Bottom-octave bass aside, the Take 5.2 system plays ridiculously loud for such a bantamweight (remember - each satellite is about the size of a box of Pop-Tarts). That said, like every other system with 3 1/2-inch woofers I've evaluated, it couldn't reach concert-hall levels, or even concertlike ones, in stereo playback. The front L/R satellites announced their low-frequency dynamic limit with a mild "Thwop!" on kick-drum beats and the like. With typical pop music, this was masked at first by the subwoofer's output, but it became obvious as I cranked up the volume. And yet, despite repeated excursions into this danger zone, I failed to damage a single satellite.
Of course, surround-encoded music and movie soundtracks enjoy an advantage of several decibels in dynamic potential by having five satellite speakers pumping air instead of only two. The system was able to play quite a bit louder on multichannel rock recordings before the sound became noticeably muddy. We're not talking concert levels here, but plenty loud for a cozy room of 12 x 16 feet or so.
For its part, the S8.2 sub never sounded stressed-out thanks to dynamic "smart" limiting of its low-pass-filtered signals, but I did notice a sort of bass-sustain effect on bass-rich music - like "Froz en Charlotte" from the Merchant recording - played at extremely high volumes.
The Take 5.2 setup excelled with movie soundtracks. Dialogue was clear, intelligible, and precisely balanced - the little Tale 1.2 center speaker did a good job. Tonal matching between the center speaker and the front left/right pair was very good on both voices and instruments, as close as I've heard from any inexpensive system with mini satellites. The center channel even seemed to have a bit less of the off-axis "honk" I usually hear from horizontally oriented center speakers with dual woofers. All this added up to seamless front soundstage imaging and incredible realism in dramatic pans, like the helicopter scenes near the beginning of Rules of Engagement. While I prefer the more diffuse envelopment provided by my usual dipole surround speakers, the Take 2.2s functioned well enough in that capacity.
Overall, Energy's Take 5.2 is one of the best ultracompact home theater speaker systems I've heard so far, and at the price it's a stone-cold steal. If you're looking for a system as small as possible and your budget is about $1,000, the Take 5.2 is hard to beat.
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