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Cambridge SoundWorks Newton HD Home Theater System review: Cambridge SoundWorks Newton HD Home Theater System

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The Good High-end home theater surround speaker package; includes uniquely styled satellite speakers that offer versatile mounting options while retaining a solid heavyweight cast-aluminum build; stylish steel-paneled 300-watt subwoofer is only 8.5 inches deep but manages to include six 6.5-inch woofers; innovative engineering completely eliminates cabinet vibrations, which may reduce floor-borne transmission to the room below the subwoofer.

The Bad This combination of power, style, and performance doesn't come cheap. And we were disappointed that the speakers used spring-clip connectors rather than binding posts.

The Bottom Line Cambridge's Newton HD 5.1 Home Theater speaker system features flat-screen-friendly design, advanced engineering, a unique subwoofer design, and spectacular sound quality--judged on a dollar-for-dollar basis, there's nothing that can touch it.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

Review Sections

Intro

It's a bona fide trend: sleek speakers that are designed, first and foremost, to look good next to flat-screen TVs. Sadly, most look better than they sound, but that's not the case with Cambridge's Newton Series HD speakers. The HD moniker stands for high-definition, and that's not just a trendy name--we found the Newton Series HD MC600HD speaker sounds clearer and purer than the vast majority of speakers we've reviewed. The HD MC600HD retails for $500 each, while a matching subwoofer, the HD P300HDlink>, goes for $1,000. Conveniently, the company also sells the speakers and sub as preconfigured bundles: everything from 2.1 stereo--two HD MC600HDs plus subwoofer--to 7.1 surround (seven MC600HDs and the sub). We split the difference, and examined the 5.1 configuration, which retails for a whopping $3,500. The Cambridge SoundWorks Newton HD 5.1 Home Theater System is comprised of five identical HD MC600HD speakers and one HD P300HD subwoofer. The aluminum cabinet of the HD MC600HD is an impressive feat of industrial design. The rounded, perforated-metal grille is distinctive; around back, the speaker's deeply contoured curves add strength to the design and enhance sound quality by minimizing internal cabinet resonance. The speaker is finished in a medium metallic-gray, and the nonremovable grille is black; it's 25.2 inches tall, 7.1 wide, and almost 4 deep.

Each HD MC600HD weighs 14.5 pounds, and thanks to its pressure-cast, dual-wall aluminum housing, it feels a good deal more solid than those made of plastic, medium-density fiberboard, or even extruded aluminum speakers. The speaker's rear grooved channel provides a secure attachment point for Cambridge's wall-mount bracket (included), and the company's all-metal table and floor stands ($150 and $250 respectively, per pair). When used as a center-channel speaker, you can either wall-mount the HD MC600HD with the bracket, place the speaker on a shelf, or put it directly on the TV (a rear metal stand is provided to support the curved rear end of the speaker).

The matching HD P300HD subwoofer is the perfect visual and sonic complement to the HD MC600HD speakers. Its steel-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard cabinet exudes high-end class--it looks as if it would sell for at least double its list price. The steel panels are finished in a metallic gray, the top panel is gloss black, and the perforated metal grilles are black. It's a fairly large design, 27 inches high and 17.5 wide, but its 8.5-inch depth makes for a less imposing presence than your average cube-shaped subwoofer. The HD P300HD weighs 70 pounds. Each Cambridge SoundWorks HD MC600HD speaker is fitted with four 3.5-inch injection-mold copolymer woofers and one 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter. The speaker's internal crossover was designed with audiophile-quality parts; it sends treble frequencies to the tweeter and bass to the woofers. The spring loaded, all-metal connectors accept stripped bare-wire ends or cables terminated with metal pins. That's fine, but we were disappointed that the connectors didn't allow for the use of more secure banana plugs as well.

The speakers also feature a "boundary compensation EQ" circuit to tame the unnatural bass boost that occurs when they're wall-mounted (see the Performance section of this review). When the speaker is stand-mounted, you should turn off the circuit.

The HD P300HD subwoofer, meanwhile, boasts one of the more unique designs we've seen. Instead of relying on a single 10- or 12-inch woofer, the sub delivers a total of six 6.5-inch woofers (all powered by the sub's 300-watt amplifier). Actually, the HD P300HD deploys three speakers on each end of the cabinet; the design gambit effectively cancels cabinet vibrations. So if you place your hand on the HD P300HD, even when it's pumping out lots of bass, you won't feel it moving--not in the slightest. The subwoofer won't directly transmit energy through the floor to the room below your home theater some of the bass will, of course, be audible in that room, but possibly less than that from a conventional sub. We also noted that even when we stood right next to the HD P300HD, we couldn't detect it as a source of sound--all of the bass seemed to be coming from the HD MC600HD speakers! We can pay no higher complement to a subwoofer. The only other sub we've ever heard that can pull off that trick is B & W's bowling-ball-shaped PV1 subwoofer ($1,500), but the Cambridge sub is more powerful than the B & W, which uses just two 8-inch woofers.

As mentioned above, the speakers that comprise the Newton HD systems can be purchased separately. Each HD MC600HD costs $500, while the HD P300HDlink> subwoofer goes for a cool grand. But most folks will likely opt for one of Cambridge's four packages: one stereo (2.1) and three surround (5.1, 6.1, and 7.1). We just wish that Cambridge had offered a price break for the bundles--as it is, they're little more than a more convenient way of ordering.

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