Like A Rock: Sunfire's Super-Solid New Minis

Sunfire's built a rep for teensy-tinsy speakers that sound like towering megaspeakers. Only problem was, the tiny transducers carried a giant price tag: about $6,000 to $8,000 for a full system. With the new HRS speaker system, the company's headed in a more "popularly priced" direction. A full rig costs about $3,000 - 60 times what it takes to get you on the end cap at Wal-Mart, but still a pretty substantial price reduction considering the little system's pedigree.

The HRS (or High Resolution Sound) system debuted at the Tech Week conference put on last week in Lexington, KY, by Sunfire corporate parent Elan Home Systems.

The core of the system is the HRS-SAT4, which is like the Mini Cooper of speakers - tiny, yet built to kick ass. It starts with a 4.5-inch Kevlar woofer and a 1-inch ring radiator tweeter of the same basic type now de rigueur in zillion-dollar speakers. The drivers mount in a heavy cast aluminum faceplate that's fastened to the ¾-inch MDF cabinet with four bolts that run front-to-back - another construction technique borrowed from megabuck speakers. Don't knock a knuckle too hard against these things; It's like hitting a brick. Cost: $450 each. A pair of slick stands built just for the HRS-SAT4 bumps the price up by $325.

There's also a $550 center speaker with the same tweeter and two of the 4.5-inch woofs. The 1,000-watt HRS subwoofers are available in three sizes: 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. The biggest of the three will set you back $899.

I snuck into Sunfire's demo room so I could hear this pack of snarling chihuahuas for a few minutes without having to listen to a dozen dealers chat it up behind me, and my initial impression was positive. Still, it was a squarish hotel meeting room with depressing wallpaper - not the kind of environment in which any serious audio aficionado would want to make a judgment. -Brent Butterworth