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post #1 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 02:25 PM - Thread Starter
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GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array XL 5.1 System Official AVSForum Review



Can a passive speakerbar-based surround-sound system satisfy both cinephiles and audiophiles? Check out Mark Henninger's review.


When I first encountered GoldenEar's new speakerbar at CES 2014, its expansive soundfield got my attention. Within 60 seconds, I was convinced it sounded as good as a system with discrete, full-sized speakers. No other powered or passive speakerbar I've heard offers the fidelity of the 3D Array XL. Why did it sound so good? According to GoldenEar, it's because of something the company calls "3D image optimization." The technique uses ICC (Interaural Crosstalk Cancellation) to enhance stereo imaging, allowing the perceived soundfield to extend beyond the speaker's physical boundaries.


Features

The $1600 SuperCinema 3D Array XL reproduces three channels, but it has no onboard amplification—it's a passive speakerbar. Each channel uses an air motion transformer (AMT) tweeter, also known as a folded ribbon. AMT tweeters look like a miniature metal accordion and work by rapidly expanding and contracting in response to an electrical signal. The center channel has four 4" mid/bass drivers, while the left and right channels each have two of the same drivers.

The dual drivers are not there just for show; they are the key component to implementing ICC. Here's how it works: When a sound emanates from either the left or right channel, it arrives at the corresponding ear first—the other ear hears the same sound moments later and at a lower level because your head is in the way. When speakers are physically close to each other, each ear hears almost the same thing, which translates to a narrow soundstage. With ICC, if you use a pair of drivers for each channel, with just the right spacing and some wizardry in the crossover, it's possible to cancel out at least some of the sound arriving at the opposing ear. This results in the illusion of a larger soundstage that extends beyond the physical dimensions of the cabinet.

The fixed distance between channels is a handicap every speakerbar designer has to contend with, but the 3D Array XL succeeds in overcoming that limitation with ICC as well as its physical size. It's 62 inches wide, which provides more physical separation between the drivers, enhancing the effect of 3D image optimization and ICC.

When the 3D Array XL 5.1 system arrived, it came with a $1000 ForceField 5 subwoofer and a $500 pair of SuperSat 3 speakers. When I first set it up, the sub impressed me so much, I decided to review it separately. According to GoldenEar's specs, the frequency response of the speakerbar and satellites is 80 Hz and above. The company specifically states that you need a subwoofer to make the system work. With the ForceField 5 sub, measured bass response extended below 20 Hz, making it a full-range system.


The ForceField 5 sub took care of bass duties. It is an extremely good performer, especially for its size.

Thanks to a sensitivity of 91 dB/W/m and 300 watts/channel of power handling, the 3D Array XL reaches the volume levels appropriate for an immersive home-theater experience. The Pioneer Elite SC-85 receiver I used to power it outputs 135 watts/channel into 8 ohms, which was plenty for my needs. On the speakerbar's backside, there are three speaker terminals—one for each of the three front channels. I used Monoprice 12-gauge speaker cable with banana plugs to connect the AVR to the speakerbar.

The SuperSat 3s use the same type of drivers as the 3D Array XL—a folded-ribbon tweeter and a pair of 4" mid/woofers. Using the same type of drivers matches the timbre between all the speakers, which in turn facilitates a seamless, immersive surround-sound experience. I mounted the SuperSat 3s on a pair of GoldenEar SuperStand 3 speaker stands—which took mere minutes to assemble—and I placed them on the sides of my sofa. As a bonus, my wife Danya thought they looked cool and sounded very detailed. She even asked that I remove all the magnetically attached grilles because she liked the way they look without them.


Here's a SuperSat 3 with the grill off.


Setup

Setting up the 3D Array XL system is the same as it would be with discrete speakers—simply connect each channel to the corresponding speaker terminal on the AVR. Then, use the AVR to take measurements and make adjustments in a procedure that varies depending on the brand and model of AVR or pre/pro you use. Most systems have a fully automatic mode, and that's what I chose on the Elite SC-85.


The SUperCinema 3D Array XL has three pairs of binding posts, one for each channel.

