Definitive Technology BP3000TL Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Bryan Southard   
Monday, 01 July 2002

The Definitive Technology BP3000TL loudspeaker is a floor-standing tower with an earth-shaking frequency response of 15 Hz to 30 kHz, thanks to support from a built-in powered subwoofer. The BP3000TL is the largest in Definitive Technology’s line, measuring 55 inches tall, nine inches wide, 19 inches deep and a stout 155 lbs. per speaker. They are available in either piano-gloss black or cherry finish, and sell for $4,500 and $4,700 per pair, respectively.

The BP3000TL has a bipolar design with two front-firing six-and-a-half-inch cast-basket bass/midrange drivers, and a front-firing one-inch aluminum dome tweeter. The rear of the speaker features an array of drivers identical to the front, the essence of the bipolar design. The BP3000TL has an integrated 18-inch subwoofer powered with an internal 1000-watt MOSFET power amplifier. The cabinets are constructed and braced with MDF. This ultra-rigid high-density Medite material is used for the front baffle in an effort to minimize cabinet resonance that can color music reproduction. The BP3000TL is covered in fabric, with optional finish on the top plate. The review models were black and had very respectable fit and finish.

There are a couple of design philosophies that separate the BP3000TLs from most other high-performance loudspeakers. The bipolar design is not unique, but it is rarely implemented in higher-priced performance speakers (Mirage is another good example of a high-end bi-polar application). Many manufacturers employ a rear-firing tweeter to improve overall spaciousness and ambience, but there has long been a taboo associated with both bipolar and dipole designs. Perhaps the biggest fear is the loss of accuracy associated with cancellation from reflected information. It is important to understand the difference in the two designs. Dipole is a design that employs an out-of-phase response from the rear of the speakers, opposite to that of the front. The theory is that the two signals will intersect and cancel one another, providing a narrow radiation pattern. The philosophy of the bipolar design is quite different. It provides a rear response that is in phase with the information coming from the front of the speakers, thus delivering a greater dispersion and overall sense of spaciousness when executed correctly. Many purists argue that the only accurate information from a speaker is the information radiating directly from the loudspeaker and any reflection will cause negative interaction. My opinion is that all speaker designs have inherent pros and cons and it is the implementation or execution that is of utmost importance.

The powered subwoofer is equally unique to high-performance sound reproduction. Due to speaker efficiency and necessary amplification, most loudspeakers fall short of providing the lowest frequencies needed in a kick-ass theater system. An integrated subwoofer represents a compelling philosophy that, if carried out properly, can deliver soul-shaking low-end reinforcement in a convenient, space-efficient package. Sandy Gross of Definitive Technology argues that this speaker is "not a loudspeaker with a powered subwoofer, but a full-range speaker assisted by a low-frequency driver and internal amplifier."

Since the BP3000TLs have side-firing bass drivers, you can either position the drivers facing the inside or the outside of the speaker. I played with both configurations and found my preference for my listening environment was to place the drivers facing inwards. This served to minimize sidewall reflections and cancellation from reflective standing waves. I recommend that purchasers of this speaker play with both configurations to find what works best in a particular room. Definitive suggests a placement that is close to the front wall (behind the speakers). In playing with location, I preferred a position that was approximately four feet from the front wall. Although this may not be practical in many environments, it provided the best and smoothest response in my room. The BP3000TLs provide a variety of connection options. For speaker connections, there is tri-wiring capability. This means that you can have three sets of speaker wires, one set connected to the sub, one to the bass/midrange drivers, and one to the high-frequency drivers. There are few people who dispute the advantages of having separate runs of wires to your speakers. Whether it makes more sense to have a single run of high-quality wire, or three independent runs of considerably less expensive wire, is a personal call that you will need to make. In my setup, I have a single run of very expensive Transparent Reference speaker cable and have utilized the bridging straps provided with the BP3000TLs to connect the three sets of terminals.

There are two additional ways to connect to the subwoofer on the BP3000TLs. You have the option of connecting to a full-range low-level input either from the subwoofer output, from the preamplifier output of your A/V preamp processor or receiver, or to connect via the optional LFE input on the BP3000TLs.

The subwoofers on the BP3000TLs have only a volume adjustment, as the crossover frequency has been preset to blend with the rest of the drivers. I used an inexpensive SPL meter from Radio Shack to set the volume to the appropriate level, something that I would suggest as a minimum to assure proper setup and balanced bass response.

The Music
Once connected, I spent several days optimizing the placement of the speakers in my room until I felt that they were performing at their very best. After I was satisfied with the placement, I installed spikes to assure that the bass performance was as solid as it could be. I have slab flooring beneath the speakers, which helps to assure a proper grounding of the cabinet.

