The Short Form
|$2,000 / audica.co.uk / 866-928-3422|
|•Radically slim, décor-friendly design
•Clean, open sound
•Impressive dynamics on music and movies
|•Somewhat lean lower midrange|
|•CS-T1 tower ($1,000 a pair) 0.5-in tweeter, four 2-in midrange/woofers; 41.5-in high; 32 lbs each
•CS-C1 center ($250) 0.5-in tweeter, four 2-in midrange/woofers; 11 in wide; 5.5 lbs
•CS-S1 satellite surrounds ($300 a pair) 0.5-in tweeter, two 2-in midrange/woofers; 7.3 in high; 6.5 lbs
•CS-Sub10 subwoofer ($500) 10-in woofer; 150-watt amplifier; 15.8 x 15.3 x 15.8 in, 35.3 lbs
•Speakers available in anodized titanium silver or anodized carbon black finish; metallic gunmetal gray finish only for subwoofer
MUSIC PERFORMANCE With the subwoofer happily plugged back in, I sat down to spin some tunes. Jazz sax player Charles Lloyd's "Ballade and Allegro" quickly keyed me in on the system's performance. The piano on this track had lots of natural ambience and warmth, and when Lloyd cut in with his solo mid-song, details like the reedy texture of his close-miked horn came across clearly. Overall, the Audica CS-System 3's sound seemed open and clean rather than being bright or in-your-face. The one complaint I had was a somewhat recessed quality to the lower midrange - it was as if a small slice of the sax's bottom end was absent. Raising the crossover setting helped out here, restoring some fullness that had previously gone missing.
In stereo mode, I cued up Sufjan Stevens' "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois," the opening track from his concept album Illinois, and the Audica towers presented a tremendously wide soundstage. Stevens' vocals remained locked in dead center, while the song's wash of piano and wind instruments seemed to billow out around the room. It was probably as close to a surround sound presentation as I've ever heard coming from a pair of speakers. Digging deeper into my alternative rock rack, I next listened to Secret Machines' "Faded Lines." The System 3 did an admirable job of capturing this band's stadium-worthy sound. Dynamics were powerful, and the lows came across very cleanly, making it easy to distinguish between the song's machine-like kick drum and equally precise bass guitar notes.
MOVIE PERFORMANCE Kingdom of Heaven is a movie that supposedly was taken away from director Ridley Scott by the studio, which is why I'm glad I waited to catch the director's cut on DVD. The first thing I noticed when watching it on the Audica system was the CS-C1's clear rendering of voices. During a scene where Godfrey (Liam Neeson) and his fellow knights converse with Godfrey's brother, their dialogue inside the cavernous castle sounded effortless and clean, with little change in timbre when I listened to it from an off-center seat.
With movies set in medieval times, you can count on plentiful sword fights and jousts, and Kingdom of Heaven delivers. In a scene where Godfrey's brother sets his army on the band of idealistic knights, the CS-Sub10 conveyed a realistic rumble of horse hooves as the attackers galloped across a campsite. The trajectory of arrows from the front to the rear of the room also sounded vivid on the system, as did the clanging of crossed swords, which seemed to ring out with equal force from each speaker. In sum, I'd say that the Audica's handling of medieval battle scenes was very impressive for such slim speakers.
BOTTOM LINE The CS-System 3 is up against plenty of stiff competition in the two-grand range - I can think of a half-dozen or so systems selling for around that price that deliver excellent performance and look pretty good as well. But what sets the Audica CS-System 3 speakers apart is a radically slim cabinet design that addresses the needs of lifestyle-oriented listeners while sacrificing relatively little in terms of performance. I was doubtful at first, but after listening to the skinny System 3 for a week, I was surprised at how well it met my everyday home theater needs. For speakers that were designed to literally evaporate into the background, that's a substantial achievement.
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