Product Review - Velodyne
Classic Home Theater (CHT) Speakers - August, 2000
John E. Johnson, Jr.
Velodyne Classic Home Theater (CHT) Speakers
Satellites: Sealed Enclosure
One 3/4" Fabric Dome Tweeter, One 4 1/2" Fiber-Polypropylene Woofer in CT-41; Two 4 1/2" Woofers in CT-42 Center Channel Speaker
MFR: 80 Hz - 20 kHz ± 2 dB
Sensitivity: 89 dB/w/m
Impedance: 6 Ohms Nominal
Power: 25 Watts - 150 Watts
Size: 8 1/2" H x 5 1/2" W x 6 1/4" D
Weight: 7 Pounds Each
Finish: Black Vinyl or White Vinyl
MSRP: $599/set of Five, Package of Five Satellites plus CT-80 (8" Powered Subwoofer) is $899.
|Velodyne Acoustics, Inc., 1070 Commercial Street, # 101, San Jose, California 95112; Phone 408-436-7270; Fax 408-436-7276; Web http://www.velodyne.com|
As you all know, Velodyne Acoustics
is world renown for their subwoofers. The HGS-18 (18" driver, 1,200 watt
amplifier, servo-feedback control) is one of a handful of products by which
all others are compared. A few years ago, Velodyne introduced the 661
bookshelf speaker. With aluminum cones and incredibly low distortion, they
would have made wonderful home theater speakers except for one thing . . . the
cost. At $2,000 a pair, that would bring the price of a system to $5,000, not
including the subwoofer. Throw in the HGS-18, and you are talking $8,000.
Superb sound, but not very practical for the masses. So, what to do? Velodyne
builds quality, not flea market stuff. Well, after more than two years of
research and development, plus overseas manufacturing once the design was
complete, and voila . . . the CHT satellite speakers (the exact model number
is CT-41 for the front and rear left/right
and CT-42 for the center).
As you can see from the photograph I took in my wife's garden on a sunny California morning, the CHT fits in the palm of my hand. (I have big hands, though). It has a 3/4" fabric dome tweeter (most companies used to call these silk domes, but because they are actually a mixture of silk and other fibers, they can't do that anymore). Beneath the tweeter is a 4 1/2" fiber-polypropylene woofer. Neither of these drivers are "off the shelf" designs. Velodyne looked around at many drivers, tested them, and after an extensive amount of work, including experiments with various crossovers, the CHT was born. The process took several years, sort of like a big budget movie, except there was not a cast of thousands involved.
In the rear
of the CHT (see photo above) are sockets to allow mounting on the wall with
standard brackets, and a very nice set of gold plated metal five-way binding
posts. Posts like this are very rare in speakers in this price range. Usually,
it is a set of spring loaded clips. Now, the clips work just fine, but the
presence of gold plated posts is an indication of serious quality throughout
the product. So, how does Velodyne do it for $599 the set? Engineering at
their headquarters in San Jose, California, and manufacturing in China, that's
how. China is becoming a real powerhouse for this kind of thing. They now have
very modern factories and complete facilities for just about any type of mass
manufacturing a company might want. Some of you might remember when things
made in Japan were considered low quality. Then, a few decades later, things
made in Japan were high quality. Then, things were designed in Japan, but
manufactured elsewhere, due to rising labor costs at home. Well, China has
made it past the time when their products were considered low quality. They
make high quality items for companies all over the world, including USA
companies like Velodyne. Probably by the end of the 21st century, labor prices
will have evened out in all countries, and we will go back to manufacturing
everything at home.
