Editors' note: The Energy Take Classic 5.1 was originally reviewed and awarded a CNET Editors' Choice on February 20, 2009. The review has been updated as part of a recent budget speaker roundup and its Editors' Choice Award has been reaffirmed.
Cheap, small, sounds great: pick two. That's how home audio almost always works. We say almost, because the Energy Take Classic 5.1 is one of those rare products that's seemingly without compromise. The speakers are compact (although not tiny like the Boston SoundWare SX 5.1 system), but their sound quality is outstanding, so you won't regret opting for small speakers. The speakers also look fantastic, finished in an elegant piano black that belies the system's budget price. The official list price for the Take Classic 5.1 may be $600, but it's widely available online for $400. There's no catch, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 is just an incredible value.
Our sole caveat is that if all you're concerned about is the best sound quality on a budget (in other words you pick "cheap" and "sounds great"), the Pioneer SP-PK21BS is the winner. But its massive speakers just won't work for most people. The Energy Take Classic is the most perfectly balanced budget 5.1 speaker system we've seen, making it an easy pick for our Editors' Choice Award in the category.
Design and features
The Take Classic is a six-piece system with four satellites measuring a compact 6.8x4.1x4.1 inches. The satellites are complemented by a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 3-inch poly-titanium midbass driver.
The speakers' weight of just 2.9 pounds should make wall mounting a snap. You can use either the speakers' keyhole slot or the 0.25-inch threaded insert, the latter for use with OmniMount wall brackets. The only problem here is that the speakers have rear-mounted ports, so wall mounting will slightly reduce the actual speaker bass output. The Energy Web site recommends leaving at least 2 feet of clearance between the speaker and wall.
Before we removed the center speaker's grille, we assumed it was a woofer-tweeter-woofer design, but it's not. The center speaker uses the same tweeter and single midbass driver as the satellite, but with horizontally oriented drivers instead. The speaker measures 4.1x10.25x4.1 inches and weighs 3.2 pounds. Wall-mount options are the same as for the satellites, and thanks to the speaker's front-mounted ports, there are no performance-related concerns. The satellites, along with the center speaker's medium-density fiberboard cabinets, are nicely finished in some type of black laminate, just like the original Take 5 speakers.
All of the speakers in the system feature the proprietary Energy Convergent Source Module (CSM) technology that was originally developed for the company's flagship Veritas series. CSM positions the woofer and tweeter in the closest possible proximity to one another so they sound like a single source, a design intended to increase overall dispersion. The speakers' mini five-way binding posts all accept cables terminated with banana plugs, bare wire ends, spades, or pins. Our one gripe: home theater buffs who'd like to expand the system to 6.1 or 7.1 setups are out of luck, as Energy does not sell the satellites separately.