I can safely say that I’m a fan of Fluance Audio. I’ve had the opportunity to review a fair number of their products from sound bases, to turntables, to active and passive speakers. Through them all, there is one common thread. Fluance makes some of the best bang-for-your-buck HiFi on the market today. So naturally, when I got word they were sending some more product my way, I was excited. It came in the form of their newly minted Reference Series speakers, the XL8 line to be exact. It sits between their flagship Signature and entry-level Elite product lines.
FLUANCE XL8 HOME THEATER SYSTEM
- Good looking
- Great value
- Designed in Canada
- Great midrange
- Deep Bass
The new Reference Series Speaker lineup consists of four options including floor-standing towers (XL8F), bookshelves (XL8S), a center channel (XL8C), and bipolar surrounds (XL8BP); which have all been re-developed to deliver ‘the ultimate sound experience for the home’. This review is focused on the XL8F, XL8S, and XL8C speakers. I’ve decided to review the XL8F and XL8S in a Hifi setting as well. I had previously reviewed Fluance’s top-of-the-range Signature Hifi Two-Way Bookshelf Surround Speakers and was impressed by how much sound I got for very little money. I also thought that having them as surrounds would be an amazing upgrade to a home theater system. The reference series sits just below them, shares the same tweeter, and costs almost the same, so at face value, there shouldn’t be much air between them.
FLUANCE XL8F FlooR standers
3 Way – 4 Driver Floorstanding Main Speakers
1-inch Neodymium Balanced Silk Dome Ferrofluid Cooled
Dual 6.5-inch Woven Glass Fiber Composite Drivers with Butyl Rubber Surrounds
Isolated Down-firing 8-inch Polymer Treated High Excursion Driver with Butyl Rubber Surround
80 – 160 Watts RMS
35Hz – 25kHz
87dB @ 1W / 1m
100/3000Hz Phase Coherent – PCB Mounted Circuitry
8 Ohm Compatible
Tuned Rear Dual Port Bass Reflex Tower Design Dampened
45.86 x 9.25 x 12.99 inches (HxWxD)
47.70 pounds each
XL8S BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS
2 Way – 2 Driver Surround Speakers (Wall Mountable)
1-inch Neodymium Balanced Silk Dome Ferrofluid Cooled
5.25-inch Woven Glass Fiber Composite Drivers with Butyl Rubber Surrounds
40 – 80 Watts RMS
50Hz – 20kHz
85dB @ 1W / 1m
3100Hz Phase Coherent – PCB Mounted Circuitry
8 Ohm Compatible
Vented Bass-reflex Design
11.4 x 8.1 x 9.0 inches (HxWxD)
11.35 pounds each
XL8 CENTER CHANNEL
2 Way – 3 Driver Center Channel
1-inch Neodymium Balanced Silk Dome Ferrofluid Cooled
Dual 5.25-inch Woven Glass Fiber Composite Drivers with Butyl Rubber Surrounds
50 – 100 Watts RMS
110Hz – 20KHz
86dB @ 1W / 1m
3000Hz Phase Coherent – PCB Mounted Circuitry
8 Ohm Compatible
Acoustic Suspension Design
6.9 X 18.5 X 9.0 inches (HxWxD)
Fluance XL8 Reference Series Prices:
XL8F ($599.99 USD), XL8S ($179.99 USD), XL8C ($149.99 USD) and XL8BP ($199.99 USD)
fluance, xl8, reference series, xl8f, xl8s, xl8c xl8bp, home theater, surround sound, tower speakers, center channel speakers, surround speakers, Speaker System Review 2021
The Reference series speaker cabinets come in either a Black Ash or Walnut wood veneer finish. The faces of the speaker all share white drivers and a black gloss finish with magnetic grills. What grabbed my attention most is the fact that the speakers appear to be seamless in appearance. For this price, I didn’t expect it.
The Reference Series uses white woven glass fiber drivers that provide vibrational damping and optimal linear movement resulting in a faithful reproduction of original recordings. These drivers are said to reveal the most subtle sounds and expressions of individual instruments, but also great for giving dialogue a more natural and life-like tonality. All speakers in the reference lineup share the same neodymium silk dome tweeters—which incidentally are also used in their range-topping Signature series—for consistent, crisp, natural high frequencies and spacious off-axis dispersion.
Fluance employs an inert cabinet design for this new iteration of the Reference Series. Each speaker is well put together and holds up at even the most neighbor unfriendly volumes. The center (XL8C) and bipolar surround (XL8BP) feature a sealed cabinet while the floor-standing XL8F and bookshelf XL8S feature vented bass-reflex designs for controlled low-frequency bass response.
