24HT (S/PDIF out)
One of the first things that you'll notice from this speaker is that the soundstage is very good. This means that the music doesn't sound as if it's coming from the box – they disappear into the background. This is one of the most important features of a loudspeaker because it's something that you'll appreciate with every audio source -- it doesn't matter if you're listening to MP3s or watching DVDs. The quality of the soundstage is one of the biggest differences between ordinary speakers and ones that really help to carry the emotion across.
However, keeping a wide soundstage and maintaining appropriate focus and imaging is tough. That is, you'd like the experience the effect that the sound is coming from somewhere beyond the physical speaker, but you'd also like to be able to be able to feel like you can pinpoint that the singer is standing 5 feet in front of you, and the bass guitarist is 6.5 feet away.
Detail and resolution was also very good. Two of my favorite test tracks to test for detail comes from audiophile sampler CDs. The first is a gimmicky test from Shefield Labs/XLO Test & Burn-in CD. Doug Sax stands 6 feet behind a microphone, and Roger Skoff stands 14-feet behind him. Then they start talking in unison. The idea is that with a high-quality sound system, you can actually hear what both of them are saying. This is a deceptively simple test that most "under $300 retail" speakers fail. Even audiophile budget favorites such as the JBL HLS-610, Paradigm Atom, and NHT SuperZero's fail this test. Surprisingly, the Insignia NS-B2111 does very well in this test of midrange purity. Another good test is Spanish Harlem by Rebecca Pidgeon (Chesky Records).
With a true audiophile-grade setup, each shake of the shaker will sound slightly different. The Insignia wasn't able to resolve this level of micro-detail. Depending on your source and associated equipment, this could lead to "listening fatigue." The vocals also had a slightly chesty and reverberant sound (the effect that you'd get if you cupped your hands around your mouth to amplifier).
For a 6.5" bookshelf speaker, the Insignias have superb bass. It's not the bone-thumping bass you'll want for movies (you'll need a subwoofer for that), but it's deeper than most and has a very natural roll-off. The speakers are somewhat over-enthusiastically rated at 50Hz – but in-room response should go down to about 60Hz or so. Even for R&B and percussion, you won't need a separate subwoofer.