Infinity Classia home theater speaker system

The Short Form
$4,094 (as tested) / INFINITYSYTEMS.COM / 516-674-4463
Snapshot
This system's eye-catching appearance promises - and delivers - precise performance, and it has a wireless sub to boot
Plus
• Controlled, detailed, transparent sound • Very good dipole/bipole/monopole surrounds • Wireless sub delivers the low-end goods
Minus
• Need to move speakers well out from wall for best balance • Low sensitivity requires lots of amp power
Key Features
• C336 ($1,798/pair) - 1-in tweeter; 4-in midrange; (3) 6 1?2-in woofers; 48 3?4 in high; 56 lb • CC225 ($499) - 1-in tweeter; (2) 5 1?4-in woofers; 31 3?4 in wide; 16 lb • C255ES ($998/pair) - (2) 1-in tweeters; (2) 5 1?4-in woofers; 11 3?4 in high; 9 lb • PSW310W ($799) - 10-in woofer; (2) 10-in passive radiators; 400-watt amplifier; 17 1?2 x 15 x 14 in; 50 lb

The bar for Infinity's speaker designs stands pretty high, for a couple of reasons. First, there's tradition. Infinity's history encompasses the imposing Servo-Static and Reference Standard Beta and Gamma models from Back When Giants Roamed the Earth (the 1970s and '80s - high-end audio's glory days). These were among the most sophisticated, capable, and expensive speakers then made. Second, there's affiliation. As one of the Harman International family of companies, Infinity has at its disposal some of the very best technical and human resources in the world.

Given all that, I was eager to put Infinity's new Classia Series to the test. The system that the company sent me included the C336 front left/right towers, a CC225 center-channel speaker, and a pair of C255ES surrounds - Janus-headed dual-two-way models that can be set for dipole, bipole, or monopole operation by means of a behind-the-grille switch. Rounding out the suite under test was Infinity's new PSW310W subwoofer, a 10-inch design with the nifty feature of a wireless connection (although you still have to plug it into the wall to make it go "boom"). The Classias (Classiae?) bear an obvious family resemblance to Infinity's still-current Gumby-browed, flat-panel-drivered Cascade Series (reviewed in September 2006). But the newer models are larger, being an inch or two wider and deeper, and several inches taller. They use conventional, round dynamic drivers, although with Infinity's usual high-tech seasonings - in this case, a laminated, metal/ceramic "CMMD" composite for both tweeter and woofer diaphragms, and a newly devised tweeter waveguide (a tiny horn, sorta) that's said to raise sensitivity for improved dynamic headroom and simplified crossover design.

Whatever its high-tech credentials, the Classia suite certainly looks, well, classy. These are strikingly handsome speakers with an assertively contemporary design. Infinity supplied the full system in gloss piano-black lacquer (real cherry veneer is also available). But the C336s' sharply raked tops precluded my habitual piling up of CD and DVD cases, remote controls, and coffee cups into teetering towers of terror. What were they thinking?

SETUP

Run five speaker wires, and you're done with setting up the main channels. The PSW310W wireless subwoofer sports a little Wi-Fi-style stubby on its rear panel, and its deck-of-cards-sized transmitter has a stub of its own. The transmitter, which accepts a single signal cable from a receiver or preamp's subwoofer output, found the sub immediately. And once I switched the transmitting channel a couple of times, I experienced no interference on the audio system - or on my studio's Wi-Fi or cordless-phone systems.

MUSIC & MOVIE PERFORMANCE

I ran the C336s by themselves in stereo for starters, and I was quickly convinced of their full-range abilities. But I was less happy with their tonal balance where I initially placed them - close against the front wall and flanking my 52-inch Samsung TV. They sounded progressively better the further I moved them away from the wall; I ultimately wound up with nearly 4 feet between the wall's surface and the speakers' front baffles.

The C336s have a neutral sound, with outstanding transparency in the mid to high frequencies. This yields the kind of treble that doesn't sound at all bright, yet is all there: clear, quick, and extended, and not in the least bit forward or sparkly. Voices were unfailingly even, balanced, and, well, neutral. Most speakers, even high-end ones, "romance" the vocal range with a subtle extra helping of warmth in the 100- to 200-Hz octave, but not the Classias. This occasionally made them sound a little "cool," but it also encouraged close, high-resolution listening - the kind of sound you hear in a good recording-studio control room.

Something analogous seemed to be happening in the bottom octaves, too, where the C336s delivered solid output to 40 Hz or so, but with less of that penultimate-octave response hump that enhances the impression of bass on so many speakers. The overall effect on material like Richard Thompson's "Hide It Away" (from you? me? us?) was intensely but effortlessly intimate, without the tinge of low-end bloat that this midbass-heavy track can often reveal.

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