Cerwin-Vega CVHD 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System Page 3

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The Short Form

Price $1,100 / cerwin-vega.com / 818-534-1500
These speakers bypass style in favor of sonic substance. Ignore their plain looks and dig the trust-fund baby sound.
•High-value fidelity with a clear, forward sound •Tonally matched satellites •Classic Cerwin-Vega chest-massaging bass
•Sloping satellite cabinets require wall-mounting or optional stands •Plain appearance
Key Features
CVHD-63 •(6) 3-in woofers, 1-in soft dome tweeter; 22.5-in high; 6.3 lb CVHD-63C •(6) 3-in woofers, 1-in soft dome tweeter; 22.5-in wide; 6.3 lb CVHD-12S 12-in driver; 250-watt RMS amplifier; line- and speaker-level inputs, speaker outputs; variable level and crossover-frequency controls; phase switch; 17.8 x 16.8 x 16.5 in; 48.5 lb
MUSIC PERFORMANCE I started my audition with Robert Randolph & The Family Band's Colorblind. The snapping dynamic range of the awesome riffs on songs like "Ain't Nothing Wrong with That" makes them essentially unplayable on any dinky single-driver satellites; they just can't handle the extraordinary funk levels that are generated. As I expected, the multiple drivers in the CVHD's satellites fared much better; they positively sizzled with energy. Moreover, Randolph's rocking pedal steel guitar has a uniquely cool sound that was accurately conveyed throughout the broad midrange and treble bands. The party whistle, handclaps, and other percussion that drive this song sounded appropriately bright and crisp, and though they came close, never sounded shrill or piercing to me. These sats are like Judge Judy: At first, they seem a little too forceful, with a particularly forward-sounding upper midrange, but after awhile you begin to appreciate the clarity that provides.

The satellites' clean sound and enunciation were an open window into inner musical lines on other tracks as well. Dave Matthews does backup vocal duties on "Love Is the Only Way" and Eric Clapton contributes a second guitar to a cover of the Doobie Brothers' hit "Jesus Is Just Alright." In both cases, the subtle vocal sighs and string-caressing details characteristic of these artists were clearly audible. On some speakers, it's some guy playing second guitar; on accurate speakers, it's Clapton.

"Ain't Nothing Wrong" also proved to be a showcase for the CVHD's subwoofer. The bass line and kick drum (echoed with bass vocals) sounded strong and distinct. This sub's musical tone was excellent - more than just thumping impact, I could hear each bass note, properly pitched in the bottom octave, as plain as notes on paper. When I cranked it up, the kick sounded positively massive and the sub held together without an audible downside except for a little port chuffing. I wish all songs had the same kind of kick-ass bass that this one does, and that all subs had this much guts.

Although I'm not a huge fan of Styx, or 70's music in general, the band's new DVD-Audio release, Cyclorama, provides a great workout for surround systems. The revisited version of "Fooling Yourself (Palm of Your Hands)" is an inventive acapella remix ideally suited for the CVHD system. The system uses identical speakers, so the male vocals in this boy-band treatment were matched and balanced as they panned through the surround speakers. Similarly, Tommy Shaw's voice is panned to the front and center speakers, and the balance and tonality was maintained across the front soundstage. Non-matching rear speakers, as in systems with dipole surrounds, would have thrown off the sonic symmetry here. A final note: Vertical line arrays usually provide good horizontal dispersion and solid imaging; that proved to be the case here, for both stereo and surround playback. Moreover, there was a decent sense of depth to the soundstage. In contrast, many wall-mounted speakers struggle to provide distinct imaging or any soundstage depth.