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Product Review
 

Onix Rocket ELT-1 Surround Sound Speaker System

March, 2004

Yongki Go

 

Specifications:

 

ELT LRS Satellite:

2-way, 2-driver, rear-ported enclosure.
custom 5.25" long-throw aluminum cone woofers, hybrid silk-suspended alloy dome tweeter
Crossover Point: 3.8 kHz
Frequency Response: 65 Hz to 20 KHz (± 3 dB)
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
Efficiency: 89 dB (@ 1 watt / 1 meter)
Power Rating: 25-150 Watts power handling
Dimensions: 11.5" H x 6.75" D x 7.5" W
Weight: 12 lbs each
Finish: Russian Baltic Birch with custom cherry stain

MSRP: $249/pair


ELT Center Channel:

3-way, 4-driver, rear-ported enclosure.
custom 5.25" long-throw aluminum cone woofers, custom 2.5" paper composite midrange, hybrid silk-suspended alloy dome tweeter.
Frequency Response: 60 Hz to 20 KHz (± 3 dB)
Impedance: 6 Ohms nominal.
Efficiency: 87 dB (@ 1 watt / 1 meter)
Power Rating: 25-150 Watts
Dimensions: 7.75" H x 6.75" D x 20" W
Weight: 20 lbs. each
Finish: Russian Baltic Birch with custom cherry stain

MSRP: $299 each


ELT SW-10 powered subwoofer:

single front-firing driver, front-ported enclosure
Drivers: Custom 10" paper-composite long-throw driver
Crossover Point: adjustable 30 Hz – 150 Hz
Frequency Response: 28 Hz to 150 Hz (± 3 dB)
Power Rating: 200 Watts
Dimensions: 18.75" H x 11.75" D x 14.25" W
Weight: 50 lbs
Finish: Russian Baltic Birch with custom cherry stain

MSRP: $299 each


MSRP of ELT theater package as reviewed (2 pairs of LRS, 1 Center Channel, 1 SW-10 subwoofer): $999

 

AV123

 

www.av123.com

 

Introduction

The Rocket ELT-1 speaker series reviewed here is a little brother of the Rocket RS series from AV123 that I reviewed very favorably a few months back. I thought at the time that the Rocket RS series offered a combination of craftsmanship and performance that were really hard to beat at its price point. With the success of the Rocket speaker line, Mark Schifter of AV123 has expanded his product offerings to include this smaller and less expensive speaker system to cater wider audiences.

The ‘ELT’ in the name of this speaker package stands for ‘Extremely Luscious Theater’. I don’t know where Mark got the name from, but it does sound unique. Such a name, however, also raises one’s expectation of the product. Is the ELT-1 system really as luscious as the name implies?

Look and Features

The ELT-1 package reviewed here is a 5.1 speaker system, consisting of two pairs of ELT-1 LRS satellite speakers for both front and surround applications, an ELT-1 Center Channel, and an ELT-1 SW-10 powered subwoofer. The whole package costs only $999, which put it in a very affordable category in my personal categorization (below $1000). The whole system was shipped in two boxes: the smaller one contained the subwoofer and the bigger one contained the other five speakers. Inside the bigger box, there were three nicely arranged boxes, each of which housed a pair of the LRS or the center channel. Mark told me that the decision to ship the whole system in two boxes rather than one was to make it easier to handle by a person, as the total weight is about 125 lbs.

I approach the system as I approach any other budget system, that is without my usual high expectation. But immediately after I opened the first box, I had to rethink my expectation. What I saw gave me a green light for a higher expectation. I had seen the picture of the ELT system from AV123 website, but when I laid my eyes for the first time at the actual speakers, I was still astonished at their appearance, which is much more appealing than what those pictures indicated. This is not to say that the pictures in the AV123 website were bad, but it’s just that those pictures didn’t do justice to the actual speaker’s beauty. It may be that the quality finish of these speakers is just hard to capture in a photograph. Even my photographs here don’t really capture it.

