I'm in agreement with Tom on the 5.1 bit, in so far as my limited experience with four different brands that I've had opportunity to try out at friends. I just wasn't hearing true surround effects. I heard some rather weird toned effects that probably should have appeared to have come from the sides, but my ears and brain still perceived them as up front.
That being said, all but one of them did a decent job up front and one of them even stood out as sounding great as a L/C/R set up for movies.
I thought I better add in some optimism there as I was already slapped for talking 5.1 when the OP is just looking for a good front set up. In an attempt to be useful this time, I will share what I can in hopes that it helps someone with a decision.
The best one I heard out of the four was a B&W model (Panorama maybe). However, it was paired with, perhaps unfairly, a 12" Paradigm sub. Still it sounded awesome up front, even if I didn't discern any surround effects at all, not even in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. I didn't hear music on this one but it definitely would have beat the crap out of any TV speakers.
The worst was by far a Phillips model. It probably sounded worse than some TV's actually. Tinny sounding like an old am radio. Of course the whole thing was only about 2 1/2 inches tall, so right away you knew whatever tiny drivers they jammed in there could not stand a chance at producing a broad range of frequencies. The sub was perhaps the worst I ever heard in any set up. Every bass sound was the same, one note, rattle. Although to be fair, I would say that the owner had it turned up too high.
I can't recall the fourth but one of the other good ones was an Energy. It was only three channels to begin so it wasn't trying to produce surround effects and it sounded very good up front. Dialogue was great. I did hear music on this one and it was surprisingly good also.
Of course, they were all heard in different rooms at different times so you have to take it all with a grain of salt. Still, I'd feel safe in recommending the B&W model, (except for maybe the price) or the Energy and I feel very safe in advising you to stay away from the small sized Phillips.
Hope that helps.
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