|Phase Technology Premier Collection (PC) 3.1 Home Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Ed Masterson|
|Tuesday, 01 October 2002|
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I initially set up the speaker system in my theater, using it for television and movies for a couple of weeks. I have found this to be the easiest way to get a little break-in time without being too critical. Next, I began to work on the setup of the front main loudspeakers and subwoofer for two-channel music playback. I found that the mains were easy to arrange and produced a wide and deep soundstage. The subwoofer took a little more work, but I eventually managed to get it to blend very well with the main loudspeakers. Overall, I felt the speakers had a pleasantly laid-back presentation. Nothing sonically glaring or shrill jumped out at me. I was drawn in by the sound of the piano at the beginning of “Locomotive Breath” from Jethro Tull’s Original Masters (Chrysalis). The piano was full and rich, but not quite as dynamic as I have heard from other speakers in this price range. During “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day” from the same release, I was impressed with the depth and spaciousness of the soundstage. Every instrument was set back in the stage and well separated from the other instruments. The sound was detailed but not analytical. It seemed that the sharpest transients were smoothed out a little, which turned out to be a benefit on this recording. With this system, I found myself listening to more songs than I had planned. If you listen to a lot of recordings that are not up to the audiophile standards, you will most definitely enjoy the non-fatiguing nature of these speakers.
A good example of a great performance on a poorly recorded album is Staring at The Sea - The Singles, by The Cure (Electra/Asylum). I am not sure if it was intentional or just an unavoidable artifact, but the first track on this CD, “Killing an Arab,” sounds like it was recorded in a garage. The PC 3.1 speaker/subwoofer combo was able to communicate this unrefined sound without sounding overly harsh or boring and dull. The third track on this CD, “Boys Don’t Cry,” starts out with a solo electric guitar that sounded detailed and dynamic. I found myself halfway through the disc, in full suspension of reality, before I realized it.
I next decided to switch over to a recording with an emphasis on vocals. Billie Holiday’s Body and Soul (Verve/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab) is one of my favorite classic jazz vocal albums. This is an old monaural recording, originally made in the mid-'50s and was deliciously re-mastered. During the third track, “Darn That Dream,” the raspiness in Billy’s voice and deep sounds emanating from her chest and throat were all conveyed with detail and power, while remaining separated from the other instruments in the stage.
The first movie that I watched was "Collateral Damage" (Warner Bros. Home Video), the most recent Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie. Schwarzenegger plays a firefighter who loses his wife and son during a terrorist attack. As you might expect, he takes matters into his own hands and pursues justice his way. I mean, I love a good Arnold action movie like the next, but hasn’t Hollywood beaten this tired and shallow use of the big guy to death? In any event, this movie served as a great testing tool and involved lots of shooting, explosions, and hand to hand combat. I never had any trouble hearing the dialogue during the action scenes. The gunshots had convincing dynamics, and the explosions sounded persuasively real. The subwoofer did not have the ultimate earth-shaking low-frequency extension that I have heard in some other similarly-priced systems, but did however seem a little quicker and more articulate in the low bass than these other subs. When it came to the rear-channel effects, the information seemed to be conveyed accurately, but I could not help but notice that these effects were coming from the rear speakers. This seems to be common with theater systems that have a standard directional type of rear speaker, rather than the bi-polar variety. It is my opinion, as well as that of many mastering engineers, that surround information is best when it fills in and doesn’t draw attention to movie details.
Next I watched "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings" (New Line Home Entertainment). This is one of the more intense and scary movies that I have seen this year. The soundtrack is powerful and imminently evil-sounding. I was constantly drawn into the music score. Something about the Phase Technology system seemed to emphasize the music slightly over the sound effects. This is not to say that the sound effects were not conveyed effectively, it’s just that they do not overpower the background music. The deep rumbling sound of the horses approaching seemed to be naturally portrayed within the soundscape with no lack of low frequency extension. This speaker system genuinely transported me the event, often causing me to forget that I was auditioning the product rather than frantically trying to recapture the coveted ring.