It was always my opinion, that any speaker system that failed to waken up the neighbors was not worth the money and should be returned at once. When I turned these all the way up, my attached neighbors didn’t complain – hell I could barely hear myself breathe, as bass knocked the air out of my lungs. These go beyond “premium” – all the way up to block party level! Perhaps the neighbors were also blown-over by the experience!
SpeakerCraft has been in the audio industry for over 30 years and knows precisely what they are doing when it comes to audio. You may not have heard of the company until now as their main focus has been custom speaker installations. However in a few months their products will be making their was to more and more retailers. While we here at TechnologyBlogged.com, we are not Audiophiles, per say, we still make it a point to review an abundance of consumer audio products.
What Speakercraft has done is essentially take all the components of a 5.1 channel surround sound system and compress it into an all-in-one solution that rocks-the-socks-off any sound bar – and even many “true” 5.1 channel speaker systems.
The raison d’etre behind the CS3 (CS stands for ‘Center Speaker’) is that generally, the speakers included with HDTVs are inefficient and incapable of providing a rich audio experience. Sure, HDTV speakers can be very loud. However when turned all the way up, the speakers are producing loud noise that really offers very little in terms of quality.
Thus, the CS3 was designed as follows: 1) To provide a full fledged, yet compact audio solution for those lacking the space for a multi-speaker setup. 2) To provide a simple system that is easy to setup and use; and 3) To provide a speaker system that would have rich audio, excellent high frequency (treble) response, and blasting bass sufficient to make the windows vibrate.
SpeakerCraft achieved its aims. The BIG question is: This Fall, at a suggested MSRP of $599, will the consumer purchase these ‘room-filling’ speakers?
The packaging is not terribly complex. In fact, I found that it came apart quite easily, much like the packaging on an HDTV. All of the basic wires are included, along with an easy to understand instruction manual and wireless remote control.
Speakercraft also included a small 2-channel Dolby Digital Audio decoder manufactured by Gefen. However, the usage of this comparatively minuscule accessory is highly unlikely unless the situation arises, which in my case was wholly unnecessary. But still, it is a nice touch.
The Speakercraft CS3 is designed to replace a full 5.1 channel surround sound system. The speaker enclosures measure an impressive 28 inches wide by 16 inches deep by 4 inches thick and weighs 25 pounds! When you break it down, it is pretty big. The sides are perfectly smooth in order to allow a comfortable fit into most AV centers, desks, or cabinets. The black finish will not clash with the equipment which most consumers would have in their AV cabinet. The speakers are made from real wood and feel incredibly solid. Granted these are not designed for portability – so good luck carrying these to that party across town.
Located on the rear of the unit are all of the inputs, as well as the manual power I/O switch. All of the speakers are located on the front of the unit. In the very center of the unit’s front is a small LED that lights up blue or red depending on the action being initiated. The speaker grill is an easily removable magnetic screen. While its placement does not interfere with the sound of the system, some users may be inclined to remove it to enjoy the classy look of these speakers. On the bottom of the CS3 are two down-firing Subwoofers.
Part of the reason these speakers are so large and well-built, is because Speakercraft designed these with the that possibility that many users would place large HDTVs on them – up to 60-inches. Now the HDTV I am using here is a tiny 22-inch set. The included remote is small and easy to use. It has a few simple buttons on it for controlling the sound level, as well as the input source. It connects to the CS3 via IR. The speakers are stereo Bluetooth enabled, making them perfectly suited for streaming music from Smartphones or Tablets.
The Acid Test
Once I got it set up, I was excited to put it through its paces, so to speak. In testing I set the respective volume settings for my PC, video playback software, music, and Playstation 2 (I’m not broke, just old school) at a uniform 50% sound level. At numerous times, I cautiously and anxiously activated the “Surround-Sound” option.
As a sidenote, in using the ‘Surround-Sound’ option, I found the levels of bass decreased substantially. A quick tap on the “raise bass level” button on the remote quickly remedied this issue.