Focusing on the XL8F tower speakers first: they stand 46 inches high, 9-1/4 inches wide and 13 inches deep. They weigh about 47 pounds which sounds like a lot, but the speakers are fairly easy to move around. They’re big but they don’t look big. The cabinet is relatively narrow considering how much Fluance has packed in. The design is a three-way reflex configuration with rounded sides. The cabinets have rigid internal bracing to prevent unwanted resonance and are composed of separate internal enclosures to keep sound waves isolated to eliminate acoustic interference. Two 6.5″ woven glass fiber midrange drivers with butyl rubber surrounds are separated by a 1-inch silk dome tweeter that sits between them. The black cone surrounds enhance the narrow appearance of the speakers as they make the drivers look smaller. The XL8Fs feature 8″ isolated, polymer treated, high excursion, down-firing drivers built into the foot of each tower. The bottom of each speaker is elevated on short pillars to allow the drivers some air and finished off with a chunky plinth. Fluance has also supplied some cute little copper spikes which help eliminate distortion and vibration. If you peek around the back, you’ll find two bass reflex ports that extend bass response and reduce cabinet resonance. Also in back are gold-plated five-way wiring posts for your bi-amp and bi-wiring needs. The fabric grille is magnetic (yes)!
Moving on to the Reference High-Performance Two-way Bookshelf/ Surround speakers (XL8S), boy, that’s a mouthful! These are two-way speakers that will happily sit on stands, on a sideboard, or even mounted on a wall. They measure 11.4 x 8.1 x 9.0 inches (HxWxD) and weigh in at 11.38 pounds. They feature a 5.25″ version of the woven white driver with butyl rubber surrounds. The front features two bass reflex ports that flank the tweeter. Around the back, you’ll find a single set of gold-plated binding posts and integrated wall mount brackets.
Lastly is the Reference Two-way Center Channel. It features two of the 5.25″ woven glass drivers sitting on either side of the tweeter that is placed dead center. It’s a sealed box design that’s fairly small at 6.9 X 18.5 X 9.0 inches (HxWxD) and weighs in at just 15 pounds. The back also features a single set of five-way binding posts and integrated wall mounting brackets. In all, it’s a very attractive package.
As I mentioned earlier, the XL8F floor-standers didn’t seem heavy at all, especially given their size. I unpacked them on my own and easily got them in place. I omitted the use of the copper floor spikes because A, my basement floors are a tad uneven on the left side of the media cabinet. And B, my kids are hooligans. I wouldn’t want one of the speakers to take a tumble. The bookshelves were used as surround channels and placed on stands on either side of my couch with the center channel sitting just below the Marantz SR6009 receiver in our media stand. It’s not the most ideal position but I didn’t find the placement to impede my listening whatsoever. I paired them with Q Acoustics’ QB12 Subwoofer to fill out the bottom end. I also brought down the Cambridge Audio CXA61 integrated amp for some two-channel listening. My home theater room is less than ideal. The ceilings are low, just a touch over six feet, and there’s a bulkhead hiding a vent that sticks out about 12” from the TV wall and reduces the ceiling height by another 8”. If you’re not careful, you’ll eat the bulkhead. I’ve bashed my head against it so many times that I’ve considered getting a basement helmet. Needless to say, the room is small but I’m familiar with its quirks and shortcomings, so I know where to place things to get the best possible sound from it.
My weekly view consists of Formula 1 Drive to Survive on Netflix, Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney+, and Invincible on Amazon Prime. Of the three shows, Formula 1 Drive to Survive provided the most slam and proved to be the best benchmark for the Fluance setup. I don’t think I’ve ever actually sat down to watch an F1 race, and I know next to nothing about the F1 circuit. But man, this show is something else. I incorrectly assumed that the XL8 Theater package would be slightly muddy and bottom-heavy, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dialogue and effects steering are what stood out the most in day-to-day listening. The dialogue was lush, direct, and clear but never harsh or tinny. The silk dome tweeters played well and are great for this application. They are crisp and detailed but not too bright or clinical. Low-quality recordings aren’t laid bare and painful to sit through.
Let’s not forget about those racing sounds. The engines, the crashes, and the cars whipping by, oh my! I did a fair amount of listening without the QB12 Subwoofer for two reasons. One, Fluance didn’t supply it, and two, I wanted to hear what the XL8 floor-standers could dig up from the bottom end. If your budget is tight, you’ll be just fine without a sub. In my modest listening room, the XL8Fs reach nice and low and the soundstage is big. Fluance claims a frequency response down to 35Hz. I didn’t take any scientific measurements, but they sure do sound like they’re dropping down super low. Holy moly.
