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Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 review: Definitive Technology ProCinema 800

Definitive Technology ProCinema 800

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
4 min read

Earlier this year we tested the Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 six-piece satellite/subwoofer system and came away impressed, but with reservations. This time we're looking at the ProCinema 800. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's a near twin of the earlier system; however, it doesn't share any satellites or even the subwoofer with the smaller system. While the ProCinema 600 is the entry-level system, the step-up ProCinema 800 system we're looking at here comes with four ProMonitor 800 satellite speakers, a ProCenter 1000 center speaker, and a ProSub 800 subwoofer. The speakers are currently sold separately, for a total of $1,200 (in piano black or gloss white finishes), but Definitive should soon be offering them as a single package to make for a more convenient purchase.

8.0

Definitive Technology ProCinema 800

The Good

Beautifully finished, six-piece, 5.1 channel home theater speaker package with advanced driver technology; amazingly potent dual 8-inch, 300-watt powered subwoofer; compact size.

The Bad

Compared to the sleek-looking satellite speakers, the subwoofer appears a little drab.

The Bottom Line

The powerful Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 satellite/subwoofer package redefined our expectations of what a small surround speaker system can do.

As we unboxed the system we noted the satellites' injection-molded mineral-filled polymer cabinets had more of a high-end feel than your typical plastic or even medium-density fiberboard cabinets. The Definitive Technology cabinets feature internal ribs and a curvy shape to enhance sound quality. Removable form-fitting cloth grilles cover the front and top panels of the satellite speakers, and the front and sides of the center speaker. All of the speakers feature solid-metal binding posts.

With its grille on you might think the 8.3-inch-tall ProMonitor 800 satellite has just a standard woofer and tweeter. Remove the grille and you'll see the monitors have something extra; in addition to the 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and 4.5-inch mid/bass driver there's also a 4.5-inch "pressure-driven planar low-frequency radiator" on the topside that increases the little speaker's bass output. If you'd like to expand the system to a 6.1 or 7.1 configuration, the ProMonitor 800s are sold separately for $145 each.

The 14.25-inch wide ProCenter 1000 center speaker doubles up on the satellite's sonics, with two of the 4.5-inch drivers and a pair of the matching bass-boosting passive radiators--one on each side. The 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter is located in the speaker's center, directly between the two midrange drivers. The ProCenter 1000 is available separately for $220.

Each of the four satellite speakers comes equipped with a removable tripod table stand, and the center channel speaker has an adjustable rubber-tipped support foot for shelf mounting. The speakers can also be wall-mounted with their keyhole slots or with Definitive's ProMount 80 ($40/pair) wall brackets. Alternatively, they can be used with Definitive's ProStand 600/800 stands ($100/pair).

The ProSub 800 subwoofer is a more conventional, matte-finished (black or white) medium-density-fiberboard box. It measures 12.8 inches high by 10.3 wide by 15.75 deep. The side-mounted volume control is more conveniently placed than the usual rear-mounted control. The sub is available separately for $400.

The ProSub 800 has a front-firing 8-inch woofer, ably assisted by a down-firing 8-inch "infrasonic radiator." The built-in 300-watt, high-current amplifier uses costly metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect output transistors (MOSFET). Connectivity includes one rarely seen feature: filtered high-pass speaker-level outputs that can be used with Definitive Technology satellite speakers. There are also speaker level inputs and an LFE input.

The smaller ProCinema 600 required an unconventional hookup method (through the subwoofer) to sound its best, but we didn't need to experiment with the ProCinema 800. We just hooked up all the speakers directly to our Denon receiver and the LFE input on the sub. We set the Denon's bass management/crossover to 120 Hertz. The ProCinema 800 was super easy and sounded fine without any extra fiddling on our part.

The Prestige Blu-ray starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival magicians cast quite a spell over the ProCinema 800 when a daring trick with a woman submerged in a glass water tank went wrong. The men use an ax to smash the tank and the sounds of the repeated strikes were startling. When the glass finally breaks and the water sloshes out, the ProCinema 800 captured every detail, including the dialogue. Male and female voices sounded natural, without a hint of the "boxiness" we sometimes hear from small center speakers.

Next, we popped on the House of Flying Daggers Blu-ray for a shoot-out between the ProCinema 800 and the Boston Acoustics MCS 130 5.1 speaker package. The now famous circle-of-drums scene packed a healthy wallop over the MCS 130. The bass was plenty deep and powerful, but switching over to the ProCinema 800, the bass definition was more taut and clean. Also the sat/sub blend was seamless over the ProCinema 800 system. Its dynamic oomph was superior to the Boston system's.

The movie's sword fights were plenty exciting over the MCS 130, but we felt the metal-to-metal clangs and clashes sounded just a little dull; the ProCinema 800 resolved more of the detail of the treble sparkle, so the swords sounded more realistic. We also noted we could hear the sounds of the sword clashes reverberating in the palace with the ProCinema 800. The MCS 130 was less clear on that score. (To be fair: the Boston system is available for about a third the cost of the Definitive set.)

We finished up with the Rolling Stones' Black and Blue CD. This mid-1970s record has a mix of raunchy rock and ballads, and the ProCinema 800 handled both with ease. Some of the smaller sat/sub systems sound under-nourished in stereo, but ProCinema 800 was just as full-bodied in stereo as it was in Pro Logic II.

Editors' note: This review originally stated that the ProCinema 1000 center-channel speaker had 5.25-inch drivers and passive radiators. It has been changed to reflect their proper 4.5-inch diameter.

8.0

Definitive Technology ProCinema 800

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8