$299 five-speaker home theater system!

You can't beat Fluance's SXHTB five-speaker system's solid construction and sound quality for the money.

Fluance SX-HTB five-speaker system Fluance

That's right--five speakers for $299--and we're not talking about one of those flyweight packages with itsy-bitsy speakers.

The Fluance SXHTB system features a pair of floor-standing tower speakers, a full-size center-channel speaker, and very decent two-way surround speakers. There's no subwoofer, but the Fluance towers make a lot more bass than tiny satellites, so some buyers won't need to add a sub. I reviewed this system for CNET in 2005 , but it's still available.

I'm not claiming the system is a bona-fide giant killer or offers the sort of refined sound you'll find on much more expensive systems. But if you're on a limited budget and have the room for a full-size speaker set, the Fluance SXHTB's combination of credible sound quality and solid construction represent an amazing value.

The entire ensemble is finished in a durable natural beech vinyl wrap (the only finish option). The speakers' robust MDF wood construction cabinets are built to a high standard.

Standing 38.8 inches tall, the towers definitely qualify as full-size speakers, and each one weighs a hefty 33.4 pounds. Each tower's elegantly proportioned cabinet rests on an integrated base, which in turn features adjustable brass feet. The 15.8-wide center speaker is no less impressive, and the surround speakers, which also include bases, are wall-mountable. They're the babies of the package--just 8.8 inches high.

The towers feature dual 6.5-inch poly-coated woofers and a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter. The center channel speaker sports a pair of 4-inch poly-coated woofers and a 1-inch plastic tweeter, while the surround speakers include the same type of woofer and tweeter. All of the speakers are ported designs.

I felt the sound was a little too bright, but depending on your taste, that may be a good thing. Bass is "creamy rich," so unless you're a total bass glutton, you'll want to move the towers way out into the room, two or more feet from the rear wall. Bass definition picked up after we did that and spread them further apart from each other. We wouldn't recommend cramming these speakers into small rooms of less than 200 square feet.

The towers really came into their own when we played Led Zeppelin's concert CD set, "How the West Was Won." The band's righteous electric mayhem was a total blast. Jimmy Page's guitars and Robert Plant's vocals popped out of the speakers with a vengeance.

To reiterate: The SXHTB offers a lot for the money, but don't kid yourself into believing the system competes with Aperion, Definitive Technology, Klipsch, or Polk speaker packages that cost a lot more--it doesn't.

 

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