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Product Review
 

Cerwin-Vega CVHD 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System

September, 2007

Jared Rachwalski

 

Specifications:

Satellites

● Drivers: One 1" Soft-Dome Tweeter, Six
   3" Midrange
● MFR: 150 Hz - 22 kHz
● Sensitivity: 95 dB
● Power Handling: 125 Watts
● Dimensions: 22.5" H x 5" W x 5" D
● Weight: 6.3 Pounds/Each

Subwoofer

● Driver: One 12"
● Amplifier: 250 Watts RMS
● Dimensions: 17.8" H x 16.8" W x
   16.5" D
● Weight: 48.5 Pounds

● System MSRP: $999 USA

Cerwin-Vega

Introduction

Cerwin-Vega has a special place in the speaker history books. Virtually everyone has heard or seen the iconic red surrounds on the drivers, often 15" in diameter pounding at parties, dorm rooms, and clubs.

This speaker manufacturer has been around for a very long time and has done much more than party speakers; they have long been known for their pro audio and car audio products. They market themselves as the LOUD Speaker Company and playing loud is the strong point of this 36 driver 5.1 package.

The Design

Six drivers, each 3" in diameter, with three of them above and three below a 1" tweeter make up each of the five main speakers (satellites). The center channel is only slightly different, namely placing the logo in the middle of the grille.

The theory behind using multiple drivers in a stacked line is to allow greater output from small drivers, in something called a "line array".

In conventional speaker designs, the further you get from the speaker the more the sound drops off. In a properly designed line array, this effect is reduced.

The sliver/black plastic enclosures are quite light and do not help the small drivers produce any useable bass. They have integrated mounting brackets, allowing the speaker to be placed in one of three heights. These speakers are wall mountable which is the preferred method, as they otherwise require specific stands costing $150, and they benefit from the slight bump in mid-bass response when on the wall.

The subwoofer is very large in relation to the rest of the package. It has a red foamed driver in a dual port black box with a 250 watt plate amp that includes speaker level inputs and outputs. There is the standard crossover and level control as well as both L/R and LFE input.

The subwoofer crossover must be set at about 150 Hz to fill in the bottom end, as the satellites are incapable of outputting anything usable below that. This also requires that the subwoofer be placed in the front of the room to reduce localization issues. As well, if your receiver does not allow you to set the crossover that high you are best to use the speaker level input/outputs or the L/R outputs and connect the speakers to the speaker-level outputs on the subwoofer.

Listening

These speakers are designed to be played loud, and that is what they do well. Imaging and depth are lacking, and so is tonal balance. The small drivers are easily overpowered by the abilities of the large sub and can take some time to balance just right. These are not the type of speakers you sit down and appreciate music with while enjoying a fine wine. These are meant to be cranked up and to fill the room with sound while you are dancing, eating, or otherwise having fun with your friends.

The most notable problem with the sound quality is the serious lack of mid-bass. This causes the instruments to lack impact, especially the bass guitar and kick drum. This was especially evident on the title track of Pork Soda by Primus. The slap bass guitar sounded soft and weak. The normal solid kick drum used throughout this track felt light. The electric guitar, on the other hand, was clean at all volumes. As well, there was a lack of depth and presence in this recording.

Movies on the other hand were handled quite well with the CVHD 5.1 system. They were able to fill my large open living room with sound, there was not bottoming out with heavy bass scenes, and the sound was quite seamless.

However, the center channel was a tad thin, and all the speakers required plenty of assistance from the 12" subwoofer. Careful placement is key with the subwoofer as it provides all the mid-bass and therefore has the potential to be localized.

Kung Fu Hustle is a movie that is great in testing the limits and balance of speaker systems. A profusion of immersive special effects and hand to axe combat scenes provide a nice workout for any speakers.

While I was able to drive the Cerwin-Vegas to very loud levels without distortion, there was a noticeable lack of atmosphere and clarity with the dialogue.

The bass was loud enough and balanced with the mains. Even though the sub could not reach deep down, there was no audible port noise, which is surprising.

Conclusions

Every speaker is designed with certain goals in mind. Some are built for beauty and grace, some for output and volume, and some for budget. In the case of the Cerwin-Vega CVHD 5.1 Speaker System, output and budget are clearly more important than looks or sound quality. This is not all bad, as many consumers do not care about fidelity, but rather, only sheer volume. If you are one of those consumers, this is a decent contender. Keep sub placement in mind, as you will need this large box to reproduce a significant amount of the music.
 

- Jared Rachwalski -

Associated Equipment:

Marantz SR5300 Receiver
Oppo 981HD DVD Player
Paradigm Cinema 330 Speakers

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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