The System Fidelity 5000 Series shows design flair, but the handsome cabinets, with their sumptuous piano lacquer finish, are strangely reminiscent of a neighbouring Danish speaker specialist.
Perhaps the fact that one of SF's production guys is an ex-Jamo man has something to with it. The design, however, is down to Slovenian engineer Andrej Persin.
The 5000 Series is the prestige package from System Fidelity and at this price in a crowded market, they'll be going toe-to-toe with established British marques like B&W and KEF and of course, Jamo, so what makes these boxes such a dark threat?
To begin with, the build quality and extraordinary finish display real workmanship. The MDF cabinets are invisible under the thick lacquer, but the elegantly-tapered shape and precision-engineered baffle shine through.
At the rear of each one are ingenious spring-loaded gold-plated binding posts that can take both banana plugs and bare wire.
On the bases of the front pair you get big brass spikes that screw in for a flush fit and good clearance from the floor. These spiked feet isolate the cabinets from external vibration, which can also affect sound quality.
The drive units are from an OEM factory, but they're of a high order and there are lots of them. That's the other thing – these cabinets are big.
Each front tower stands chest-high and weighs in at a considerable 16.8kg. This'll rule them out of the more bijou home cinema setups, but it does give them quite a sonic advantage.
The voluminous double-ported, braced enclosure gives these speakers a full-throated voice, reinforcing the mid and low-end frequencies with a rich and resonant bass. And because the cabinets taper from front-to-back and top-to-bottom, there are no parallel sides inside, and hence no diminishing standing waves.
Meanwhile, their solid construction, from heavy wood with plenty of cross bracing and weighting, rules out any of the vibration interference that you get with flimsier speakers.
All this adds up to a mightily impressive stereo soundstage from the front pair. The tall towers hold the tweeter high, which means it's bang in line with your ears when you sit.
This bolsters the stereo imaging, which has a genuinely three-dimensional quality when you're in the sweet spot. With an acoustic set like Nick Drake's Pink Moon album, it places the musician and his guitar between the speakers in a very convincing way.
The front SF-5050s strike a tone on the warm side of neutral and this is continued across the rest of the 5000 cabinets.
As a team, the result is a full-on assault with complete cohesion between front, centre and rear channels, and a wide dynamic range from the fine treble of the coated fabric dome tweeters to the deep boom of the bass drivers.
From a musical point of view, this system works very nicely without the SF-300SW subwoofer, but for movies, there's just no substitute for an active woofer to take care of the dedicated LFE channel.
Spinning Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Blu-ray disc shows how much detail there is buried in its Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, but also reveals some slight continuity issues with the system.
The front pair certainly have no trouble conjuring up the kind of full-scale movie sound that you need to match a large projected image and a boisterous movie like this.
The dramatic music accompanying Harry in the dragon-chase scene fills the room with these two speakers alone, while subtle sound effects, like tiles falling from rooftops, are picked out beautifully.
Yet the rear channels have trouble keeping up. Physically, the little SF-5005 surrounds are dwarfed by the fronts, and significant rear sound FX are scaled down a bit at the back.
I accept System Fidelity's logic that nearly all of the important stuff is going on at the front of the soundstage and the surrounds are less important, but with a TrueHD soundtrack, there's actually a lot going on at the back too.
The CC50 centre enclosure, on the other hand, is well equipped to handle dialogue. It too is physically different to the front pair in form factor and because of this, it's not the most seamless front array that I've heard.
The five drive units are packed in a row and its mid-band drivers are smaller than those of the front pair. The speaker itself weighs a bracket-busting 7kg and either wall-mounted or standing on a pedestal, it delivers dialogue with perfect BBC elocution.
The same ceramic dome tweeters employed in all five speakers are a rather unusual and esoteric design, using a composite coating that's predominantly a ceramic material. They take a little running in to take the hard, edgy quality off them, but after that, they'll reach the high notes without any screeching or sibilance.
Some might prefer the more subtle bounce of a softer fabric dome tweeter, but it's a matter of taste. Their directness does at least balance well with the warmth of the mid and bass frequencies, making dialogue and detail stand out in the mix rather than letting it be swamped.
The subwoofer is unspectacular, but then, with such a strong bass section coming from the mighty
SF-5050 fronts, it's not required to do much.
It also looks like SF ran out of black lacquer at this point; the woofer is styled in black vinyl wrap. Regardless, it's good enough at fielding the low frequencies of the Harry Potter soundtrack, throwing out plenty of well-extended bass from its down-firing 10in woofer.
It has independent volume and frequency dials, and like the front speakers, it stands on tall spikes that give it plenty of clearance. When it comes to placement, it prefers a hard surface – floorboards for instance – to stand on.
Overall then, this Series 5000 system has both welly in the low-end and a precise, if rather bright, top-end. And, with a broad midrange sweeping from the front three speakers, as a whole it paints a full and vibrant image.
The fact that the front pair require a fair amount of power and a certain amount of space means they won't suit every room, but their sound, in the right system, will certainly have a wide appeal.
The Danish invasion continues...