Here's how I set everything up in the receiver: I used the SC-85's MCACC setup in full auto mode. That's it. I always give credit where credit is due, and this system was good to go after running Pioneer's calibration routine. When MCACC finished, I checked the channel levels with a UMIK-1 USB microphone and Room EQ Wizard software. The receiver chose a crossover of 100 Hz, which I kept. I also measured the distance from the mic's location to each speaker. Once I confirmed the receiver took accurate measurements—kudos to the SC-85 for nailing it on the first try—I began listening to music and movies.


Performance

I started the review process by listening to the 3D Array XL in stereo mode. It created a fully realized stereo image that provided an uncanny sense of width and depth. It's on par with what I'd expect to hear from a 2.1 system consisting of a pair of high-end bookshelf speakers, good amplification, and a quality sub. Amazingly, it creates that sort of soundfield while perched on top of a TV.

I played Thievery Corporation's album Culture of Fear, and I was immediately blown away by the immersive quality I heard. It's a well-worn audiophile cliché, but it sounded like the band was there in the room with me. I had a couple of guests over at the time, and I asked each of them sit in the sweet spot and listen to the album. That's when I witnessed another cliché—the dropped jaw. Everyone agreed, the 3D image optimization performed its magic, and the resulting sound was holographic.

Listening to the 3D Array XL using the SC-85's 2.1-channel stereo mode was unexpectedly captivating. However, GoldenEar sent me a 5.1 surround-sound system—after all, the whole point of buying a speakerbar is to use it with a TV. So I switched gears and started using it as part of a complete surround system. Its performance went beyond what I expected to hear from such compact components. I can't say the great performance came as a complete surprise—when I first heard a 3D Array XL at CES 2014, it impressed me enough to ask if I could review it, and I'm glad I did.


A close view of the center channel's driver compliment on the SuperCinema 3D Array XL.

Visually and aurally, the combination of the 3D Array XL, ForceField 5, and the SuperSat 3s resulted in a tremendously high spousal acceptance factor. It impressed me by offering a level of fidelity I'd expect from a speaker system costing as much or more. Thanks to a 92 dB sensitivity rating and 200-watt power handling, the SuperSats never had a problem keeping up with the front channels. While $3100 for the entire system is not a trivial sum, it is certainly justified by the result. And it's amazing that the system performs at such a high level while taking up so little space.

Thanks to numerous demos, I've become a big fan of GoldenEar's full-sized speakers—especially the Triton One flagship. The SuperCinema 3D Array XL 5.1 system possesses a significant measure of the qualities that define a system using those heavy-hitting towers: clear and dynamic music reproduction combined with very precise imaging.

As I mentioned earlier, the fixed distance between the left and right channels does not limit this speakerbar. Thanks to well-implemented ICC, the apparent soundstage is considerably wider than the cabinet itself. In my studio, it created the illusion of virtual speakers located where I'd normally place a pair of towers. Furthermore, the 3D Array XL created a palpable sense of depth in the soundstage—in that regard it was superior to many pairs of speakers I've heard, even at the same price point. There was nothing contrived or artificial about the soundfield, unlike numerous powered and passive speakerbar systems I've auditioned that use DSP-based algorithms to achieve the effect.

When I watched movies using the full 5.1 system, it was easy to forget I wasn't listening to optimally placed discrete speakers. The satellites and speakerbar truly disappeared, as did the room itself. I could find no real fault in the system's performance, even while watching films with complex, intense soundtracks such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Transformers: Age of Extinction. The ForceField 5 sub delivered an amazing performance with cinematic material.

Whether you use it to listen to music or movies, this SuperCinema 3D Array XL 5.1 system performs at a level that transcends the speakerbar/soundbar category. It is an audiophile-quality system that happens to fit underneath or above a TV, and it's equally adept at playing 2-channel and surround-sound content. It's the first speakerbar I've heard that I could live with as my primary sound system.

