Vienna Acoustics Schönberg Speaker System

And now," said Dr. Freud, "we will do a little free association, ja? If I say Vienna, do you say ... sausage? Waltz? Sacher torte?"

If you said "Acoustics" instead, take a bow. Vienna Acoustics, a manufacturer of some two decades standing, does in fact make speakers in Vienna, where their offerings include a family of singular loudspeakers named for the "second Viennese school" of 20th-century composers: Schönberg, Berg, and Webern, who are revered and reviled by classical-music fans in about equal measure. (My final composition teacher was a late Schönberg student, so you can guess my vote.)

SETUP Purely as sculpture, the Schönberg front speakers are simply stunning, though you might prefer the brushed-aluminum finish to the sexy piano-black seen here, a new option that mates with gloss-black flat-panel TVs. The Berg speakers we used as surrounds, and the Webern center speaker, are basically subsections of the Schönberg (he was in fact older and, at least briefly, a teacher of both). All three designs are spectacularly finished, and all can be wall-hung or stand/floor-mounted.

I placed the Viennese trio in my habitual locations. The mirror-image Schönbergs flanked my 50-inch DLP with tweeters on the inside. They're designed to be on or very near a wall and, after some experimentation, ended up about 6 inches from mine. The Webern center sat on a stand just below the screen, and the Bergs went on high shelves astride the listening position, tweeters rearward and angled in to reflect substantially off the back wall.

Our system's woofage came not from the swoopy aluminum Vienna Acoustics Subson subwoofer that mates with this system, but from a 10-inch REL R-305 suggested as a big bass-per-buck option (the British REL shares Vienna's U.S. distributor). This small cube employs an unusual sealed-box bass-loading technique and an equally exotic speaker-level input - a "Speakon" jack familiar to Euro-savvy pro-audio types.