|Sunfire XT Series Cinema Ribbon CRM-2/CRM-2C|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Wednesday, 01 August 2007|
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Speakers have under gone huge leaps in evolution, from the once common rectangular box with one or more drivers on the front to multi-cabinet designs. Newer manufacturing techniques and materials have allowed unique shapes previously only dreamed of to become reality. The upsurge in flat panel displays and the huge increases in real estate values have energized the market for smaller, more ergonomically sensitive speakers. Audio guru Bob Carver is well aware of these new market factors and has created a very compelling new loudspeaker solution for real world systems that don’t want to compromise on old-world audiophile excellence. Carver is well known for making products that outperform their size. This goes for his amplifiers, which usually weigh a fraction of others in their class, to his legendary subwoofers that have redefined size and performance expectations, and now the Cinema Ribbons. Standing at just over eight inches high, these new speakers are designed to give large speaker sound in a mere fraction of the space. I received five CRM-2 speakers, one CRM-2C center channel and two Sunfire True Subwoofer Super Juniors to evaluate. Cost of the Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 and CRM-2C speakers is a cool $800 each and the subwoofers are $995 each, for a total 5.2 system price of $5,990.
Advanced psychoacoustics went into the design of these speakers from start to finish, and every aspect of the cabinet and drivers was designed for accurate audio reproduction. A speaker small enough to hold in the palm your hand that can handle 400 watts into an eight-ohm load and output 115dB seems potentially too wild to be true. The CRM-2 has a two-way design, consisting of a front-firing wave-guide-loaded Neodymium ribbon tweeter and dual side-firing four-and-a-half-inch-high back-end, high excursion woofers. Measuring eight-and-a-quarter inches tall, five-and-a-half inches wide and six inches deep, weighing eight-point-nine pounds each, they are small but dense. The CRM-2C center channel utilizes the same drivers, all front-firing, and has the same specs, but measures six inches tall, 17 inches wide and three-and-three-quarter inches deep and weighs 10.5 pounds. The CRM-2C has the ribbon tweeter rotated 90 degrees from the set-up of the other speakers and is flanked on either side by the four-and-a-half-inch woofers. Quoted frequency response from all the Cinema Ribbon speakers is 95Hz to 40kHz, with a rated sensitivity of 90 dB (2.83v/1m) and a minimum power rating of 25 watts. All the Cinema Ribbons come finished in beautiful Rosewood covered in seven coats of ebonized super high-gloss lacquer, giving them an almost black appearance, except under bright light, where the natural deep red wood grain comes through.
The True Subwoofer Super Junior is a mere nine inches square and has a quoted frequency response of 22 to 100 Hz and is capable of peak output exceeding 108 dB. Utilizing two Sunfire premium long-throw drivers and a 1,500-watt Tracking Downconverter® power amplifier, this is an equally amazing speaker. The subwoofer offers auto signal sensing power on and off, has single-ended line level inputs, as well as high pass outputs and powered speaker level binding posts. The control panel allows continuous variable phase control, volume control and crossover frequency, from 65 Hz to 100 Hz, which are also bypassable. All the connectors use high-quality gold-plated contacts. A detachable IEC style power cord and a replaceable fuse complete the control panel of the sub, which fully occupies one of the two sides not filled by the opposing drivers. The subwoofer is finished in the same beautiful ebonized Rosewood as the main speakers, and has plastic detachable surrounds for covering the mounting hardware of the two bass drivers; the cones of these two mighty woofers remain exposed.
These speakers are all packed in a way I’ve rarely seen. The Cinema Ribbon CRM-2s come packed in singles or pairs; the CRM-2C comes in its own box. Inside the tough outer cardboard shipping carton is a decorative cardboard case. I am pleased there is another layer of heavy cardboard inside encompassing the speaker, which is packed in high-density foam and wrapped in thick plastic over a black cloth drawstring bag. Inside are the coveted Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 and CRM-2C speakers. Each of the grilles is individually wrapped in plastic and surrounds the speakers inside the final box. A very concise and well-written instruction manual, registration card, and even a pair of white cotton gloves accompany each speaker.
