Infinity TSS-1100 Home Theater Speaker System Page 2
MOVIE PERFORMANCE The soundtrack of Cold Mountain seems tailor-made to push the limits of a home theater speaker system, containing every possible explosion, cannon blast, and gun report. From the opening explosion to the end, the Infinity system easily filled my 15 x 24-foot home theater with vivid sound, surviving the war far better than its onscreen combatants. Even though the big bang at the beginning had warned me what to expect, I still found myself flinching from the sound of bullets whizzing by my head.
The Infinity speakers kept sharp, quick sounds sharp and quick, without ringing or smearing. At the same time, their smooth, wide dispersion made it seem like bullets were flying around the room, not just across the screen. And in the scene where the men of the town of Cold Mountain build the chapel, I had no doubt I was hearing hammers driving metal nails into wood. Even during that massive explosion, which by itself earned the subwoofer its keep, the satellites' treble contributions made me appreciate that a boom consists of far much more than just deep-bass rumble.
Dialogue came through crisp, clear, and focused. You won't have to turn to your viewing companion and ask, "What did he say?" The system emphasized the raspiness in Nicole Kidman's voice, as Ada, but male voices lacked some warmth and depth.
Cold Mountain's soundscape makes superb use of the surround channels, and the Infinity surrounds acquitted themselves admirably. They not only placed me in the thick of the battle but also in the middle of the church while the congregation sang traditional shape-note hymns. Musical instruments played by characters in the movie, ricocheting gunshots, flies buzzing around the wounded, crickets at night - all took their proper places in the sound field created by the Infinity system. Thunder seemed to break above me during the storm scene when Ada 's father (Donald Sutherland) works on his sermon, and in the later scene when Ruby (Renée Zellweger) stomps across the wooden porch, her clodhoppers sounded at floor level. Only in the orchestral score did I ever hear the surrounds as distinct sound sources.
MUSIC PERFORMANCE The Infinity system didn't smooth over or sugarcoat either vocals or instrumentals. T-Bone Burnett, who produced Cold Mountain's soundtrack, filled it with almost as much folk music as O Brother Where Art Thou?, plus originals by himself, Sting, and Elvis Costello. The country fiddling sounded authentically edgy, as if played by rural mountain dwellers on a fiddle rather than a classical violin. You could tell they were low on rosin. Mary Fahl's ethereal off-screen singing floated from the speakers.
For stereo playback with the front L/R satellites and the subwoofer only, I spun Texas singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson's CD Land of Milk and Honey. The TSS-1100 speakers reproduced it with the outstanding imaging often provided by small sub/sat systems. The stereo soundstage was wide and deep, with the solo singer solidly in the center. Twice I had to walk to the TV and put my ear to the center speaker to convince myself that it was off. The subwoofer did well by the upright acoustic and electric basses, while the satellites made clear which was which.
I was equally impressed with 5.1-channel playback in my receiver's Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode - the sound became even more spacious without losing focus. I've heard Gilkyson in concert several times, and the Infinity system reproduced her voice accurately, imperfections and all.
In Yo-Yo Ma's CD Obrigado Brazil: Live in Concert, his silky cello stood out against Cyro Baptista's percussion, where each slap on the drumhead sounded hard and smooth. Paquito D'Rivera's clarinet gleamed like brushed platinum. In stereo playback, Ma was dead center, while the other musicians fanned out around him in a very credible image. Pro Logic II enlarged the soundstage to concert-hall size.
For true multichannel music, I invited Lang Lang to perform Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic conducted by Yuri Temirkanov. Telarc mixed the Super Audio CD so the surround channels contain mostly ambience, and the Infinity speakers reproduced the performance with concert-hall realism. Noises from the audience or players in this live recording only made it easier to sink back in my comfy recliner and imagine being in the Royal Albert Hall where it was recorded.
BOTTOM LINE Infinity's TSS-1100 system exhibited some of the minor imperfections common in speaker systems that pair small satellites with large subwoofers. But they detracted little from my overall listening pleasure. This speaker rig was a blast to use, and its attractive size, looks, and price make it a very sound investment.