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Infinity TSS-800 review: Infinity TSS-800

Infinity TSS-800

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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.

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4 min read

The satellites can be placed on a shelf once you're attached the elegantly curved, all-metal table stands, or wall mounted with the included brackets. The center speaker can also be wall mounted or placed on the base cradle. The Infinity TSS-800's satellites are two-way designs employing a single 3.5-inch woofer and a 0.75-inch dome tweeter; the center speaker is similar, but with two woofers. Instead of commonplace metal, plastic or fiber materials, the TSS-800's woofer and tweeter are fabricated from Infinity's proprietary MMD (Metal Matrix Diaphragms). Infinity claims the advanced materials improve sonic accuracy.

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6.3

Infinity TSS-800

The Good

Beautifully designed, six-piece speaker package; two-way satellites; two-way, three-driver center speaker; substantial extruded aluminum cabinets; versatile table and wall-mount brackets; 10-inch, 150-watt powered subwoofer.

The Bad

Poorly matched subwoofer plays havoc with music and home theater sound.

The Bottom Line

Infinity's TSS-800 satellite speakers produce a highly transparent sound, but the subwoofer's muddied bass is the system's Achilles' heel.
Intro
Infinity's Total Speaker Solutions packaged systems were designed with a look to hook flat-panel TV buyers. Infinity's industrial designers nixed boring rectangular boxes in favor of flowing curves and smooth angles. The speakers are all less than 3 inches deep--which makes them flatter than most thin TVs--and the subwoofer carries over the speakers' sensual curves and tapered corners. The six-piece TSS-800 system ($900) features four satellite speakers, a center speaker, and a powered subwoofer. All six speakers feature Infinity's proprietary MMD (Metal Matrix Diaphragm) anodized aluminum drivers, which may account for the TSS-800's sonic clarity. We did, however, find fault with the subwoofer: it wasn't a good match with the satellite speakers. Worse yet, the TSS-800 lacked the power to convey full-throttle home theater dynamics. While the sound redeemed itself somewhat on music, the sub continued to sabotage the overall experience. The Infinity TSS-800's satellites speakers' contoured, curved, and tapered aluminum cabinets should look great on the wall mounted next to a flat-panel TV. The TSS-800 set includes four 9.1 x 3.75 x 2.75-inch (HWD) satellite speakers, and one similarly slender 13-inch-wide center-channel speaker. They're all fitted with perforated metal grilles. Rounding out the system is a full-size, 15.75 x 14 x 15-inch (HWD) subwoofer. The sub's textured vinyl-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard cabinet matches the satellites' curves--it's really very attractive. The TSS-800 is available in platinum or charcoal finishes.

The satellites' curved shape minimizes internal standing waves and resonance to produce low distortion sound. Instead of the typical plastic spring-clip connectors the speakers boast all-metal, gold-plated connectors that accept banana plugs, spades, or bare wire ends.

The subwoofer uses a down-firing 10-inch MMD woofer and venting port. The 150-watt amplifier is rated for continuous power and can deliver as much as 300 watts for brief musical or home theater dynamic peaks. The rear panel has volume and variable crossover (50Hz to 150Hz) control, a pair of RCA inputs, a separate LFE (Low Frequency Effects) input and a 0/180 degree phase switch. Right out of the box, the Infinity TSS-800's sound was thin, so we had to work a little harder than usual to fatten up the sound. Our first mistake was using the subwoofer's LFE (Low Frequency Effects, a.k.a. direct) input that bypasses the sub's internal crossover, as recommended in the TSS-800's owner's manual. That strategy relies on the A/V receiver's internal crossover, which almost always yields the smoothest sat/sub blend--but not this time. The huge bass gap between the subwoofer and the satellites was responsible for the thin, downright anemic tonal balance. We next tried the line-level RCA input and used the sub's built-in crossover, set to three-o'clock position, which filled in some of the bass between the sub and sats. We found subwoofer placement in the room, and distance from the satellites, to be crucial--the smoothest blend will occur when the subwoofer is placed in close proximity of the front three speakers. Once it's more than 4 feet away, you'll be aware that all the bass is coming from sub and none from the speakers.

Having weathered the setup issues, we were finally able to put the TSS-800 speakers through their paces. The Da Vinci Code DVD is loaded with cavernous interiors, a huge Hans Zimmer score, and choirs of voices reaching for the heavens. The tiny TSS-800 satellites had no trouble recreating these enveloping soundscapes. Dialog was articulate, but with a center speaker as compact as this, lightweight tonal character wasn't a surprise. On the upside, the sound was clear as can be, but it was lacking organic warmth and fullness. A quick cruise with the Cars DVD confirmed that the Infinity system's power shortfall--the sound was dynamically flat, and we never came close to feeling the horsepower we saw on the screen.

Interestingly, volume wasn't the problem: the TSS-800 could play nice and loud, but the dynamic punch was a nonevent. Turning up the subwoofer volume added more bass boom, which didn't help matters. Even after we carefully adjusted the sub's volume, it wasn't particularly powerful, deep, or defined. The percussion fueled hard rock music on the Blue Man Group's The Complex Tour Live concert DVD fell flat. Judged as a $900 home theater package, the TSS-800 wasn't cutting it.

We much preferred the sound on music with little or no bass. The speakers' exceptional clarity was a real boost on difficult material such as the Kronos Quartet's Dracula CD. String tone was excellent, and the speakers again were champs at delineating individual instruments within the stereo image.

Moving onto Yo La Tengo's I Am Not Afraid Of You... CD, the speakers' resolution of fine detail was superb, with each shimmer of a cymbal and plucking of a guitar string easy to discern. So far, so good, but when the band rocked out, the subwoofer's sound wasn't fully jelling with the satellites. That's too bad--the sats have a lot of potential but need a better subwoofer than the one that comes with the Infinity TSS-800.

infinity-ps-8-subwoofer-100-watt-black.jpg
6.3

Infinity TSS-800

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 5
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