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Crystal Acoustics THX3D-12 THX Select Speaker System

Part II

August, 2006

Ross Jones

 

The Sound

I normally start a review period with two-channel music, but I reversed this process given the nature of the THX-3D12 system. What I really wanted to know was how close the speakers would come to reproducing the cinema experience. So I fed the THX-3D12s a steady diet of movies featuring the sine qua non of action films: gunfire, explosions, and car chases.

The Island is a sci-fi thriller and action movie rolled into one; plus it's got Scarlett Johannson. The last act of the film features an extended chase sequence involving cars, trucks, a helicopter, and jet-powered flying motorcycles. THX-certified speakers are designed to produce a wide soundstage with seamless pans, and the Crystal Acoustics performed that task with ease. The THX-3D12 system reproduced the roar of the jet-cycles, sprays of gunfire, and exploding vehicles with a robustness and "being in the scene" that the best commercial cinemas provide.

Where The Transporter lacks in plot and character development, it more than makes up for it in car chases and ultra-choreographed fight sequences. Exploding cars and missiles provided a real work-out for the THX-Sub12. The 12" dual-ported subwoofer, powered by an internal 200 watt amp, performed the essential task of allowing the listener to feel, rather than simply hear, the explosions. In fact, my teenage son entertained a roomful of friends by repeatedly replaying one explosion sequence, just so they could feel the pressure wave. The other oft-replayed scene was a frustrated policeman futilely discharging his revolver as the Transporter's BMW raced away. The reports of ricocheting gunshots were superbly reproduced by the THX-Dipole surrounds, causing many turned heads in my listening room.

As I listened to both CD and multi-channel hi-res discs, the THX-3D12 system did a fine job recreating a musical soundstage. There was a slight forwardness in the higher frequencies, which I was able to attenuate somewhat by swiveling the tweeters straight-ahead rather than toed-in towards the listener. My previous experiences with THX speaker systems were that the design aspects allowing them to reproduce cinema soundólimited vertical dispersion, wide horizontal dispersion with a large "sweet spot"óresults in slightly reduced musical detail, and the Crystal Acoustics' were no different in this regard.

The title track from Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (SACD) is a superbly produced song, recorded at the peak of his musical and creative talents. The Crystal Acoustics accurately reproduced the timbre of Davey Johnstone's acoustic guitar and Ray Cooper's percussion accents, but that last bit of detail was lacking. That's not intended as a criticism of the speakers, but merely the realization that the THX-3D12 is designed as a THX-certified home cinema system at a great price, and consumers' expectations should be set accordingly.

Conclusions

The Crystal Acoustics THX3D-12 speaker system is a great value proposition. For less than $2,000, the THX-3D12 gives you full-range tower speakers, a dedicated center channel, dipole surrounds, and a powered subwoofer that meet the specifications for THX-Select. Go ahead, pick up the THX3D-12 system, and slap that THX logo on your front door!
 

- Ross Jones -

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