The Sound of Style Page 2

Infinity TSS-4000

One technique speaker makers are using to slim down their offerings is to switch to rigid aluminum cabinets that can be shaped into trim profiles. With its gleaming all-metal satellites and subwoofer, Infinity's Total Solutions TSS-4000 rig would fit right into a futuristic, robot-assisted home theater. The system I tested consists of three matched TSS-SAT4000 satellites for the front left/right and center channels, a pair of smaller TSS-SAT1100 sats for the surrounds, and the TSS-SUB750 subwoofer. Each satellite comes with a base for shelf or stand mounting plus a sturdy metal wall bracket that swivels the speaker up to 30° off-center. Infinity also offers sturdy aluminum stands that make a sweet match for both the 4000s and the 1100s ($279 each and $179 a pair, respectively).

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Setup I placed the left/right TSS-4000s alongside my plasma TV stand about 3 feet out from the front wall and the center speaker on a shelf directly beneath the TV. The sub went into the front corner of my room. I particularly appreciated the TSS-1100's tall stands, which positioned the speakers a foot or two above my seated ear level - a good elevation for surround speakers. Slim speakers tend to have limited bass, so I set my processor for a fairly high, 120-Hz low-pass setting to filter the low frequencies out of the main channels and pass them to the subwoofer.

Music Performance Turning first to trusted CDs to get a grip on the Infinity system's stereo performance, I spun the jazzy "Outlaws" from Bill Frisell, Dave Holland, and Elvin Jones. I was quickly impressed by the SUB750's performance. Dave Holland's walking acoustic-bass lines came across as full and authoritative, hitting all the low notes without sounding boomy. The upper bass notes were slightly thin, but I got a good sense overall of the instrument's heft and body. Listening next to The Shins' "Pink Bullets," I found the vocals clear and sibilants neither harsh nor overemphasized. And when the harmonica solo kicked in, it had a balanced tone, at once brassy and sweet.

I hadn't heard much music from Rammstein - a German band that can best be described as Metallica meets the Third Reich in the Matrix - but when a friend told me that the singer sets himself on fire during concerts, I had to check out their new DVD, Live aus Berlin. Playing the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of the anthemic "Rammstein," the Infinity rig delivered an excellent sense of arena-crowd ambience. I felt as if I was right there in Berlin and could follow the path of the fans' whistles and howls behind me. The singer's guttural growling sounded full and clear through the center speaker. And the system didn't flinch at loud volumes. Cranked up, the dynamic impact of the drums was nothing short of thunderous, with snare hits sounding slamming and crisp, and the kick drum low and tight. Oh, yeah - the guy did sing with his jacket on fire.

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