Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Crystal Acoustics TX-3D12 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System

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My usual experience with THX certified speakers is to expect trade-offs between home theater and music listening. THX speakers are designed to maximize wide horizontal off-axis response, and limited vertical off-axis response for an immersive movie environment. As a result, most THX speakers I've heard sound fine with film soundtracks, but suffer to varying degrees with less-than-stellar imaging on music material.

Crystal Acoustics TX-T3SE Home Theater Speaker System

I started by dialing up Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' amazing new Blu-ray audio recording of Damn The Torpedoes. The original CD was a well-produced album, but the Blu-ray audio version is so fine it could be the subject of its own article. I was expecting the Crystal Acoustics' to reproduce the wonderful tones of the Heartbreakers, but not much in the way of imaging. So I was nicely surprised with the TX-T3SE's ability to separate instruments in the 5.1 soundstage. Stan Lynch's drumming, particularly on well-known tracks such as Refugee and Don't Do Me Like That, was larger than life on the Crystals'.

The Crystal Acoustics' spent part of football season in my listening room, so weekends provided a heavy dose of NFL action (via HD Comcast cable, 5.1 Dolby Digital). Watching games through the Crystal Acoustics were a real treat, especially with the THX-D dipole surround speakers providing realistic crowd ambience. It was almost like being at the game, except without the long lines at the bathroom.

Crystal Acoustics TX-T3SE Home Theater Speaker System

Pixar does nothing other than make consistently superb films with eye-dropping visuals, wonderful characters, an uncanny ability to make me cry at the end of the movie, and of course fantastic sound. Toy Story 3 is no exception, with a soundtrack that includes everything from a fashion-conscious Ken to garbage trucks and landfill furnaces. The Crystal Acoustics really shined on the DTS-HD Master Audio, providing an enveloping soundstage and dynamic contrast. The THX-12SUB provided a solid foundation, with robust power in the mid and low bass frequencies. I did not get a sense of much infrasonic bass energy, which is to be expected given the rated frequency response of the sub, but there was a ton of room-filling pressure when it counted.

The TX-T3SE's are sensitive speakers, meaning they don't need a lot of power, but I found myself turning them up because they seemed to like it. No matter how hard I pushed them, the Crystal Acoustics' never sounded "loud" in the compressed, harsh sense of the word. They had the clear, powerful demeanor like you find in top-notch movie houses. In fact, the only issue I could take with the Crystal Acoustics' performance was an occasional volume mismatch between the THX-CT and the rest of the system. The THX-CT center-channel speaker is much smaller compared to TX-T3SE main speakers, an intentional decision made by Crystal to maintain a small visual footprint (especially when mated with flat screen displays). I found that as the volume increased, the center channel speaker occasionally would drop a bit behind the rest of the system.