Energy Take Classic 5.1
Energy Take Classic 5.1
Editors' note: The Energy Take Classic 5.1 was originally reviewed and awarded a CNET Editors' Choice on February 20, 2009. The review has been updated as part of a recent budget speaker roundup and its Editors' Choice Award has been reaffirmed.
Cheap, small, sounds great: pick two. That's how home audio almost always works. We say almost, because the Energy Take Classic 5.1 is one of those rare products that's seemingly without compromise. The speakers are compact (although not tiny like the Boston SoundWare SX 5.1 system), but their sound quality is outstanding, so you won't regret opting for small speakers. The speakers also look fantastic, finished in an elegant piano black that belies the system's budget price. The official list price for the Take Classic 5.1 may be $600, but it's widely available online for $400. There's no catch, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 is just an incredible value.
Our sole caveat is that if all you're concerned about is the best sound quality on a budget (in other words you pick "cheap" and "sounds great"), the Pioneer SP-PK21BS is the winner. But its massive speakers just won't work for most people. The Energy Take Classic is the most perfectly balanced budget 5.1 speaker system we've seen, making it an easy pick for our Editors' Choice Award in the category.
Design and features
The Take Classic is a six-piece system with four satellites measuring a compact 6.8x4.1x4.1 inches. The satellites are complemented by a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 3-inch poly-titanium midbass driver.
Each of the satellite speakers has a removable black speaker grille.
The speakers' weight of just 2.9 pounds should make wall mounting a snap. You can use either the speakers' keyhole slot or the 0.25-inch threaded insert, the latter for use with OmniMount wall brackets. The only problem here is that the speakers have rear-mounted ports, so wall mounting will slightly reduce the actual speaker bass output. The Energy Web site recommends leaving at least 2 feet of clearance between the speaker and wall.
The back of the speaker features both a wall-mounting slot and high-quality speaker connectors.
Before we removed the center speaker's grille, we assumed it was a woofer-tweeter-woofer design, but it's not. The center speaker uses the same tweeter and single midbass driver as the satellite, but with horizontally oriented drivers instead. The speaker measures 4.1x10.25x4.1 inches and weighs 3.2 pounds. Wall-mount options are the same as for the satellites, and thanks to the speaker's front-mounted ports, there are no performance-related concerns. The satellites, along with the center speaker's medium-density fiberboard cabinets, are nicely finished in some type of black laminate, just like the original Take 5 speakers.
The center channel uses the same drivers as the satellites, just arranged horizontally.
All of the speakers in the system feature the proprietary Energy Convergent Source Module (CSM) technology that was originally developed for the company's flagship Veritas series. CSM positions the woofer and tweeter in the closest possible proximity to one another so they sound like a single source, a design intended to increase overall dispersion. The speakers' mini five-way binding posts all accept cables terminated with banana plugs, bare wire ends, spades, or pins. Our one gripe: home theater buffs who'd like to expand the system to 6.1 or 7.1 setups are out of luck, as Energy does not sell the satellites separately.
The subwoofer can accommodate both speaker-level and line-level inputs.
The 200-watt sub has a front port along with a blue LED light that indicates that the unit is powered up. The sub features a down-firing 8-inch injection-molded woofer. The driver utilizes Energy's Ribbed Elliptical Surround--the rubber "rim" that surrounds the woofer cone has molded-in ribs--which Energy claims lowers distortion and allows the subwoofer to play louder than more conventional designs.
The 12.6-inch-cubed subwoofer is fabricated from medium-density fiberboard and clad with glossy black laminate. Connectivity is about average. You get stereo RCA and stereo push-clip speaker-level inputs, but that's really all you'll need.
System setup was simple. We adjusted our Denon AVR-3808CI receiver's bass management to 100Hz and the sound was terrific. This was somewhat of a pleasant departure from other small satellite/subwoofer systems we've seen that require a lot of tinkering for optimal output.
The most satisfying characteristic of the Energy Take Classic system is that it sounds a whole lot bigger than it looks. It has a full balance that you only get with a perfectly matched satellite and subwoofer system. The "Wayne Shorter Live at Montreux 1996" fusion jazz concert DVD is the sort of disc that reveals weaknesses of little speakers, but in our testing, Shorter's saxophone had a big, rich sound and Rodney Holmes' drum solos were punchy and solid. It's a very dynamic performance, which encouraged us to turn up the volume; the Take Classic didn't seem to mind. It just sounded better and better as we listened to the high-energy music.
The "Lost: Season 2" DVDs didn't change our impressions of the Energy Take Classic's effortless sound. Dialogue was clear and naturally balanced, without a hint of the boxy, closed-in sound that so many small center-channel speakers suffer from. The scenes in the island's dense jungle were loaded with subtle details: the rustle of leaves, the snap of branches as Kate and Sawyer made their way through the dense vegetation, and the twittering and buzzing of birds and insects. All of the dialogue remained clear and distinct from every position on the CNET listening couch.
"Hold Me Tight" from the "Across the Universe" Beatles musical Blu-ray also sounded terrific. The song is performed by a rock band in a dancehall, and we loved the way the entire Take Classic system unfurled the surround-sound mix, filling the entire room. The five little speakers play well together, and the subwoofer's definition and oomph were well above average.
We finished up with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Grammy-winning "Raising Sand" CD. A lot of the tunes on this CD are bathed in heavy reverberation, but the Take Classic zeroed in on the natural sounds of the vocals and the acoustic and electric guitars.
We also used the Energy Take Classic 5.1 as our reference budget speaker system when we reviewed the Boston Acoustic SoundWare 5.1 SX, Harman Kardon HKTS 20BQ, Klipsch HD Theater 500, and Pioneer SP-PK21BS. We were consistently impressed by how the Energy Take Classic 5.1 stacked up against the competitors, often gaining the edge as soon as we started to dial up the volume. We attribute that to the Take Classic's seamless satellite/subwoofer blend and its all-around superior subwoofer. The Energy's sub also goes much deeper, allowing us to declare it one of the very best compact subwoofers you can buy.
The only speaker system that did keep pace with the Take Classic was Pioneer's SP-PK21BS. In fact, the SP-PK21BS won our head-to-head comparison in terms of sound quality, with its giant speakers delivering a more powerful sound and playing with less strain at very high volume levels. The two systems are closer than you might expect given the size differences, but if you have a large room or really like to get loud, Pioneer's system definitely has the edge.
The Energy Take Classic 5.1's combination of excellent sound quality and stylish looks at an almost unbelievably affordable price makes it an enthusiastic CNET Editors' Choice. Unless you're willing to live with the Pioneer SP-PK21BS' bulky speakers, we cannot recommend the Take Classic enough.