In the song "Ground On Down" from Ben Harper's Fight for Your Mind (Virgin Records), I was particularly interested in the BP3000TLs' ability to handle the heavy bass information and to delineate guitar lines at the same time. The bass was very deep and abundant in this track. I typically do not run subwoofers in my audio system because I have never been able to properly blend subs to my satisfaction. With a slight adjustment of the bass level on the rear of the speakers, the lowest frequency information was integrated very well with the other supporting frequencies. Also, many speakers can struggle in the upper octaves during heavy bass passages, causing them to sound constrained and compressed. The BP3000TLs demonstrated a keen ability to separate this information due to their separate bass drivers and built-in amplifiers. Ben Harper's slide guitar was very detailed. The top end of the BP3000TLs intrigued me from the beginning. With some music, the upper octaves had the propensity to be on the aggressive side of neutral, yet on others, they sounded pleasantly smooth. After living with the speakers and acclimating myself to their sound, I determined that they were not aggressive, but rather extraordinarily revealing, perhaps so much so that they are somewhat unforgiving. This description is not meant as a negative, as the overall goal in reproduction is to achieve every recorded frequency. The BP3000TLs consistently delivered everything recorded, good or bad. The slide guitar in this cut had the information necessary to turn what many speakers provide as merely the distant squeal into a blues instrument that gave me goosebumps up and down my spine. I listened to this cut several times over the review period and never failed to be amazed.

On the song "25 or 6 to 4" from Chicago’s IX Greatest Hits recording (Chicago Records), the BP3000TLs performed well. I have owned this cut in every format ever produced (LP, eight-track, CD) and have used it to audition hundreds of components over the years. I have great familiarity with the song's strengths and shortcomings and was impressed with the way the BP3000TLs handed both. Horns were distant, yet focused well. They weren’t forward, but they were immediate enough to sound engaging.

The Movies
I had the opportunity to listen to many movies, both new and old, through the BP3000TLs. "The Others" (Dimension Films) served as a great platform for evaluation, as it contains a variety of sonic conditions. Much of this movie was quiet, yet provided abundant higher-frequency detail, with spots of great sonic and emotional impact. The BP3000TLs had a very effortless sound. They supplied extended dynamic range without being labored or constrained. The bass impact in the louder sections was massive, yet the subtle detail was still there, with a sense of ease. This is something that every speaker manufacturer will claim is true of a given product, yet many loudspeakers can sound stressed and dynamically squeezed at high volumes. These speakers had completely involved me (of course, I was partially overcome by fear). The BP3000TLs are both revealing and forceful.

When compared to my current reference setup of two Sunfire True Subwoofer Signature Subs, the bass performance of the BP3000TLs was similar, at times less solid, but with comparable impact. The Def Techs blended better than I have been able to achieve with my Sunfire subs and my Revel Salons.

I did not have the opportunity (because of the logistics of my upcoming move to a new house) to review any of Definitive Technology center or rear speakers, but I can still discuss some seemingly sensible options that they provide.

In combination with the BP3000TLs, Definitive Technology recommends the CLR3000 center-channel speaker, which has its own integrated powered subwoofer, for $999. The BPBVP bipolar rear speakers, which also have integrated subs, are priced at $1,500 per pair. This may sound like a lot of sub support, but balance is the name of the game. I am intrigued by the philosophy.

The Downside
Because the BP3000TLs have integrated power amplifiers driving their low-frequency drivers, they require A/C power. This means that you will need to plug them into the wall, which might or might not be a problem in your home. In my application, I preferred the BP3000TLs to be positioned significantly off the front wall and therefore had an unsightly power cable to negotiate and try to hide. Additionally, the BP3000TL's power cord is hardwired into the speaker. This means that if you don’t have an outlet conveniently located, you will have to use an undesirable extension cord.

The BP3000TL is a very tall, narrow and heavy speaker. You don’t have to be a physicist to know that this means there's a danger of the speaker being knocked down. When spiked, the tower is pretty stable but it could still possibly be pushed over by a curious toddler. To reduce this and similar risks, Definitive has furnished some extender feet, included in the price, to help provide additional stability.

The BP3000TLs are a surprisingly unique speaker system. They are full-range speakers that will satisfy music enthusiasts and film aficionados alike. Some may describe them as speaker with built-in subwoofers, but after auditioning them, I felt that they were so much more.

The fact that the BP3000TLs have integrated sub frequency capability is a plus. They are essentially two loudspeakers and two subwoofers in a convenient, space-efficient package. For music, these speakers can (much like AC-DC) shake you all night long, but I think that their bigger strength is their striking finesse and ability to believably reproduce genres ranging from up-tempo progressive jazz to female vocals to full orchestral music. The BP3000TL's bipolar design was implemented very well, providing a stage with profound depth and width. For movies, they were mighty and forceful. In fact, adrenaline junkies looking for a theater speaker that can do it all won't be able to do better in this price class. Another significant strength of the BP3000TLs is that they are extremely efficient. At 92 dB, they can be driven with a simple AV receiver if necessary. Unlike most high-end full-range loudspeakers, which require very large amounts of amplification, the BP3000TL's internal amplifier allows it to shake the walls with very modest amplification. This means that you can make a significant speaker purchase and can wait on expensive electronics if you so choose. Not that you’d want to wait long.

Make no mistake, the Def Tech BP 3000TL will rock you like a hurricane, but you may be surprised at how well this flagship speaker performs more touchy-feely musical feats, especially when compared to more snooty high-end speakers costing at least twice the price.
Manufacturer Definitive Technology
Model BP3000TL Loudspeakers
Reviewer Bryan Southard

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