B&W XT Series Home Theater Speaker System Page 2

The Short Form
$5,800 / bwspeakers.com / 978-664-2870
Plus
•Great looks and build quality. •Excellent overall performance. •Slim design mates well with newer TVs.
Minus
•Pricey. •Sub won't go as low or loud as some others in its price range. 0605_b_n_wmovie
Key Features
XT4 tower front left/right ($2,500 a pair) 1-in tweeter, 5-in midrange, 5-in woofer; 44.8 in high; 49 lbs •XTC center ($800) 1-in tweeter, two 6-in midrange/woofers; 20.3 in wide; 17.5 lbs •XT2 satellite surround ($1,000 a pair) •1-in tweeter, 5-in midrange/woofer; 12.3 in high; 11 lbs •PV1 subwoofer ($1,500) two 8-inch woofers; 500-watt amplifier; three EQ settings; 13.3 x 11.5 x 13.8 in, 45 lbs •Natural aluminum finish for all speakers; aluminum, black, or white finish for subwoofer
Test Bench
The B&W XT home theater speaker system has reasonably smooth midrange and treble frequency response with nicely extended bass capability for the XT4 left/right channel speakers. However, the XTC center channel exhibits uneven off-axis response that worsens considerably as the listener moves farther from the sweet spot. The PV1 mini-subwoofer lacks extended low-frequency capability. The XT4, XT2, and XTC are relatively inefficient and may require powerful amplification for dynamic program material. -Tom Nousaine Full Lab Results
MUSIC PERFORMANCE Reaching for tunes worthy of the stylish B&W XT Series home theater speaker system, I pulled out The Clientele's latest CD, Strange Geometry. The XTs proved well up to the task of delivering this band's lush, neo-British Invasion sound, rendering the delicate background strings in "I Can't Seem to Make You Mine" with a compelling combination of silkiness and detail. As the dreamy pop song drifted toward its conclusion, I was struck by how distinct all the various instrument layers - strings, piano, tremolo-touched guitar - sounded. And, riding on top of it all, the brush-stroked cymbals and snare drum came off as remarkably crisp, with natural overtones and a strong sense of presence. The B&W XT system's silky rendering of strings also carried over to classical recordings, with Pieter Wispelwey's cello solo in Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme" coming across in a warm, full manner that clearly revealed the body of the instrument.

The PV1 sub sounded tight and tuneful when playing jazz tracks featuring acoustic bass solos, especially in the crucial lower mid-bass range. It didn't deliver the serious low-end wallop that I've heard on a few other subs costing about the same or less, but was more than sufficient for most music and movies. As I listened to dynamic tracks like "Ripples" from electronica artists The Orb (an apropos choice for testing the PV1), the song's driving electronic drumbeats sounded full and powerful. And the band's dense techno-dub sound went far to show off the system's precision, with the B&Ws casting a huge sonic image that extended well beyond the speakers.

MOVIE PERFORMANCE The B&W XT home theater speaker system also did a respectable job with the crazed soundtrack of the movie Domino when I watched it on DVD. Dialogue sounded crisp and balanced through the XTC center channel, with the deep, bassy voice of Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo) and the more birdlike chatter of Domino (Keira Knightley) retaining equal levels of clarity when I slid from a center seat to the far side of my couch. The XT2 satellites also turned out to be outstanding surround speakers. In a scene where Domino and Co. detonate a reality-TV crew's mobile studio, the system rendered the 360° directional effects with surgical precision as the bounty hunters' vehicle first swerved out around a building and then tore away from the scene of the crime. And when the van burst into flames immediately after, the explosion sounded shockingly loud and full.

BOTTOM LINE The B&W XT home theater speaker system combines striking, high-end looks with the sonic attributes I've come to expect from the company over the years: exceptionally clean midrange, smooth, refined highs, and precise imaging. And the system's dynamics and low-end reach should please all but the most ardent bass hogs. If you're seeking flat, TV-friendly speakers and don't have a lot of money to spend, there are plenty of excellent packages out there costing less than half as much as these pricey B&Ws (I should know, since I've reviewed several of them in the past year). But if you're looking for a system that offers great sound and also makes a strong design statement - something to fill that art-filled loft, perhaps - I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I was with B&W's sublime, shiny XT speakers.

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