Bookshelf Speakers

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 Bookshelf Speakers


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.