Bookshelf Speakers

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX
Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers

Introduction

When I first heard about the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons, I was very intrigued with the product, as I own the 6' tall Carver Amazing Platinum IVs that are the acoustic benchmark the diminutive 8" tall Sunfire Cinema Ribbons are supposed to mimic.

I have kept the Amazing Platinum IVs these last 19 years because I have not found a pair of stereo speakers under $10K that will out perform them in the areas of resolution, sound staging, bandwidth, and the ability to play at elevated levels with an extremely low level of distortion.

Specifications

  • CRM-2 Front Satellites
  • Design: 2-Way High Pressure
  • Drivers: HF- 60" Wave-Guide-Loaded Neodymium Ribbon , LF- Dual 4.5" High Back EMF Woofers
  • MFR: 95 Hz - 40 kHz
  • Sensitivity: (2.83v/1m) 90db
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.5 kH
  • Power Range: 25 - 400 Watts
  • Maximum Output: 115 dB
  • Magnetic Shielding: Yes
  • Connections: 5-Way Gold Plated Binding Posts
  • Dimensions: 8.25" in x 5.5" W x 6" D
  • Weight: 8.9 Pounds/Each
  • Finish: Ebonized Rosewood
  • MSRP: $850/Each USA
  • CRM-2C Center Channel Speaker
  • Design: : 2-Way High Pressure
  • Drivers: HF- 60" Wave-Guide-Loaded Neodymium Ribbon , LF- Dual 4.5" High Back EMF Woofer
  • MFR: 95 Hz - 40 kHz
  • Sensitivity: (2.83v/1m) 90 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.5 kHz
  • Power Range: 25 - 400 Watts
  • Maximum Output: 115 dB
  • Magnetic Shielding: Yes
  • Connections: 5-Way Gold Plated Binding Posts
  • Dimensions: 6" H x 17" W x 3.75" D
  • Weight: 10.5 Pounds
  • Finish: Ebonized Rosewood
  • MSRP: $850/Each USA
  • CRM-2BIP Bi-Pole Rear or Side Satellites
  • Design: 2-Way High Pressure
  • Drivers: HF- Two 60" Wave-Guide-Loaded Neodymium Ribbons , LF- One 4.5" High Back EMF Woofer
  • MFR: 95 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Sensitivity: (2.83v/1m) 90db
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.5 kHz
  • Power Range: 25 - 400 Watts
  • Maximum Output: 115 dB
  • Connections: 5-Way Gold Binding Posts
  • Dimensions: 8.25" H x 12.18" W x 3.6" D
  • Weight: 8 Pounds/Each
  • Finish: Gloss Black Lacquer
  • MSRP: $875/Each USA
  • SRS-210R SubRosa Subwoofer
  • Design: Sealed Enclosure
  • Drivers: Dual 10" High Back EMF
  • Amplifier: 2,700 Watts RMS
  • MFR: 18 Hz - 115 Hz
  • StillBass Anti-Shake Device to Reduce Vibration
  • Inputs: 5-Way Binding Posts
  • Dimensions: 44.5" H x 14.25" W x 3.75" D (Mounted Vertically)
  • Weight: 59 Pounds
  • Finish: Ebonized Rosewood
  • MSRP: $4,200 USA
  • SRA-2700EQ SubRosa Subwoofer Amplifier
  • Output: 2,700 Watts RMS
  • Equalization: Auto Room Correction with Included Mic
  • Balanced XLR, RCA and Speaker Level Inputs
  • Dimensions: 1.75" H x 17" W x 14.25" D
  • MSRP: Included with SubRosa
  • Sunfire

The original Carver Amazing Platinum IVs were large floorstanding dipole speakers (photo below) with a 60" vertical ribbon, and four 12" woofers in each panel. The ribbon and woofers of the Amazing Platinum IVs radiate energy equally to the front and back.

I will first compare the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons model CRM-2 as a stereo pair with the Sunfire SubRosa Subwoofer versus the full range Carver Amazing Platinum IVs. Then I will evaluate the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons and Sunfire SubRosa Subwoofer in a full 7.1 channel system.

