Surround Sensations Page 5

The surrounds, which are identical to the front L/R satellites, did a good job with ambience even if they weren't as immersive as some dipole surrounds I've heard. The Infinity sub woofer again impressed me with its big sound - someday all subs will come with an equalizer and do-it-yourself tuning kit like the RABOS.

The Mission system provided accurate yet mellow movie sound. The m72s retained all the warmth I'd admired in music playback. The m7c1 center speaker provided neutral sound with a warm high end. Dialogue was easily intelligible - even the faintest "Ahoy!" from across the water - but the sound was somewhat pulled back, and I sometimes wished for a bit more upper-midrange presence.

The m7ds bipole surrounds were pretty good, creating an immersive sound field wherever I sat. When a machine-gun firefight erupted aboard the U-boat, I ducked for cover. Playing music, the surrounds' timbre was also good and similar to that of the other Mission satellites. However, they buzzed distressingly when I pushed them with loud surround effects. The 700ASi subwoofer was solid throughout, with bass that resounded with clarity and authority, and enough power to enliven the action scenes.

Not surprisingly, the Klipsch system pro vided theater-size movie playback. The Trac trix horn tweeters, which had been too zippy for me in music listening, worked quite well in a film context. The SC-1 center speaker gave tremendous presence to effects and dialogue, which was among the most intelligible I've heard. If you've ever watched a movie and missed a line of dialogue because it was swallowed up in the ambient sound, the Klipsch Synergy is your speaker system.

The SS-1 surrounds were equally zingy, and their angled tweeters provided a great sense of immersive ambience, with excellent highs no matter where I was sitting or how I placed the speakers. The mechanical thuds from all around the boat, the reverberation in back as rifles are locked and loaded, and the delayed echoes that recreate the claustrophobic feel of a submarine interior - all were expertly conveyed. Throughout, the KSW-12 subwoofer was excellent, cranking out plenty of rumble. When a torpedo hit a U-boat amidship, the implosion literally rocked my room.

Something for Everyone Not surprisingly, since each of these three speaker systems approaches the playback problem from a very different standpoint, they have different strengths and weaknesses. That's a good thing, because not all home theater shoppers have the same needs or preferences.

The Klipsch Synergy is an old-school big-speaker system designed to blow you away with brilliant highs and powerful lows. I certainly appreciated the latter, but the former were too aggressive for my musical taste. With music playback, I would have to throttle down my treble control. On the other hand, for movies, the forward high end seemed just about right, giving dialogue and film effects a realistic presence. In short, the system's overall sonic power was terrific for Hollywood soundtracks, which is why I'd choose it for movies.

The Mission system really caught my attention. I've always been partial to the warm, dark voicing of British speakers, and the m72s have that in spades. Although the 700ASi sub is hardly a powerhouse, its bass performance was certainly sufficient for my taste. Moreover, I like the styling of both the m7c1 center speaker, which seemed like a part of my video monitor, and the m7ds surround, which would look great mounted on the side walls of a home theater. Of course, I also appreciate their similarly warm sound quality. I do wonder if this system has enough juice to give me the loud effects I sometimes want to hear from movies. If it was my own money, and I was listening mainly to music, I'd pick Mission's m70 series system.

The Infinity Modulus system's strong points are compact size, elegant styling, and room-tuning precision rather than sonic horsepower. Its tactile, soft-plastic enclosures with brushed-aluminum trim would look stunning in modern décor with glass and chrome highlights. While the size of the satellites does limit their lower-frequency output and overall volume potential, this is a good system for smaller spaces. The sub is excellent, providing superb bass at reasonable levels, and its response can be optimized for your room.

Whether your priority is movies, music, or finding something that looks good in your room, you can pick a winner from this trio of systems. But if you're looking for top performance in all three respects, then you'll just have to learn that we don't always get everything we want. Sorry, but I don't make the rules.