I first encountered the Energy line of speakers in the late 90’s when I helped a friend setup her new Take 5 system paired with a Denon receiver. My recollection of the event is of some skepticism as to the sound quality given the small size of the speakers but I ended up being grudgingly impressed with them. They certainly blew away any HTiB solution! It was perfect for her condo.
Energy is another one of the Canadian speaker companies that has participated in and benefited from the research work done with the Canadian National Research Council and their psycho-acoustical studies. Energy was acquired by Klipsch in 2006 and since then the Klipsch group as a whole seems to moving strongly into large national retailers here in Canada and the new Connoisseur series was designed with that market in mind.
Released in the fall of last year the new Connoisseur series consists of 9 different speakers and is designed for the home theater and national retail market. The CF-70 is the largest of the floor standing speakers in this series and the most recent to come to market.
- Design: Three-way, Floor-standing, Ported
- Drivers: One 1″ Aluminum Dome Tweeter, One 5.5″ Midrange, Two 6.5″ Woofers
- MFR: 34 Hz – 20 kHz
- Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 96 dB
- Crossover Points: 650 Hz, 2 kHz
- Dimensions: 40.7″ H x 8.4″ W x 15.6″ D
- Weight: 45 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $500/each USA
- Energy Speakers
The speakers are a full 3-way design with two 6.5 inch woofers and a 5.5 inch midrange and like other Energy speakers are highlighted by the brushed aluminium phase plug “spikes” instead of a dust caps for the mid and woofers. The woofer and midrange also feature Energy’s “Ribbed Elliptical Surround” which changes the shape of the speaker surround to reduce distortion and increase excursion.
The midrange is combined with a 1 inch aluminium tweeter in Energy’s “Convergent Source Module”. The CSM concept locates the tweeter and mid close together to assist with sound dispersion while isolating them in separate chambers within the speaker. Both are also technologies borrowed from Energy’s Top of the line Veritas speakers. Finally there’s a 2″ bass reflex port “rounding” out at the bottom of the stack. The cardboard tube behind the plastic flared port is dark grey which can be visible in certain lighting conditions and stands out a bit against the black gloss baffle.
The cabinets come with one finish: a black ash textured woodgrain vinyl that wraps the speaker’s left, top and right sides. The back panel is also woodgrain and the seam is slight and would not be noticeable unless you were looking for it. The front baffle is a high gloss finish which was much more resistant to fingerprints than I had expected. While piano gloss looks nice to me I’m not sure it will be a trend that keeps looking good five years down the road. There are no floor spikes available but the speakers were stable enough with their relatively thin feet, hunkering down well into the thick carpet in my HT. Being fairly tall vs their width I would not recommend having them out in the open with kids / large pets without additional bracing of some sort. Cabinet construction is more solid than expected at this price point. The speakers are equipped with dual, gold plated, 5-way binding posts capable of bi-amping or wiring. The front speaker grills attach via 8 posts and hide the gloss baffle almost completely if it is not to your liking. The grill posts themselves are on the speaker as opposed to the grill which can look a little strange with the grills off. Not liking grills and liking the look of the glossy baffle I left them off for the duration of the testing.
While not unduly hefty for floorstanders at 45lbs the speakers would benefit from a packing system that allowed the packing box to be lifted vertically off the speaker rather opening “from the side”. The separate packing foam pieces and top and bottom rule out sliding the speakers out sideways as well – at least without a danger of the speaker falling on you as you attempt such a maneuver. This basically leaves the option of laying the box down and lifting the speaker from a horizontal position to vertical. Remember to lift with the legs.
The speakers were connected to a Yamaha RXv-1400 receiver via 10ga Belden 5T00UP cables and all source material was driven by an Oppo DV971H or lossless files from a custom Home Theater PC. Unless noted all listening was done in a “direct stereo” mode with the receiver’s equalization and sound processing turned off.
