|RBH MC-615-70 In-ceiling Speakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers In-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Monday, 01 August 2005|
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Often in surround sound music, the rear speakers are used purely for adding ambience, reverb and very subtle accents. I wanted to begin with a disc that relied heavily on the rear channels and had definite separation from the fronts and rears. Dr. Chesky’s Magnificent, Fabulous & Insane musical 5.1 Surround Show (Chesky Records) was the perfect disc. Full of a bizarre mix of musical instruments and sounds, all recorded in 24/96 DVD-Audio surround sound, I flipped through the tracks until I came across the song “Music for Cello, Helicopter & Cars.” This track begins with a cello part playing the main rhythm part in the rear speakers. It builds in intensity and the sounds of a bustling city with cars honking, sirens blaring and helicopters flying by start weaving their way in and out of the mix. As the sounds move from front to back, I was listening to see if the tonal quality of the horns and other noises stayed consistent. I found that, unlike many rear speakers that sound tinny and lack body and presence, the single 6.5-inch driver in the MC-615-70 was able to reproduce the lower sounds of the strings on this track as well as the front speakers with their four-inch drivers. The transition from the front to back was smooth and the added level of bass in the rears was a nice addition to the theater from the smaller Energy Connoisseur di-pole bookshelves that I had been using previously. With the Integra DTR-10.5 receiver in my theater, I was able to isolate just the rear channels and send insane amounts of volume to the rears as a test. Even when the climactic finale of this song comes in the form of a thundering jackhammer flooding the speakers, they did not crackle or distort. This disc actually gives a warning that Chesky is not responsible for any damage it may do to your speakers, but the RBH’s handled this little experiment with flying colors.
Moving out of Dr. Chesky’s bizarre world into one that is a little more traditional, I cued up Emmylou Harris’ DVD-Audio release Producer’s Cut (Warner Music Group). On the track “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt join Harris on harmony vocals. This traditionally arranged old-school country song sounds beautiful in 24/96 DVD-Audio. The mix is primarily in the front speakers and the rears add little touches like harmonica runs and harmony vocals. What you don’t want is for the rears to stick out like sore thumbs and at no point on this recording did the MC-615-70s call attention to themselves. They answered when asked to handle complex sounds like a few cymbal crashes that move from the front to the rears and didn’t drop in volume or lose resolution.
Even if you don’t have many surround sound discs, if you have a capable receiver, you can enjoy stereo music on your surround sound system. The Integra DTR 10.5 receiver in my system has a setting called “All Channel Stereo” that I experimented with, so I could hear some very familiar two-channel music that is not yet available in surround. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s breakout album Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Warner Bros. Records) is one of the best-selling albums in alternative music and their funk hit “Give it Away Now,” with its bouncing baseline and funky guitar licks, is a test for any system. With the front speakers turned off and the two-channel stereo signal sent to the rears, I got to hear a tune I have heard probably a hundred times on other systems. The imaging was a little strange, with the sound coming from a flat ceiling. However, the tonality of the MC-615-70s was better than I expected in this unique application. This was no Muzak. My unorthodox two-channel-plus subwoofer system gave me the idea to perhaps use another pair of these as a stereo music zone in my kitchen ceiling.
From the swirling, exploding and morphing TXH logo to the intense climax at the steel mill, the Special Edition DVD release of “Terminator 2” (Artisan Home Entertainment) is the ultimate goose-bump-giving, mind-blowing audio demo. Playing the DTS 5.1 ES mix, I went to the scene where the T-1000, played by a stone-faced Robert Patrick, driving a stolen semi truck, is chasing the young John Connor (Edward Furlong) on his small dirt bike through the cement-walled water system of the Los Angeles River. The action is intense and so is the sound. Explosions, crashes and gunshots echo around the room. The ‘80s action movie soundtrack, with thundering drums and blaring horns and strings, adds to the excitement of the scene. The action is intensified by the rears, as an out of tune organ blares chords from the rear speakers that gives this action-filled scene a sense of urgency and an almost horror movie feel.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger shoots the lock on the chain link fence and drives through it on his Harley Davidson, the level of detail in the sound as the fence moves by the camera is incredible. As he fires his gun backwards at the semi’s tires, the rear speakers are essential to the effect, making it feel like the action is really taking place behind you. When the semi finally crashes into the overpass and explodes, the blast can be felt in all directions and the eerie sound of the burning tire rolling out of the inferno is the icing on the cake.
Ashton Kutcher often gets a bad rap for his acting, but in the science fiction thriller “The Butterfly Effect” (New Line Infinifilm Edition), a story about a young man who can see the past and future after being hospitalized when a mailbox bomb prank goes awry, the action and drama are quite intense. This mostly dialogue-driven thriller features one particular sound effect that I wanted to test out with the MC-615-70s installed. As Kutcher’s character looks through old notebooks filled with his own handwriting in journal form, he can put his mind back into the place it was before and remember with specific detail and can make changes that affect the future. As he stares at the pages in his books, a bizarre sound wave begins to swirl around the room. This trippy “butterfly effect” was a perfect test for not only the rear speakers, but for the system as a whole. The transition from the speakers as the sound moves in a spiral is incredible and, when watched in a dark room, made me feel like I was sitting alone at my local cineplex.
Eminem’s semi-autobiographical drama “8 Mile” (Universal Studios Home Video) is another intense workout for a speaker system. During the climactic rap battle, the crowd is going crazy as each contestant tries to outdo the next. The crowd’s audible reactions emanate mostly from the rear channel on this 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and the quality of the sound again was impressive.