I'm not saying the 3D Array XL would be my number-one choice for a surround-sound system. The GoldenEar Atmos-capable system featuring Triton One towers I heard at CEDIA 2014 holds that distinction. Nevertheless, I'm confident that it's good enough to satisfy discerning listeners, including audiophiles who would ordinarily never consider a speakerbar-based system. More importantly, cinephiles looking for a system that makes them happy, saves space, and pleases their spouse will find a lot to love. Within that context, this SuperCinema 3D Array XL-based system earns my highest recommendation.


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post #2 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 02:40 PM
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It is no accident that the technology used by Sandy Gross while at Polk in the SDS SRA speaker series has re-emerged at GoldenEar.

I still have a pair of the Polk SDS speakers and listen to them daily. They invented a form of "surround sound" before it emerged in the market place via a/v receivers.

Glad to see this "retro" technology find a place in modern speaker design. The soundbar has horizontal spacial limitations due to the fixed position of the front speakers. This does away with this, if it is anywhere near as effective as the Polk design.

Great product and excellent review.
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post #3 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 03:43 PM
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sounds cool, but i'm wondering why somebody would choose this product if it's no easier/cheaper than running separate speakers?

seems like this would be a great product if it were powered, and connected to the tv directly like most sound bars. i'm just having a hard time imagining a situation where i'd use this. if i need a receiver, and the same wiring as separate speakers, why wouldn't i use separate speakers?
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post #4 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 03:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fierce_gt View Post
sounds cool, but i'm wondering why somebody would choose this product if it's no easier/cheaper than running separate speakers?

seems like this would be a great product if it were powered, and connected to the tv directly like most sound bars. i'm just having a hard time imagining a situation where i'd use this. if i need a receiver, and the same wiring as separate speakers, why wouldn't i use separate speakers?
You'd buy it for aesthetics or space-saving reasons, mainly. That would be a lot of amplification to stuff into a soundbar, and you'd still need to power the surrounds. By making it passive, you can choose the level of receiver you pair up with it. For example, with some ceiling speakers the rig will be Atmos-capable using the SC-85. In fact I plan to give that a shoot in the very near future.

Oh, and you could—in theory—make an argument for having all three front channels at the same height. With a TV that is always a challenge. It really depends on your needs. What I wanted to communicate is that you don;t give up much fidelity or performance with this option, unlike the self-powered speakerbars (soundbars) I've heard.
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post #5 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aydu View Post
It is no accident that the technology used by Sandy Gross while at Polk in the SDS SRA speaker series has re-emerged at GoldenEar.

I still have a pair of the Polk SDS speakers and listen to them daily. They invented a form of "surround sound" before it emerged in the market place via a/v receivers.

Glad to see this "retro" technology find a place in modern speaker design. The soundbar has horizontal spacial limitations due to the fixed position of the front speakers. This does away with this, if it is anywhere near as effective as the Polk design.

Great product and excellent review.
It also sounds similar to Carver's "Sonic Holography," which produced 3-D effects that were either uncanny and good, or downright odd, depending on the microphone arrangement and other factors involved in the original recording.

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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
You'd buy it for aesthetics or space-saving reasons, mainly.
I'm struggling to think of how this would save space or look better than 3 speakers of the same type (tiny horizontal speakers). With separate speakers, you could exactly match the size of your TV.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Oh, and you could—in theory—make an argument for having all three front channels at the same height.
Since a centered listener is closer to the center speaker than left/right, they actually should not be at the same height. :-)
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post #7 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 04:37 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm struggling to think of how this would save space or look better than 3 speakers of the same type (tiny horizontal speakers). With separate speakers, you could exactly match the size of your TV.

Since a centered listener is closer to the center speaker than left/right, they actually should not be at the same height. :-)
Three tiny horizontal speakers? if that appeals to you (the figurative you) then there must be plenty of options that fit the bill. This is a different product.

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No other powered or passive speakerbar I've heard offers the fidelity of the 3D Array XL.
Mark, I am curious if you have ever heard one of the Leon Soundbars? If so do you think that the GE provides better sound than a Leon? I am considering getting a new soundbar in the next six months and I am torn between the GE SuperCinema and a Leon.

In my eyes the advantage of the GE is cost (it costs a lot less than the Leon), but the advantage of the Leon is 5" primary drivers and custom width of the finished product.

