B&W Loudspeakers DM303, LCR3, ASW500 Page 2
Subwoofer time! B&W has quite commendably included two high-pass options on the ASW500. The first is a speaker-level connection (receiver to sub to main speakers) that allows you to add sub functions to a receiver that lacks line-level outputs. The second is a line-level connection (preamp to sub to power amp) that brings the sub amp into play for processors that lack a dedicated sub output. In either case, full-range left- and right-channel signals go into the sub, and the signals that emerge are stripped of low bass, leaving the sub as the sole source of bass. Unfortunately, the sub's speaker terminals are spring-loaded wire clips, a step down from the gold-plated binding posts used on the DM303 and LCR3.
For take four, I used the speaker-level connection, which imbued the rifle shots with just a little more physicality while sacrificing some of the pristine purity I heard during take one. Take five, using the line-level connection and the sub amp, preserved both the bass' physicality and some of the high frequencies' purity. This time, I had to switch the setting on my McIntosh surround processor from large speakers (delivering a full-range signal to all speakers) to small (all bass going to the sub).
For take six, I fed the sub with the McIntosh's sub output, which is how most people would do it. With this setup, I got all of the purity of take one with unmistakably more-powerful bass than takes four and five produced. The 70-watt amp is not a wimp. The ASW500's low-pass filter is fixed at 80 hertz, so I didn't have to fiddle with crossover settings; however, I did have to back off the sub's volume control to place the bass and cellos in correct proportion with the rest of the orchestra. Even after that adjustment, using just 33 percent of the sub amp's volume capability, the gunshots were so startling that I inspected my shirt for bullet holes.
When I was finally done with Dances with Wolves (a movie I've used to test dozens of audio/ video products), I was ready to kick back and enjoy some selfishly pleasurable DVD watching. The evening's random rental was the sci-fi thriller Pitch Black, in which flying creatures from hell attack marooned space travelers. As you'd expect, there's a pounding synthetic score and lots of sudden loud noises, as characters have their heads bitten off. This was subwoofer heaven. The highly artificial sound effects weren't as naturalistic as the long echoing rifle shots in Dances, but they had a primordial brute force that was nothing if not dramatic. It sounded—yes—just like something you'd hear in a movie theater.
My verdict? The B&W DM303 is an unqualified triumph. My expectations were high, and they were exceeded. The LCR3 and ASW500 sub more than hold their own, as well. Here's proof that modestly sized and priced speakers can deliver any kind of musical food or cinematic spectacle. I suspect that a lot of home theater buffs consider the ground between hulking towers and tiny bassless satellites to be a vast wasteland. However, as these budget overachievers amply demonstrate, middle-sized speakers just might be the happy medium you're looking for—the ideal combination of size, price, and performance.
Mark Fleischmann's Practical Home Theater is available through online booksellers or by calling (800) 839-8640.
• Bookshelf size balances bass with space
• Per-speaker pricing allows flexible configuration
• Sub accepts one low-pass and two high-pass hookups