Sunfire HRS home theater speaker system

The Short Form
$3,850 (as tested) / SUNFIRE.COM / 425-335-4748
Snapshot

A system compact enough to fit into a cruise-ship stateroom but powerful enough to rock a good-sized home theater, with dazzling sound and a superb fit and finish

Plus
• Vivid, vibrant, visceral performance • So small it fits almost anywhere • Sleek design and excellent build quality
Minus
• A little thin-sounding at times • Takes some work to get the subs and sats to blend
Key Features

• HRS-SAT4 ($450 each): 1-in tweeter, 4½ woofer; 5½ x 8 x 6 in; 7 lb • HRS-SAT4C ($550): 1-in tweeter, two 4½-in woofers; 13¼ x 5½ x 6 in; 12 lb • HRS-10 ($850): 10-in woofer; 1,000-watt amplifier; 11½-in cube; 34 lb

Ever have the hamburger at New York City's "21" Club? It's $30 (with roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, green beans, and your choice of potato), but no one I know who's tried one considers it overpriced. By applying quality materials and meticulous preparation to a typically mundane product, the restaurant created a sublime sandwich that's now its signature dish.

With the High Resolution Series system, Sunfire is trying to do much the same thing with speakers. At a distance, the HRS looks like an $800 surround sound system. The speakers measure 8 inches high and have tiny 4½-inch woofers, and the subwoofer fills less than a cubic foot of space. You'd think the HRS would be molded from plastic, stuffed with generic parts, and sold for a song.

But look closer at the HRS-SAT4 satellite speakers, and you'll see how the HRS system got the "21" treatment. The tweeter is a ring radiator design also found in extraordinarily expensive speakers favored by serious audiophiles. The woofer boasts a triple-layer "Trifilar" voice coil (for added power handling) and a cone made from woven Kevlar fiber. The lacquered cabinet's curved medium-density-fiberboard side panels stiffen the enclosure and minimize sonic resonance. Four bolts extend all the way through the speaker to secure the die-cast aluminum front baffle. Concealed magnets hold the grille in place. It's the kind of craftsmanship and materials you'd expect to see in a $3,000-a-pair bookshelf speaker, not in a compact home-theater speaker system.

The HRS-SAT4 includes a keyhole mount and a threaded socket for an Omni-Mount-style bracket, so it's easy to attach to a wall. Sunfire also offers stands; their $325-a-pair price will seem like a lot until you see how they're constructed and how smoothly they blend with the HRS-SAT4's curved side panels. And when you consider that each stand costs less than six hamburgers (well, six "21" hamburgers), they start to look affordable.

The HRS-SAT4C center speaker is a longer version of the HRS-SAT4 with an extra woofer. You can round out the system with your choice of three subwoofers: the HRS-8, HRS-10, or HRS-12. They're all similar except for the size of the driver. Each combines a 1,000-watt amp, a cube-shaped cabinet, and an overbuilt woofer that looks like it was swiped from one of the cars you see on Rides.

SETUP

Getting this system up and running is as easy as it could be - but getting optimum sound takes some tweaking. The stands and the HRS-SAT4 speakers fit together as precisely as the door of a Mercedes sedan fits its frame. Speaker cables snake easily up the stand tubes and secure firmly to the cabinets' knurled metal binding posts. The HRS-SAT4C includes a handy, adjustable foot on its back, which makes it easy to aim this center speaker up, down, or straight ahead.

The subs have the usual features: line- and speaker-level inputs, line-level outputs, and crossover and volume controls. Sunfire equipped me with two HRS-10s. One was plenty powerful enough, even for my large listening room, although using two (one in each of the front corners of my room) did make it easier to get smooth bass response that I could hear from every seat on my couch.

With its small woofer cone and cabinet, the HRS-SAT4 can't produce much bass, so achieving a seamless blend between the tiny speaker and a powerful subwoofer like the HRS-10 is tricky. The satellite has little response below 100 Hz, so if you use the industry-standard crossover setting of 80 Hz, you'll get a gap between about 80 and 100 Hz. Fortunately, like most A/V receivers and processors these days, the Outlaw processor that I used lets you adjust the subwoofer crossover point. I got the best results with a setting of 120 Hz, although 100 Hz worked okay, too.

The key issue in positioning the satellites - especially the front ones - is the distance between them and the wall. The closer they are to the wall, the more bass response you get from them; obviously, that's a big help to the little HRS-SAT4. But moving them closer to the wall also detracts a bit from the lush ambience this speaker can deliver. I got the best compromise with the backs of the satellites about 6 inches from the wall.

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