Definitive Technology ProCinema 80 Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Andrew Robinson   
Thursday, 01 September 2005

There is no denying that large speakers create large sound. Until recent years, options for the size-conscious were limited and always included compromise. Thanks to companies like Definitive Technology, there are speakers that come in small packages and produce large high-quality sound. No longer are you confronted with the difficult decision of either a large floor-standing speaker or a sub-par-sounding AV speaker system.

Priced at $999, the ProCinema 80 system is at a competitive price point inhabited by most large speaker manufacturers. Yet Definitive Technology is not your average speaker manufacturer. We have reviewed many Definitive Technology speakers over the years and they consistently rank at the top of their respective price classes. They have built a reputation for providing high performance and exceptional value at reasonable price points.

The ProCinema 80 system falls in the middle of the ProCinema lineup between the smaller 60 and the larger 100. The ProCinema 80 system is comprised of four matching satellite speakers, a center channel speaker and a 250 watt, eight-inch powered subwoofer. Currently, the system is available in gloss black, matte white and a new silver finish. My review system was in the black finish and I found it to be quite handsome and very modern-looking. As for packaging, Definitive Technology really went the extra mile here. My entire system minus the sub was packaged in a single box with a substantial amount of packing materials to protect against any shipping mishaps (Definitive Technology informs me the system is usually packaged separately). The subwoofer was no exception. Proper packaging is one of those things that should go without saying, but with our bottom line-conscious economy, growing manufacturers are always looking to save a buck. Unfortunately, this seems to come at the expense of making sure their products arrive safely in your home.

Once the components were out of the boxes, I took a minute to admire the ProCinema system. The overall styling of the system is really topnotch. They’re not as small as some other satellite/subwoofer combos, but their clean, rounded lines give them a much more sophisticated appearance than the competition. Picking up one of the four matching ProMonitor 80s, the first thing I noticed was its weight. I didn’t have a scale on hand to actually weigh the speaker itself, but let me just say it’s substantial for a loudspeaker of such diminutive size. The speakers themselves are seven-and-three-quarters inches tall, four-and-five-eights inches wide and five-and-one-eights inches deep, retailing for $113 each.

Removing the grilles revealed a single four-and-a-half inch upper bass/midrange driver mated with a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter. The ProMonitor 80s have a stated frequency response of 60Hz-30kHz and an 89dB efficiency into a four to eight ohm load. While not a particularly easy load, most of today’s receivers should provide more than enough juice to make the 80s sing. Turning the speaker around to the back, I was shocked to find gold-plated five-way binding posts neatly stacked one above the other and recessed into the speaker’s rear. There are two mounting options on the rear of the speaker, as well. A keyhole mount that accepts most larger gauge screws and is great for mounting the speaker’s flush to a wall, and another screw mount for use with most third party and Definitive’s own wall mounts and floor stands.

Moving on to the ProCenter 100 center channel speaker, which retails for $199, I found the fit and finish to be identical to the ProMonitor 80s, complete with the same binding posts. Definitive is banking on most buyers placing the center channel on top of their television sets, and to this end, they’ve included a vertical adjustment device in the speaker itself to allow for proper aiming at the listening position.

Under the hood, the ProCenter100 had the same four-and-a-half-inch drivers and one-inch aluminum tweeter that the ProMonitor 80s did. However, they were laid out in a horizontal array with the tweeter being flanked by the two midrange drivers. I’ve always been a fan of 5.1 systems having similar if not the same drivers, as 5.1 yields the smoothest most coherent sound for both multi-channel music and movies. The ProCinema 100 center speaker differs slightly on its frequency response, largely in part to having two upper bass/midrange drivers, giving it a rated 50Hz-30kHz into a four to eight ohm load.