Just like my opinion for the Rocket RS speakers, the craftsmanship that you get with the ELT-1 speakers is not like what you usually find in that price point. The ELT cabinets are solidly built and those round edges on the front side corners of the speakers are really nice, giving them a more attractive look. And the finish is even more impressive: smooth real wood cherry-stained birch veneer. Although look is not everything for speakers, at least in my book, this ELT-1 system scores higher than its competitors in this department.





The LRS satellite is a two-way rear-ported design with a 20 mm hybrid silk-suspended alloy dome tweeter and a 5.25" aluminum cone woofer. Identical tweeter and woofer are also used in the Center Channel for timbre matching. The Center Channel is also rear-ported and has 3-way 4-driver configuration with a tweeter, two woofers, and a 2.5" hybrid felted-wool/paper midrange driver with neodymium motor. Both the LRS and the Center Channel have a pair of five-way binding-posts on the back. These speakers come with removable black cloth grills. A set of small sticky rubber feet is also supplied in case you need ones.


  


As the name implies, the SW-10 subwoofer uses a 10" front-firing driver, which is made of paper-composite material in multiple layer sandwich-construction design with a sprayed “stiffener” coating, in a front-ported enclosure. This subwoofer is powered by a 200 W built-in amplifier, which is located on the rear part of the cabinet. The SW-10 can accept either line- or speaker-level inputs. Only line-level pass-through outputs are provided. Besides the main on/off switch, there are three rotary-knob controls for volume level, crossover frequency (continuously adjustable from 30 to 150 Hz), and phase (continuously adjustable from 0 to 180 deg). On the bottom of the SW-10 cabinet, you’ll find four threaded holes to be used with the supplied rubber or brass spike feet. As my testing room is carpeted, I chose to use the brass spike feet during my evaluation. The grill that comes with the subwoofer is also removable like the one found in the LRS and the Center Channel.




Listening Impression

I began my critical listening after breaking in the speakers for more than 100 hours as suggested in the manual. As usual, before putting the speakers in my basement theater, I evaluated them using my two-channel rig in my living room. For this evaluation, I put a pair of LRS satellite speakers on the 24" stands, toed them in a little bit, and placed them such that the distance between the speakers was about the same as the distance between my listening position to each of the speaker, which is about 10 ft. The SW-10 subwoofer was placed near one of the room’s front corners. For this evaluation, I let the LRS run its full range (no high pass filter) and used the subwoofer to pick up where the LRS started to roll off. Apparently in this configuration, you have to play around a little bit with the subwoofer controls (especially the crossover) to achieve the best integration. I found that in my room, setting the crossover of the subwoofer at about 70 Hz gave me the most seamless integration with the LRS satellites.

Now how did the combo ELT-1 LRS and SW-10 sound in the two-channel setup? My first impression of the system sound was detailed and clear with nice articulate bass. Overall balance of the LRS satellite across its frequency range was good with a slight emphasis on the top end, which gave an impression of slightly bright. But make no mistake that the slightly-bright characteristic of the speaker in this case was not obtrusive in any way to the other aspects of its sound. For example, it did not cause the speaker to sound thin or to produce too much vocal sibilance. Depending on the rest of your system and room acoustics, such characteristics might actually be desirable and could bring livelier result. The midrange of the LRS speaker was very respectable, resulting in natural human vocals and producing various sounds of musical instruments realistically. If you don’t really care about the last couple-of-octave bass, the LRS speakers were actually quite enjoyable to listen to by themselves (without a subwoofer). The LRS reminded me a little bit of a great little speaker from the past: the NHT Super Zero, albeit with better bass extension. The nice thing about the LRS was that it didn’t try to produce bass outside of its driver’s capability, which could result in muddy sound and unnatural bass. I’d take less bass than plenty of distorted bass anytime.

The ELT-1 SW-10 subwoofer exceeded my expectation for a $299 subwoofer. When setup correctly, it was capable of augmenting the LRS nicely with seamless integration. The tightness of the bass produced by the SW-10 was good and it was quite tuneful, albeit not as punchy compared to some of the more expensive subwoofers out there, such as the Onix’s own UFW-10, which I currently have for review. In my room with corner loading, the SW-10 was able to produce useful bass down to about 25 Hz.

