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Hi everyone,

I'm an old time member, but haven't posted anything in years while I was going down a huge rabbit hole of high-end headphones and amps, including several on the tube darkside. Well, I've come out of that hole and wanted to get back into home theater while spending a small-to-modest budget because I will always revert back to my headphone rig(s) for critical music listening.

I wanted a 3.0 system for a small room (although I finally went to 3.1, more about that later), and I settled on the Sony Cores (CS3 towers, CS8 center, and CS9 subwoofer). I know the Cores have very mixed reviews on this forum, so I wanted to give my insights to help anyone on the fence about these. There are also many who feel the bookshelf CS5 is better than the tower CS3. I opted for the towers over the bookshelves because my initial plan was a 3.0 system to be used heavily for music. I've heard some very high-end home theaters, and I knew I could never approach that level of sound, so I didn't even try to or convince myself I could magically find some hidden inexpensive miracle gem. I feel that I have a decently tuned and discerning ear that was developed over the years of headphone listening and listening to high end stereos of close friends.

I also got a new receiver to drive them, the Sony STR-DH590. It replaced my dying Yamaha RX-V467, which was a champ, but started showing its age and was starting to fail in some areas. Again, this was a budget decision to go with the base Sony.

In short, the Sony Core system punches way above its price point. Some people here call them a little gem that Sony seems to put out every so often, and I'll completely agree with that. They are much better than my older Sonys (the SS-F series), but of course they will fall short of speakers costing much more. I knew this going in because I didn't want to blow my budget.

My use is about 50% music and 50% TV/movies. I can tell immediately that the towers are voiced for home theater, but they do perform admirably with music, especially with a subwoofer (more about that below).

Without going into too much detail about how I went through all the tweaking, I started with a 3.0 setup first. Based on my room and the high proportion of music listening, I thought this would be a good entry point. I ran the DCAC PEQ and kept the default settings (engineering sound effect). I liked the sound of them immediately. The towers put out ample bass and the highs were crisp and clear. In fact, the bass was very prominent, and I can see how many people would like this. On-axis soundstage was ok, but I've heard much better. Honestly, the center is fine, and dialogue is very clear, especially male voices, so I don't know where the dislike for the center comes from. It's a good match with the other Cores you'll get for your L and R channels.

After doing some critical listening, and referencing the sound quality to my headphone rig, I realized I had to tweak the sound quite a bit. For starters, the bass was boomy, which was most likely due to speaker placement and room properties, as they were in the corners of the small room. I couldn't redo the room much (it's a rental). With limited EQ controls at my disposal, I tried to reduce the boominess, and the only way to do so was set the PEQ to full flat. However, this made the rest of the sound feel flat and dull.

Anyway, I decided a subwoofer would help in many ways, and since I already exhausted my budget, I didn't have much to spend on one, so I got the Sony Core. I know this isn't well liked around here, but I can say it sounds just fine, and it's much better than my older Sony SA-W2500 by a decent margin. Bass is controlled just fine. Does it sound like a Hsu? Of course not, but it pairs nicely with the Sony Cores, which was the point of its designers.

Adding the subwoofer did immensely help my setup in my small room. I ran the PEQ again, but then I manually the L and R to small and the cross-over at 80 hz. After which, all the boominess was gone. Bass was much more controlled and less fatiguing. I also noticed the soundstage opened up and the mids and highs were more controlled and refined, which is expected when the amp and speakers are relieved of running the full sound spectrum.

I experimented with different crossover points. The sound transition was seamless from 80-110 hz, but going above 110 hz made the bass wooly and boomy, and below 80 hz the sound lacked body in addition to bass. Either my room has some weird acoustics or the +/- 3 db for towers most definitely isn't 45 hz. as Sony claims. I saw a graph online that the bass starts falling off a cliff at 70 hz, so my preliminary findings of setting the crossover at 80 hz seems to unscientifically confirm that.

I tweaked other settings, including trying the full flat and front reference sound fields, and while they sounded better than before adding the subwoofer, I still ultimately settled on the engineering field. It sounded the most open. Front reference was warmer, which I liked, but it was still a l little congested and had a slight reduction in imaging. The front reference was still pretty close to the engineering setting (which is Sony's studio standard), so this tells me the speakers were designed and voiced pretty close to this standard. Full flat completely changes the sound signature.

