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Definitive Technology is a high-end speaker company, but it is one that has learned how to sell its products for a lot less than high-end prices. Take the ProCinema 600 six-piece satellite-subwoofer system. I've seen countless systems that essentially duplicate the ProCinema 600's basic formula, but Definitive Technology's entry-level system boasts a number of innovations. For example, in addition to the tiny woofer and tweeter on the five satellite speakers, they also have a "pressure-driven planar low-frequency radiator" to increase the little speaker's bass output. The center speaker sports two more bass radiators, and even the 8-inch subwoofer has a subsized one (an 8-inch "infrasonic radiator"). It's no hype: the ProCinema 600 subwoofer's deep bass prowess and dynamic punch were extraordinary. Alas, the satellites didn't seem to generate any more bass than other speakers of their size. The ProCinema 600 required an unusual setup routine--with two extra set of cables--to get the best possible sound from the system. However, when paired with a good AV receiver, the diminutive ProCinema 600 speakers deliver great surround sound with a very reasonable $800 price.
The ProCinema 600 System is a six-piece package with four 7-inch tall satellite speakers, one 10.5-inch wide center speaker, and a subwoofer. The injection molded mineral-filled polymer cabinets of each speaker has more of a high-end feel than your typical plastic or even medium-density fiberboard cabinets. According to Definitive, the cabinet's internal ribs and parabolic shape enhance its sound quality. The removable form-fitting cloth grilles cover the front and top panels of the satellites, and the front and sides of the center speaker.
The satellite speakers come equipped with a removable tripod table stand, and the center channel speaker has an adjustable rubber-tipped support foot. The speakers can also be wall-mounted with their keyhole slots or with Definitive's ProMount 80 (MSRP $40/pair) wall bracket. Alternatively, they can be used with Definitive's ProStand 600/800 stands (MSRP $100/pair).
The subwoofer is a conventional, matte-finished medium-density-fiberboard box. It measures 13 inches by 10.3 inches by 13 inches. The side-mounted volume control is a convenient design touch.
You can hook up the ProCinema the usual way and run all the satellites as "Small" speakers and let your AV receiver handle bass management, but Definitive recommends an alternate hookup method to maximize sound quality. Basically, you run the front left and right speaker cables to the corresponding inputs on the subwoofer, and then run a second pair of cables to the actual speakers. Indeed, it does sound a bit better--producing a better blend between the satellite speakers and the subwoofer--but it was somewhat annoying to have to deal with those extra cables.
Definitive also makes the ProCinema 800 and ProCinema 1000, which are similar to the ProCinema 600, but with larger satellites and larger subwoofers.
The satellites are two-way designs with a 1-inch aluminum-ceramic dome tweeter and a 3.25-inch midrange Balanced Dual Surround System driver. Conventional midrange drivers only have surround support around their outer rims; BDSS technology is said to support the speaker cone at its inner and outer edges. According to Definitive, BDSS allows the driver to move more precisely and produce sound with greater clarity. Likewise, according to the company, the midrange driver's center probe smoothes frequency response and improves dispersion.
The 3.25-inch midrange driver is acoustically coupled to a 3.25-inch pressure-driven planar low-frequency radiator on the top panel (so when the midrange driver moves in, the passive radiator moves out, and vice versa). The passive radiator effectively doubles the bass radiating area of the tiny satellites' midrange driver. The same technique is employed on the center channel speaker; it has a pair of 3.25-inch midrange drivers flanking a 1-inch tweeter--and there's a 3.25- inch pressure-driven planar low-frequency radiator on each side of the speaker.
The speakers' all-metal, gold-plated connectors accept bare wire, spades, or banana plugs.
The sub's 8-inch polymer cone woofer driver is acoustically coupled, just like the satellites and center speaker, to a bottom-mounted 8-inch passive radiator. The combined radiating area of the driver and low-bass radiator is almost equivalent to a single 12-inch woofer. However, Definitive's design gambit can be pulled off in a much smaller cabinet. Definitive uses a 250 watt amplifier to power the 8-inch woofer.
To accommodate the unusual wiring configuration, the subwoofer's connectivity is above average: choose between the RCA LFE input or the speaker level stereo inputs and outputs.
Starting with the Independence Day Blu-ray Disc, we had immediate respect for the ProCinema 600's capabilities. The little speakers easily handled the sounds of buildings crashing down and cars and trucks hurtling through the air and smashing into the ground--the sounds of the onscreen devastation were visceral in ways that few tiny satellite-subwoofer systems can match.
Next we played the Blue Man Group's concert DVD, How to Be a Megastar Live. The band's percussion instruments were incredibly dynamic, and--wow--the bass was deep and pitch perfect. We felt every drum thwack, the system's little subwoofer is an amazing performer. The surround mix of the audience was well portrayed, so we could pick out individual claps and audience cheers.
Moving to CD didn't alter our opinion of the subwoofer's prowess on Cat Power's Jukebox release. The ProCinema 600 was just as satisfying in stereo as it was in surround.
All of the above comments were based on listening to the ProCinema 600 setup as we normally would (the Denon AVR 3808CI AV receiver's bass management was set with all the speakers running as "Small," and the crossover was set to 150hertz). The sound was lively and very detailed, but movie dialog didn't sound as full-bodied as we'd like, and the treble detail was accentuated. Clearly, the sub and satellites weren't blending as well as they should.
We tried Definitive's recommended setup approach to see how it affected the sound quality. The differences between the first and the second setup weren't dramatic, but the second one did sound a little better. DVD dialogue and vocals on CDs were better developed, and acoustic bass instruments on jazz CDs had more body. The little satellites also sounded a bit bigger.
However, it doesn't sound as big as the somewhat larger Cambridge SoundWorks Newton Theater MC155 speaker system. That one was less detailed and lively than the ProCinema 600, but it aced the review system with its warmer sound. The Newton Theater MC155 played louder and its surround sound was even more spacious than the Definitive Technology system. However, the larger Cambridge speakers are a bit more intrusive than the tiny Definitive ones, and the system retail price is 25 percent more than the Definitive ones.
We are mightily impressed with the ProCinema 600's detail, imaging, dynamics, and bass. It's a great system, especially for buyers who need to get the smallest possible satellites and subwoofer.