Energy Connoisseur Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Friday, 01 October 2004

Introduction and Set-up
For those of you who love the look and open sound of a pair of attractive, high-performance floor-standing speakers flanking your video display, the Energy Connoisseur line has several new options for you to choose from. This review system consists of a pair of $750 C-5 floor-standing speakers, a $400 C-C1 Center Channel, a pair of $400 C-R1 Rear Channels and the small but powerful $500 S8.2 Subwoofer. Only the Veritas series offers higher performance than the Connoisseurs in the Energy lineup of speakers.

I don’t have a very large living room, so when the boxes arrived at the Audio Video Revolution offices, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could fit the entire system into my compact car. I love monster speakers that can rock an amphitheater as much as the next guy, but I could tell that these reasonably-sized Energy speakers were going to be a good fit to my room from the moment they were being lowered from the delivery truck. Opening the boxes, the new speaker smell wafted up as the amount of care put into the design and build of these speakers became obvious. My Black Ash-colored review speakers were not drop dead gorgeous, yet they were right on par with, if not better aesthetically than, some of the value-oriented speakers that I have reviewed recently, including similarly priced offerings from Polk and Paradigm. Most of the speakers in the Connoisseur line are also available in a much nicer Canadian Maple finish that reviewer Brian Kahn found to be very much to his liking when he reviewed the smaller C-5 as a stereo system. All of the speakers in the Connoisseur line have MDF (medium density fiberboard) enclosures and standard spade-type plugs on the rear for easy installation of most types of speaker cables.

All but two speakers in the Connoisseur line (the C-R1 and C-R3) are magnetically shielded, so placement near TV monitors is not an issue. They also all feature one-inch chambered aluminum dome tweeters, dual baffle structure with Spherex injection molded front baffles and injection molded homopolymer woofer cones that have concave dust caps.

The Energy S8.2 subwoofer features a true 100-watt RMS continuous amplifier behind a long-throw eight-inch woofer. For my room, this small sub has an excellent blend of speed and depth. A sculpted, front-mounted vent reduces noise and offers placement flexibility and the front-mounted controls make it easy to tweak the volume and crossover points.

To make sure the front speakers stay put, Energy has provided small plastic “fins” that attach to the base of the floor-standing C-5s. They are reminiscent of the fins of a silver ‘57 Chevy. They were easy to install and actually blended well with my gray carpet.

The small C-R1 rear channels feature a bi-pole design and were absolutely a breeze to mount on my walls behind my couch. They were created to use the room’s boundaries as reflective surfaces to give them a sound that is much larger and more encompassing than you would expect from a speaker this small. My review samples were black to match the other speakers. However, they are also available in the Canadian Maple/silver color combo or all-white to blend in with most walls. They are small enough that you might opt for the white ones if you have white walls. Even if your mains and center channel are black, the C-R1s are so small that you might even forget they are there. Rears channels, in my opinion, are better heard than seen.

The C-C1 center channel is a good match for any of the speakers in the Connoisseur line, with dual five-and-a-half-inch woofers on each side and a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter in the exact center of the speaker cabinet. Thanks to its front venting, you can place the C-C1 in a cabinet and it will not sound like your movie’s dialogue is emanating from a cave. For my system, I simply added some rubber feet to the speaker and placed it on my TV. I will be changing my theater set-up soon and may have to put the center speaker in a cabinet, so it’s good to know that Energy’s designers thought ahead to make sure they minimized the problems that come with putting a center channel into a tight, enclosed spot.

On all of the speakers in this system, I found the clever method of mounting the speaker’s grilles with a system of small magnets to be ingenious. A series of small round magnets surround the faceplates of each of the speakers and you can easily pop on or remove the grilles without wearing out Velcro or breaking/losing plastic clips. I thought that the magnet to magnet connections might cause the grille cloths to buzz at certain frequencies, but now, with well over 50 hours of listening and television viewing under my belt with these speakers, I have not yet once heard the faintest hint of a rattle due to the speakers’ covers.

Movies and Music
Thanks to celebrities like Ben Affleck and Toby Maguire, poker has become the hottest trend in Hollywood since Kabbalah. To capitalize on this new craze, Miramax has re-issued a special edition DVD of the Matt Damon and Edward Norton poker movie “Rounders” (Miramax). When auditioning a pair of speakers in a home theater setting, I always make sure to use at least one dialogue-heavy film. If you have never been to a card casino, such as the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles, the first thing you hear when entering the main card room is a swarm of clinking chips as thousands of players nervously fiddle with their bankrolls. This same subtle sound comes through crystal clear on the Energy system, as Damon’s character Mike McDermott and Teddy KGB, played by John Malkovich with an over-the-top Russian accent, square off in the opening scene in a dark underground N.Y. poker room. “Rounders” is filled with some rapid-fire dialogue, with many poker terms that can be hard to pick up on, so having a quality center channel when watching this DVD is a real plus. Norton’s character, Lester “Worm” Murphy, a fast-talking conman, fresh out a stint in the county jail, pulls out all the stops to get his pal Mike (who has given up the poker life to focus on law school) back to the card rooms. As Norton goes on his rant about how fun it is to “check raise stupid tourists” at the Taj Mahal, the C-C1 center channel made it easy to follow the dialogue. I’ve seen the film several times using other comparable speakers and, with the Energies hooked up in my theater, I felt like I was getting a real-world refresher course in poker lingo.

