I arranged the five L5s in my usual manner for satellite speakers, though to avoid drilling holes in my walls, I placed the front left/right pair vertically on small, heavy stands flush against the wall, flanking the TV. The center speaker went horizontally on a shelf atop the set, though in a real installation it would also be wall mounted, either just above or just below the screen. And that brings up an important point: since the L5 is designed strictly for use with flat-panel plasma or LCD TVs, it's not magnetically shielded and will cause color distortions if placed too close to direct-view CRT sets. Finally, I placed the surrounds vertically on high side-wall shelves, angled in toward the listening position.
Since the Evolution L5 was never really intended to be a full-range speaker, I began my stereo listening with the U2 sub system active. My initial impressions were much in line with what I remembered of the Evolution M5 system: tight, almost dry, highly defined sound with outstanding imaging and the kind of rigorously accurate vocal range that can seem a bit severe or even cold compared with the many speakers that emphasize lower-midrange "warmth."
But in truth it's not cold at all, and this kind of accuracy lets you hear tremendous detail. When I played the stereo mix of the Police's Every Breath You Take on SACD, for instance, the sound was clear enough to expose the thinness of Sting's tenor on tunes like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and the harsh effect of the digital processor used on much of this reverb-drenched singles collection.
Like the freestanding Evolution M5, NHT's L5 has a lateral midrange-tweeter layout - at least when the L5 is positioned vertically - that controls directivity, reducing sound spread to the sides and focusing it toward the listener. This tends to maximize clarity and articulation while slightly restricting the sense of soundstage depth that good stereo recordings can deliver via two speakers.
Initially, I had some trouble achieving a really fine subwoofer-satellite/bass-to-midrange blend. But this was due mostly to the L5s' on-wall placement, a setup that usually doesn't sound good in my room - which is why I generally place speakers 3 or 4 feet out from the wall.
I eventually reconfigured the system with the X1 wired between my preamp and pow er amp so that I could individually select its low- and high-pass crossover frequencies. By adjusting these settings and the boundary-EQ control, I achieved a reasonably accurate blend, which sounded better than other on-wall arrays I've auditioned in this room. In other rooms, your mileage will vary.
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