Fluance XLHTB review: Thunderous sound from giant speakers -- nuance not included

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MSRP: $799.99

The Good The Fluance XLHTB offers stunning looks and lots of unexpected features for the money. The high-impact sound is great for action movies, and there's little need for a sub if you configure it correctly. Its build quality is very good.

The Bad Uneven frequency response with too much bass; treble can be harsh on some material; weaker midrange detail means quieter music and dialogue driven movies suffer; Satellites and center not up to the same performance standard as the towers.

The Bottom Line The Fluance XLHTB is a head-turning set of speakers at a reasonable price, and while it sounds perfectly fine in a home theater context, it lacks the performance subtleties peers can offer.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Sound 6
  • Value 8

Review Sections

Home theater typically offers a Sophie's Choice: discrete looks, or big sound. Not at all subtle, the Fluance XLHTB is for people whose mantra is "My system is so large you can find it on Google Maps".

Fluance is known for budget systems , but the XLHTB is the company's stab at a more expensive "flagship." This is a $799, 5.0 speaker system without a subwoofer, but Fluance makes up for the loss by including an 8-inch bass driver in each tower.

The sound is just as big as the speakers' size, particularly in the amount of bass it can deal out. We found it perfectly suited to boisterous action movies and less to romantic movies about ghosts. Unfortunately, the lack of subtlety means that music can be an uneven experience, particularly on less noisy tracks whereby the bass simply dominates everything.

The floor-standers would get a 7 out of 10 in sound quality on their own, and at $499 for the pair, they are not a bad deal for the money. But in combination with the center and satellites, a lack of cohesion and boxy sounding dialog make the sum less than its constituent parts.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

Unless you own a Marshall stack it's unlikely you've ever owned speakers as tall as the Fluance XL7F floor standers. These cabinets measure almost 4 feet tall and easily dwarf the already-quite-large PSB X2T, our current reference speakers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The floor standers feature curved sides -- ostensibly to reduce internal reflections -- and come encased in your choice of a fairly attractive cherry wrap (pictured) or dark walnut. The front of the cabinet is a gloss piano black. One 6.5-inch polymer-treated midrange driver sits above the 1-inch silk dome tweeter, with a second below. This arrangement is known as a D'appolito configuration.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Unusually, each speaker has an 8-inch subwoofer built into the bottom above a mounting plinth. Sadly these "subs" aren't able to be connected to the LFE output of your receiver, but to get around this you can route the LFE channel to your left and right speakers for bass effects (check your manual on how to do this).

Sarah Tew/CNET

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