The point of my mentioning that the CHTs are made overseas, is that they the have the look, build quality, and sound of speakers that would otherwise be priced at about $1,200 (my estimate) for the set of five, instead of $599. The enclosure is made of thick MDF, and the vinyl wrapping seems flawless. Rounded edges help to reduce diffraction. Again, to see this kind of build in speakers costing just over $100 apiece is unusual. It is the sort of thing that consumers will really benefit from.
are some people who might think that a small speaker cannot deliver a big
sound. That is just not true. Think of the CHT as a speaker enclosure that
just contains the tweeter and mid-range drivers. They are not designed to
produce the bass. That is why they are supposed to be sold as a system,
including a subwoofer. For example, the review set we have came with the
CT-80, but it can be purchased with any of the other CT subwoofers, all at a
system discount. The CT-80 has an 8" driver and a 100 watt amplifier. You
just set the crossover in your receiver to 80 Hz or 100 Hz, and the crossover
in the CT-80 to about that same frequency, and you get the big sound of larger
speakers where the tweeter is 3/4", the mid-range driver is 4 1/2",
and the woofer is 8". Of course, this assumes the CHT has an excellent
sound of its own. My observations are that it does surprisingly well for such
a small speaker. The DVD "Jaws" in DTS sounds just as scary, and
"The Guns of Navarone" in DD sounds just as thunderous with the CHTs
as they do with my larger speakers. The only difference might be that the
frequencies between 50 Hz and 70 Hz are directional to the subwoofer with the
low-pass set to 70 Hz and the CHTs running full range (the CHT's rolloff below
80 Hz and the subwoofer rolloff above 70 Hz will balance out to give a smooth
response near the crossover point).
expects you to connect the CHTs to mid-priced receivers, say, in the $499
range. They are 6 Ohms and 89 dB sensitivity, which appears to work nicely
with mass market receivers. Well, let me tell you something very interesting.
I also put them with my Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature power amplifier, which
delivers 400 watts rms per channel into 8 Ohm loads, using the pre-outs on my
Yamaha DSP-A1. Surprise, surprise. The "little" Velodyne CHTs took
everything I could throw at it, with the volume up as loud as I could stand.
The detail remained. The mushy mids that you can sometimes get with
inexpensive speakers, were absent. I utilized "True Lies" in DD,
" Tschaikovsky's "1812 Overture" in DTS, and all my demo
discs. Voices were perfectly intelligible at all volumes, an important feature
in the center speaker. Velodyne recommends that you use the high-pass in your
receiver or processor at 80 Hz or so, but I ran them full range with no
problems. You might assume they are just for small apartments or dorm rooms.
Not so. They will fill any room with great sound. These babies play loud and
clean. For $599? Impossible? I think some folks in San Jose are smiling.
cranked up the SPLs with the Sunfire Signature amplifier, I wondered, can
these speakers take it? Velodyne has the answer to that too. They know home
theater aficionados will be watching Arnie and Sylvester, and listening to
AK-47s, 357 Magnums, and Uzis. So, Velodyne put an overload circuit in the
crossover. If the speakers are overdriven, the circuit kicks in and lowers the
volume. You turn the volume down, and the speaker resumes at normal levels.
Frankly, I could not find the overload point. The CHTs just kept taking more
power and delivering more SPLs. For $599? The smiles are getting bigger. Maybe
a few chuckles too.
place the CHTs on speaker stands, or they can be mounted on the wall. I prefer
stands because I can move them around when I want to change the effect, and I
just enjoy the look of stands. The center channel speaker, which is longer
than the others by just enough to include an additional 4 1/2" driver,
has to go on top of the TV, of course, and it is so compact, it will fit on
any TV I could imagine. All of the CHTs are magnetically shielded, if you want
to place any of them near the TV screen.
The CT-80 works OK with the CHTs,
but these speakers are so good, and will play so loud, I would suggest pairing
them with the CT-150, which has a 15" driver and 250 watt amplifier.
(Actually, they sounded great with my HGS-18 too!) If you get the CHTs - I
highly recommend you audition them before purchasing any small speakers - and
you want to upgrade down the road, you may just find yourself upgrading the
receiver and power amplifier, and keeping the CHTs. They are one dynamite
speaker, regardless of size!
- John E. Johnson, Jr. -
© Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home
Theater & High Fidelity
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