No 5.1 system is complete without a subwoofer, and while Definitive Technology makes some of the finest subs around – the Super Cube subs come to mind – it’s important not to overlook the ProSub 80. Employing an eight-inch driver into a rear-ported design, the ProSub 80, along with its 250-watt internal amplifier, can pack quite a wallop with a rated frequency response of 21-150Hz. At 12.5 inches high by nine-and-a-half inches wide by 15.5 inches deep, the ProSub 80 isn’t nearly as compact as its satellite counterparts; however, in the world of subwoofers, it’s amazingly powerful for its size. The ProSub features a bevy of connections, as well as controls to tailor the sound to your needs. First off, it features both low-level RCA inputs and a dedicated LFE input for those with receivers and/or surround sound processors. The ProSub 80 also has speaker level inputs and outputs through a series of five-way binding posts also located on the sub’s rear. Finally, the ProSub 80 has both low pass and high pass crossover controls to further dial in the sound. All in all, the ProCinema 80 system has a lot going for it right out of the box. One more thing I’d like to point out is that any speaker in the ProCinema 80 system (or any ProCinema line, for that matter) may be purchased individually at a later date to facilitate, say, a 7.1 system. This provides huge flexibility for future upgrades.

Unlike some of the other speakers in my arsenal, I found the ProCinema 80 system to be fairly simple to set up in my main listening room. I started by mounting the front left and right speakers to my sidewalls, using a pair of Omni wall mounts on either side of my 120-inch Elite projection screen. This configuration put the main speakers approximately three feet up from the floor and about three feet from my front wall. I placed the center channel a top an 18-inch Omni Mount floor stand and positioned it just below the center of my screen. For the rears, I chose to use the keyhole mounts on the back of the speakers, which allowed them to rest against the wall about five feet up from the floor. The manual recommends mounting the speakers directly to a stud and I cannot stress this enough. Shortly after firing up a movie, one of my rear speakers fell off the wall, taking with it a large piece of drywall. Ouch. The speaker wasn’t damaged, but I couldn’t help but look at the hole in my wall and seeing my security deposit dwindling. Since stud mounting was out of the question, for the best placement, I had to visit the local hardware store to pick up a package of 50-pound drywall anchors to fix the problem. With the speakers mounted and in place, I set the sub down next to my equipment rack, which sits about halfway between my screen and back wall. My Denon 1905 Dolby Digital DTS receiver, supplying an adequate 85 watts to each of its seven channels, powered the ProCinema 80 system for the duration of this review. For my source, I chose the Denon DVD 755 for both music and movies. With some minor adjustments to my receiver, mainly setting the crossover frequency to the subwoofer via its LFE output, and I was up and running in less than an hour.

Music and Movies
I began my evaluation with some traditional CDs, beginning with Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (Maverick) re-recording of her original 1994 breakout album of the same name. Right off the bat, the ProCinema system did not disappoint. On Track Eight, “Head Over Feet,” Morrisette’s voice floated dead center stage with a sort of eerie realism and weight that made me sit up and take note. I’ve had very respected mini-monitors at almost double the ProCinema 80’s asking price that couldn’t manage this feat. Throughout the track, the midrange was unfaltering in its realism and dimensionality, placing Morrisette squarely in the middle of my room despite the left and right speakers being 13 feet apart. In regards to the high frequencies, the ProCinema’s aluminum tweeter never sounded harsh or brittle, even at high volumes. In fact, I would say it was a little on the polite side if anything, providing a relaxed and pleasing sound. Moving on to Track Two, “You Oughtta Know,” the kick drum was wonderfully reproduced through the ProSub, with each strike of the mallet resonating with the appropriate amount of weight and reverberation. I could not only hear individual strikes but also the difference in force behind them, giving the drum a very tight and accurate pitch throughout the track. Regardless of the track, the ProCinema system was above all musical, which shocked me, given its emphasis for home theater and its minimal price. Another thing to point out is the ProCinema’s ability to recreate a very lucid soundstage that favored just a little more width than depth, but nevertheless was a bonus I wasn’t really anticipating to find at its price point.

Quickly spinning up another CD, I chose Blues Traveler’s best-selling album Four (A&M). Despite its over-saturation on the radio a few years back, it still remains one of the band’s better albums. On the track “Just Wait,” the bass guitar was very articulate, leaving behind the sluggish one-note bass I had grown accustomed to, and showcasing the ProSub’s ability to not only keep up but blend seamlessly with the rest of the ProCinema system. Later in the track, there is a ripping guitar solo that on other speakers in this price range can be a bit like an ice pick to the head. The ProCinema speakers not only handled it with grace, but also delivered a wonderfully energetic and dynamic performance, proving they had the gusto to rock out regardless of volume without punishing your ears to the point of bleeding.

