With an eye for design that looks more organic than technical, these speakers from Audica of Cambridge are gorgeously crafted. Sliced in half, each of the CS-Series enclosures reviewed here is a perfect elongated teardrop.
They're almost aerofoil shaped, but the length of each surface is the same, so there would be no inherent 'lift' were these actually wings rather than speakers.
Clearly, the kit reviewed is intended to complement a flatscreen TV, be it plasma or LCD. The speakers look as svelte as the standard silver panel, but also offer serious acoustic output. After all, if you've invested big-time in your screen, why compromise with the sound, even if you're intent on making a lifestyle statement.
The speaker set uses the same D'Appolito-style array of three drivers in each location, but varies slightly as to application via three different front-stage options. There are two 50mm drivers flanking a 10mm tweeter. All use high-power magnets made of Neodymium and the collective output from such tiny drivers is truly surprising.
The system configuration reviewed here comprised the innovative CS-LCR (a single unit with three separate drive units for the left, centre and right front channels) which sits under the screen, two teardrop shaped CS-S1 satellites and the CS-10 subwoofer.
The CS-LCR unit is a long wing-shaped item, that reveals three sets of D'Appolito arrays (mid-tweeter-mid) when you remove the grille. This long wing serves, as the name suggests, to provide the entire front soundstage, with the rear ones on neat swivel-brackets which can point at the listeners from behind.
Each enclosure is rated as going down to 80Hz, although this is not qualified in dB level, where a small but potent subwoofer takes over.
Powered by an 8-inch driver with 100W to draw upon, this small box impressed me with its low end frequency extension and general enthusiasm.
The system configuration reviewed here is based around the all-in-one frontstage CS-LCR. Alternatively, Audica offers two more conventional systems. One with two floorstanding left/right speakers, the CS-C1 centre and the CS-S1 rears, but this will push the system price to over a grand; or a more conventional squad of CS-S1 satellites, the centre, and sub, which is priced somewhere in between.
Personally, I would have ordered the towers, as they are equally good looking and offer a more widely spread front soundstage. However, for once in my career as a reviewer, I found a speaker system which works well with a corner-placed TV.
Many people still place their telly in the corner, even if it is a flatpanel, and very few speaker systems address this. With the screen-width-only LCR box, you needn't worry about fitting the system into your world, and the brackets with the rears are brilliant. The accompanying manual helpfully advises you to ensure that all five speaker leads are the same length as each other to keep the sound even.
The sub is a simple crossover point and volume job, with two dials, two sets of speaker inputs and one set of phonos, used as mono-in and link-out.
There is also a phasereverser switch. Sockets for speaker wires will only allow thin ones to be used without adhering to the 4mm banana plug standard, but are solid and well made, screwing in underneath each speaker enclosure.
Vocal clarity is superb, with great detail, speed and imagery. The speakers produce a sound way beyond their physical size and while they can't shake the foundations, that isn't their point.
Use them and my bet is that folks will be asking incredulously, 'Is that sound really emanating from the wee speakers on show?' You can mumble back about the aluminium enclosures being as rigid as hell, and how well designed the small sub is, and conclude with a comment about the things being more than the sum of their parts, and your visitors will be seriously impressed.
I tried a variety of test material and consistently found that the tweeters reached a long way up and extracted all manner of background details, squeaks and low volume sounds.
My current favourite reference disc is the remake of The Ladykillers, complete with distant ships' horns and a choir of superb gospel singers. This Audica set could get me on an emotional level that only a system of greater magnitude could match.
In many ways, this system is a triumph of compact design. If you want to build a system around a stylish flatscreen, that's sonically superior yet doesn't compromise your living space, I'm hard pushed to think of a more individual and rewarding solution. There are plenty of ordinary sub/sat systems to choose from, but not many extraordinary ones.