It's what's inside that counts
Available in black or white finishes, the six-piece ProCinema 80 doesn't look all that different from other compact systems but is in fact built to a higher standard. Close inspection revealed that the sats' cabinets are molded PolyStone--a special, high-density material made by Def Tech--and their curved backsides are said to reduce internal reflections and resonance to achieve purer sound and greater clarity. The design engineers didn't stop there, though, and included larger-than-average, 4.5-inch midrange drivers and annealed, aluminum-dome tweeters. You'll find these very same drivers in Def Tech's flagship tower speakers. The company also provides versatile wall-mount options.
The pint-sized sub features a 250-watt, high-current Mosfet power amplifier and an 8-inch polypropylene woofer and stands on adjustable (leveling) feet. If you want, you can go with the standard cabling regimen--hooking up all of the sats directly to the receiver, then running the sub from the receiver's subwoofer output via a long interconnect cable. We tried that method first but felt that the sub/sat blend wasn't that good. So we read the owner's manual and discovered that Definitive recommends driving the sub from the receiver's left/right speaker outputs, hooking up the left/right speakers to the sub, and connecting the other sats directly to the receiver. This method produced much better sound.
The sats have extraheavy-duty binding posts that can accept bare wire, spades, and banana plugs. That's great, but the posts are so deeply recessed in the speakers' rear ends that it's almost impossible to use the first two options.
We rolled through a handful of our favorite DVDs and noted that the ProCinema 80's essential sound signature was forward and engaging. The explosive score in Men in Black sure didn't sound as if it were sprouting from a compact sub/sat system. Yes, some of the excitement could be traced to the way the compact ProSub 80 sub shook our large listening room like a grown-up subwoofer, flexing its muscles to great effect on the Saving Private Ryan DVD. And the little sats didn't turn nasty or hard, even when we upped the volume to raucous levels. The center speaker had a rich tonal balance, but we detected a slight cupped-hands coloration on dialogue in a few films.
We next focused on DVD-Audio discs for our music tests. The Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead sounded pretty fine overall, but the acoustic guitars weren't as airy and open as they should have been, though we admit that Garcia's vocals sounded wonderfully present and natural. Music is more revealing than movies, and we started to notice that the Pro 80 system isn't the last word in detail resolution. True, the sub packs a mighty wallop, but it had a tendency to sound boomy and thick when pushed to high output levels. What this all adds up to is a system that's oriented a bit more toward home theater than music. The ProCinema 80 is not bad as a purveyor of tunes, but it's more at home with theater duty.
The ProCinema 80, which carries a price tag of $1,049 (list), is a serious contender for home-theater-oriented buyers. But if your theater is large, we'd recommend stepping up to Definitive Technology's ProCinema 100 or 200 models.