Packing a lot of sound into a small room.
268 square feet/2144 cubic feet
7.2 surround sound.
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post #9 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 05:42 PM
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I remember years ago when Matt Polk designed the cross talk cancellation circuit. It was used in a variety of Polk stereo speaker pairs and required a special cable linking the two speakers to each other,
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post #10 of 131 Old 12-03-2014, 09:33 PM
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You'd buy it for aesthetics or space-saving reasons, mainly.
Aesthetics and space-saving. Now those are the top two features I think of when considering audio.
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You'd buy it for aesthetics or space-saving reasons, mainly. That would be a lot of amplification to stuff into a soundbar, and you'd still need to power the surrounds. By making it passive, you can choose the level of receiver you pair up with it. For example, with some ceiling speakers the rig will be Atmos-capable using the SC-85. In fact I plan to give that a shoot in the very near future.

Oh, and you could—in theory—make an argument for having all three front channels at the same height. With a TV that is always a challenge. It really depends on your needs. What I wanted to communicate is that you don;t give up much fidelity or performance with this option, unlike the self-powered speakerbars (soundbars) I've heard.
what i think would be interesting, is if they made the 'unit' modular instead. that way, if i wanted to use it for a larger room, i could detach the L/R speakers from the center, and spread them out. i'm still having a hard time seeing the 'one piece' design as an advantage and not as a limitation. if i wanted 3 speakers side by side by side i could do that, but i can't move them apart if they are one unit.

i guess, i'm just thinking the market for this product is going to drastically reduced just because the left, center, and right channels are connected in one unit. i mean i understand the idea of a soundbar to improve on stock speakers, but i've never thought they looked good. i would never never choose one over a smaller, and sleeker center channel only speaker and the L/R speakers off to the sides more.

i'm sure it'll find it's place in the market, i just don't really know where that will be yet. it's not simple or cheap like a soundbar, so it'll have to compete head on with 'traditional' speakers i guess.

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Aesthetics and space-saving. Now those are the top two features I think of when considering audio.
to match that slim bezelled curved LED you just got of course

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post #13 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 03:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Aesthetics and space-saving. Now those are the top two features I think of when considering audio.
Then you are not in the target market for a device like this. For someone who does have those concerns, it's great. Otherwise full-sized discrete speakers is the way to go, as I noted towards the end of the review.
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post #14 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 03:57 AM - Thread Starter
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what i think would be interesting, is if they made the 'unit' modular instead. that way, if i wanted to use it for a larger room, i could detach the L/R speakers from the center, and spread them out. i'm still having a hard time seeing the 'one piece' design as an advantage and not as a limitation. if i wanted 3 speakers side by side by side i could do that, but i can't move them apart if they are one unit.

i guess, i'm just thinking the market for this product is going to drastically reduced just because the left, center, and right channels are connected in one unit. i mean i understand the idea of a soundbar to improve on stock speakers, but i've never thought they looked good. i would never never choose one over a smaller, and sleeker center channel only speaker and the L/R speakers off to the sides more.

i'm sure it'll find it's place in the market, i just don't really know where that will be yet. it's not simple or cheap like a soundbar, so it'll have to compete head on with 'traditional' speakers i guess.
Right off the bat I can tell you that a modular design would ruin the aesthetic and would be awkward to deal with. It is a very heavy, solidly-built device. With the grill, it is also very low key.

It's worth remembering that GoldenEar has products that fill those other needs. Three SuperSats would perform similar task for the front channels. A pair of Triton towers and a SuperCenter would afford the placement flexibility and performance that a discrete speaker's form factor excels at. And all of the products from that company have the same "sound" so you can pick the right tool for the job. The SuperCinema 3D Array XL is just one of those tools.

