Energy's Act6 speaker package replaces the brand's popular Take 5 satellite/subwoofer system. Energy's engineers invested two years developing a successor to the venerable Take 5, so we were curious to see how the even smaller--and much hipper-looking--Act6 ($800 list) would do.
The extruded-aluminum satellites--individually known as the Act1--have a clean, contemporary appearance that offers a refreshing alternative to commonplace boxy designs. Their curved posteriors look cool and enhance the speakers' sound quality by reducing internal standing waves. Another nice touch: the satellites' grilles are held in place with magnets instead of pins, which inevitably break off. The included adjustable metal wall-mount brackets are pretty special, too; the sats can fire straight ahead or be toed in toward the listening position.
The satellites measure just 6.75 inches high and 4.25 inches deep, so they'll complement flat-screen TVs. They each feature a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter mated to a 3.5-inch polypropylene woofer. In a recessed cutout on the bottom, you'll find a pair of sturdy push-type connectors that accept bare wire ends or wires terminated with pins.
The subwoofer's dark-gray, vinyl-wrapped cabinet is rather bland; the only styling touches are beveled edges and a front port. It's fairly small--just 16.25 inches high, 10 inches wide, and 14 inches deep, weighing a manageable 24 pounds--and has a downward-firing 8-inch driver powered by an 80-watt (300 watts continuous) amplifier. Connectivity comes in the form of stereo speaker-level and mono line-level RCA inputs.
As soon as we heard the way the little speakers rendered the drum solo that kicks off Eric Bibb's rendition of "You Gotta Serve Somebody" from his Sisters and Brothers SACD, we knew the Act6 ensemble was a serious contender. The drums' soundstage was huge, and we could feel every beat from the thumping bass drum. As the drum laid down a funky groove, it was joined by an acoustic bass, and we noted that the subwoofer's taut definition put boomier subs to shame. The sub and the sats complemented each other perfectly.
Next we rocked out with the White Stripes at a fairly loud volume, which didn't faze the Act6. Just stay real and don't expect miracles--the little satellites aren't going to fill a massive home theater. In smaller spaces, say up to 300 square feet or so, the Act6 will provide yeoman's service.
The Twisted DVD is an only mildly interesting crime drama, but its ominous soundtrack kept us on the edge of our seats. The violent scenes had plenty of impact; dialogue was clear and impressively full-bodied, considering the Act1's small stature (perhaps a larger center would have been better). The World War II submarine drama DVD U-571 demonstrated the Act6's detail resolution. A few scenes take place in pouring rain, and the wetness of the sound was especially convincing. The depth-charge explosions packed a punch far beyond what we expect from a lifestyle-oriented speaker system like the Act6.
A brief shootout with JBL's SCS300.7 speaker package put the Act6's strengths in perspective. The JBL's full-size subwoofer pumped out a lot more bass on U-571's depth charges, but the Act6 sub's bass was cleaner and better defined on music CDs. The satellites' purity and sparkle was a welcome improvement over the JBL's harsher treble. The Act6 was judged superior on DVDs, except in the area of bass power, and more refined on most types of music.
In short, unlike so many packages with smaller speakers and designer looks, Energy's Act6 didn't disappoint our ears. It makes a very good choice for smaller rooms where window-rattling bass isn't the highest priority.