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HTD Level Three (black) review: HTD Level Three (black)

The little details set Home Theater Direct's Level Three home theater system apart from the crowd. Exhibit A: The two pairs of gold-plated five-way binding posts on each speaker, though unremarkable for high-end audiophile gear, are incorporated into a system that costs a paltry $749. Exhibit B: The sound is sure to please all but the most fastidious listener who demands very high volumes.

htd-level-three-speaker-system-for-home-theater-5-1-channel-black.jpg
8.0

HTD Level Three (black)

The Good

Terrific sound; superb value.

The Bad

Big black boxes.

The Bottom Line

Folks looking to set up a great-sounding home theater for not too much money should audition these speakers.

The little details set Home Theater Direct's Level Three home theater system apart from the crowd. Exhibit A: The two pairs of gold-plated five-way binding posts on each speaker, though unremarkable for high-end audiophile gear, are incorporated into a system that costs a paltry $749. Exhibit B: The sound is sure to please all but the most fastidious listener who demands very high volumes.

Wood-Grained Beauty Is Skin Deep

The Level Three system consists of four, large two-way satellite speakers, an even bigger center channel, and a beefy, 12-inch, front-firing powered subwoofer. The 15.8-inch satellites each have a 6.5-inch midrange driver inside and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The center channel has two midrange drivers and a single tweeter; its 22-inch width, 9.5-inch depth, and 22.3-pound weight demand a separate shelf above or below your TV set, as trying to balance its bulk atop a TV seems awfully precarious. Three of our review speakers had a nice midgloss black sheen, while the other two were painted dark cherry. Though the finish is much nicer than vinyl-wrapped speakers, they're not much to look at, especially sitting next to the Edge Audio speakers in our listening room.

The Level Three subwoofer's textured wood veneer looks like it belongs to another speaker system. You'll probably hide it in a corner of your living room, so style isn't the biggest concern anyway. On its back you'll find all the necessary connections, including line and speaker level inputs and outputs, crossover and volume knobs, and a phase switch.

Passing the Listening Test

Because the satellite speakers each have a bass port on the back and no predrilled mounting sockets, we placed them on stands. Setting the speaker levels and crossover frequency was effortless. The subwoofer and satellites blended well. However, when listening to a test tone panning around the room, we could easily hear the sonic differences between the front satellites and the center channel. We couldn't hear the difference as well with movies, but you might consider purchasing a fifth Level Three satellite instead of the center channel.

When we were watching movies, the Level Three speakers sounded very good, with dialogue coming through clearly over the music and surround effects. During the midair collision in Fight Club, the speakers handled the shifts in dynamics well; the swirl of debris was suitably realistic. In fact, we found very little not to like about these speakers during movies.

With stereo music, we noticed that the stereo imaging seemed a little flatter than with the Edge Audio system. On Duke Ellington's "The Far East Suite," for instance, we couldn't hear the saxophones in the front and the drums way in the back of the room; they seemed to emanate from the same plane. However, the listening room plays a big factor in this sort of evaluation. You may find much better luck in your home, especially if you have a rather large room. In other respects, the Level Three speakers sounded remarkably neutral and detailed, although they never sounded as open and alive as the more expensive Edge Audio speakers.

For $749, the Level Three system is superb deal. While it's not exactly easy on the eyes, it certainly is music to your ears--and wallet. We'd heartily recommend this system even if it cost $500 more. If you're serious about setting up a great home theater, it's definitely worth your while to order a set, if only for the 30-day listening test in your home.

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