Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers Page 3

Importantly, the Sunfires get the critical midrange just about perfect. Voices of both men and women (and that alien diva who performs in The Fifth Element) were consistently open and natural, with little if any of the "cupped," "nasal," or "hooty" colorations that belie peaky response across these most sensitive octaves. And the Cinema Ribbons' dearth of output much below 120 Hz or so ensures that they at least will not contribute boomy or excessive midbass.

As already mentioned, sub/sat integration is an especially critical factor with this setup. The challenge is to get the Super Junior subs - which have rather amazing output in the lowest octave-plus but do not seem to me especially flat up through 100-250 Hz - to meld in an even and continuous way with the CRM-2s, which seemed to roll off below 150 Hz or so. A lot of fiddling, and light touches on each sub's continuously variable Phase control, eventually got it done, yielding solid, smooth upper bass to complement the Super Junior's astonishing lower-octaves power.

Ultimately, this Sunfire array most impressed me with its reproduction of massed strings. A favorite SACD of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste was simply hypnotic, with the Hungarian master's full, vibrant palette of woody colors and resonant nuance vividly portrayed. Equally gorgeous were bowed double-bass passages, such as the famous entry in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, and the Sunfire system sounded great on plucked jazz bass, too, though a half-shade less timbre-precise or "quick" than my everyday setup.

The CRM-2s produce a very wide and somewhat diffuse image, thanks to their side-firing woofers delivering a good portion of the midrange sound. This proved a boon, mostly, lending natural-acoustic recordings (classical, jazz, folk) a lively presence and a big image but producing a slightly less pinpoint effect on typical studio-pop "multi-mono" creations.

As a home theater system, the Cinema Ribbons were highly effective as well - given their name, they'd better be! The CRM-2C center unit largely shared the CRM-2's natural vocals and defined, relaxed highs but with the clearly more focused presentation I expected of an all-forward-firing array. Its grille incorporates a louvered waveguide to help spread highs from its horizontally arrayed ribbon, and indeed the sound was quite consistent over a reasonably wide listening angle. I noticed some differences in tonal balance between the center and the CRM-2s on three-speaker vs. one-speaker mono comparisons, however. The CRM-2C delivered audibly less "bite" on voice articulations, and it was a bit "chestier" at either position of its boundary-compensation switch.

Yet in context, the CRM-2C acceptably accomplished its center-channel mission. Dialogue was clear and well defined on a wide variety of film soundtracks, and effects that panned across the three front speakers - such as passing trucks or the single shot of a P-51 zooming leftwards from the indie World War II pic Saints and Soldiers - were smooth and continuous. When I looped the fly-by and concentrated, I could barely detect a shift in spatiality as the plane traversed the center, probably caused by the different radiation patterns of the CRM-2s and the CRM-2C. But this kind of microscopic scrutiny is clearly different from normal enjoy-the-movie listening.

The CRM-2s made very good surround speakers. These are, after all, largely bipolar reproducers in all except treble, and their layout seemed a particularly happy compromise between the diffuse reproduction ideal for ambience and spatial cues and the sharper imaging sometimes preferable for discrete effects or multi-panned surround music. The Mustang flyover mentioned above actually begins from the right rear, and it displayed an impressively smooth, contiguous motion as it moved forward and then shifted left.

Bob Carver had encouraged us not to spare the ponies, and indeed the tiny Sunfires proved able to absorb remarkable amounts of power. The system is only a scant dB or so less sensitive than the average, yet I could unload very nearly all the output of my amp's 5 x 150-watt arsenal into the Sunfire system without inducing audible hardship. Indeed, the CRM-2s seemed almost to sound clearer, more dynamic, and livelier the louder they played.