|Edge Audio 502D Home Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Tony Kaklamanos|
|Monday, 01 January 2001|
At $1,399, the 502D home theater system may prove to have the guts not only to break into the crowded market of bookshelf style speakers, but the technology to bust it wide open.
The 502D system includes four 502D-LR satellite speakers, which house a five-inch magnetically-shielded woofer/midrange and a one-inch magnetically-shielded soft dome tweeter. The 502D-C center channel enclosure has basically the same configuration as the 502D-LRs, but its spade lug connectors are mounted to facilitate center channel horizontal placement. Each speaker component has been designed by Vifa, a Denmark-based company that has the reputation for producing high-quality and well-crafted components. To reduce resonance, these enclosures are constructed of solid plank hardwood, as opposed to veneer wrapped MDG particle board. These speakers also contain internal bracing and acoustic damping material to eliminate high-frequency reflection. They measure 11 inches high by six inches wide by six inches deep. For the bottom end, the 502D system includes the SW-12/320 long-throw front-firing powered 12-inch subwoofer, which packs a 320-watt punch. The back panel controls of this unit include gain control, frequency roll-off control, auto signal detection (on/off), phase switch (reverse/normal), low-level RCA input and output pairs and four pairs of speaker outputs to drive the satellites. The enclosure measures 20 inches high by 15 inches wide by 20 inches deep and is constructed in the same fashion as the 502D-LR and 502D-C.
We as writers/reviewers of AV products rarely get into crossover technology when it comes to loudspeakers. The reason for this is that crossover technology really hasn't changed much in several decades. Typically, two- and three-way speaker system crossover networks use a series of inductors and capacitors, which filter signals and direct differing frequencies to the appropriate speaker. Edge Audio has licensed DiAural technology, which has changed this path in a very big way, without the big price tag.
Here's how DiAural technology works: Let’s say that sound is reproduced through a microphone. There is a natural modulation that occurs between the high and low frequencies. High frequencies will modulate up and down as lower frequencies push them around, depending on the low-frequency amplitude. This encoding stays intact throughout the recording and playback chain. However, once the audio signal hits a conventional crossover network, a filtering process occurs that can leave behind signal information or, worse yet, deliver a signal that is not phase coherent. Remember what used to happen when you played the grade school game "Telephone"? In essence, DiAural technology eliminates the use of inductors and capacitors to filter audio signals. The signals themselves are taken through a simplified circuit that allows the woofer and tweeter in a two-way system – or woofer, midrange and tweeter in a three-way system – to speak directly to one another.
The care and design of these enclosures is extremely apparent when this system is unpacked. The 502D-LR and 502D-C not only came securely boxed up, they were encased in a velvet pull-string bag, something that looks like it might hold gold, pieces of eight or Crown Royal whiskey. After lifting these hefty little guys from their slumber, I noticed the immaculate craftsmanship of the enclosure. A proprietary multiple-step process gives these speakers a satin finish that is as smooth as anything that I've reviewed - truly beautiful work.
Hooking up the system was a breeze. For reference, I used my Rotel RSX-965 AV receiver, Yamaha S700 DVD player and patched everything together using high-quality Camelot cables. One thing to keep in mind while reading this section is that my listening environment is very live – wood floors and plaster walls.
I couldn't wait to put the 5.1 application through its paces. The first piece of software I checked out was the film ‘Any Given Sunday’ (Warner Home Video). This movie is complex both in its sound and picture editing. The sound was wide open, even through the ominous skies, lightning strikes and howling tornado-like winds. This movie also did a masterful job in mixing ambient crowd noise and silence. Sliding between the two environments was effortless with the 502D system. The soundstage was both broad and accurate. I ejected the grid iron celluloid heroes and placed ‘Rules of Engagement’ (Warner Home Video) in the DVD player. As our Marines stormed the American embassy, bullets cracked the stone building while helicopter blades cut through the air. I noticed that not only was the imaging accurate, it held up even in off-axis listening positions. This scene whet my appetite for the opening battle sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (Dreamworks Home Entertainment). I have the DTS version of this DVD and figured that this would be the ultimate test for this system. The panning and sweeps used on this piece of software were reproduced with incredible accuracy. The last DVD that I sampled, ‘Love and Basketball’ (New Line Home Video) was used to investigate the two-channel sound application. This small, R-rated ‘Afterschool Special’-style film has a soundtrack with tunes that range from the Jackson Five to chest-thumping rap to Spanish folk music. It also has plenty of squeaks, creaks and ball thumps on basketball courts. The system kept pace with every workout, game and music track. As air pumped freely though the front port of the subwoofer, I started to get the idea that the 502D system was more than just a tricked-out crossover circuit. It had legs and was dancing. On that note, I slid in my first piece of music software for the two-channel application, the ‘Almost Famous’ soundtrack (DreamWorks Records). Any of you out there who spent your formative years in the '70s will realize how great this soundtrack is. When I saw the movie, many of these songs brought back myriad memories. Well, after hearing the soundtrack through the 502D, I got the chills and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. The warmth of the sound was natural, even with old re-mastered analog recordings. To keep in the folksy-homesy mood, I slid in Mark Knopfler's latest, Sailing to Philadelphia (Warner Brothers). The honest lyrics of “Silvertown Blues” were reproduced without a hint of edginess or coloration. I felt as if I was sitting in a recording studio, listening to the final mix. I decided to stay in the moment, so I placed Kevin "Keb Mo" More's The Door (Sony Records) into the tray. This bare-bones bluesman plays slide guitar on many of the tracks. Every nuance was pretty damn clean and true. Keb Mo reaches out a bit in an Elmore James cover, "I Hurts Me Too," by adding sort of a funky hip-hop thing to the backbone of this track. The low-frequency response for the 502D-LRs was truly impressive for their size.
As you might imagine, the downsides of thed 502D system were far and few between. However, every product has some quality that can be improved upon. First, I wish the subwoofer were a little more compact. Personally, I prefer a down-firing configuration, but at the time of this review, Edge Audio had an eight-inch sub in development. Next, there isn't a shred of documentation that was shipped with the product. I have since been told that all systems do ship with documentation, just not the units that I received - kind of a drag, but not much to get into a twist about
Well, what more can be said? I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing Edge Audio's 502D home theater system. Getting attention for breakthrough technology in an environment in which everyone tends to scream about their own breakthroughs can be an uphill battle. It could be even tougher for Edge Audio and DiAural. I believe that the DiAural technology will continue to grow within the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) market. But exactly how do you do convince a speaker manufacturer, who spent boatloads of R&D money on matching two and three-way systems with a standard crossover, to switch over to DiAural technology? I don't know. I do know that hearing is believing and that Edge Audio 502D system made a believer out of me.