A super deal in 5.1 speaker-subwoofer systems

The Energy RC-Micro 5.1 Surround Speaker System was highly rated with a $999 MSRP, but it's a steal for $399, delivered.

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.
Steve Guttenberg
3 min read
Tiny satellite speakers and compact subwoofer make a big sound. Energy Speakers

When I reviewed and raved about the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 Surround Speaker System in late 2008 the MSRP was $1,000. It still is, but it's not hard to find the awesome sounding system selling for $399, delivered!

Energy is big on small speakers, so even though the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 is downright tiny, it sounds big.

How small is small? The four jewel-like RC-Micro satellites measure just 4.7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep, a size that barely contains the unusually small drivers: a 0.5-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 2.5-inch aluminum midbass driver. Each speaker weighs just 1.6 pounds.

The center speaker uses the same drivers, but they're housed in a slightly larger cabinet (3.5 inches tall by 5.9 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep), and weighs 1.9 pounds. Both speakers feature Energy's proprietary Convergent Source Module (CSM) technology that was originally developed for the company's flagship Veritas series speakers.

The 240-watt ESW-CS8 subwoofer has a down-firing port and a front-mounted 8-inch injection-molded woofer. The driver utilizes Energy's Ribbed Elliptical Surround--the rubber "rim" that surrounds the woofer cone has molded-in ribs--which Energy claims lowers distortion and allows the subwoofer to play louder than more conventional designs. A blue LED behind the front baffle's grille lights up when the sub is on. The sub isn't too big--just 12.7 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide by 12.3 inches deep--and it weighs a modest 16 pounds.

The entire RC-Micro 5.1 system is beautifully finished in piano black, and each component has a removable black cloth grille. The satellites and center channel speaker can be wall mounted with either their keyhole slots or threaded inserts.

I used the "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" Blu-ray to stress test the RC-Micro 5.1 system with a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. We quickly learned the wee system handled even the most torturous scenes, like the ones where Indy (Harrison Ford) and his crew go over a series of waterfalls in an amphibious vehicle. The whoosh and thunder of the falls came through loud and clear--a remarkable feat for a system as small as this.

The sound was so open and dynamically alive I wasn't thinking about the speakers' size. Dialog was full-bodied and articulate; again, I didn't hear the sort of cramped, cupped-hand coloration endemic to tiny center speakers. Even better, the front and surround satellites worked well together, so they created an immense, room-filling soundstage. That quality contributed to the RC-Micro's ability to mimic the sound of a larger system.

Indeed, the speakers sound great, but it was the way the subwoofer so seamlessly meshed with those speakers that put the RC-Micro 5.1 at the head of the pack. With most very small systems it's easy to zero in on their missing midbass, which tends to thin out the sound on movies and music. Not this time, though--if anything, it was the opposite experience.

So far so good, but could the system play music without betraying the satellites' wee dimensions?

John Mellencamp's "Life Death and Freedom" CD fared well, up to a point. The sound at moderately loud volume was good, but nudged higher I detected the sats straining, and the sub's composure went south. Reducing the overall volume restored my faith in the RC-Micro 5.1's abilities.

Summing up, Energy's RC-Micro 5.1 is simply one of the best-sounding, packaged speaker systems I've heard. It's highly recommended for movies and music, and easily justifies its $1,000 price tag, but it's a steal for $400!