"Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars". So goes the refrain of an iconic '70s ad for Holden, which highlighted some of our most Australian products.
While Vegemite and Hills Hoists may be at the forefront of our minds, we dare say that when you think "Australian made" you don't immediately think "speakers". While you may have seen local brands like Aaron and Richter in stores, it would be true to say that "Europe" and not "Australia" seems to be the birthplace of the most recognisable speaker brands.
But if you're talking "cinema cred" then surely Krix from South Australia has it in spades. In fact, you've probably already heard one of its commercial cinema systems, as it supplies sound to over 250 venues ranging from the Event cinemas in Sydney to the magnificent Sun Theatre in Yarraville.
Like most Australian speaker companies seem to do, Krix began in a garage in the '70s and has been supplying speakers to homes around the country and the world ever since.
The Krix Phoenix is an update on the popular Lyrix standmounters and are designed to work as a stereo system or in conjunction with surrounds, sub and a centre speaker. The Phoenix is a two-way design featuring a so-called "D'Appolito configuration", with two 6.5-inch doped paper woofers mounted above and below a 28mm doped fabric dome tweeter.
The speakers are relatively large at 935mm high with a width of 205mm wide and a depth of 320mm. The speakers are rear ported, which means that they need a fair bit of clearance from walls — something we found out quickly while testing. These are quite bassy speakers, and we're not surprised to find that two of the engineers behind Krix list their favourite hobby as "playing bass guitar".
Krix is a little different from other speaker brands in that it encourages a little bit of "mix and match" when it comes to speaker sets and doesn't have prescribed systems.
In this case we reviewed the Phoenix with a pair of the new Dynamix rear speakers (AU$595), which feature a distinctive wedge design, a Graphix centre channel and a Seismix 3 subwoofer. To help with surround sound imaging all of the speakers (bar the sub, obviously) feature the same dome tweeter.
One of most common experiences you can have when testing new speakers is when you hear details you've never heard before. The same held true for the Phoenix: the speakers are able to uncover mid-range details effortlessly, which belies the price. On other systems, cloth tweeters can sound reticent but here they sound sweet and well extended, with no part of the range given undue attention. As a result, vocals in particular sound rich and natural with a palpable sense of the acoustics surrounding them. The speakers feature a high sensitivity and can go very loud with not much encouragement.
At the bottom end of the spectrum the results were a little more mixed; while mid-bass was taut, the really deep synthy stuff was uncontrolled at times. As a result, the Pheonix was good at transient bass, such as percussion, but if anything was moving around down there it came off a little flabby.
If you have a small room — say less than 3m across — then these speakers may be too boomy. Even when spaced at a metre from the walls we couldn't hear anything but the throbbing synth bassline in Eels' "Mr E's Beautiful Blues". Conversely, the funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Suck My Kiss" was deep in the pocket (to use bass playing lingo), and the speakers were able to extract the low bass from a vinyl copy of Concrete Blonde's "Caroline" without being overbearing.
To improve the bass response, we experimented with putting a couple of balled-up socks in the rear ports, which served to take some of the boom out of the speakers but also stunted dynamics.
Impressive to a fault with stereo, the Phoenix really came into its own when used in conjunction with the other speakers. Surround sound is Krix's strength as this system very keenly demonstrated.
The Dynamix proved themselves to be worthy partners of the Phoenix as bullets, planes and arrows zipped around the room effortlessly. According to THX, the optimal surround system immerses you in a bubble of sound, which in turn helps immerse you in a movie, and this is exactly what the Phoenix system did.
The only less-than-stellar performance was put in by the Graphix centre. While it was able to render dialogue intelligently, it wasn't quite as talented as the partnered sets. For example, Jack Black's mumbled dialogue at the beginning of King Kong's Brontosaurus Stampede was more felt than heard. It's capable, but not a star attraction.
Strangely, the Seismix 3 subwoofer also played second fiddle to the main speakers. While the Seismix 3 subwoofer provided plenty of sub-bass during the spooky Paranormal Activity, it was actually overwhelmed by the Phoenix with other material.
The lobby scene from The Matrix features a synth bass soundtrack, but the amount of bass was too overpowering and even with the subwoofer off it was still too boomy. All of the bass was coming from the mains with no way to control it.
The Krix Phoenix is an excellent set of speakers that will happily perform in both stereo and surround duties. The speakers have a rich mid-range response that is very well extended, which suits both dynamic music and intimate acoustic music. If you listen to a lot of music with really deep bass the Phoenix won't be the best speakers to choose, but with rock they sound great!