Energy is big on small speakers, and it always has been. That's what we were thinking as we set up the RC-Micro 5.1 ($1,000)--it took us back to when we reviewed the original Energy Take 5 satellite/subwoofer system in 1997. That model took us by surprise precisely because Energy's engineers had banished the severe performance limitations of very small satellites and subwoofers. The little Take 5 speakers had the sort of clout we'd only heard from systems with satellite speakers that were 50 percent larger. The Take 5's matching S-8 subwoofer was also an exceptional performer.
Over the intervening decade, Energy continued to refine its small systems, issuing an updated version of the Take 5 known now as the Take Classic. Not content with just small, however, Energy opted to go for downright tiny. The result is the RC-Micro 5.1, which includes satellite speakers standing a mere 4.7 inches tall. Energy is hardly the first manufacturer to go that small, but it's one of the select few to make a great-sounding speaker of that size. The problem is that really tiny speakers tend to sound small and exhibit a boxy/nasal character. Oh, and really tiny speakers can't make much bass, so unless they're perfectly matched to the right subwoofer, the pairing sounds "thin," with uneven bass response. The six-piece RC-Micro 5.1 System handily avoids those pitfalls. It sounded equally accomplished with movies and music.
The speakers and subwoofer
How small are the speakers? The four jewel-like RC-Micro satellites measure just 4.7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide by 3.5 inch deep, a size that barely contains the unusually small drivers: a 0.5-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 2.5-inch aluminum mid-bass driver. Each speaker weighs just 1.6 pounds.
The center speaker uses the same drivers, but they're housed in a slightly larger cabinet (3.5 inches tall by 5.9 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep) that weighs 1.9 pounds. Both speakers feature Energy's proprietary Convergent Source Module (CSM) technology that was originally developed for the company's flagship Veritas series speakers. CSM positions the woofer and tweeter in the closest possible proximity to one another so they sound like a single source; the gambit is said to increase overall dispersion.
The 240-watt ESW-CS8 subwoofer has a down-firing port and a front-mounted 8-inch injection-molded woofer. The driver utilizes Energy's Ribbed Elliptical Surround--the rubber "rim" that surrounds the woofer cone has molded-in ribs--which Energy claims lowers distortion and allows the subwoofer to play louder than more conventional designs. A blue LED behind the front baffle's grille lights up when the sub is on. The sub isn't too big--just 12.7 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide by 12.3 inches deep--and it weighs a modest 16 pounds. Standard connectivity options are on board--there are stereo speaker level and stereo RCA line-level inputs, the latter of which doubles as an LFE input.
The entire RC-Micro 5.1 system is finished in piano black, and each component has removable black, cloth grilles. The satellites and center channel speaker can be wall mounted with either their keyhole slots or threaded inserts.
Our biggest gripe: the satellites' tiny push-to-clip connectors accept only the skinniest bare-wire ends or cables terminated with pins. We would've preferred the more upscale and flexible five-way binding posts.
Anyone in the market for small speakers such as the RC-Micro should also check out the systems from Energy's sister company, Mirage (both are part of the Klipsch family). The stylish Mirage MX 5.1 goes for $1,200, while the Nanosat 5.1 system can be had for less than half that.
The RC-Micro 5.1 System didn't require a lot of fussing to get the best possible sound. Once the subwoofer and speakers were wired up, we turned the sub's crossover knob all the way up to its maximum setting (150 Hertz). In order to adequately blend the sound of the satellites and subwoofer, a receiver with adjustable crossover makes all the difference (not all of them have that capability). Meanwhile, if your receiver has an auto setup feature, it may not select the proper crossover setting. Best to confirm that it's correct, and--if not--manually reset the crossover. For instance, on our test receiver (the Denon AVR-1909), the 120Hz setting sounded best to our ears.