As I scanned the newspapers, it
was tempting to buy a matched set, but these inexpensive ones were too good
to be true, and the expensive ones were too dear to make a snap decision on.
I had been looking hard at bipole or dipole speakers, and in the end it was
quite a prosaic factor that made my choice. The popular Mission units were
actually too wide to fit between the oak beams in my living room. So the
choice narrowed to Mordant-Short or Eltax - their bipolar rears are very
similar in size and shape. My local grumpy electrical barn had the M-S units
in stock but were unhelpful when I tried to audition so I headed to the mean
hi-fi buyers' Mecca - Richer Sounds.
The three units make up a strange, physically mismatched family, as the center is as unusually large as the rears are compact. Although they are all nominally black, the center is dressed in a paler 'stained pine' black, whereas the rears are covered in a jet black wrap. Their tacky silver plastic badges rankled the discerning senses of the domestic arbiter of aesthetics, but otherwise there is little to offend, and the big center actually blends in, hiding in the dark under my TV set.
The HT-2 rears are small, neat and dense, all edges are rounded, and the MDF frame for the mesh is radiused to continue the smooth line. The end panels - top and bottom - are in fact plastic caps. These aren't especially pleasing but are very hard and very dense - which I discovered by dropping one of them and damaging some furniture. They feel and sound very solid. The overall impression is that they were milled from solid MDF because they are so small.
The cable terminals are stocky chromed brass numbers which could take banana plugs - if the there was enough space behind them when they are hung on the wall. Wall mounting is the default for these little boxes. The packing proudly proclaims that brackets are included. For brackets, read 'keyhole slots for hanging on a screw'. It works well, which is lucky as they wouldn't suit other methods.
The center is an odd unit, and its bulk is certainly at odds with the rears. Centers these days all seem to be plain boxes, but this one shares the trapezoidal section of the rears. This means that it leans back and fires up at about 30 degrees. Fine for under the TV but not a whole lot of help if you want to put it on top. In truth, the bulk of the unit is probably going to stop you balancing this on top of any telly anyway. The rear of the unit is a typical 125mm high, but the front is 200mm high. Quite a size to hide. The drivers used aren't an exceptional size, and the bulk must be down to the inch-thick walls of the cabinet. As is often in a center, there are two bass drivers and a paper tweeter. The box isn't ported and comes with some stick-on rubber pads rather than spikes in deference to the finish of your TV or its stand. Note however, that rubber can damage lacquer and varnishes too, so beware.
Round the back of the units you
can enjoy an Eltax feature joke which I gather has been going so long that
it must be included intentionally for comedy value. The rating stickers
(photo shown above) suggest the power handling in Music Power and "Sinus" power. Sinus
power? Perhaps that's the point when nose bleeds ensue? Actually, it
probably is just a derivation of the foreign language translation of "Sine".
Notes by Colin Miller: Power
ratings for speakers are very difficult to standardize. The power limitation
for the lowest-frequency driver is usually the excursion limits. Any RMS
value will most likely be the continuous power that the voice coil of the
driver can absorb before actually melting. Not only is it not realistic to
operate a loudspeaker continuously at this level, as the performance would
be lacking, due to excessive compression if not horribly distorting, but
that would very much depend on exactly what driver we're talking about.
Woofers can often handle 100 watts or even 500 watts on a continual basis,
while tweeters that can handle 100 watts continually are exceptional, and
the more typical truth is 30-70 watts. This doesn't necessarily mean
that tweeters are usually the weakest link from a practical perspective,
because the signal distribution spectrum is usually weighted to content
below 500 Hz anyway. Higher power handling, coupled with good
efficiency, is always nice for the sake of less dynamic compression. The
problem with peak power handling, in addition to the problems inherent with
continuous power handling, is that it's transient by definition.
Exactly how long is the duration? 1 ms? Good for a single cycle @ 1 kHz, or
in other words, good for nothing. 10 ms? Good for a single cycle at 100 Hz
(which will never happen with music) or 10 cycles at 1 kHz. Slightly more
than good for nothing. Sadly, aside from suggesting that we pretty much
ignore manufacturer's power handling specs for any comparison, and keep that
info simply as a suggestion, I can't offer anything more useful as an
alternative other than the long way, hooking it up, cranking it to a known
SPL with known listening material, and evaluate the sonic detriment, or lack
thereof, of higher playback levels.
Eltax has a good name at both ends of the market, and this add-on set does nothing wrong in furthering that reputation. That said, this selection is something of a mixed bag. The center is a disappointment in comparison with the surprise strong performance of the cute rear units. The character of the trio is neutral, complementing a similarly transparent setup. Given a more opinionated front pair, they would perhaps struggle to fit in. A little extra bass for both channels wouldn't go amiss, but there's no need for the level boost that center and rears often cry out for (perhaps the sat and sub setup I have is insensitive as they are!) An audition with your current setup would seal whether they should suit you.
At their list price, I wouldn't
be moved to unconditionally recommend these speakers as a set. They are good
in most regards but nothing special. The rears are a better proposition and
perform admirably. At the street prices on offer they can't help but be
considered surprisingly good. £20 for a center speaker for heavens sake! The
finish betrays this low cost, but the build is solid. You generally get what
you pay for, but in this case there is a great lump of value thrown in.