After spending a few days with the Cores, I went back to my old system of Sony SS-F series speakers and Yamaha receiver, and the difference was immediately noticeable. The older SS-F series were more hollow, yet bass was much less controlled. While I believe those were voiced for theater too, they have more musical limitations than the newer Cores.

So, in conclusion, if anyone is on the fence about the Core speakers (any of them), I think they are well worth their price and put out good-to-very-good sound. A few tweaks, especially crossing over the towers with a subwoofer, will make them sound even better.
 

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nice review , thanks...
 
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Discussion Starter #3
Just a quick update after I was able to play around with them some more over the US holiday.

I over-toed the towers to 15 degrees so the lines cross about 2 feet in front of the listening position. This helped with imaging and soundstage. So, if you have them and your room gives you a little trouble, this may help.

I also set the subwoofer to reverse phase, and that opened up the bass quite a bit. The Sony DCAC always seemed to set the subwoofer too quietly, so I'd have to set it hot myself. This worked for music, but it made it way too loud for movies. After reversing the phase and re-running DCAC, everything fell into place. Music and movies have equal punch. Not sure if it was my room or not, but you may want to try switching the phase if you have both the towers and subwoofer and you're not feeling a rounded out bass.
 

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Nice review.


The Sony Core towers were what I was initially going to purchase before I found a set of Infinity Primus speakers very cheap on Craigslist. I am very happy with those, especially for the price I paid for them. But if something ever happens to those, I would probably replace them with the Core towers. I did end up purchasing the Core bookshelves as my surrounds and I really love the SQ of those in that capacity. The excellent high frequencies lend themselves well to surround duty.
 
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Nice review.


The Sony Core towers were what I was initially going to purchase before I found a set of Infinity Primus speakers very cheap on Craigslist. I am very happy with those, especially for the price I paid for them. But if something ever happens to those, I would probably replace them with the Core towers. I did end up purchasing the Core bookshelves as my surrounds and I really love the SQ of those in that capacity. The excellent high frequencies lend themselves well to surround duty.
The Primus (did you get P163 or P363 towers?) are well known as the gems in Harmon's lineup and according to Floyd Toole/Sean Olive they tested as well as $10k speakers. Its a pity they were discontinued , they used to be on sale for $100 at Fry's.

Sony Core's are another bargain no one seems to know. I agree that the CS5 bookshelf is a better speaker, having heard them both. Also just like the Primus, the best thing to do is use 3 identical as LCR, the center speaker has different drivers and costs a lot more.

The CS5 are usually on sale for $75 a pair around holidays which is basically the best bargain in audio.
 

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The Primus (did you get P163 or P363 towers?) are well known as the gems in Harmon's lineup and according to Floyd Toole/Sean Olive they tested as well as $10k speakers. Its a pity they were discontinued , they used to be on sale for $100 at Fry's.

Sony Core's are another bargain no one seems to know. I agree that the CS5 bookshelf is a better speaker, having heard them both. Also just like the Primus, the best thing to do is use 3 identical as LCR, the center speaker has different drivers and costs a lot more.

The CS5 are usually on sale for $75 a pair around holidays which is basically the best bargain in audio.

It was actually an Infinity Primus 250. A 363 would have been very nice but I have never seen one of those on Craigslist. Actually, that was the only time I have seen a 250 for sale as well. The 250 was only used as the speaker for a guys guitar setup, which he only played a few times a year. They were barely used when I got them. After I got them dialed in, they sounded really good and the soundstage/imaging is phenomenal.
 

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I have the whole line of Sony Core speakers, but not the subwoofer, which is lacking in quality and depth. The Core towers and center are paired with my XTZ-1X12 subwoofer in my main floor living room, open floor-plan. These speakers have done very well in this environment and when the Core speakers go on sale 50% off they are a real bargain. I would highly recommend them when on sale to people who don't have a lot to spend or don't want to spend a lot on some very respectable speakers. ;)
 
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I have the whole line of Sony Core speakers, but not the subwoofer, which is lacking in quality and depth. The Core towers and center are paired with my XTZ-1X12 subwoofer in my main floor living room, open floor-plan. These speakers have done very well in this environment and when the Core speakers go on sale 50% off they are a real bargain. I would highly recommend them when on sale to people who don't have a lot to spend or don't want to spend a lot on some very respectable speakers. ;)
I recommend them period, under the $500 per speaker budget there is not much thats that much better.
 

