POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 9
5.1 Vitra Home Theatre System
as reviewed by Roger S. Gordon
Most audiophiles would love to have a killer surround-sound system. For those with unlimited budgets, this is not a problem, but for the rest of us, having a home theater system in addition to our main stereo system can be a budget buster. There is the option of the Home-Theater-in-a-Box, with a surround processor/amp, five plastic speakers, and a dinky subwoofer for $300 or less. I have such a system (a Creative Labs/Cambridge Soundworks 5.1) in my office. Using a Radio Shack portable CD player as input, the music is enjoyable, but not what I would call high end. At the other end of the scale, there are high end theater systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Is there anything toward the lower end of the scale that delivers something better than mid-fi sound for less than $2000?
Aside from being less than $2000, my home theater system also had to be compact in size, and the speakers had to be mountable either on the walls or on the home entertainment unit that covers one of the 12-foot walls in my 12 x 20-foot room. This requirement is dictated by the fact that my theater room is not a dedicated room. It has to serve as a guest bedroom several times a year, and as a second dining room when our church group comes over for potluck dinners. Now, having a small room usually means spending less, but a small room is usually not good for the Big Sound required by cinematic earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and nuclear explosions.
Thinking about possible solutions, I remembered hearing the Anthony Gallo Acoustic speakers, which consist of 4-inch globes atop thin pipes that serve as stands, plus a subwoofer hidden in the corner. I had heard them at CES a few years ago, and had been quite impressed with the quality of sound for a very affordable price. The spherical shape of the speaker enclosures didnt worry me, though it is very different from conventional box speakers. I once attended a lecture by Bill Firebaugh of Well-Tempered Turntable fame, in which he showed his prototype of a large spherical loudspeaker that never made it into production. I remembered all of the advantages Mr. Firebaugh claimed for a spherical speaker enclosure, which included: (1) rigidity with no internal bracing (more volume to let the bass notes develop), (2) no internal standing waves, as there are no parallel surfaces, (3) ease of manufacturing (and lower cost), and (4) no refractions off the front face. However, I could not find a local source for the Gallo globes.
While I was pondering my next move, a friend who is heavily into home theater suggested I consider Morel speakers, as they also make a home theater system that utilizes 5-inch globe-shaped speakers. I had never heard of Morel, so after logging onto the web for a little research, I discovered that the company is a well-known manufacturer of...