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Definitive Technology BP9040 review: Towers take Dolby Atmos add-on design to new heights

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The Good The Definitive Technology BP9040 offers immaculate design and a really neat Atmos option for users who want to upgrade later. The integrated subwoofers offer deep, thrilling bass without the need for a separate bulky cabinet. Movie soundtracks sound expansive and yet dialogue remains detailed.

The Bad Pricey, some users might find the sound balance too lean.

The Bottom Line The Definitive Technology BP9040 system, with its optional height modules, looks and sounds great, especially for movie lovers.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Sound 7
  • Value 6

Ever since Dolby Atmos appeared on the home audio scene two years ago it has posed a challenge for potential buyers as well as speaker designers. For the user it was "should I buy new height speakers, drill holes in my roof, or dangle ill-fitting modules from the top of my existing speakers?" Definitive Technology has come up with the most elegant solution we've seen so far, but it's not cheap.

The BP9040 tower speaker and its innovative Atmos dock enables users to keep height speakers as an option, without needing to invest in Atmos from the get-go. If you're not all that excited by Atmos or DTS:X, just stick with the BP9040 a la carte ($1,800 per pair). If you change your mind in a year or two, pick up a set of A90 add-on height speakers ($500 per pair), plug 'em in, redo the set-up of your home theater, and you'll be in business.

The Def Tech's sound quality is geared toward movies, especially after adding the optional docking speakers, with the onboard subwoofers adding real punch to action movies. Music is pretty serviceable but you'll need a warm amp to counter the bright-sounding drivers.

At $2,300 with the A90 add-on, the BP9040 speaker is breathing rarified air, and while it offers excellent home theater sound, it is up against stiff competition. In our comparison we ended up preferring the Pioneer SP-EFS73, which is less expensive ($1,400 per pair), even though you will need to add a subwoofer.

Designed for immersive audio

definitive-technology-bp9040-01.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Without the optional height speaker docked on top, the BP9040 is a 39-inch tall tower speaker encased in an acoustically-transparent mesh. The cosmetics are simply lovely, complete with aluminum accents from the top cover and the solid formed base. The speaker's black grille hides a bipolar speaker arrangement which consists of two 4.5-inch drivers in a D'Appolito configuration around a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter in the front, and in the back another dome tweeter and single 4.5-inch driver. This unusual arrangement is designed to increase the sweet spot and make the speakers sound "big."

definitive-technology-bp9040-01.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

At the top of the speaker, hidden under a slab of velvet-lined aluminum, lives a port for the optional A90 attachment, which costs $499 per pair. The A90 is a height effects speaker for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks and is designed to sit flush with the main unit. The back of the speaker is designed to accommodate the add-on with two sets of terminals at the bottom which add up to a much cleaner look than other after-market options.

definitive-technology-bp9040-01.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Continuing the trend for innovation is the bass section of the speaker -- the BP9040 features a powered 8-inch subwoofer with a dedicated volume control. While the speaker includes a LFE connection the company recommends running the speakers full range (consult your receiver manual on how to direct subwoofer effects to your speakers). Paired with this are two passive radiators also eight inches across.

The BP9040 is at a mid-point in the new BP9000 collection, which also includes the BP9020, costing $1,300 per pair, the BP9060 ($2,200 per pair), and the flagship BP9080X, which runs $3,500 and includes an integrated Atmos speaker.

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