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I recommend them period, under the $500 per speaker budget there is not much thats that much better.
I think that's a bit optimistic as there are dozens of $500/pair speakers superior to the Cores let alone $1000/pair speakers.

The Cores are a great alternative to the $100/pair Pioneer bookshelves but not convinced they'd be as good as the $230/pair Polk Signature S15.
 

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I think that's a bit optimistic as there are dozens of $500/pair speakers superior to the Cores let alone $1000/pair speakers.

The Cores are a great alternative to the $100/pair Pioneer bookshelves but not convinced they'd be as good as the $230/pair Polk Signature S15.
Exactly, or the KEF Q150, NHT SuperOne 2.1 and several other highly recommended bookshelf speakers. They're very good under $150-200 pr but many $500/pr speakers beat them out. I own a pair of the Core bookshelf speakers and well as KEF Q150's and some other bookshelf speakers.
 
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Exactly, or the KEF Q150, NHT SuperOne 2.1 and several other highly recommended bookshelf speakers. They're very good under $150-200 pr but many $500/pr speakers beat them out. I own a pair of the Core bookshelf speakers and well as KEF Q150's and some other bookshelf speakers.
the kef q100's as well .. a step above in clarity , the core's are superb at $120 or less though.. they really don't have a bunch of competition...
 
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In one of the other threads the Sony Cores were compared very favorably to Elac, Klipsch, Ascend, SVS Prime etc.
KEF aren't $250/pair, they are $500/pair. The Sony's can he had for $120 or even $75 in holiday sales. If they are 90% as good as a 500/pair speaker, thats a big win.

I recommend them to friends who are starting out or who think they need to get a soundbar because speakers cost so much. You dont have to compromise on sound quality with these speakers.

I believe if these were made by a dedicated boutique audio brand like all the above speakers the cost would be easily $500+ each. Sony is bigger than any other audio company and can afford to sell these so cheap.
 

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KEF aren't $250/pair, they are $500/pair.
KEF can be had for $300 /pr as they come on sale for that price several times a year. That's what I paid for my Q150's.
 
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Discussion Starter #15
The cores are clearly voiced for theater. Last night, I watched the blu ray of Dunkirk, and all of the gunshots really popped and I could finally understand what came out of Tom Hardy's mouth. This was after I turned off parametric EQ and let the speakers run in their "native" voice. I did this because I wanted the added warmth for music. The Sony PEQ tends to brighten the sound up.

If you are only interested in theater, you'll be hard pressed to do better than the sale price of the Cores. If you also want to run music, there are better options out there, but you'll have to pay more. How much more? It depends on your musical taste.

I'm quite satisfied with my purchase.
 

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The cores are clearly voiced for theater. Last night, I watched the blu ray of Dunkirk, and all of the gunshots really popped and I could finally understand what came out of Tom Hardy's mouth. This was after I turned off parametric EQ and let the speakers run in their "native" voice. I did this because I wanted the added warmth for music. The Sony PEQ tends to brighten the sound up.

If you are only interested in theater, you'll be hard pressed to do better than the sale price of the Cores. If you also want to run music, there are better options out there, but you'll have to pay more. How much more? It depends on your musical taste.

I'm quite satisfied with my purchase.
i would be too.. i wasn't dissing on the core's at all , i love them for what they are , and btw, music sounds good to me as well with them..
 
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i would be too.. i wasn't dissing on the core's at all , i love them for what they are , and btw, music sounds good to me as well with them..
I didn't infer any diss. I'm well aware of their limitations, but my wallet has more limitation! :)
 

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I think we can all agree, unless you have a bigger budget for speakers, at their price point, the Cores are pretty much a no-brainer.
 

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How do you guys like the Core center channel speaker ? I may pick one up when they go on sale again.

I picked up a pair of the bookshelf speakers and really like them.
 

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How do you guys like the Core center channel speaker ? I may pick one up when they go on sale again.

I picked up a pair of the bookshelf speakers and really like them.
i haven't heard the center, but if you like the books pick up a center next time they go on sale and decide for yourself .. with best buy easy returns it's a decent gamble..
 
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