Just wanted to take a moment to share a recent success story.
The short of it is that I'm the proud new owner of a 5.1 MA Radius system that I use in my dedicated video game room. These little speakers are truly amazing! More balanced, detailed and dynamic than they have any right to be AND ten times better than anything else close to their size.
The long story is that I work for a major video game manufacturer here in Redmond WA, and it is my job to know all there is to know about games. Rough, I know.
The problem is, I rarely had the opportunity to play at home because our main HT system is used primary for TV and movie watching with my wife and frankly the last thing she wants is to sit passively while I play the latest software. The solution was to convert the office, which we never use, into a game room. The room is rather small at only 10' x 10'.
The truth is, I wanted to take the cheap route if I could. You know, head down to Circuit City and pick up some Polk Audio 5.1 speaker set for under $800 and be done with it. I mean this is ONLY a game room and I have a state of the art HT for the main room. But my audiophile nature got the better of me in the end. (I think I knew all along that it would.
So anyway, I did go to Circuit City and Video Only and listened to Polk's top of the line mini-monitors (the ones with the curved, extruded aluminum cabinet). They looked pretty good for a relatively inexpensive solution, but upon listening to them I knew that they just wouldn't do. They had some sort of dip in the midrange that made them sound hollow and nasal. And the sub was downright awful. Boomy one-note bass at its best. Surprisingly the next model down sounded better, but they were just too cheap looking for me. Little grey plastic boxes with no personality. I'm being a bit of a snob I know.
Next up were some tiny little speakers from Infinity and you know what, they sounded just and tiny as they looked. Bright, etched, and fatiguing to say the least. I expected better from this well regarded speaker maker.
I also listened some KEF eggs, and they weren't bad, but you could hear the little ports on each of the satellites chuffing when driven at moderate levels. Good tonal balance over all though.
I even entertained the thought of going with a Bose system. To be honest, they didn't sound as bad as I had expected through the midrange. It was the woofey, inarticulate "acoustimass module" (which marketing genius came up with that contrived name for a sub?) that just wouldn't do.
That brings us to the most expensive option for tiny speakers, the MA Radius 90's for the L/R and surrounds, the 180 for the center and the 720 sub. The moment I heard these I knew I had found the porridge that was "just right". Expecting them to sound bright and "lively" (to put it politely), I was floored when all I heard was well balanced, transparent, open and detailed sound. Sure the little guys have very little bass to speak of, but even when running without a sub, they never erred on the side of sounding small and thin. Just as amazing is that these little guys don't mind being pushed. I've been running them for a few days now at silly volumes and they've never become hard or aggressive sounding. Of course my room is tiny, but sure seem like they could fill a room twice the size.
It wasn't all smooth sailing though. I initially bought the smaller 360 sub (8" driver with a 100 watt amp in a very little box), hoping that it would be good enough for a small room intended for gaming, but it went back today in favor of the 720 (dual 8" drivers with a 250 watt amp). The difference in bottom end weight and slam between the 720 and the 360 is considerable.
I had to break virtually all the rules to get the sub to integrate well with the satellites. The problem is that my room has a huge resonant peak somewhere in the 60 - 100 Hz range. So setting the crossover in the AVR to 100 sounded horrible. I was pulling my hair out trying to get the bass to sound smooth and extended as it did in the showroom. The only thing that worked was setting the x-over much lower than it should be (60 Hz) AND adjusting the low pass filter on the back of the sub to about 70 Hz. I know that stacking filters is a technical no-no, but sometimes you've got to think outside the box to get to the right solution. The end result is bass that sounds tight and has plenty of slam without the hooty resonance that was there before all the trickery with the crossovers. I wonder if the phase switch would help?
In the end, I couldn't be happier. Once I got the sub dialed in, the whole thing just sounds utterly fantastic. Honestly, when it comes to envelopment, it sounds better than my much more expensive system (mostly because the room my main set-up is in is far from optimal.)
Sorry for the rant. I just couldn't be more pleased and I had to tell someone that might actually care. My wife sure doesn't.