Cambridge SoundWorks Newton Theater MC100.2 review:

Cambridge SoundWorks Newton Theater MC100.2

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Attractive and great-sounding subwoofer; sassy satellites; 45-day in-home trial; 10-year warranty.

The Bad Sats sound dull.

The Bottom Line The performance-to-size ratio is better than most, but this set sounds better for home theater than for music.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

It's easy to understand the logic and popularity of home-theater speaker packages: not only do the engineers take the guesswork out of assembling a matched set of speakers, but the coordinated styling of the kit looks a lot nicer than a hodgepodge grouping of different designs. Which brings us to a fine example of the breed, Cambridge SoundWorks' newest Newton ensemble, the Theater MC100.2. It's a sweet-sounding system, and you don't have to take our word for it because Cambridge sells the MC100.2 with a 45-day in-home trial. It's easy to understand the logic and popularity of home-theater speaker packages: not only do the engineers take the guesswork out of assembling a matched set of speakers, but the coordinated styling of the kit looks a lot nicer than a hodgepodge grouping of different designs. Which brings us to a fine example of the breed, Cambridge SoundWorks' newest Newton ensemble, the Theater MC100.2. It's a sweet-sounding system, and you don't have to take our word for it because Cambridge sells the MC100.2 with a 45-day in-home trial.

Here's what you get
The Newton Theater MC100.2 package includes four MC100 sats, a MC150 center speaker, and a frisky sub, the P200. Pick up one of the sats, and you'll notice that it feels more solid than the typical fiberboard or plastic speaker. Well, it is different--the Newton's sats are made of glass-fiber-reinforced ABS plastic, and their rounded shape minimizes cabinet resonance.

The MC100 features a 3.5-inch, copolymer, midrange driver and a .75-inch, silk-dome tweeter. The MC150 center is also a two-way design but doubles up on the 3.5-inch drivers. The MC100s are tiny at just 6.5 by 4.5 by 4.75 inches; the MC150 is fairly petite as well, standing 4.5 by 11.5 by 4.75 inches. Cambridge supplies basic wall-mounting hardware and rubber feet.

The Newton sats are available in neutral slate gray or white. Their deeply recessed, spring-type speaker connectors are unusual in that they're extrabeefy, gold-plated, all-metal devices, but they accept only bare wire.

Most subs are drab-looking boxes, so we were pleasantly surprised by the P200's sculpted, slate-gray cabinet. It's really pretty attractive. A gently curved grille covers the sub's 10-inch, polymer-laminated woofer. Tucked in on the P200's rear you'll find a variable 60Hz to 200Hz low-pass crossover, a 0-degree to 180-degree phase switch, speaker-level/line-level inputs, and a video EQ control that bumps up the bass for greater theater impact. This 200-watt sub can reach down to a room shaking 25Hz. It's also compact, measuring just 13.5 by 12.0 by 13.0 inches and weighing 30 pounds. The sub rests on your choice of chunky rubber feet or carpet-piercing spikes.

Navigating the Newton's sound
Our old Violent Femmes CDs rocked and rolled with abandon, and a big part of that energy came from Brian Ritchie's snarling stand-up bass. A good start, but we felt that the guitars and the cymbals were slightly muted. On the other hand, the reduced high-frequency detail softens the edgy grit on CDs and DVDs that aren't recorded as cleanly as the Femmes. Classical music, always a tough test for sub/sat systems, revealed the Newton's midrange to be a tad lightweight. As we said, little speakers aren't usually up to the task of reproducing the full depth and scope of classical music.

Ah, but the Zoolander DVD's beat-heavy soundtrack strutted and throbbed in all the right places. The MC150's dialogue tonality was very good, and the surround effects were nicely handled. The Newton's comfort with dynamic, special-effects-laden DVDs surprised us; the little system can play louder than most folks will need it to (in small to midsized rooms). Better yet, the P200 sub works its magic on movie soundtracks and music with equal enthusiasm, delivering deep bass that's felt as well as heard.

The complete Newton Theater MC100.2 goes for $950, which may not seem like a great deal at first glance. But once you factor in Cambridge's 45-day in-home trial and 10-year warranty, we'd say that it's worth the extra freight.

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