Originally Posted by milacqua
I've spent most of today supplementing my music review of the STs (a few posts up) with a Home Theater evaluation. I have played several DVDs on my OPPO player and think I pretty much gave these speakers a good workout although I think I need to tweak here and there. Unlike my music review which was in 2-channel stereo, I enabled menu options such as dolby surround and dts and compared the results.
The first rule of HT sound is tonal balance. Nothing should be overemphasized or underplayed. This provides a "natural" sound stage, even if the sounds heard are anything but natural (Prime and Megatron's synthesized voices in "Transformers", the organ-like blast of the emerging machines in Tom Cruise's remake of "World of the Worlds", the sound of a laser saber, etc). In other words, whatever sound we are suppose to hear should be natural, even if we hear that particular sound for the first time and is not part of our natural world. In order to achieve this balance it is best to have speakers in the system made by the same manufacturer, especially the front and center speakers. I had this with my Cambridge Soundworks Ensambles Sub/Sat system and the Cambridge Center Channel Plus. The tonal balance was, as to be expected, perfect. In Pro Logic application, my center throws off non-directional bass below 100HZ from its 4 three inch woofers to the Ensambles, which easily took over from there. The results with HT were very good to say the least. That I was able to place and stack my bass modules where I found the best results, leaving the satellites in front, was a big plus too. My test this weekend was to see if my initial impressions indicated I lost any of that with the Song Towers. As my music review above showed, I was more than satisfied with the STs as musical speakers. Although I cringe at the thought of such beautiful, musically accurate speakers shattering windows with the sounds of jet engines and cannon blasts, I really want my main speakers to perform well in home theater as well. Jim Salk says a good speaker is a good speaker period and should do well both ways. We shall now see.
Being an opera lover, the first thing I played was "The Barber of Seville". It was an HD production from the Teatro Real in Madrid and was in Dolby Digital. I am pleased to say the integration of the STs and Cambridge Center was perfect, seamless, just like the Ensambles in this regard. There was no loss of "character" to the sound. Of course Audyseey set everything up so I expected it to be pretty good right out of the box. Neither the center nor the fronts drew attention to themselves. As singers moved in from screen right so did the sound "seem" to come a bit from that direction, ditto from the left and in center stage the voices were where they should be - in the middle.
This was especially true in my bass test where one of my reference disks is the war movie U-571, scene 15 (Depth Charged). I played this scene through my Onkyo both in Dolby 5.1 Digital and DTS. Frankly, I could not tell much difference except in the separation noted above where the DTS showed a "preference" for a certain area. When the depth charges fell on top of the sub, the blast was dead center, when they fell to either side of the sub, the sound was on that side. This is not important on a small screen where you can't tell the difference but on my 104" projector screen it is noticed and appreciated. Speaking of bass, the STs did a fair job when I turned off my sub (a sizable beast of 250 watts and 15 inches). When the depth charges went off you could of course hear the blast and the explosion within, sort of a double whammy. However, I was not shaken nor was the subtle sound below the water detected (this is yet another sound that is within the sound that is within another sound). With the sub enabled (cross-over set at 100Hz), the much deeper, below water detonation was felt a split second before the blast came through the surface. What the sub gives you is a more exacting separation of the different phases of the blast.
Next up was the "Godzilla" remake with Jean Reno and Matthew Broderick. In scene 9 (New Kid in Town) when Godzilla comes to Manhattan, the first steps the big lizard takes on the city streets shakes the camera and makes people jump - or so is the sensation and visual the director gives us. I want to shake with it. I did not with the Sts on their own. In all fairness, I did not with the sub either at the setting Audyssey gave it. As I expected, I had to increase the db level to a +5 to achieve the desired effect. Alone, the STs have a good, not great, bass extension with these sounds and they are never "boomy" and never present the dreaded bass "one note" effect.
I think the STs can go to 40Hz. Jim Salk has written a very good explanation in the past as to why speakers, at certain price points, can not reach the depths we all would like. But with the advent of subwoofers, who cares? Let the sub do everything below 100 or 80Hz or so and forget it. Just set it to where there are no gaps and adjust the level in line of individual movies based on the characteristics of that particular movie. I would rather the STs do as they do overall, than sacrifice their musicality and accuracy in the mid-range for more bass. As someone once said at another forum, in music the only time you need a speaker at 30Hz is to listen to organ music, DEEP organ music. Heck, the lowest note on a bass guitar is calibrated at 41Hz, or so I've been told. I realize in HT the LFE takes on more importance but having said that, just let the sub do the bass work - period. I am satisfied that at this price point at least, the 40Hz or so the STs can muster is more than enough for me.
"Transformers" and "War of the Worlds" have scenes that would tax any speaker system. They are very complex with different sounds coming from different directions all at the same time. This is a good test for imaging. I have to give the STs the credit for presenting the audio to the scene in the proper "space". These complex sounds on an ordinary speaker will run together. The STs gave them a precise location. In other words, the audio was not only heard but "understood".
Finally, that brings me to the intelligibility factor. A couple scenes each from "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Meet the Falkers" showed off the mid-range and clarity of these speakers. Oddly, a lot of voice sounds came from these speakers, more so than from my Ensambles. With the Ensambles, Audyseey configured my Center as "Full Range", which indeed it is. But for some reason, with the STs, it configured it at 100Hz which is the reason (I guess) some voices are moving to and from the STs, or least seem that way. I think I'll tweak some of the db settings, even fool around with cross-overs and see what I can come up with. Sound reproduction is all about Physics and I do not have a clue about how all this stuff works but, whatever, it and the STs do work and work very well indeed.
Bottom line is a big A to the STs for music and looks, a solid B for Home Theater (with an A possible after some experimenting) and a HUGE A for overall value. These things are worth twice the price.
I need to edit something as I noticed that one of my previous posts identified my Surround speakers (which I did not identify during this review) as Polk Bravo II. I don't know why I had Polk on my mind at the time but the Bravos are of course from Boston Acoustics, not Polk.