Monday, January 12, 2015

Insignia NS-SP213, Best Buy did something right... and cheap

Insignia NS-SP213 Best Buy did something right... and cheap

For the most part all of us who review cheap speakers have been sticking to products you can buy on Amazon. I left that comfort zone and went outside, drove to the dreaded Best Buy and picked up a pair of their cheap bookshelf speakers, the Insignia NS-SP213. The previous generation of Insignia bookshelf speakers, the NS-B2111, got a good amount of fan fair for a being a cheap bookshelf speaker during a time before the Dayton B652's or anyone looking at $100 speakers ever heard of Andrew Jones.

So was Best Buy successful in producing a good sub $100 speakers? I think so. In fact at the retail price of $69.99 and a sale price of $49.99 they are tough to beat.


Detailed album of Speaker Disassembly pictures. 
http://imgur.com/a/QkOFs

The NS-SP231 are your basic black cabinet speaker. At its retail price, there really isn't a huge number of options; and they all are black. But this is easily the prettiest of the bunch. Not shown is the keyhole mount to hang them on a wall.

With Grill
http://i.imgur.com/6tA59bm.jpg

Without Grill
http://i.imgur.com/IcTX9gZ.jpg

Here is it, next to the Dayton B652
http://i.imgur.com/wM2V4Iv.jpg

Taking apart the speaker to inspect the drivers and construction proved a little more interesting than expected.

What kind of sorcery is this?
http://i.imgur.com/dGAOaNQ.jpg

Basic black stamped basket midrange driver
http://i.imgur.com/11uC9V7.jpg

But! A nice, real crossover. No full range mid and cap on the tweeter. The only other speaker in this price range that has something like this would be the Micca MB42x's at $79.99. I also like the molex plug on the tweeter, made my life a little easier while testing.
http://i.imgur.com/NtAEoum.jpg

Tiny bit of corner bracing on the front baffle, and the smiley face port.
http://i.imgur.com/3yxbXwL.jpg

Figured out why my screw driver stood up on it's own. Dat magnet.
http://i.imgur.com/hpM13B4.jpg

For the money, this is a well made speaker. Much better put together than many of the units it would be competing against (Dayton, Polk, Monoprice), and not far behind the Pioneer BS-22's or Infinity p153's. Certainly better than the much more expensive and beloved TEAC LS-H265.

So how did it all sound? Pretty damn good for the most part.  

Insignia NS-SP213 Frequency Response Graphs
http://imgur.com/a/98x8f


Here are the individual driver frequency responses
http://i.imgur.com/JyIRSMk.png

It looks like the drivers are crossed over at about 2.5khz. I didn't find any official documentation that listed it.

Grills are a killer on these things and just make the treble all manners of wonky (as seen in multiple measurements in the album). I recommend taking them off. The speaker is good looking enough that the drivers don't need to be hidden.

Port looks to be tuned around 80hz, so these wont be bass monsters.

Now for the important par; the 1 meter measurements.
http://i.imgur.com/FamEvwM.png

As seen in most of my indoor measurements the hump at 150hz is present. The midrange might be just a touch thin, but never bloated or too forward.

Aside from the dip at 350hz, this speaker is +/- 3 db form 150hz (which matched the roll off of the close mic measurement) to 18khz when measured outdoors. And measured pretty similar indoors until about 400hz where room modes get more active.

When measured @1m outdoors the port doesn't seem to be outputting much volume.

Compared to some of the other speakers in the segment, the Insignia's compare with very well. I found them to be very similar to the TEAC LS-H265 in over all tonality; however they do lack the good bass response of the TEAC's. The TEAC's best the Insignia overall, but at 3x the cost.

Unfortunately I've seemed to have lost my .mdat file with the TEAC's outdoor response so I can't overlap them until I get a chance to measure them again. But here is the original TEAC measurements for comparison.

http://i.imgur.com/MwMRnfY.png

The Insignia's are far and away better than any of the Polk budget offerings (R15,R150 and T15). Much better than the terrible Dayton B452, and lack the harshness that can be heard in the happy accident of the Dayton B652's. I don't have better measurements of the Sony SS-1000, but I'd be welling to bet the Insignia's best those also, the Sony's were very muted with in the upper registers.

I know, call me crazy and stupid, from a personal enjoyment stand point, I liked them more than the Pioneer BS22's, but I personally find the BS22's to be too warm for my taste, and slightly muddy in the bass.

With the understanding that the Insignia's weak bass output points to them needing to be paired with a subwoofer, I would pick them over the Pioneers for myself.


TL;DR

Don't count out the Insignia NS-SP213 just because it's cheap and found at a mass market consumer electronic store. It's a good speaker that everyone shopping this price point should look into. The fact that they can be found locally for many people and have an easy return policy should be an added bonus. Without a doubt they would make an excellent surround speaker.