The LRS/SW-10 sub-sat combo was no slouch in image and soundstage department. The image presented by this combo was relatively neutral, neither forward nor laid-back. Also, this system was capable of delivering a believable soundstage. Overall, I was quite impressed by the musicality of the LRS/SW-10 combo in two-channel application, especially when considering that I was listening to a combination of $249/pair satellites and $299 subwoofer.

Now how does this ELT combo fare against its big brother, the Rocket RS series? Because I think many readers would be interested in such a question, I spent some time during this review to compare this ELT combo with the RS-750 and RS-250 speakers. Immediately apparent during the comparison was the difference in the sound characters between the two series. The ELT-1 had brighter sound with a more forward presentation compared to the RS series. The treble of the ELT-1 was a bit more aggressive and less airy compared to the one from the RS series. Also, the RS series excelled in midrange lushness and delivered smoother overall sound than the ELT-1. I thought that the RS speakers had sharper image focus and could paint deeper and wider soundstage too. Although the ELT-1 seemed to be bettered by the RS series in many aspects, but to put it in perspective, this result was to be expected, as this was not a fair comparison by any means. For example, the RS-250 itself costs more than twice of the ELT-1 LRS. I still think that the ELT-1 is an excellent performer that is hard to beat at its price point.

Now how about the performance of the ELT-1 system in the home-theater application? In a word, excellent! They again exceeded my expectation for a speaker package that costs below $1000. For this evaluation, the satellites were crossed over at 80 Hz all around using the bass management in my surround processor.

Timbre match between the ELT-1 LRS satellite and the Center Channel speakers was very good, which led to seamless panning of sound from side to side. I watched several movies on the ELT-1 speakers ranging from drama such as Whale Rider to action such as Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, and the ELT-1 system never let me down. By that I mean that I was satisfied with the naturality and clarity of the dialogues of the movies, the delivery of the surround envelopment by the speakers, the presentation of the background music during the movies, and the conveyance of necessary impact during action sequences when it called for. The SW-10 subwoofer was actually capable of delivering significant-impact bass, although if you push it too hard, you will start hearing the port noise. Overall, the system could play quite loud, which should be enough for most application, before it started to sound strained.

If you read my review on the Rocket RS series speakers, you know how impressed I was with the RSC-200 center channel. Well, similarly here, I was again mightily impressed by the $299 ELT-1 Center Channel. Hmm, two strikes from Mark, who seems to always have a recipe for making an impressive center channel. According to Mark, it took him and Mr. Pu (his partner) almost six months to get just the midrange driver on this speaker right. Well, their effort definitely pays off. The ELT-1 Center Channel sounded free from boxiness and thus, was capable of producing clear full-bodied human voices for natural movie dialogues or wonderful music surround programs. And the Center Channel was able to maintain the aforementioned nice properties even if you sit off-axis vertically or horizontally, suggesting that it has quite wide dispersion pattern, which is desirable for a center channel. So far, this is the best below-$300 center channel I have ever listened to and could easily rival the performance of the more expensive ones out there.

Conclusions

Often times a name is just a name, without any correlation whatsoever to its bearer. But the Rocket Extremely Luscious Theater 1 (ELT-1) speaker system really lives up to its moniker; it is extremely luscious! This $999 5.1 speaker system seems to define the word ‘value’ in the home theater world all over again. While the ELT-1 speaker package belongs in the very-affordable category, there is nothing cheap about it, from its beautiful craftsmanship to its strong all-around performance. If you have been looking for a budget small speaker package (maybe even considering Home-Theater-in-a-Box system), I would strongly recommend putting the ELT-1 system on top of your audition list. And I wouldn't be surprised if it stays on top of your list at the end of your audition.



- Yongki Go -

Associated Equipment for This Review:

CD playback: Shanling CD-S100
DVD playback: Toshiba SD-4700
Preamplifier: Adcom GFP-750, Lexicon DC-1
Amplifier: Parasound HCA-855A, Sherbourn 7/2100
Other speakers: Rocket home theater system (RS-750, RS-250, RSC-200), Rocket UFW-10 subwoofer
Cables: MIT Terminator 4 interconnects, MIT Terminator 2 speaker cables, Cardas Crosslink speaker cables, Audioquest GR-8 speaker cables.

 

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