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers 2

The Design of Sunfire Cinema Ribbons and SubRosa Subwoofer

The Sunfire Cinema Ribbons are a 2-way design with a folded 60" ribbon of which only about 5" is visible through the front of the cabinet. The ribbon handles the frequencies above 1.5 kHz. The two side-firing 4.5" woofers in the unit handle the frequencies down to 95 Hz. Therefore, it is imperative that the Cinema Ribbons be used with an electronic crossover as found in an A/V receiver, preamp, or with the crossover built into most subwoofers. This is necessary to keep the very low frequencies out of the Cinema Ribbons operating range.

The Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Center Channel CRM-2C uses the same drivers as the CRM-2. However, instead of firing to the sides, the center channel woofers flank the ribbon and fire forward (photo shown below). Since the center channel ribbon is now firing from a horizontal position, the Sunfire Designers created an acoustic lens in the grille to improve the dispersion of the ribbon. For best results the Sunfire CRM-2C Center Channel should be used with the grille in place.

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers 3

The Sunfire bipole CRM-2BIPs (photo below) use two ribbon assemblies to fire sound in opposite directions from where the speaker is mounted. These speakers can be used as the side channels in a 5.1 system, the rear and/or side channels in a 7.1 system, or a single unit could be used as the 6.1 summed channel in a 6.1 system.

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers 4

The Sunfire SubRosa Subwoofer (photo below) is a thin 3.75" package that can be mounted on the wall in either a horizontal or vertical orientation. There is also an in-wall version to match the in-wall versions of the Cinema Ribbons.

The SubRosa uses two 10" High Back EMF drivers powered by the standalone 2,700 watt SubRosa Power Amp and Equalizer with calibrated microphone. The design incorporates a patent-pending internal I-BEAM anti-shake device which Sunfire refers to as their StillBass technology. The SubRosa power amplifier provides for continuously variable phase, crossover, and level controls. The inputs are either XLR or RCA and the unit has a detachable power cord (second and third photos below).

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers 4a

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers 5

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Surround Speakers 6

The Sunfire Cinema Ribbons Setup and Use

I first set two of the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons on stands next to my Carver Amazing Platinum IVs to see if they lived up to the hype, and could hang with the Platinums in a pure audiophile two-channel comparison. I switched the cables from my normal two channel system and adjusted the subwoofer (an SVS PB-13 Ultra) to match the Sunfire CRM-2s as best as possible. Normally this subwoofer in my 2- channel system is set to operate below 40 Hz to augment the Carver full-range speakers. I adjusted the crossover to about 90 Hz to closely match the needs of the Sunfire CRMs.

Before making the switch from the Carvers to the Sunfires, I had been listening to tracks from Norah Jones, Regina Spektor, B.B. King, Bon Jovi and Beyonce. After making the switch I played the same tracks, sitting in complete astonishment of what I was hearing. I had to check to make sure I had actually made the switch. These two speakers while vastly different in size were incredibly close in every audiophile criteria. The imaging, resolution, bandwidth, dynamic range capability, and above all else believability (especially "If I Were a Boy" by Beyonce, fantastic dynamic range) were amazingly similar. The only difference I could detect was a little more "air" in the midrange of the Carver Amazing Platinum IVs. However, after speaking with Bob Carver he suggested that the difference was being caused by setting the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons directly next to the Carver panels and that the panels may be interfering with the "wave launch" of the Sunfire CRMs. So on Mr. Carver's recommendation I moved the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons away from the Carver panels to give them more breathing room and he was correct, the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons now had a midrange "air" that closely matched the Amazing Platinum IVs. You can read more about the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons "wave launch" and the design of the Cinema Ribbons HERE.

Having confirmed that these little speakers were more than a match to their two-channel design goal, I moved on to the 7.1 channel setup.

I used two of the Sunfire CRM-2s on stands and one Sunfire CRM-2C mounted under the screen for the front channels. I then set up two of the Sunfire CRM-2BIP Bi-Poles as the side channels (mounted high), and two Sunfire CRM-2s on stands for the rear channels.

The SubRosa Subwoofer was attached vertically to a wall behind my main two-channel system's right channel. I have found that this is the ideal position for subwoofers in my home theater as I have had two other subwoofers (Velodyne HGS-18 and SVS PB-13 Ultra) in this location with excellent results. This wall adjoins the front and side walls of the room at 45 degree angles and provides optimum and smooth bass loading for the room. You can see this wall and subwoofer location in photo #4. More information regarding the SubRosa can be found HERE.

