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Infinity Beta 50 review: Infinity Beta 50

Infinity Beta 50

headshots_Steve_Guttenberg.jpg
Steve Guttenberg
headshots_Steve_Guttenberg.jpg
Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

4 min read

We imagine most Beta 50 buyers will match the towers with a full set of Beta-series speakers and an Infinity subwoofer. For our Beta review package, we selected the Beta C360 center speaker ($399), a pair of Beta 20 monitors as surrounds ($199 each), and the CSW-10 subwoofer ($999). The entire system retails for $2,794, but when you stop and consider that this ensemble can easily fill even a fairly large home theater with high-impact, feel-it-in-your-guts sound, the price is pretty sane. It's more affordable than most plasma TVs, and it will blow your socks off when you listen to music. Alternatively, you could pick up five Beta 10 satellites and the $799 SW-12 sub, which drops the price to $1,624. Feel free to mix 'n' match among the Beta-series models and build a system that fits your needs.

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8.0

Infinity Beta 50

The Good

Sensational-sounding full-size tower speakers; three-way design; high-tech drivers; form-fitting metal grilles; all-metal connectors.

The Bad

They're large (dubious spousal acceptance factor).

The Bottom Line

If you have the room to indulge your home-theater fantasies on a grand scale, Infinity's Beta towers merit serious consideration.
Intro
Few audio companies with a lineage as revered as Infinity Systems are able to transition to the mainstream with their high-end principles intact. But Infinity certainly makes a case with its updated Beta series, a line that ranges from the Beta 10 bookshelf monitors ($165 each) to the Beta 50 tower speakers reviewed here. At $998 a pair, the Infinity Beta 50s aren't cheap, but they are a treat to listen to--for both movies and music. The Infinity Beta 50 is a big speaker--41.3 inches tall, 10.4 wide, and 14.6 deep--and when we unboxed it, we didn't doubt its listed 62.5-pound weight. If that heft doesn't convince you of its robust build quality, a knuckle rap on the cabinet's side flank will. The monolithic tower is available in black and cherry vinyl finishes, and its form-fitting metal grille is a distinctive styling touch. If the Beta 50 is just out of your price range, check out the $399 Beta 40; it's a near twin of the 50 but uses slightly smaller woofers. The Beta 50 is a beneficiary of Infinity's patented Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm (CMMD) speaker-driver technology originally developed for its high-end Prelude MTS models. CMMD drivers are said to be lighter and stronger than conventional paper, plastic, or metal drivers. According to Infinity, CMMD drivers produce lower levels of distortion for a more transparent and detailed sound.

The Beta-series tweeters have recently been revised to extend their ultra-high-frequency response out to 40KHz to enhance their performance with SACD and DVD-Audio discs. The tweeter is mounted in a special waveguide to ensure improved high-frequency dispersion throughout the listening room. We also noted that the engineers positioned the tweeter unusually close to the midrange driver, and that close proximity further improves the speaker's sound quality and imaging precision.

The infinity Beta 50 is a three-way, four-driver design featuring dual 8-inch woofers, a 5-inch midrange, and a 1-inch dome tweeter--the lot of them are CMMD drivers. The rear of the speaker houses a biwire set of all-metal connectors.

The Betas' sound quality is significantly improved over that of the Infinity Primus models we tested last year. The new speakers are more detailed and live-sounding overall, and the tweeter's treble range has more sparkle and "air." The new sound is more articulate and precise, so we heard more three-dimensional space in our DVDs and CDs, and when we doused the lights, the big speakers all but disappeared as sources of sound.

With the Alien vs. Predator DVD cranked up to a satisfyingly loud volume, the Beta system was a force to be reckoned with. The ungodly shrieks, ongoing carnage, and massive explosions made us jump, and the movie's ominous atmospheres were well served by the all-Beta system. If you love big special-effects movies, the Betas won't let you down.

The Ray Charles biopic DVD Ray presented an opportunity for the Beta system to rear back and shout. Ray's voice sounded absolutely fabulous--it was big and warm--and his trademark growl will send shivers up your spine. The scene where Ray Charles first improvises what turned out to be a megahit, "What'd I Say?" best demonstrates what makes the Infinity Beta 50 so special. The tune starts with Ray laying down a funky groove on his organ, and the band slowly comes in. Even the crowd's applause sounded right--few speakers in the Beta's price class sound as convincingly realistic. Later on in the film, there's a recording session with a roomful of violins, and the Betas sounded like a set of high-end speakers.

We ended our auditions in two-channel mode, listening to the Beta 50s on their own. Radiohead's Kid A CD projected a near holographic soundfield--the Beta 50s' stereo was so remarkably three dimensional, we thought we had accidentally turned on our receiver's Dolby Pro Logic II surround processing. On some tracks, Radiohead's highly textured sound hovered just behind the plane of the speakers. The bass was deep enough to convince us that some buyers might be able to forgo a subwoofer.

We guess you can tell we were blown away by Infinity's Beta 50s, and we didn't want to send them back. They're that good.

infinity-ps-8-subwoofer-100-watt-black.jpg
8.0

Infinity Beta 50

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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