Falcon and The Winter Soldier
This is by far my favorite episodic offering from Marvel, even more so than Punisher. It’s a great follow-up to the movie Avengers: Endgame, and ties up some loose ends to set up the future of the Marvel Movie Universe. The Fluance package made me feel like I was watching it in a theater. I looked forward to every episode. I’ve made a lot of fuss about the bass weight, but it’s the midrange that takes center stage. It’s rich but not heavy-handed and the dialogue is incredibly clear. By comparison, my old B&W theater system had me constantly turning up the center channel to make the dialogue clearer. I watched episode 3 at around 4:30 am at a fairly low volume as to not wake any of the sleeping beauties in my home and the dialogue remained clear with almost perfectly scaled sound, meaning the bass still had a decent weight and I was still able to hear the atmospherics. With the last few episodes of Invincible, the Fluance package played to their same strengths. The dialogue was very clear and when the fighting starts, and the blood flies, the impact hits you hard. I love this system.
Switching out the Marantz and inserting the Cambridge CXA61 integrated amp, I was curious to hear how the XL8s would fare. I used the amp and my shiny new iPhone 12 via Bluetooth as sources. I started with the XL8F floor-standers taking up the music duties and I did so with no subwoofer connected. Then I moved over the XL8S bookshelves paired with the Q Acoustics QB12 subwoofer. In the past, I found the CXA61 to be a touch bright yet quite revealing. Sadly, it doesn’t have tone controls, but the bass is tight and controlled and somewhat subdued with the speakers that I’ve used it with.
Not so with the Fluance package. The pairing is amazing, so much so that I ended up using the preamp outputs on my Marantz and connecting them to the CXA61 to have the fronts driven by the Cambridge for movies. It drove the XL8Fs far better than the receiver. There was an added weight to the music that was missing from the Marantz. The bass was fatter, the midrange sounded fuller, and the highs were clear and crisp but not harsh in any way. I got a nice full soundstage without any noticeable roll-off at the very top end.
Originally released in 2020, I first heard this about a month ago via Paradox Music’s podcast. And holy smoke is it a wall of sound! I love this tune; it just builds and builds. What I noticed right off the bat was the bass extension. The bass reaches low. I never missed having the sub connected for music. The bass response from the XL8F floor-standers is simply amazing. Given the 8″ woofers that fire into the floor, you’re treated to substantial amounts of bass. And other than turning down the bass knob or setting a crossover value in your receiver, you’re limited in how much you can augment the audible bass. This isn’t a bother to me as I prefer a bassier (some would say muddier) sound. If you’re after every drop of detail, these aren’t the speakers for you. But, if you’re like me and prefer impact and slam over neutrality then these are the speakers for you.
Next, I switched over to the XL8S bookshelves and ran the track back once more. I positioned them on either side of my media unit in place of where I previously had the floor-standers but toed in a bit more. I kept the subwoofer connected and I tried to forget as best I could my review of Fluance’s Signature series Bookshelves (I really liked them!). The XL8Ss aren’t the bass monsters that the XL8Fs are. With their 5.25″ woofer and modest cabinet size, there isn’t much in the way of bottom end. But this is to be expected from speakers of this size. What was immediately apparent though, was how good the sound was. They are like much more expensive speakers. The midrange is lush, the highs are crisp and detailed, and the soundstage is wide and spacious. The addition of a subwoofer is a boon. You can get as liberal with the volume control as you wish without them dipping out when heavy bass notes kick in. The XL8S is a joy to listen to and had I not heard the floor-standers first, I would be more than happy with them in my living room.
I did the same back and forth with other music and the results were the same overall. Both pairs of speakers were amazing in their own right, and provided I was aware of the nuances of each speaker pairing, listening to music was a pleasure. I simply don’t have any complaints.
The FLUANCE XL8 Reference package is a steal. With a high performance/price ratio, it might be the last home speaker package you ever buy.
- Big Sound
- Clear dialogue
- Deep bass from the XL8F floor-standers
- Low Price
- Mounting brackets on the smaller speakers.
- Absolutely nothing
The gap between the high-end and the entry-level is shrinking rapidly. Products like the Fluance XL8 Reference Series are proof of that. To exceed the sound quality on offer here, you would have to spend much more than most people are willing to. Many superlatives can be tossed in the direction of Fluance’s achievement here; it is a fine one. This segment of entry-level Hifi and Home Theater is very crowded. Seemingly every brand has an offering at this price point and there are many routes the consumer can take when choosing a full theater set up. But Fluance comes out swinging with this contender and pulls no punches. This is a seriously capable package.
When it comes to enjoying movies and shows I care less about critical listening than I do the experience. Fluance has put together a speaker package worthy of praise. They are thoughtfully constructed, beautiful to look at, and sound amazing. It’s the kind of package that you set up and forget. With music, the news is great too. You can seriously rock out with this package and you don’t necessarily need a sub.
As a fan of budget audio, I make much ado about value for money. This is value. In fact, the Fluance XL8 Theater package is a steal. Go ahead and add these to your cart. It might be the last home speaker package you need to buy!