In a world which has proved that slender and sexy can still mean potent when it comes to loudspeakers, the existence of the good ones is still a bit of a close guarded secret. Many makers state that their skinny tower-based systems - or 'designer' systems if you will - all work very evenly across the audio spectrum. Of course, in my experience some do not; many work so badly that you can even accuse them of being little more than works of twisted art.
DLS is a Swedish firm well known for its high-end car speakers - its brands have been installed in the adjudged 'best-sounding car' in all Europe for the last two years by the European Mobile Media Association (EMMA). DLS makes good, powerful drivers with great accuracy and design know-how.
It also understands enclosures and the different acoustic gain signatures that occur. Most manufacturers are happy to make sealed or ported enclosures only, or, perhaps, to get involved with transmission line boxes if they really know their stuff. This set of home cinema speakers uses every trick in the book to make a few small drivers rock like big ones.
Reviewed here are a set of T3 front towers, a TM3 small monitor or bookshelf speakers for the rears, a TC3 centre enclosure and one of DLS' active Sub3.10 low-end reproducers. The three types of main speaker all use the same drivers but enclose them very differently.
To start with, they all share the same 25mm tweeters. The T3 and TC3 have the same paired 3in drivers either side of the tweeter; vertical on the towers, horizontally in the centre enclosure. In the T3 the towers' length is used to make the enclosure into a transmission line type, so the bass from two midrange drivers reaches all the way down to 48Hz, well below the 80Hz bass takeover point.
The centre enclosure is ported and has low-end extension of 72Hz, so it reaches just below the crucial crossover point with the subwoofer as well. The rear boxes have one 3in midbass driver to go with their tweeter. They are an 8 Ohm impedance box rather than a 4 Ohm job, which means you might have to set the rear's output a bit higher, dependent upon their installation proximity to the listening position. They also leave a 10Hz hole between where they extend down to (90Hz) and where the LF starts up at 80Hz
The subwoofer is straightforward in design but kicks serious butt due to classy components. A very rigid inert box is ported with a large plastic gas-flowed mouth to the rear, and a seriously long throw driver mounted in the front. You get gain and crossover point control, as well as a sweepable phase control.
I'm still spinning Robots in my DVD-A1 Denon reference deck. The details and the bass in the soundtrack are brilliant, with the clangs, biffs and thuds boasting a selection of metallic qualities, as well as profound bassy rumbles and thumps, that this system just loved.
What really impresses is just how well the skinny boxes manage to match up with the subwoofer's output. The Sub3.10, while not quite a reference design, is able to drop very deeply, and even do a fair fist of the 15Hz bass throb in Holst's Mars that I span on Telarc's DTS demo CD.
The tweeters' synergy is strong, with great edge definition, imaging and placing coming mostly from that part of the product. The physical weight of the sound, as well as a definite clarity and ability to place big sonic components in places quite at remove from the enclosures, is strong too.
These speakers are a definite example of design cunning, good use of acoustic gain in enclosures and drive unit excellence all combining to make a landmark item.
In fact, these may be the best skinny towers currently available - they are not a sonic compromise. If you like it powerful, and don't really mind if you can't quite inflate your theatre room to spherical with sound pressure, then these may well satisfy both picky partners and mad-for-it home cinephiles. Worth auditioning!