Sound Quality: Movies
Upon connecting the unit to my HDTV via the included TosLink connector, I tested the system by watching a number of movies, which I knew would adequately test the system. I started off with a boom – specifically the sonic boom created by fighter jet aircraft from the classic 80’s movie “Top Gun”. The roar of fighter jets, combined with a younger, saner, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer did an amazing job at demonstrating just how powerful these speakers are. In fact, I found myself looking out the window from time to time to see if a fighter jet was roaring by. “Gladiator” was another movie that demonstrated amazing audio prowess. The feeling of complete euphoria created by thousands of cheering fans when Marcus Aurelias enters the stadium is something I had a hard time believing I was hearing. In the movie “Lebanon”, which depicts a group of Israeli soldiers fighting from within a Merkava 2 ‘Main Battle Tank’ at the start of the 1982 Lebanon war, the sounds of the tank shook my room.
With Surround-Sound initiated, these movies came alive (almost too alive!).
To say the least, I was deeply impressed!
The roar of fighter jets throughout the “Ace Combat” series brought new life to an old game I have not touched in several years. In fact the only way dog-fighting and missile evasion could have been more exciting would have been with the addition of a substantially larger HDTV. Nonetheless, explosions, sonic-booms, and the “whoosh” of passing planes sounded incredibly realistic.
With Surround-Sound initiated, games seemed more alive. Very impressive!
Music also played quite well. I found many bass-heavy music genres from Dubstep, Goa, and various R&B artists to come across quite nicely. Classical music from composers such as Bach, Wagner, and Mendelson also came across beautifully.
With Surround-Sound initiated, music also sounded more alive. Excellent!
The speakers proved fairly simple to set up. In fact, minimal effort was required in order to get them going. Connecting my HTC Amaze 4G to the speakers via Bluetooth proved reasonably easy. It took only two tries as on the first try, I had missed the Bluetooth pairing opportunity. For the most part, streaming music from my Smartphone to the speakers was flawless. However, the audio would begin to cut out when I moved further than 5 feet from the system. I tested the Bluetooth streaming with an iPhone 4S and found I had substantially better results (15 feet!). I have thus determined that the Bluetooth module in the HTC Amaze 4G is unreliable.
While the included remote control is nice and small, the lack of a level indicator I found rather frustrating. Changing the volume, bass, or treble, was a nerve-wracking experience, as I was never sure what level anything was set at. The LED could have been a bit brighter as well. In a moderately lit room it is simply not bright enough to see it functioning from more then 5 feet away.
Expensive? Yes indeed.
A worthy investment for those lacking space, money, or technical know-how to set-up a multi-speaker system? Absolutely!
While there exist a smattering of “Home Theater In a Box” solutions available for half the price, the trade-off is in terms of setup frustration. It is also important to note just how powerful these are. So here are the impressive technical specifications:
- Bi-amp design: independent amp channels for each woofer and each set of midrange drivers and tweeter
- 20 watt continuous x 4 channels into 4 Ohms for 80 Watts total amplification
- 35Hz – 20kHz; <1% THD
- 1 Digital Coaxial Audio Input
- 1 Digital Optical Audio Input
- 1 Stereo Analog Line Level Audio Input
- 1 Bluetooth Input
- Four Front-facing 2-1/2” Midrange Drivers
- Two Stereo ‘Down-Firing’ 2-1/4” Subwoofers
- Ported Enclosure
The SpeakerCraft CS3 TV Speakers are now available at Magnolia.
About Benny Sabghir: Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Benny enjoys all aspects of consumer electronics - especially writing about it. He also enjoys hitting the gym, running and discussing the history of his three favorite wars - The American Revolution, The Six-Day War, and the Star Wars Trilogy. Currently in Jerusalem, Israel. Follow him on twitter @Sabghir_Benny Find him on Google+ View author profile.