Small and Compact
The center-channel speaker and ultracompact satellites are all two-way speakers with 0.625-inch tweeters and 3.5-inch midrange drivers. The little drivers help give the system wide dispersion, so you can sit outside of the stereo "sweet spot" without the highs dropping off too much. However, they also limit the bass, giving the ultracompact speakers about an octave less low-frequency extension than most bookshelf speakers.
Rapping one's knuckles on the plastic cabinets of the satellite and center speakers produces a slightly hollow (rather than totally dead) sound, which is a sign of moderately undesirable cabinet resonance. However, we didn't find this to be a problem when the speakers were actually playing. The binding posts on these speakers (and on the sub) are spaced 1 inch apart, which eases the task of putting bare wires into them but makes it impossible to use standard, 0.75-inch, dual-banana plugs.
With speakers this small, a subwoofer is a necessity. The PDR-8 powered sub is quite compact and goes down reasonably deep. We found that the sub blended best with the satellites when the crossover was set about two-thirds of the way up. The crossover knob is marked only at its 50 Hz and 150 Hz limits.
The overall sound was realistic, with a touch of brightness that listeners are more likely to enjoy than to object to. Voice recordings sounded especially natural. At moderate volume levels, the sound was exceptionally clear. On loud, bass-rich music, however, a buzz could be heard from the sub. This may have been distortion or leak-through of the higher audio frequencies, but it was not audible on another powered sub we used for comparison, nor was it noticeable on movie soundtracks.
The Cinema home-theater system carries a suggested retail price of $716, which isn't too bad. Another option might be to buy just the satellites and center channel for their small size and nice sound, then partner them with a better subwoofer, such as the JBL PB10. Or if size isn't much of an issue at all, take a listen to Home Theater Direct's Level Three system.
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