Infinity Beta C360 series
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 ($330 per pair) to the Beta 50 tallboy speaker ($998 per pair), and includes the hefty Beta C360 center speaker ($399) we're reviewing here.
The Beta C360, which is available in black or cherry, employs Infinity's patented Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm (CMMD) speaker driver technology originally developed for Infinity's high-end Prelude MTS models. CMMD drivers are said to be lighter and stronger than conventional paper, plastic, or metal drivers. According to Infinity, its 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 C360's styling conforms to the big-box school of aesthetics, but the curved front baffle and form-fitting metal grille tart up the look with a 21st-century flair. Measuring 25.6 inches wide, 8.5 inches high, and 11.75 inches deep, the C360's placement logistics may be a little trickier than those of more-compact center speakers. If you need to place this 34.5-pound beast on top of a large direct-view or rear-projection TV, the C360's adjustable rear-mounted foot will stabilize the speaker and can angle it down toward the listening position. If the C360 is just too much of a good thing, Infinity offers a much smaller, lighter, and more affordable center speaker, the C250 ($249).
Most competing center speakers are two-way designs, but the C360 is a three-way, four-driver design featuring dual 6.5-inch woofers, a 4-inch midrange, and a 1-inch dome tweeter (the lot of them are CMMD drivers). Around back, you'll find a set of all-metal connectors.
Center speakers' stock-in-trade is dialogue, so we watched the Ray Charles biopic DVD Ray again. Ray's voice sounded absolutely fabulous: big and warm, and his trademark growl will send shivers up your spine. Since the C360 definitely ranks as a full-size design, it's a good candidate for use in multichannel audio systems, so we racked up Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde SACD. On this disc, Mr. D's voice sits solidly in the center speaker, and his trademark whine was unusually present and realistic.
Yes, the C360 is expensive, but compared to most comparably sized and featured speakers, it's an outstanding value.