What we have here, in the shape of Teufel's THX Ultra2 System 8, is a set of speakers designed from the ground up to adhere to the excitement levels that George Lucas and Tom Holman decided were appropriate all those years ago when they formed THX.
Of course, THX has evolved so much further. It's an independent company, and isn't resting upon Tom and George's laurels. Instead, it's evolved and enhanced their concept, dividing it up into two levels for different sizes of rooms found on each side of the Atlantic.
The System 8 is the mid-to highest level of THX Ultra2 kit that Teufel makes (the brand also produced the world's first speaker set to adhere to this newest Ultra2 specification) and, to put it bluntly, it is stonking.
I was so rude about a previous Teufel system's looks that one of the UK-based public relations team called me up to take me to task over what I wrote in the review… something about being hit with the ugly stick. But I reckon that's missing the point – all that a serious THX user cares about is the sensation and the emotion the experience brings.
Shiny good looks were not part of Holman's original specification. Indeed, I recall early JBL THX stuff looking like pro audio thuggery wearing a dinner jacket of black wood veneer. For me that was exciting. But I'm odd.
However, Teufel's System 8 is deeply sexy, as well as being able to raise the goosebumps on the performance front.
This £2,700 setup comprises two kinds of small boxes (the S800 front channel speakers and the S 800 D dipolar rears), and one ruddy great lumpy box, the S800 SW subwoofer.
Starting at the bottom end, the subwoofer is a simple application of physics. Massive cone plus massive amp plus massive deep-breathing slotted box equals room-shaking bass. The S800 SW is a big cubic beast with has a definite front and back.
The behind has fins, a bunch of connectors for phono or speaker in and out (just in case you want, like, four of them…) and a single frequency knob to fix your crossover point between 40Hz and 240Hz. And that's your lot, because the woofer is supplied with a natty remote that does other functions – not many, but the ones that matter. For instance, press one button and you have the THX setting at the right gain.
Or you can choose to alter the playing level with the gain up and down, and even choose to flip the phase from the remote. All this is monitored by a panel of LEDs in the sub's front fascia.
The exterior of the subwoofer is deliciously pretty and quite unsuited to a house as cat-filled as mine – I quickly got a lot of moggy-on-the-car-bonnet-looking paw prints all over the deep lustrous piano black finish.
This same finish is applied to the other enclosures, which are quite small scale for what they do. The rears are classic Dipoles, a bit less common now that many systems are so very discrete channel-capable.
I'm less a fan of diffuse dipolar rears than I am of big in-your-face (well back of your head) direct radiating designs, but these are the real THX thing. They have a small bracket on their back as well as two stand-off rods at their bases to make sure they are correctly boundary loaded against the wall.
Likewise, although you can get stands for the fronts, these also have a brace of hole brackets on their rears to cater for wall mounting. Each speaker has an interference fit grille (called a 'grid' in the otherwise well-translated English manual), with the dipoles, of course, having two, hiding the tweeter and 4in midbass cone. Each dipole's rear face also has a bigger mid-bass driver that bumps the lower tones out.
I had to open up one of the S800 FCR speakers as it rattled dully and didn't work. It turned out that a) these were the very first ever set off the production line and b) someone had probably dropped the carton and managed to snap the meaty internal passive crossover away from where it was secured to the back of the speaker terminal cup. I attempted to repair it, but instead found myself on the receiving end of Teufel's brilliantly efficient replacement service.
For, apart from the long trial period you are allowed in case you don't like them, having bought them at long range as it were, they have to be better than most at curing any issues, as they are a direct seller.
Opening up the FCR revealed that the big midbass drivers share an acoustically-damped internal space, but that the smaller midband driver has its very own cylindrical internal enclosure to play in. This keeps those hard working-by-necessity 5.25in diaphragms pumping without beating up the smaller driver. It's a very neat piece of engineering.
Like the sub, all the satellites boast a lustrous piano black that does make them look desirable. And I love all the aluminium trim, too.
Up and away
As regular readers will know, I love a good bit of animation, not only due to often brilliant mix of Hollywood voices and top-end CGI, but the inventive surround soundtracks. For this test, I stuffed Pixar's Up into my latest acquisition – a Sony BD deck – lowered the lights and relaxed in front of my Panny plasma. I then, however, simply wallowed in what I knew would be a treat, making no notes! This is something that happens to AV reviewers from time to time.
Anyway, Up starts with a 1950s cinema newsreel, complete with a sonic overlay to convey the vintage feel. As the film goes on, different sonic challenges appear. The story involves a floating house, and is crammed with all sorts of action, but the really superb tester is the wonderful premise that if you tie enough balloons filled with helium to your house, it will fly.
Now, the sound a balloon makes as it bumps against another in a bunch has as many mad overtones as pebbles scattered onto ice. There are all the squeaky sounds, obviously, but there're deep noises, too, as masses of enclosed gas bounce.
This is quite deep if you have a few of them, and the bunch that raised the house was supposed to be huge. Teufel's System 8 set absolutely ate it for breakfast. It's detailed, beautifully balanced and rich with weight and scale – really impressive.
The huge woofer can produce giant wave front explosions and the rest of the system is adept at placement and delicacy.
Teufel's System 8 THX Ultra 2 is an absolute treat, and I can recommend it unreservedly. It mixes top-grade performance with quality looks, and while its direct sale nature might not be everyone's cup of tea, its direct sale price certainly sweetens the deal.
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