The speakers are of an unusual shape, chosen by Mr. Carver for their sonic characteristics. The front and bottom are at 90-degree angles to each other, the top of the speaker slopes down from front to back, and the rear side of the cabinet is sloped back from top to bottom. The sides seem parallel to one another from the front and at the top edge are faceted into the transition with the top. All angles are smoothly rounded off and the lacquer finish is absolutely perfect. The fit and finish of these speakers and packaging is some of the best I’ve ever seen. On the rear of the speakers, from top to bottom, first you find a small round cup with the boundary compensation switch, which allows for placing the speakers on the wall or further into the room, and the high-quality gold-plated five-way binding posts, then a threaded insert for wall mounting and the Sunfire information panel. An additional threaded insert is present on the center of the bottom of the CRM-2 to facilitate mounting on stands. The grilles for covering the front-aimed tweeter and side-firing woofers are included in the packaging. The front grille is held in place with small magnets, while the sides are held in place with locking pin plugs. The CRM-2C is a more conventionally-shaped speaker, basically a rectangle with the top side sloping down slightly from front to back and the sides share similar faceting to integrate the top and back; the binding posts and room compensation switch are identical to the CRM-2s and the speaker is flanked by four threaded inserts for wall bracket mounting.
I keep two home theaters in my house. The living room is my reference system and the bedroom system is a receiver-based rig. I was having a problem deciding where to first try these speakers out, but having the Sunfire Theater Grand Processor V and Theater Grand Amplifier 7400 still in my home made the decision of which system to put them in a no-brainer. I’d run all the Sunfire gear together. I was short of places to put this system into, but my wife has wanted another television and DVD player in the family room so she could do spin training there, so I figured that was a good place to start. This room in my home is awkward, to say the least. It measures 20 feet long and has vaulted 12-foot ceilings. The room is 23 feet wide, with the system resting in the right half of the room. The room is only divided by a half wall from the back wall slightly to the stereo side of the middle, leaning out slightly to halfway across the room; the front left corner is angled and is part of the outside wall of my office. I have never placed a system into this room, so I expected some serious problems with positioning and bass management. I placed all five of the CRM-2s onto Omnimount SAT2 speaker stands and set the crossover in the TGP-V to 100 Hz. I bypassed the crossover in the Super Junior Subwoofers, as Sunfire recommends for this set-up, and used my Teac Esoteric DV-50s as a source. I initially positioned the two subs on the front wall near the left and right mains.
I ran the system for a few weeks to break in the drivers; during this time, I did a lot of work on subwoofer placement. In the two rooms where I have my other systems, I have a pretty good idea of where to place subwoofers. As this was the first time I had placed a system in this unusual room, it took some work to find where the subs would best perform. I finally settled with one sub in the middle of the right side wall and the other towards the front right corner of the room. This gave me the most even bass response to my ears and filled the room nicely.
Once the drivers were well broken in and I had done some critical listening in the room with the all-Sunfire set-up, I took all five of the CRM-2s on the Omnimount stands and one of the True Subwoofer Super Juniors to my bedroom. I reset the heights of the speakers on the stands to align them with my ears, calibrated the receivers speaker distances and levels, set the crossover to 100 Hz for all speakers and tried them out with my Denon 4306 receiver, using the Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray player and Denon 5910CI player as sources to see how they would perform in a second system.
While listening to these speakers, I tried many different placement options and was surprised to find that, no matter where they were placed, they gave an wide and open soundstage. I liked the height of them to be close to my ear level, where the high end clearly was the best. I tried them straight forward and at a multitude of angles toed in, and ended up with them slightly toed in, which seemed to give me the best imaging. I tried them up against the wall with the boundary compensation switch set to wall and it did a good job correcting for the position, but I felt the sound to be more open with the speakers further into the room, so this is were I kept them in both systems. The Cinema Ribbons only reproduce down to 95 Hz, so they are pretty immune to the problems bass output causes with positioning. They seemed to give similar sound whether they were close to the rear wall or far from it.