For multi-channel listening, I turned to the Dual Disc of Ben Fold’s latest offering, Songs for Silverman (Epic). On track four, “Landed,” the ProCinema system presented a fantastically natural and true to life piano solo. This was clearly the best I have heard in this price class to date. The highs gained a little resolution and air, all the while remaining free of glare. In track six, “Trusted,” the ProCinema system expanded on their already stellar dynamic capabilities, showing off their complete ability to go from zero to whatever the music called for with the grace of a fine Italian sports car. I’d have to categorize the system as energetic and slightly forward in its presentation, but never at the expense of musicality. Sure, there are going to be richer speakers out there, but I’d have to imagine at this price point what the ProCinemas lack in romanticism, they more than make up for in sheer toe-tapping musical enjoyment.

I next turned my attention to movies and fed it a steady dose of summer blockbuster fare. First up was the anticipated yet ultimately disappointing sequel to Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys.” “Bad Boys II” (Columbia/Tri-Star) is a perfect example of a popcorn movie and, while it dispenses with pleasantries, what it lacks in story, it makes up for it by making things go boom. During the 15-minute freeway chase towards the beginning of the film, I was reminded of why I love home theater so much. The ProCinema 80 system cooked up all the adrenaline sweat-soaked action I could take and left me yearning for more. I must have watched that selection a dozen times back to back, all the while grinning like a kid in a candy store after a trip to the dentist. The ProCinema system didn’t assault the senses the way many lower-priced speaker packages can, but rather walked a tightrope, balancing the sounds of breaking glass and distant gunfire with a Ferrari doing battle with falling cars from an 18-wheeler, all the while keeping the dialogue in check and beautifully intelligible.

To close out my evaluation, I ended with the final chapter of the “Matrix” saga, “Matrix Revolutions” (Warner Home Video). When I skipped ahead to the climactic battle between Neo and Agent Smith, the ProCinema system enveloped me with a delightful mixture of atmospheric rain and heart-pounding score. The drums rage as Neo charges Agent Smith for the final showdown, every step resonating with the appropriate amount of slap and wetness as their feet strike the pavement. The thunderclaps chime in with the proper weight and impact. (On one cloudy night, I was certain they were coming from outside.) As the battle comes to a close, Agent Smith pauses to reflect on his own greatness, as Neo lies motionless in a crater filled with rain and sewage. The ProCimema’s ability to reproduce special cues is nothing short of astonishing. Not only was it raining all around me, but I felt as if it was coming down directly on me. Had there been a water leak at that exact moment from the unit above me, I probably would’ve jumped into a closet. The effect was downright creepy.

The Downside
One design flaw that I took issue with was the binding posts. While they will accept any kind of speaker cable termination in theory because of their recessed placement, I’d say spade connectors are out. Also, the recessed placement did make for some minor frustration when it came to connecting even bare wire. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. Had the binding posts not been recessed, then the built-in wall mounts would be out of the question; these are a strength that I value greatly, given how I set the speakers up. I will gladly put up with some minor frustration over getting the right connection if it means keeping the quality binding posts. Keep in mind that most speakers in the ProCinema 80’s price bracket are still using push-pin terminals, which I find utterly ridiculous and unacceptable.

Lastly, although not really as much a downside and more of a warning, pay extra close attention to the instruction manuals. They are very well written and will save you a lot grief when it comes to mounting the speakers to the wall. Make sure you have the proper equipment on hand for mounting or hire a professional to help you, because these speakers will in fact fall if not installed properly.

I think Definitive Technology has gone above and beyond the competition in many ways with the ProCinema 80 speaker system. For just under $1,000, you not only get a complete 5.1 surround sound system, but one that sounds more in line with systems costing two to three times as much. I consider it to be not just a bargain in home theater but an absolute steal by which all others should be judged. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to audition the ProCinema 80 system and even happier now that I’ve purchased the review units. With the money I saved, I’m looking forward to enjoying more music and movies, because after all that’s what this hobby is all about. If total enjoyment is your bottom line, then the ProCinema 80 system will reward you in spades.
Manufacturer Definitive Technology
Model ProCinema 80 Speaker System
Reviewer Andrew Robinson

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