Surround Sensations Page 4

The Modulus subwoofer did an excellent job, pumping out clean, deep bass in the thickest orchestral passages. Whether it was the RABOS equalizer or good old-fash ioned cone motion, the sub provided very musical bass sound. In my room, however, I wasn't able to eliminate a gap between its top range and the bottom of the satellites that robbed the system of some impact. Someone experimenting with sub placement in a different room might very well achieve a better blend.

The Mission m72 speakers had a refined "Brit ish sound" characterized by a soft high end and a warm low end. Violins never sounded harsh, lower strings were lush but never turgid, and the lower midrange had lots of oomph.

But I was surprised at the speakers' performance when I cranked them up. With most speakers the sound becomes more and more unnatural and unpleasant at louder volumes, but the m72s resisted that tendency. My only concern was a somewhat "blatty" brass sound at high volume. The 700ASi subwoofer provided good, clean bass that matched the m72's refinement. Its output was not mighty by any means, but it was musical even during complex orchestral passages. Moreover, the blend between the sub and the satellites was quite good, with decent upper-bass punch.

The Klipsch SF-2 satellites have a size advantage over their counterparts in the other two systems. Not surprisingly, they generated a huge sound whose punchy, solid upper bass seamlessly merged with the subwoofer. The satellites' bass output went lower than that of the others, but it wasn't worlds more powerful. It clearly had more authority, probably because of the far greater volume of the Klipsch cabinets. But the horn-load ed tweeters had a very out spoken presence. Some folks will like this quality, but it was a bit too aggressive for my taste on strings, cymbals, and other percussion with extreme high-frequency content. The mighty impressive KSW-12 subwoofer displayed plenty of low-frequency guts. It anchored the Enemy at the Gates orchestral score with all the bass I cared to dial in.

Movin' to Movies But you're probably considering one of these systems mainly to watch movies, not listen to music. And what better way to test a system's surround sound chops than with a big, rumbly submarine flick - like last year's U-571 (Universal) - with its depth charges, popping rivets, and other ambient sounds of the sailors' underwater environment. The Infinity system's center speaker had a more robust lower-midrange timbral quality than its L/R counterparts, but it lacked some warmth. Even so, dialogue sounded clean and crisp, whether female or male. Voices of the men on the conning tower during a raging storm were perfectly intelligible.