And there is a non-XL version of the array already. It's just a guess, but the existence of the XL likely owes something to the success of the non XL version of the same product.
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And there is a non-XL version of the array already. It's just a guess, but the existence of the XL likely owes something to the success of the non XL version of the same product.
The problem for a one-piece speaker is that TVs come in various widths. Two models are better than one, but really, the concept is flawed.
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post #16 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 04:39 AM - Thread Starter
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The problem for a one-piece speaker is that TVs come in various widths. Two models are better than one, but really, the concept is flawed.
Only if you obsess over the need for a soundbar to be the exact width of a TV. Ultimately, that's one of the compromises you make with a one-piece speakerbar or soundbar—it is a fixed width. I suppose you could buy whatever soundbar a TV maker offers that matches its TV, but the difference between a device like that and the SuperCinema is like the difference between a home theater in a box and a high quality full-sized system.

While I understand the point you made, in this forum the one-piece, fixed width form factor is basically a given, which is why I posted this review in the soundbars forum, as opposed to the speakers forum.
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Aesthetics and space-saving. Now those are the top two features I think of when considering audio.

WAF - This will please the wife. A happy wife is a happy life...lol. Still didn't stop me from setting up my 5.1 surround. (Sony STR-1050, JBL 5 Series speakers)
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post #18 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 05:01 AM - Thread Starter
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WAF - This will please the wife. A happy wife is a happy life...lol. Still didn't stop me from setting up my 5.1 surround. (Sony STR-1050, JBL 5 Series speakers)
Exactly, or perhaps it's just the thing for a small but expensive New York condo, or a yacht, or a bedroom system, or a family room with kids. Anywhere you want true high fidelity without the bulk of a full-sized system.

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post #19 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 06:42 AM
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People like me don't have the room or want to maintain that clean minimalist look, but still want good sound in comparison to other soundbar/sub packages. It would be a challenge mounting 3 speakers below the tv vs one bar.

I'm leaning toward the self amplified Paradigm Soundscape because I don't want a receiver with wires sitting around either lol. I heard the smaller SuperCinema 3D Array X and was pleased compared to other soundbar/sub packages I've heard. It's tough to find one that also sounds good with music.
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People like me don't have the room or want to maintain that clean minimalist look, but still want good sound in comparison to other soundbar/sub packages. It would be a challenge mounting 3 speakers below the tv vs one bar.

I'm leaning toward the self amplified Paradigm Soundscape because I don't want a receiver with wires sitting around either lol. I heard the smaller SuperCinema 3D Array X and was pleased compared to other soundbar/sub packages I've heard. It's tough to find one that also sounds good with music.

Didn't think about a wall mounted TV. This sound bar would be perfect for a wall mount.
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post #21 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 09:17 AM
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Solid review Mark.

You and I both heard the XL version at around the same time at CES 2014 and I know we shared similar opinions based on our experience at that show, and it doesn't seem like your opinion has changed much, if at all, since then with your test/audition at home.

My main takeaway at the time was that while it wouldn't be enough for me in a primary theater set up (like most of you), that it would make a killer office or bedroom set up. It's very difficult to find a soundbar that is actually musical, something that I would actually want to listen to and not just put up with. A couple months ago I backed up that statement and purchased the standard width version (now titled "X" with the addition of the XL in the line up), paired it up with a fairly entry level Denon AVR-X2100W receiver, and have a new SVS PC-2000 on the way any time now. For me, WAF wasn't all that important, but my bedroom's 55" Samsung is on a swing arm mount so that it can be viewed from bed, a couch, or a chair... all on opposite ends of the room. I spent plenty of time pondering what I could do to improve the audio quality, but it kept coming back to a soundbar for my usage needs. For the same reasons I'm only running it in 3.1, since the surrounds would be placed completely incorrectly if I were to move to another location in the room.

I couldn't be happier with it, and in the Goldenear thread I basically sum'd it up the same as you - they sound like a good pair of bookshelves, given you have an appropriate subwoofer to pair them up with.
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post #22 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 10:25 AM
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As a bonus, my wife Danya thought they looked cool and sounded very detailed. She even asked that I remove all the magnetically attached grilles because she liked the way they look without them.
Very cool wife!
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post #23 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 11:36 AM
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I wonder how this sound bar compares to the BIC Bar, they seem to have the same concept but the BIC utilizes all 5 channels.


http://www.bicamerica.com/showpage.p...=19&spkrID=116


I recently purchased the BIC Bar and mounted it but haven't had a chance to play with it since it's in my Den.
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post #24 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 12:24 PM
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I'd say the GE and BIC are completely different other than being passive multichannel speakers. That BIC is damn near the size of my Klipsch RC-64 II center channel.

