Infinity Beta 20 series
Few audio companies with a lineage as revered as that of Infinity Systems ever make the transition to the mainstream with their high-end principles intact. Case in point: Infinity's Beta Series. The line ranges from the Beta 10 bookshelf monitors ($330 per pair) to the Beta 50 tallboy speaker ($998 per pair). In this review, we'll be looking at the Beta 20 bookshelf speaker ($398 per pair or $199 each), which can be used as both your main front- and rear-channel speakers in a surround setup--or serve as the rear-channel speakers when combined with Infinity's Beta towers.
Like the other speakers in the Beta line, the Beta 20 employs Infinity's patented Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm (CMMD) speaker-driver technology originally developed for the company's high-end Prelude MTS models. CMMD drivers are said to be lighter and stronger than conventional paper, plastic, or metal drivers. According to Infinity, CMMD drivers produce lower levels of distortion for a more transparent and detailed sound.
The Beta Series' tweeters have recently been revised to extend their ultra-high-frequency response out to 40KHz to enhance their performance with SACD and DVD-Audio disc formats. The tweeter is mounted in a special waveguide to ensure improved high-frequency dispersion throughout the listening room. We also noted that the engineers positioned the tweeter unusually close to the midrange driver, and that close proximity further improves the speaker's sound quality and imaging precision.
As bookshelf models go, the Beta 20 is a big speaker, measuring 13.75 inches high, 8.8 inches wide, and 13 inches deep and weighing a solid 20.7 pounds. (Infinity doesn't provide any real wall-mounting options, but those interested in such a design should opt for a smaller speaker anyway.) It features a 6.5-inch woofer and a 1-inch dome tweeter, plus a set of all-metal connectors around back. Like the rest of the Beta line, it's available in black or cherry finish.
The Beta 20 will need the assistance of a subwoofer in all but the most intimate home theaters, so we used Infinity's CSW-10 sub. That said, we're pretty sure that Infinity's or PS-12 will also provide stellar low-end support.
We tested the Beta 20 for use as both front and surround speakers. We enjoyed the speakers in our home theater with the Spider-Man DVD, especially when the 20s dished out knock-em, sock-em power on the early wrestling scene. The Betas' dynamic punch was excellent and can easily fill midsize home theaters with sound. Listening to CDs, we felt the new tweeter's enhanced clarity made for a more detailed sound.