I used an Onkyo TX-SR875 (the new model is the TX-SR876) for the A/V Receiver to keep the overall system cost within reason. This receiver provides for DTS-MA and Dolby True HD with HDMI inputs and video upscaling to 1080P. The Onkyo is rated at 140 watts per channel and provided adequate power for the Cinema Ribbons. However, any receiver with less power will probably not exploit the full capability of the Cinema Ribbons.

I contacted the folks at MIT (Musical Interface Technologies) to provide cables for this review system. I wanted to be sure the speaker cables would not limit the capability of the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons. They graciously provided seven custom made moderately priced speaker cables ranging from 25 to 35 feet from their excellent Technology Series; the EXP S1 series. More information regarding these cables can be found HERE.

The first thing I set up after making all the connections was the SubRosa Subwoofer. I used the supplied calibrated microphone, followed the instructions, and the SubRosa Power Amp/EQ did the rest. I then ran the Audyssey Room Calibration System from the Onkyo paying close attention to the crossover frequencies that the Audyssey System selected. The Audyssey System selected 80Hz for all speakers. I manually selected 90 Hz for all speakers to provide a better match.

After everything was set up and calibrated for the 7.1 channel system, I fired up my Sony 1080p projector and searched for all the 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, and uncompressed movie soundtracks I could find. I watched various clips from the following 7.1 channel Blu-ray movies: Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II, Hairspray, The Bank Job, The Golden Compass, and Dark City.

Soundtrack after soundtrack, this system just disappears with a good 7.1 channel mix. You will be hard pressed to localize any of the speakers. The SubRosa is a subwoofer designed to work specifically with the Cinema Ribbons and it shows. The SubRosa is a seamless match with the Cinema Ribbons when properly placed and correctly adjusted. It provides prodigious deep bass with alacrity and control.

The complete immersion in the soundtrack mix with this system was beyond spooky. Two Guillermo Del Toro movies, Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II, were especially notable because while viewing these films the viewer is placed in the middle of the action within a seemingly infinite space. The "tooth fairy" and "troll market" scenes from Hellboy II are a rigorous workout for any system. The Sunfire Cinema Ribbons and SubRosa subwoofer handled these scenes without breaking a sweat.

The presence of the midrange drivers on the sides of the CRM-2s is very innovative (in fact, we gave Sunfire a Secrets Best of 2008 Award for this innovation). Bob Carver's intent is to make the sound more diffuse rather than having the sound be identified from a small location in the room. It really works. Secondly, these speakers have the ability to produce tremendous output without sounding harsh or mushy. It was always detailed and clear, regardless of the demand. The Cinema Ribbons are truly designed for those consumers who want to have a large home theater sound experience without putting 6 foot speakers all over the place.

Measuring the impedance and phase of the CRM-2 with the toggle on the rear panel switched to the right vs. the left yielded some interesting results (shown below; click on photos to see larger version). With the toggle to the right (for when you place the speakers more into the room, away from walls), the impedance below 100 Hz stays around 4 ohms. When the toggle is switched to the left (for speaker placement next to a wall), the impedance below 100 Hz is between 10 and 22 ohms. So, switching it to the left reduces the low bass output to compensate for wall loading. Nominal impedance is the specified 8 ohms. The electrical phase stays generally within ± 400. They will be an easy load for most mass market receivers.


Conclusions

The Sunfire Cinema Ribbons exceeded my expectations in every way. Not only did they live up to the considerable hype of being compared to the legendary Carver Amazing Platinum IVs in the two channel test, but also proved to be key components in the 7.1 system, allowing it to effortlessly vanish so the movie viewer receives a more immersive experience. Also, the fit and finish of the product is impeccable. Each speaker unit has seven coats of lacquer, and the SubRosa has eleven coats of lacquer. Each speaker is double boxed inside a cloth bag, and even comes with a pair of white gloves for handling! Best of all, the Sunfire Cinema Ribbons small size gives them a high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).

Bob Carver and the Sunfire Team may not have refuted the laws of physics, but they certainly used them to their best advantage. If you are looking at speakers in this price range, the decision is an easy one. The Sunfire Cinema Ribbons and SubRosa Subwoofer should be first on your comparison list.