Audica CS-System 3 Speakers

Just how slim can speakers get? It's a question I find myself pondering these days as wave after wave of skinny speakers arrives on my doorstep for testing. Looking over the elegant, metal-clad CS-System 3 speakers from British newcomer Audica - a company of audio veterans who previously did time at established UK speaker outfits like Mission - the answer is: remarkably slim. Audica's stated aim is to tailor products to a contemporary, video-dominated lifestyle, and it achieves that goal by producing tower and satellite speakers that measure a mere 3 inches wide. Jeez, if they made them any thinner, they'd be almost nonexistent.

What We Think
A shockingly slim two-grand speaker rig that delivers substantial sound for the money
The CS-System 3 that Audica sent me comprised a pair of CS-T1 tower speakers, a pair of CS-S1 satellites for surrounds, a CS-C1 center speaker, and the CS-Sub10 subwoofer. Each teardrop-shaped speaker is housed in a 7.5-inch-deep extruded aluminum cabinet that tapers back gracefully to a point. The towers come with heavy-duty aluminum bases to anchor them to the ground. To mount the surrounds, you can either place them on Audica's optional stands ($200 a pair) or fasten them to the wall using the included mounting bracket. Audica's mounts are very nicely designed - not only do they swivel up, down, and sideways to aim the speaker, but they come with a black plastic cover to camouflage the bracket once it's up on the wall.

The CS-Sub10 subwoofer has a gunmetal-gray finish and rounded edges that help it match the other speakers. Large plastic carpet spikes are included to stabilize the box. The sub's 150-watt amp powers a 10-inch driver. Connections include a line-level input and line-level output, while various control knobs and switches allow you to set the sub's crossover frequency and output level and to adjust phase to either 0 or 180 degrees.

SETUP With speakers this eager to fade into the woodwork alongside a flat-panel TV, I could have set them up anywhere and they wouldn't have looked obtrusive or out of place. But I deposited the towers squarely in the footprint of my regular speakers - about 3 feet out from the back wall and 2 feet from either side of the TV. The center channel slipped into the middle shelf of my TV stand, while the CS-S1 satellites were set up on tall speaker stands slightly behind and to either side of my couch. Stowed in the front right corner of the room, the subwoofer seemed to vie for my attention in a manner that the other speakers did not (maybe Audica's next project could be a skinny sub). Nonetheless, it performed best from that location, sounding powerful and not at all boomy after a few positioning adjustments.

A footnote in the literature that came with the system states that it shouldn't be used with subs other than Audica's own models. I suspect the reason here is that the system's main speakers, which use tiny, custom-designed 2-inch midbass drivers, rely heavily on a subwoofer to fill out the frequency range. (My experiments bore this out - listening to music on the towers sans sub, I heard almost no bass.) Bottom line: A powerful subwoofer is an essential component of this system. Audica recommends that you use theirs, possibly because, as our measurements suggested, they have unusual high frequency extension to better mate with the bass-shy satellites.

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