Crystal Acoustics THX-3D12 Home Theater Speaker System Page 2

The Short Form
$1,999 ($2,799 as shown) / www.crystalaudiovideo.com / 443-569-3569
Plus
•Very good front integration •Natural, accurate tonal balance •Excellent center-channel performance
Minus
•"Dipole" surrounds aren't •Sub lacks some bottom-octave grunt •Inexpensive finish (but nice grilles!) for budget version 0606_crystal_movie
Key Features
THX-T3 tower front left/right ($999 a pair) 1-in dome tweeter, 3 x 6.5-in woofers; 41.3-in high; 40 lbs each •THX-C center ($199) 1-in dome tweeter, 2 x 6.5-in woofers; 21.3 in wide; 19 lbs •THX-D surrounds ($399 a pair) 2 x 1-in dome tweeter, 6.5-in woofer; 13.3 in high; 18.5 lbs •THX-12SUB active subwoofer ($599) 12-in driver; 120-watt amplifier; 20.5 x 13.8 x 19 in; 65 lbs •Price $1,999 (matte silver finish); $2,799 (painted gloss black)
Test Bench
The Crystal Acoustics THX-3D12 system exhibited similar timbre across models and controlled directivity that serves well for home theater use. The front and center speakers have a rising treble response and may benefit from a treble cut in some listening rooms or positions; their pivoting tweeter is unlikely to be useful except in heavily damped or acoustically dead rooms. The center channel was completely free of typical off-axis lobing and would provide uniform sound to on-axis and off-axis listeners. The subwoofer had strong, uniform dynamic capability above 25 Hz. -Tom Nousaine Full Lab Results
M0VIE PERFORMANCE Two keystones of quality home theater sound are excellence from the center speaker and a subwoofer with genuine power and range. Crystal's setup delivered both. Being a simple two-way design with no horizontally twinned drivers to create response-rippling off-axis "lobing," the THX-C center remained clear, balanced, and articulate on a full range of male and female voices from any practical angle - even well off-center, it also yielded an excellent tonal match to the T3s for a smooth, wide spread across the front soundstage. In Spider-Man 2, there's lots of whooshing from side to side, but I never heard any noticeable changes in emphasis or depth as effects panned across the stage.

The THX-12SUB is an average-size 12-inch design that delivers most of what I expect from such bulk: substantial, dynamic output to well below 30 Hz. Scenes like Spider-Man 2's Chapter 46, with a deep-bass slide that accompanies Doc Ock's fusion ball ramping up, delivered the visceral, throat-loosening effect I expected. But the sub struggled to keep up with the rest of the system when I pushed the overall levels into big-cinema territory, and the amount of upper-bass rumble and flutter increased a bit - probably port-noise from the Crystal's dual vents. When I replayed the same sequences using my everyday (and vastly more expensive) Velodyne 12-inch sub, I heard an easily recognizable improvement in bottom-octave content, and less coloration in the upper bass, even at more normal volume. Sometimes there's just no substitute for dollars and watts.

As movie-surrounds, the THX-Ds - with their THX Select designation - proved quite capable, but not as unobtrusive as the true dipoles required for THX-Ultra certification. The THX-D has dual tweeters but a single woofer firing toward the listener, while a true dipole would have no midrange energy aimed straight at your ears. So it calls attention to itself more often than fully dipolar designs. With effects like Spider-Man shooting one of his hundreds of web-strands sideward as he swings past (who cleans those up, anyway?), the pfffffwittt! sounds tended to shrink into one or the other surround as the image flew by, rather than simply zipping more generally rearward as was the case from my long-term (and, again, far more expensive) Snell dipoles. But the THX-Ds generally worked fine, absorbing ample power without any audible faults in tonality, range, or dynamics.

BOTTOM LINE All told, there's not much to fault in Crystal's $1,999 layout. Sure, we'd all like real wood veneers and furniture-grade cabinets. But to the true buff, sound quality is incalculably more important. And the Crystal Acoustics THX-3D12 home theater speaker system delivers that in spades, with balance, spaciousness, range, and impact, at a very attractive price.

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