Yorkshire-based Castle Acoustics is one of the few remaining British loudspeaker companies to design and build everything in-house. And Castle's recently expanded Compact range is surprisingly affordable given its sturdy build quality and performance.
The series comes in real-wood cabinets with a choice of eleven finishes. The entry level package is based on four satellite units plus a Centre and Cube subwoofer. However, the higher-end arrangement reviewed here replaces the small satellites with a different line-up - including two extra 'centre' speakers as front left and right - to produce a slightly gutsier sound and better integration. Because the bass and treble drivers are identical, they match the rear speakers too. Providing able support is a pair of 150W Cube subwoofers.
For the rear are two pairs of Castle's revised Compact Dipole speaker. Dipoles have a wider dispersion than bipoles. The sound is slightly less focussed but this makes them excellent for movie surround effects. With two pairs you can use them in classic THX-style placement with two wall-mounted behind you and two on either side of the room.
Combined with the two subs this gives a superb, tightly matched sonic coverage in big spaces and something approaching a convincing cinema sound. If you don't have the budget or space for these extra cabinets then the speakers work just as efficiently in a standard 5.1 arrangement.
Either way, the quality is good. The DTSES track on the extended Return of the King DVDs has a glorious sweep, especially when the score and battle effects are in full swing. The cool, moody atmosphere of Michael Mann's Collateral is also rendered beautifully, with bassy dialogue, an open, airy background and explosive action when required.
The dipoles cast a noticeable but not-toodistracting sound that meets perfectly with the main channels. There's plenty of silky bass in the Centre LCR for dialogue, while using two more of these speakers for the front left and right creates a very even response across the front. The Cube subs are more than up to the task of matching the main channels and adding lower frequency depth.
Although the ensemble is strongly matched and capable of handling transitions with consistency, vocals can sound rather 'boxed in' at the front, though this may also depend on how the movie has been mixed. Elsewhere, the sound is smooth and not too locked to each speaker's position in the room. Although they lack the mid-range punch of big floorstanders, the speakers' musical performance is above average, considering their size and price. An Englishman's home is his Castle and now you can furnish it with this appropriately well fortified system.