Well after a typical UPS story (UPS flatout BLOWS and I swear they hire other courier rejects to work for them) I got my sbs 7.1 system yesterday but I upgraded my sub to the PC-Ultra.
Hooked up the Ultra and the left, centre and right speaks last night and spl matched them with the sub running at 77dB. They are hooked up to the Pioneer Elite 49Tx receiver.
For some background...I moved in mid Nov and am building another dedicated HT room but it is 1.5 feet less in width than my previous one so I decided to look into getting a bookshelf type system that I could wallmount as my current setup has bipolar towers that would be a bit tight in the new room. My current setup consists of Def tech BP30 L&R fronts, CLR2000 centre, SVS 20-39PCi sub and 4 BPX surrounds meaning it is an all bipolar setup naturally aside from the centre and sub. I plan to keep this setup in my family room (which is where i have it now and tested the front SVS speakers) and again, move the SBS system to my HT room when it is finished. The SBS system is going to be 100% HT use. I didn't get this system for budget reasons...I got it because I was hoping it would have great movie performance for a low price, so basically for good value and bang for the buck.
On to my impressions...
These speakers are great!!!! I just tested some scenes from dvds I had unpacked (most of my 900+ dvd collection is still packed up) but did get to check out some Jurassic Park DTS, Star Wars Ep 3, Batman Begins. Batman and Star Wars sounded great. Jurassic Park didnt sound all that great aside from the bass but this is because the soundtrack isn't all that great. It has a thin/harsh sound to it and this is one key area of this system, specifically the SBS centre....it is very revealing so if you feed it not so good material it won't sound good. I noticed this with these 3 dvd tests and also while watching 24 and other tv stuff where some of the commercials sounded quite bad. With the DT CLR2000 you don't get this same type of feedback although crap stuff with that speaker does not sound all that great...it is just that the SBS centre seems more revealing and material dependant. I LIKE this because I want what is there to be reproduced rather than cleaned up like an ugly girl does with makeup. The SBS centre may have worse sibilance than the CLR2000 but may not...it may just be the material because again, with stuff like batman begins and 24 and star wars 3 I didn't hear any real sibilance. The biggest diff aside from that is the CLR2000 just sounds fuller but it isn't a HUGE diff. All in all I think the sbs centre compares quite well with the CLR2000 even if the CLR2000 still has an edge but that is no biggie since the CLR2000 cost almost as much as the whole sbs 7.0 speaker (not including the sub of course) package.
The sbs bookshelves did a GREAT job with the soundtracks. I was surprised the soundstage was as big as it was and coupled with the centre speaker the soundstage was SEAMLESS like a big wall of sound which is how it should be. The diff between the SBS speaks and the DT BP30 bipolars? Depth of soundstage. Naturally with the BP30s being bipolar you have more depth to the soundstage and that was the biggest diff which is what I was expecting. Also, like the clr200/sbs centre, the BP30s just have a bit more fuller sound but it isn't a HUGE diff. In fact, at times while watching 24 I kept thinking I had my BP30s hooked up...that is how good these SBS babies performed.
Even though I have no intention to play music on the sbs setup (I have a Sennheiser HD600 headphone rig for music listening which incidentally costs almost as much as the sbs system including the ultra sub and the 600s are INCREDIBLE for music) I did decide to try some music on them and while music sounded pretty good, it would be the system's "weakness." What I noticed was the speakers in stereo mode seemed to have a "laid" back approach meaning the sound between the speakers seems to be more in the back as if you were a few rows away from the stage. Now the 49tx by nature creates a big soundstage "wall" that floats above the speakers and slightly behind but the SBS speakers seemed to create the sound further back than what my BP30s did. If I had to put a distance aspect to it I'd say the SBS speakers output the sound as if it was say 4-5 feet back from the BP30s/the actual speakers. I also noticed the quality varies with the type of music playing. I found that music that has a lot of crap going on (loud guitars and drums and more heavy rock stuff) didn't sound as good as some classical or less "intense" music. Oh and while the soundstage was nice, it didn't have the same blend as my BP30s did...in stereo mode sounds were being localized closer to the speakers than before which again creates a bit of thiness to the middle section of the soundstage. By no means was it bad but it isn't like these speakers are incredible for music playback. Other than that they seemed to be pretty accurate and like the centre with movies, if the music recording is garbage it will sound like garbage so they are very revealing. If I actually had a desire to listen to music on speakers I'd have no probs doing it on this system but then again I am not some huge music nut so if you are you may not like these for music playback and I'd say if great music playback is your goal then to look at a different alternative because it is obvious these speakers were designed more for multichannel HT playback than for 2 channel music.
So that's basically it. Oh one more thing...I have my receiver crossed over at 100Hz and I found it blends in great. I ran some frequency sweeps and the sub and SBS speakers blended GREAT. The only way I knew the SBS speakers were taking over from the sub at 100Hz was that the output dropped ever so slightly which I chalk up to the fact I had the sub 2dBs or so higher than the speakers. But yeah, a 100Hz crossover worked great and never was I able to localize the sub. I of course did 100Hz instead of 80 because I knew the sub was good enough to handle the extra work and because I figured it is better to cross the speakers up higher since they aren't designed for lower bass.
I am amazed these speakers cost what they did (750 or something for the 7 speakers) because they perform waaaaaaaaaay better than what the price indicates. I'd say based on my listening they are like 85-90% of the Def Tech setup which is impressive. I would say I have no idea how speakers that perform this well can be this cheap but then maybe the more logical thing to do is wonder why "bigger name" and retail brand speakers cost what they do.
I personally think you can't go wrong with getting this setup for this price. I am by no means some self proclaimed audiophile who thinks because he thinks something should sound a certain way that it MUST be FACT so take what i say as my personal opinion. All i know is I am happy with this system and for 1800 bucks total (with the ultra sub) I am beyond impressed at the performance and would recommend this system to ANYONE who is looking for a HT biased system. I would though recommend that unless it is a tight budget issue that people get one of the 12" svs subs instead because my belief is the sub is super important with a system like this and the better the sub the better the overall performance.
As for the PC Ultra, that thing is KILLER. The 20-39PCi is a great sub but this thing is better in every way. Bass is cleaner and the impact is insane. I have the PCU set at a lower dB level than I had the 20-39Pci yet it produces much more sound. Jurassic Park was HILARIOUS with this thing. hehehe
Oh yeah...my family room size is like 18x12x9 and the back half of the right wall opens to my kitchen (which is then open to main hallway and front foyer and dining room, etc) which is like 22x18x9. This system had no problems with loudness with my listening levels ranging from -20 to -12dB under reference)