I needed to check out the Energies with an action flick, so when my copy of “Starsky and Hutch” (Warner Home Video) arrived in its red Netflix envelope, I figured a car chase scene or two would be a good test. Many a kid in the ‘70s wanted to have a red Ford Gran Taurino with racing stripes thanks to Starsky and Hutch, and of course the car is back to costar in this modern-day comedic remake of the ‘70s TV series. In the act of ultimate sacrifice, Ben Stiller, who plays the by the book cop David Starsky, guns the engine on his beloved car in an attempt to jump the car and land it on the yacht of escaping drug lord Reese Feldman, played brilliantly by Vince Vaughn. As the engine revs and roars, the C5s and S8.2 work in harmony to reproduce the sound of a car engine being pushed to the redline. As the car pans from right to left on the screen, the transitions between the speakers, even to the rears, was smooth. The smaller C-R1 rears easily handled the sound of the engine moving off into the distance. It almost sounded like the car was speeding away from my house for real.

Football is back on TV and although my beloved Dolphins’ former running back Ricky Williams would rather sit in a cloud of smoke in his living room than smoke linebackers on his way to the end zone, I took the Energy System through its paces on my X-Box with NFL Fever, the latest football game from Microsoft. No matter how hard I cranked the Kenwood receiver that the Energies were connected to, I couldn’t get it to buckle even from the sound of big tackles and hits as my virtual Ricky Williams tore through all would-be tacklers. These games are getting frighteningly realistic, as are the soundtracks. It’s almost scary how much playing one of these games feels like watching a big Sunday afternoon game and using a quality surround system like the Connoisseur brings you even closer to football gaming nirvana.

I’ve been spinning Maroon 5’s excellent album Songs About Jane in my car CD player for the past month or so. It was ear-opening to pop the disc into my home theater and listen to it on the C-5s. Formatted for a two-channel system with a subwoofer, the music came to life thanks to the funky, soulful pop sounds of this Los Angeles quartet. On the recent radio hit “This Love,” the imaging of the piano riff that anchors the song was rock solid. The Energies’ high end didn’t have quite the same gleam as the smaller Polk LSi 9 bookshelf speakers that I recently had in my theater as front speakers, but the midrange and low end on the Energy speakers was more energetic, thanks to the dual woofer set-up on the front of the C5s.

Seal’s IV on DVD-Audio has been a nice recent addition to my surround sound collection with its tight mix and stellar sound quality. Although the mix is pretty front-heavy, the surrounds provide smooth natural ambience on the love song “Love’s Devine.” The more laid-back-sounding dome tweeters in the Energies work very well with Seals distinctive voice, smoothing it out even more but still maintain a good level of sibilance, which is necessary to reproduce his trademark vocal rasp. Again, this is another track that I had auditioned with the Polks and found the flavor of the Energies to be different but smoother and have a higher-quality midrange.

The Downside
Although the styling is futuristic and modern with the silver fins on the feet and silver plastic face on the front panels, the hard square lines of the Connoisseur C-5s look a little dated. With the black speaker grilles on, the whole speaker line looks more elegant. The brilliant system of attaching the grilles with magnets made it a no-brainer to leave them on. With all of the grilles firmly on, the only design element that leaves something to be desired are the plastic feet that help stabilize the C-5s.

The styling of the subwoofer is not going to knock anyone’s socks off, either. The amount of advanced technology that this little subwoofer features is overshadowed by the fact that it’s just not the sexiest sub I’ve seen. This is one of those speakers where the personality is better than the looks. The sub has all the options I could hope for, rich clean bass with no noticeable distortion even when driven hard, thanks to its internal Class A/B amplification with MOSFET type power transistors, but it could have been put into a sexier package with looks more like Energy’s own Encore subwoofer.

The number of choices in value-priced 5.1 speaker systems is almost infinite and if you are like me and enjoy movies, video games and music equally, you need a well-rounded system like the Energy Connoisseur. There are many options that you can choose to dial into the system to fit your room’s needs. The build and instructions are high quality and, since all of the speakers in the Connoisseur line are very efficient, you can easily drive them with a good quality receiver if you don’t yet have a separate amp and preamp.

Energy’s design philosophy of wide bandwidth, low distortion and resonance and wide and constant dispersion was strictly adhered to when making the Connoisseur line. You can take advantage of much of the trickle-down technology from their top of the line Veritas speakers, but keep some extra dollars in your pocket for quality cables or that new DVD-Audio/SACD combo player you have been lusting over and still have a nice set of speakers in your theater with the Connoisseurs for under $2,100.
Manufacturer Energy Speakers
Model Connoisseur Speaker System
Reviewer Bryan Dailey

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