The entire ensemble is finished in a durable Natural Beech vinyl wrap (the only finish option). The speakers' robust MDF wood construction cabinets are built to a high standard. Rather than rely on flimsy plastic pins to attach the grilles to the speakers, brass pins are on the speakers and fit into the grilles. We'd love to see other manufacturers adapt this ingenious idea.
Standing 38.8 inches tall, the towers definitely qualify as full-size speakers, and each one weighs a hefty 33.4 pounds. Each tower's elegantly proportioned cabinet rests on an integral base, which in turn features adjustable brass feet. The 15.8-wide center speaker is no less impressive, and the surround speakers, which also include bases, are wall mountable. They're the babies of the package--just 8.8 inches high.
The five-piece system doesn't include a subwoofer, but the tower speakers' deep bass capabilities may satisfy in small home theaters. Then again, if your room is larger, you may want to add a matching sub, such as Fluance's DB-150 or DB-200 powered models. We used the DB-150 for our evaluations.
The center and surround speakers use gold-plated, five-way binding posts, and the towers' connectivity incorporates double sets of posts to enhance performance with bi-amp/bi-wire capability.
Fluance recently upped its parts-and-labor warranty coverage from three to five years.Before we get into the particulars, we'd just like to say that the speakers' gutsy sound rocked our world and listening was lots of fun.
Audiophiles that we are, we felt our acoustic jazz CDs' treble sounded a little too bright, but depending on your taste, that may be a good thing. Bass was also a bit too "creamy rich" for us, and unless you're a total bass glutton, you'll want to move the towers way out into the room, two or more feet from the rear wall. Bass definition picked up after we did that and spread them further apart from each other. We wouldn't recommend cramming these speakers in small room, less than 200 square feet.
The towers really came into their own when we played Led Zeppelin's concert CD set, How the West Was Won. The band's righteous electric mayhem was a total blast. Jimmy Page's guitars and Robert Plant's vocals popped out of the speakers with a vengeance.
Moving on to DVDs, we added the DB-150 subwoofer, and our favorite war movies, such as The Thin Red Line and U-571, had plenty of impact, but the SX-HTB's center speaker's faults were more obvious. Dialogue was undernourished to the point of being thin. (The DB-150, meanwhile, won't win any awards for low-down finesse or detail, but it adds muscle to the system's deep bass capabilities and matches the speakers well.) The Lion King DVD sounded so magnificent and lush we forgot to take notes during the movie.
To reiterate: The SX-HTB offers a lot for the money, but don't kid yourself into believing the system competes with speaker packages that cost upward of a grand--it doesn't. If you can afford the higher-end alternatives, pony up the loot. But if you can't, the SX-HTB offers one of the best surround-sound bangs for your buck that we've heard in a long time.