First impressions: Despite the rating of 96db efficiency with “2 speakers in a typical room” when I level set the speakers I found the Energy speakers were within a db of my Kefs which are listed at 91db (2.83V/1M). The CF70’s are still pretty efficient so they can be driven well by almost any amp you may have but not quite as loud as I had expected. The first thing that stood out for me across various tracks was the treble being a little harsh for my tastes. I called the wife in for a direct A/B comparison versus our older Kef Q series speakers. Congested and with an ear infection she still noticed the difference on one of her favorite Sarah McLaughlin tracks – Vox. Unprompted and in a blind test (she could not tell which speakers were being played as I rapidly switched back and forth from the A to B channel on the receiver) she had used the same word I had already noted for myself – she said the sound was “tinny”.
While not a big fan of the pseudo-science of speaker break-in, especially with for an aluminum dome tweeter, the manual provided with the CF-70’s recommends 100 hours of play to do just that. So I did. Time passes….
With the speakers now well and truly broken in through daily use and several unattended auditions (leave them playing and shut the door) I gave them another listen using the same material.
Yes – Owner of a lonely heart
I’ve always used this track as a test track and right from the initial amp click and feedback hum in the first half second of the song I know it pretty well. So a good track for me for comparison having used it on dozens of sets of speakers over the years.
I had initially found the soundstage surprisingly good, better in truth than I had expected vs the Kefs and this stayed true after “break in”. The CF70’s are the power rocker of the new Connoisseur line and they certainly have the power to do that. In comparison I found the mid range a little lacking on the upper end. Male and especially female vocals reaching towards the high end thinned and flattened out. But that might have been more due to the contrast with the bright treble.
Miles Davis – Kind of blue
Another long term favorite. I prefer the older recording before they cleaned it all up and (re)processed it to near death. In fact the slight crackle of the source tape is a good test in and of itself and adds to the listening experience.
The clarinet on Freddie Freeloader was a little harsher compared to my Kefs, and the high hat brush on “So What” changed tone completely, again seeming a little too prominent for my taste. The attack on each piano note on Freddie was great and a pleasure to listen to.
Pink Floyd – Money
One of my favorite rock tunes for sound stage and imaging. Ahhhh the 70’s when stereo mixing was an engineer’s playground and the future of quadraphonic sound gleamed bright on the horizon…
Initially I had found the soundstage compressed on the CF70’s but after break in I no longer noticed as significant a difference. The soundstage on the CF70’s was still somewhat smaller but very few speakers in this price range can do better. The cash register and change being dispensed were quite prominent and the dynamic range was good. The intro of the bass guitar was right up front and (actually slightly to the right) of center where it should be both in localization and balance indicating good imaging.
Brass in Berlin – Pachabel’s Cannon
Having been compelled to play Pachabel’s Cannon endlessly in our school band when I was younger the song still resonates – not always pleasantly – but resonates nonetheless. In the case of the “Brass in Berlin” recording there is something to be said about the simple clarity of five piece brass ensemble. Keys being pressed, valves closing, breath being taken, all the sounds come through.
The Tuba during Pachabel’s Cannon got a little strident (if that’s even possible for a tuba??) and lost a bit of it’s edge. The ability to bring chills to my spine and a tear to the eye with the clarity and depth of sound were still there though and the French Horn was crisp and clear.
Being the largest of the new Connoisseur line bass response was fine for regular music listening but for true home theatre (or pipe organ) “impact” you’d definitely want to add a sub. Bass was tight and nicely controlled but rolled off more rapidly towards the lower bound than I had expected and a rated -3db point of 34Hz would indicate despite a few different room placements. The bass was very well integrated with the lower midrange which is not surprising since with the bass to mid crossover at 650hz the two woofers are serving a good portion of the lower mid range anyway.
As time had passed I grew more accustomed to the bright sound of the CF70’s and found myself missing some aspects of the crisper sound. My personal taste is still to a slightly less bright sound but the CF70’s will do the job in an average Home Theater setting. Their wide range, otherwise good tonality and impressive soundstage make them well matched to their Home Theater design intent.