Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 Home Theater Speaker System

For years, Baltimore's Definitive Technology has produced phalanxes of tall, imposing, powerful floorstanding towers. Nevertheless, the eyes of company founder Sandy Gross always seem to take on a special twinkle when he sings the praises of his latest pint-size production, which suggests he gets a special buzz out of squeezing the mostest from the leastest - like the Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 home theater speaker system seen here. Not pint-size, exactly (quart-and-a-half would be closer), but impressively small nonetheless, Definitive's latest ProMonitor 800 satellite design employs an unusually located passive radiator firing straight up to help the bantamweight speaker produce enough low-frequency output to "reach" and blend with a subwoofer effectively. The same technique is found in the matching center channel, in doubles.

the listSETUP Definitive sent a pair of its inexpensive fixed-height stands for the front speakers, which worked fine in my room. The ProCenter went on a stand below my 50-inch Samsung's screen. It has no tilt adjustment built in, and only one rubber foot (the front edge has molded-in hard feet), but I dialed in the substantial uptilt I needed using a couple of stick-on feet I had lying around. The ProMonitors for the surround channels went on my high shelves flanking the listening position, angled back to bounce off the rear wall as I usually do with direct-radiating surrounds.

Acoustical balancing was a bit more involved. First, I found that all three front speakers benefited greatly from a little tilt: Rocking them back on their heels several degrees made important improvements, opening and defining the upper mids and airing up the treble. Proper adjustment of the subwoofer level and crossover also proved absolutely critical.

After initial meter balancing, the system sounded a bit disappointing: heavy in the mid-bass and not particularly impressive down low. What a transformation was won by an hour or so of fiddling! I finished with a superb blend almost entirely free of boom or bloat and with surprising deep-bass extension. But too much sub level (or too high a crossover) and the Definitives could sound "woofy" or a bit bloated (and the sub would localize); too little or too low and they could become gaunt.

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Small differences of even 1 dB in sub level made very obvious changes, as did experimentation with crossover settings. I settled on a 75-Hz crossover from my flexible processor, with 6-dB high-pass and 24-dB/low-pass curves - which, as it happens, is pretty much what Definitive's own circuits yield if you use the sub's speaker-level inputs instead of the LFE/line connection I employed. The fixed 80-Hz filters of many inexpensive receivers, which use 12-dB/24-dB per-octave filter slopes, should also work quite well.

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