Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Jared Rachwalski
- Published on 11 December 2008
I set up the system in my main listening room, which is 16x20 and has large openings on three walls. The power was supplied by a Rotel RMB-1085 Class D 100x5 amplifier. A Rotel RSP-1069 did all the switching and processing. Sources were my Oppo 981-HD for SACD and DVD-Audio, and lossless digital audio via my HTPC over HDMI. Calibration was done with a RS SPL Meter (analog) to level match the speakers. Bass calibration and EQ settings were done using Room Eq Wizard software.
Stereo playback was done with both the Oppo and my HTPC. The speakers were set to small, crossed over at 100Hz (for the Towers, and 120 Hz for the bookshelves), with the dual 8â€ sub taking over from there. The subwoofers equalizer was set to cut a narrow 5 dB bump at 50 Hz. No other equalization was used. The 4T towers blended very well with the subwoofer and were well suited for each other at low to modest volumes. At higher levels with heavy rock music, the subwoofer ran out of steam before the towers did. The sound was not unpleasant, just a tad shy of bass. When paired directly with the 4B bookshelf speakers, the sound was more consistent throughout the volume range.
The first thing that I noticed about the sound was the rock-solid center image. I had to double check my processor to ensure that I did not accidentally engage the center channel. With both the 4Bs and the 4Ts minimal toe-in created a deep soundstage and produced superb imaging. Vocals and acoustic guitars are resolved much better than heavy rock with these speakers. Although a couple of tracks from The Melvins' A Senile Animal were very enjoyable, there was not as much punch and dynamics at higher volumes.
For multi-channel music and DVD playback I used the Oppo and both the multichannel and HDMI outputs. The front speakers were crossed over at 100 Hz, the rears at 120 Hz, and the subwoofer was located near the front speakers. There was 8 feet of distance between the front left and front right speakers. This presented roughly 3.5 feet of space from the center speaker to either front speaker. I found in my setup that this distance proved to be to large and I was able to notices the sound panning from one speaker to the other. Normally this should be seamless and the soundstage should blend very well. When brought closer together the issues disappeared. This problem was even more evident with movie playback. If you have a wide setup and require placing the mains further than 3 feet from the center speaker I would suggest you opt for the larger center channel.
The subwoofer performed very well with music playback. Having the ability to reduce a nasty room node via the onboard equalizer helped smooth out the bass response. The fact that the sub only reached down to 35Hz was not detrimental to music playback. With movies the sub was a tad too small for my large room and the lower octave was missed. What surprised me was the lack of distortion when presented with content below the subs cut off. With ported designs subwoofers will often make a nasty sound when you exceed the low frequency capabilities. Not so with this dual driver sealed design, the bass rolled off without being offensive.
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