Surround Sensations Page 3

The m7ds bipole surround speaker is more radical in design. The thin, black, molded-plastic cabinet has a flat back and a bulging front. Although it's stable enough to be placed on a shelf, it's more at home mounted on a wall. The grille cloth curving across the front conceals two angled faces - each holding a tweeter and a midrange driver - radiating in phase. There's a small port between the two faces.

The 700ASi subwoofer is a straight-ahead design with a 10-inch driver and a tuned port on the front behind a removable grille cloth. Knobs on the rear adjust output level and crossover frequency (from 50 to 150 Hz). A switch selects 0 or 180° phase, and another bypasses the crossover.

Setting Up Prior to listening, I spent a little time getting used to each system. Good thing most of the speakers were shielded - otherwise the combined flux field of their magnets would have scrambled my brain and made me start repeating things start repeating things. Anyway, following are a few comments on issues unrelated to sound.

The Infinity Modulus L/R satellites could be more stable - in the course of my tests, I knocked one over twice. This shouldn't be a problem unless small children, or a cat, have the run of your home theater. Although I had my doubts about the optional TV-mounting bracket, it worked quite well, and when you use it, stand stability becomes moot. I also spent some time with the RABOS kit to tune the sub's equalizer. It took about an hour and was somewhat tricky, but the detailed instructions led me through it.

The Klipsch system is the most traditional of the three. Its front L/R speakers need some floor space, and because they sit relatively low, you have to make sure your ears aren't too far above the tweeters when you listen. In my case, the futon I listen on aligned me perfectly. Since the SF-2 cabinets are big, they'll be prominent in all but the largest listening rooms.

The Mission front L/R satellites work best as bookshelf speakers, but the almost-flat surrounds beg to be plastered against a wall. The curvy center speaker melded beautifully with my TV, blending in much better than any boxed speaker (or "look-at-me" design) I've tried. If you want speakers to be heard but not seen, the Missions are probably the best bet in this group.

Powered Up To separate victors from vanquished in this speaker comparison, I selected two war epics for my listening material. I started with the CD soundtrack of Enemy at the Gates (Sony), a recent WWII flick dealing with the siege of Stalingrad. James Horn er's score is the real Hollywood deal, filled with orchestral pathos, and I listened to it several times, mainly in stereo (front L/R plus subwoofer), occasionally indulging in artificial ambience processing.

Several tracks have exposed violin parts, followed by massed strings. The Infinity L/R satellites provided a very open and transparent high end. This sweetness extended to the female vocals in the choral sections. The satellites didn't have as much punch or depth in the baritone and bass choruses as I'd have liked, but lower-midrange frequencies are no toriously tricky - too low for many small satellite speakers to reproduce but too high for some subwoofers. The Infinity satellites played loud enough in my large room to shake my martini glass but never threatened to break it.