Infinity is part of the Harman International umbrella of AV brands, but while its speakers share their techy stuff with cabinets from stable-mate JBL, they keep their own distinct classy-not-hooligan flavour. This is evidenced by the sumptuous design of this Classia series, which definitely has one eye on the 'lifestyle' market. It's all curved edges and nifty angles.
The Classias come with either cherry wood or gloss black cheeks, yet the pretty finish is not carried under the smart, brushed aluminium-framed grilles. Here, the multiple drivers take centre stage, although Infinity have added a badge so you can whip the grilles off and still let everybody know you've got some serious AV ordnance.
The big C336 floor-standers tote a distinctively different 1in tweeter, 4in midrange driver, and three 6.5in woofers. The tweeter features an ovoid stubby horn, described as wave-guiding the output, and is designed to improve the off-axis response. That means it should sound good from a wider area than just one sweet spot.
The patented Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm (CMMD) drivers have diaphragms made of two layers of alumina (aluminium ceramic), separated by a pure aluminium substrate. The result is lightweight, stiff and strong – all desirable properties for 'air-shifters'. The basic principle is similar to that of Acoustic Energy's 'pure piston' drivers, and claims to deliver distortion-free natural sound.
The C336 bear a warning not to lift them on your own, and a big port mouth. Run with the supplied stereo RABOS (Room-Adaptive Bass-Optimisation System) bass-tuning CD, these could be heard dropping with enormous power, weight and total authority.
Tight as can be with three 6.5in drivers breathing in a big box, they are ready for any stereophile with real urges in their hearts. And while obviously 'feature' rather than 'stealth' items, they proved a perfect aesthetic match to my Panasonic plasma.
Because it can be wall-mounted, the CC 225 centre bears its port on its face. It has the same waveguide tweeter, flanked on either side by a 5.25in CMMD bass/mid driver.
The C225ES rears are the really clever part of the Classia lineup. These dipolar cabinets feature a normal up-down/down-up single tweeter and midbass driver on each face, but instead of simple bipole-dipole switching, there's a third position option for use as a single monopole speaker, effectively turning one set of drivers off. Also, you can connect them via the two sets of speaker posts to send two sets of channels to each speaker enclosure, and run 7.1 channels from a 5.1 box system. Except that, as supplied, it was 5.2-channel.
I auditioned the Classia system with two of the PSW 210W woofers. Passive radiation is their game, an idea I adore. Instead of a port, you have another 'speaker' but with no magnet. It just wobbles and gives a push of breeze to the bass. In theory, this means you get all the extra grunt of a ported enclosure, with all the throbby abilities of a sealed one.
The only fly in my audiophile ointment is that the 'big' sub of the range is based around a 10in woofer and not a 12in. Still, the PSW may represent one of the best value-for-money buys in home cinema bass at the moment. Not only does it have the RABOS bass-tuning system, but Infinity has also included a 2.4GHz wireless system.
So you plug in your subs where the mains allows, then send the LFE signal to the single RCA socket on the sender box. It works a treat, and I had one woofer at one end of the lounge and one at the other.
RABOS uses an SPL meter, a stereo CD and a lot of your patience. After ages of graphs, measuring and web wrangling, RABOS tells you how to set the three knobs on the back of the sub. These are simply a single band of Parametric EQ with controls for boost/cut (level), frequency and Q-factor (which relates to relative bandwidth). It's a process that dedicated auto-EQ systems like Audyssey can do in 30 seconds and for the whole output.
With 400W behind it, the PSW can kick hard – but the thing is that the towers are so astonishingly potent that a boom from them will fight any parametric adjustment from the subs and simply emasculate them. I don't doubt that in the right room where you can mess about a bit with placement of the towers, this could be got around. Some would stuff tissues up their port but I don't do that unless it's within the designed remit of the manufacturer.
The movie test
Tropic Thunder was the movie of choice for this audition, a spoof Vietnam movie that moves from an awesome scene of cinematic mayhem in the 'Hot LZ' – part of the 'film-within-a-film' – and then gets all scary and real.
The opening sequence has an Apocalypse Now-style choppers and 60s music feel that's good and dynamic. I was impressed by the speed and detail of the Infinity system, how it dropped low and made a decent fist of the helicopters' throbbing. Then came the 'four-million dollar explosion'. It had weight, depth and a good soundfield from all the ancillary effects.
At around 22 minutes in it all goes a bit serious as the truculent movie stars are taken into the jungle for real. The soundtrack here is hip-hop and the choppers are louder. The explosions and gunshots now have 'real' bullets behind them that ping and ricochet with intense believability.
The Classias remained in control even in the later explosive moments and proved that the perception of scale can be in levels and layers, if the system is good enough. Lesser sets would have failed to make the distinction between 'film set-within a-film' real and movie 'real'.
The scale is big without being oppressive. The first 'real' gunshot startles the hell out of you, though, so the speakers can do beefy as well as allowing you to count crickets and frogs at night in the jungle.
The Classia system delivers great impact with majestic weight and might, and super-snappy speed and detail courtesy of the CMMD technology. These are a real treat for audiophiles who also like some meat.
Add in the crowd-pleasing design, wireless subwoofers and dipole rears and you have a winning package.