If Gumby were shopping for speakers, the new Infinity Cascades are what he'd choose. Their shapes quickly call to mind the green, bendable character - at least for boomers or SNL addicts who recall Eddie Murphy's classic routine ("I'm Gumby, dammit!"). But they're also among the most striking, elegant, and - with their smoothly laminated bentwood baffles - downright strokeable loudspeakers I've encountered. And another thing: They sound good, too - damn good, dammit!
What We Think
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Infinity sent us a system with floor-standing Model Nines in front, the wall-mountable Three C center channel, and a pair of Model Five bookshelf speakers for surrounds. All use the MRS (Maximum Radiating Surface), a new bass/midrange transducer developed by Infinity. This 4 x 6-inch rectangular flat-panel driver uses a conventional coils-and-magnets "motor" system but otherwise bears little resemblance to a cone woofer. Its creator claims several advantages beyond the obvious savings in depth, among them high power-handling (and output) compared to earlier flat, membrane drivers; smooth, extended response; and good directivity - wide horizontally, controlled vertically.
Whatever you think of the technology or singular look of these speakers, their fit and finish are first-class, front to back and top to bottom, with heavy cast stands, high-grade, bi-wireable metal input terminals, and expensive-looking extruded structures to their rear and sides. Their sheer-cloth grilles are cleverly held in place by magnets, but these speakers are better admired in their birthday suits - a much more pleasing view.
SETUP I arrayed the Cascades in my usual fashion, with the Nines flanking my 50-inch rear projector (pulled a few inches out past the screen), the Three C just below its lower edge, and the Model Five surrounds on my high side-wall shelves. The sub went in my standard location to the left of the left-front speaker, long established as one of my room's best subwoofer spots.
MUSIC PERFORMANCE My initial impression of the Cascade array was a bit underwhelming: I heard no dramatic displays of imaging prowess, no dynamic wonders, no sparkling highs or romancing mids. But the longer I listened, the more I concluded that these speakers do just about everything well, most things very well indeed, and many things excellently.
Beginning with the Model Nines alone, in full-range stereo, I heard bass response that sounded very close to the claimed limit of 80 Hz (-3 dB). This is enough, barely, for satisfying casual listening on most pop music, but you'll want the subwoofer for anything more ambitious. Tonal balance was exceedingly neutral: the Nines reproduced the gamut of male and female voices with fine articulation and utterly without undue emphasis or obvious colorations - boring for the reviewer but good for the listener, and a principal goal of any responsible speaker designer.
With the Model Twelve subwoofer dialed in, the overall result was outstanding: perhaps a touch warm in the 50-100 Hz octave, but otherwise supple and natural-sounding. For example, on recordings like "Donkey Town" from All the Roadrunning, the duo release by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, the ability to call out a sense of natural detail and "space" on some instruments but not others was striking (this is presumably the result of the layered assembly of the recording). The sonic palette on both Knopfler's rich baritone and Harris's distinctive, almost nasal/breathy voice was ideally balanced, giving neither voice any hint of boxiness, "honk," or bloat. Overall presentation was very slightly less sparkling and out-front projected than I'm accustomed to hearing from my everyday speakers, though I hesitate to state a preference.
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