Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers Page 2

The Short Form
$5,990 (as tested) / sunfire.com / 425-335-4748
Snapshot
Unique design combines tiny size with amazing output and extension, smooth balance, and impressive detail.
Plus
•Terrific vocal-range accuracy and highly musical balance •Smooth, ultra-detailed treble •Super-small, super-dynamic
Minus
•Setup alignment critical •Sub-to-satellite integration tricky •Sweet spot limits audience size •Tiny subs superb but trade bottom half-octave for size
Key Features
CRM-2 •($800 each) Sealed enclosure; 4.5 x 1-in ribbon tweeter; (2) 4.5-in cone woofers; 8.3 in high; 7.5 lb CRM-2C center •($800) Sealed enclosure; 4.5 x 1-in ribbon tweeter; (2) 4.5-in cone woofers; 17 in wide; 10.5 lb True Subwoofer Super Junior •($995 each) 8-in woofer; 8-in passive radiator; 1,500-watt RMS "tracking-downconverter" amplifier; 9 x 10.5 x 10.5 in (including drivers and connectors); 29 lb
SETUP Sunfire sent me a quad of identical CRM-2s plus a CRM-C2 center speaker, along with not one but two True Subwoofer Super Juniors. The Cinema Ribbons in this setup are compact speakers, but the line also includes somewhat larger on-wall versions for the flat-panel set. I positioned the CRMs in my usual spots: the left/right on stands astride my 50-inch Samsung DLP, the center speaker on a low stand just below the screen's bottom edge, and the surrounds on high shelves flanking the listening area. I placed one sub at about one-third the length of the front wall, the other in the right-front corner. The CRMs are very well made and extremely solid-feeling, finished in a high-gloss "ebonized rosewood" that I frankly could not positively identify as either real wood or manmade. Nice, either way. Heavy, all-metal multi-way binding posts and a mini-toggle switch nestle in the rear terminal plate; the switch engages "boundary compensation," a midbass cut to compensate if the speakers are mounted on or very near the wall.

MUSIC AND MOVIES Beginning as always with stereo listening, I quickly confirmed Sunfire's suggestion that positioning and orientation are critical to getting the best out of the CRM-2s. Vertical alignment proved particularly critical - no surprise with a ribbon driver whose sound-spread is fairly wide left and right but tightly controlled up and down. In my installation, atop 32-inch stands, I found that the "sweet spot" was actually slightly below straight ahead, so I ended up with the CRM-2s raked back a few degrees and toed in substantially. This yielded a clear improvement in balance from my first listen; although I had carefully followed the company's "break-in" advice, the speakers initially sounded distinctly warm, even restrained, across the top few octaves. Given that the little Sunfires do not make enough low frequencies to attempt any serious listening on their own, I also found sub-to-satellite integration to be a critical factor, and I spent a good chunk of time adjusting sub levels (and making small placement shifts) to get the smoothest, best-integrated result.

The more I listened, the more I concluded that the Sunfires sound different from many other speakers - yet the more I listened, the more difficulty I had putting a name to the differences. The CRM-2s sound distinctly warmer up top: less forward, snappy, or aggressive than even some very refined conventional designs. Yet there clearly was no "missing" or dramatically rolled-off treble, as the Sunfires displayed no absence of air, depth, or shimmer. Ride cymbals, plucked strings, and brassy attacks were fully defined and lifelike, notably relaxed and transparent. Yet the speakers' tonality was uniformly mellower and less metallic when compared with that of a selection of dynamic-driver designs of known quality. Again: The differences were not so much of quantity of output as of character, and I'm not quite prepared to say that one is "right" and the other "wrong."

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