At 7" deep I'd hardly even call it a soundbar. I don't really understand the driver array being applied on the BIC, are the 6.5 woofers only on the center channel, only on the left/right channels, or being shared? Doesn't make much sense to me, but in any event I'd have to imagine with a cabinet that large and the larger woofers it'd be capable of playing lower than the GE. The GE's ribbon tweeters are what makes it special IMO, and it's also wider (~48 inches for the standard version I have) and uses the interaural cross talk cancellation tech to help stereo separation.

All in all, I'd say they are completely different all the way down to the concept.

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post #25 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 12:34 PM
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Yes, it is a pretty large speaker. Here is a picture of how mine is set up.

Regarding the 6.5 woofers, I don't know exactly either how they are being used. I do know that the bar has 3 Horn Tweeters, one on each actual side of the bar and one in the center between the woofer.


Supposedly the bar is good for 96dB, but I haven't even turned it more than once just to make sure I hooked it up right.

Not trying to hijack this thread at all, was just curious to see how it compared. I figured they were roughly the same concept but I don't think they are after what you mentioned.
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post #26 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Right off the bat I can tell you that a modular design would ruin the aesthetic and would be awkward to deal with. It is a very heavy, solidly-built device. With the grill, it is also very low key.

It's worth remembering that GoldenEar has products that fill those other needs. Three SuperSats would perform similar task for the front channels. A pair of Triton towers and a SuperCenter would afford the placement flexibility and performance that a discrete speaker's form factor excels at. And all of the products from that company have the same "sound" so you can pick the right tool for the job. The SuperCinema 3D Array XL is just one of those tools.

And there is a non-XL version of the array already. It's just a guess, but the existence of the XL likely owes something to the success of the non XL version of the same product.
fair enough. I don't get it, but I'm clearly not the market for it.

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post #27 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Done Deal DR View Post
Solid review Mark.

You and I both heard the XL version at around the same time at CES 2014 and I know we shared similar opinions based on our experience at that show, and it doesn't seem like your opinion has changed much, if at all, since then with your test/audition at home.

My main takeaway at the time was that while it wouldn't be enough for me in a primary theater set up (like most of you), that it would make a killer office or bedroom set up. It's very difficult to find a soundbar that is actually musical, something that I would actually want to listen to and not just put up with. A couple months ago I backed up that statement and purchased the standard width version (now titled "X" with the addition of the XL in the line up), paired it up with a fairly entry level Denon AVR-X2100W receiver, and have a new SVS PC-2000 on the way any time now. For me, WAF wasn't all that important, but my bedroom's 55" Samsung is on a swing arm mount so that it can be viewed from bed, a couch, or a chair... all on opposite ends of the room. I spent plenty of time pondering what I could do to improve the audio quality, but it kept coming back to a soundbar for my usage needs. For the same reasons I'm only running it in 3.1, since the surrounds would be placed completely incorrectly if I were to move to another location in the room.

I couldn't be happier with it, and in the Goldenear thread I basically sum'd it up the same as you - they sound like a good pair of bookshelves, given you have an appropriate subwoofer to pair them up with.
Exactly what I heard during the demo and am looking to achieve in my small space setup. I only wanted to check out speakers because sometimes with my 2.1 system, it is difficult to hear dialogue without a center channel.

Last edited by hpp8140; 12-04-2014 at 01:23 PM.
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post #28 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 01:20 PM
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How did you mount the bar on top of your TV?
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post #29 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 01:23 PM
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I can see how this might work well at, say, 4 feet, but if the 3 channels are all in front of you rather than to the side it's not really surround sound is it?

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post #30 of 131 Old 12-04-2014, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
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I can see how this might work well at, say, 4 feet, but if the 3 channels are all in front of you rather than to the side it's not really surround sound is it?
It was a 5.1 system that included a pair of satellite speakers. Or are you talking about that other soundbar, the BIC?

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