Vienna Acoustics Schönberg Speaker System Page 3

MOVIE PERFORMANCE The center-channel Webern shares the Schönberg components, but with a horizontal array in a smaller, sealed enclosure. They sound very similar, yet on certain spoken voices, particularly male, I heard a slight shift in tone color when comparing the Webern alone to the Schönbergs in mono, and even to a single Schönberg: Some lower male voices were slightly but noticeably richer, thicker, or "chestier." Otherwise, the timbral match of center to fronts was quite good, and the Webern evidenced surprisingly little off-axis tonal change. The Bergs served admirably as surrounds, using the angled-back placement I usually employ for this sort of rear speaker: They were very capable dynamically and made a solid tonal match.

On the stellar soundtrack from Walk the Line, the Vienna ensemble was quite impressive. The opening moments of this biopic demand a lot from a sound system, but the Viennas delivered all the big-space ambience, high-volume punch, musical balance, and sonic heft I could desire; the sequence sounded great, with the clapping, stomping, and cheering fully integrated into a single, believable spatial whole. Throughout my movie listening, I found the Vienna system's slightly warm balance welcome more often than otherwise, nicely taming the faintly bright mixes I still encounter on many DVDs.

I did consider that the R-305 sub didn't have quite enough nuts for fully cinema-level playback; at my "reference" level (perhaps 2 dB below a THX-calibrated cinema), the REL became just a shade loose and "blatty" on the scene's stomp-along - not hugely surprising for a compact 10-inch sub pushed that hard. Lowering my level by 3 dB - which is still louder than many of us dial in for movies, even in high-end home theaters - cleared it up nicely; raising it back quickly exacerbated it. But otherwise, the R-305 was exemplary - clean, punchy, solid, and defined.

BOTTOM LINE This is a very musical, highly transparent system. The Schönbergs' deft touch of warmth moves their sound subtly across from what an audiophile might call "analytical" (ironic in a speaker from the birthplace of analysis!) even while they remain powerfully transparent and detailed. With the very capable Webern and Berg, and the musically outstanding, compact REL sub in support, the result is an on-wall-able system that combines high-end sonics and Architectural Digest visuals.

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