Sonance C4630 SE Home Audio Distribution System Page 4

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Each of the keypad options offers multistage programming for all the buttons, allowing different commands to be executed for a regular button press, a double-press, and a press-and-hold. This essentially triples the number of available buttons, providing a great way to get loads of programming into a small space. I took advantage of this by making the skip-forward buttons the track-skip, album-skip, and playlist-skip commands on my iPod. Of course, it's then up to the homeowner to actually remember all of these extra commands, sometimes easier said than done.

The final trick buried within the C4630's silicon is the BBE Sound Enhancement that, among other things, adds 3 dB of equalization at low frequencies and 6 dB at high frequencies. The processing can be engaged for each source individually via a switch located on the rear of the chassis.

Engaging BBE produced immediate and noticeable results. I quickly found that I preferred the processed sound because music just stood out at lower volumes, with more depth and detail. After listening for a while, switching off the processing seemed to make the music retreat, causing it to sound hollow and lifeless, especially with compressed MP3 files. Switching it back on was like removing a blanket that had been covering the speakers. This isn't a criticism of the amplifiers in the C4630 but a testament to the BBE processing. However, as the volume level rose (or on recordings that were already bright), the BBE's added emphasis became too much, making the speakers strain and producing sound that was strident and harsh. Other Sonance components place the BBE processing at the output stage, where it can be engaged per zone and not per source. This would be a welcome change here, allowing you to enjoy all of the benefits in areas where you listen at low volumes, while enabling you to switch it off in zones that tend to rock the house.

BOTTOM LINE Sonance has stayed in its comfort zone with the C4630 SE, producing a system that isn't groundbreaking but will get the job done for years to come. With its ability to integrate with more advanced systems that can take advantage of its RS-232 feedback, it has some room to grow. And, far from being a gimmick, the BBE processing adds noticeable improvement.

Ultimately, the Sonance C4630 SE home audio distribution system falls in the middle ground between advanced systems that offer metadata feedback and basic systems that offer only volume control. At its price, it's an affordable alternative to the first and a worthwhile step-up from the second, making it worthy of consideration by anyone looking to dip his or her feet in the cool, sweet waters of the audio distribution pool.

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