Era was not a speaker company I was terribly familiar with prior to evaluating this system, but I suspect we will all be hearing more about them in the future. Era is part of Signal Path International, which also manufacturers Sona Design A/V furniture and is the exclusive U.S. importer of Musical Fidelity components (UK based).
The Era product line currently
consists of three satellite speaker systems (D3, D4, D5), a series of
speakers for use with flat panel displays (PL 24/28), and two subwoofers
(Sub10 and Sub8).
The 5.1 system I reviewed was composed of four D3 satellites for front and
rear, a D3 LCR for center channel, and the Sub8 subwoofer. The D3 was
designed by Michael Kelly, founder of Aerial Acoustics as well as previously
designer for Boston Acoustics and B&W. Like many companies today, Era
designs their speakers in the US and manufacturers them in China.
For reference, I have an older universal remote which is roughly the size of the D3s front baffle.
The D3 LCR has similar height and depth, but is wider at
about 12 inches. The samples I reviewed were finished with a beautiful
Cherry veneer, though Sycamore, Rosewood, and Piano Black Gloss are also
options. These are real wood veneers, not vinyl, and I have to admit they're
quite stunning in their look and the high quality of the fit and finish.
I've seen cabinets of speakers that cost several times what the D3s do
which don't come close from an aesthetic point of view.
One downside of these speakers is a comparatively low sensitivity at 83 dB
for the D3 satellites and 84 dB with the LCR. These clearly require
reasonable power to drive them, and Era recommends a receiver
or amplifier with at least 75 watts per channel. I used the D3s with two
different receivers: a Denon AVR-3803 in my living room (rated at 110 watts/channel) and a Denon AVR-4806 in my home theater (THX Ultra2, rated at 140
watts/channel), and had no problems driving them.
It's a rather compact design, measuring just under a cubic foot (12" x 11" x 13"), and is available in gloss black (as my review sample was), Cherry, Rosewood, and Maple finishes.
The Sub8 is a ported design and is rated down to 32 Hz extension. It also features a boundary control switch, to enable the sub to operate effectively with in-cabinet installations. I tried a couple different crossover settings between the D3s and the Sub8, but for the most part just stuck with Era's suggested crossover point of 80 Hz.
I played with a couple placement options for the D3s, and ultimately chose to shelf-mount the front three channels and stand-mount the rear channels for most of my listening. The D3s also have cloth grille covers, but I listened mostly with the grilles off. The Sub8 was placed on its included floor spikes and discs, near the front left corner of my listening area.
Listening Impressions: Music
I listened to a range of recordings from CDs to SACDs, to digital files from my Sonos music system (encoded with Apple's lossless format).
would describe the D3s as having a laid back presentation . . . easy on the ears,
never harsh. With comparatively small drivers and low rated efficiency, the
system is less suited for filling a very large space with high SPLs, but I
found no problems listening at normal or even moderately elevated levels. In
any case, these represent one of the best sounding small speaker systems I
have ever heard.
Poseidon (Warner) – HD DVD:
From an entertainment perspective, I found Poseidon to be a bit of a dud as
others had warned me, but the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is quite impressive.
While the Sub8 reaches credibly into the 30-40 Hz range, it doesn't reach the
subterranean depths of action packed films like this one. But I was very
pleased with the D3 LCR's ability to reproduce dialogue with excellent
clarity, and it maintained good tonal balance with the other channels using
Era sells their speakers through a growing network of specialty audio
retailers around the U.S. At $1,900 for the system (all models available
individually), with a five year warranty, the D3/Sub8 combo provides a good
value and an exceptional balance between performance and appearance.