What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Mon, 10 Aug 2009, 10:00am

Audica CX-System 1

Tested at £1000
60100
3

There are benefits to this arrangement of speakers, but you can buy better surround sound via a more traditional route

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For

  • Less clutter
  • nice styling and build quality
  • impressive punch, detail, dynamics and rhythmic integration

Against

  • Not the most seamless surround field
  • sub could do with greater tonal range

Most style speaker packages are designed to offer maximum audio enjoyment with minimal living-space invasion, but Audica goes the extra mile by putting the front-left, front-right and centre channels into one soundbar-like box.

You get a separate subwoofer and surround satellites, but they do little harm to the CX-System 1's partner-appeasing appeal. You do have to buy wall brackets separately, though.

The four-unit arrangement introduces some limitations: the front soundstage isn't as wide as many and there's a gap both physically and sonically between this and the surrounds.

Surrounds have narrow focus
This sonic gap is made wider by the narrow focus of the surrounds, and we can't help but wonder if a dipole design wouldn't have resulted in greater dispersion and a better-integrated soundfield .

You can reduce the severity of these flaws if you sit quite close to the front speaker array while keeping the satellites at more of a distance.

The problem that remains is the sub: it's fast and punchy, but lacks in tonality compared with the best out there.

With movies it's not a huge issue, as there's enough weight, scale and attack to fill out big explosions. With music it's more noticeable, making the funky bass of the John Legend - Live at the House of Blues Blu-ray sound rather monotonal.

Despite those negatives, in many ways this is a very impressive system. Overall detail, dynamics, clarity and rhythm are impressive, and the sparkly treble creates loads of excitement without veering into harshness.

Rhythmic precision
It's got all the pace to make the car chase of the Eagle Eye Blu-ray as visceral as it should be, and its general rhythmic precision means that, bass tonality aside, this is a pretty musical system.

For some, the design of the system will be spot-on – it offers one of the neatest solutions available. And this is proper surround sound, a significant step-up from soundbars with virtual surround technologies.

As a half-way house between audio bliss and home furnishing harmony, the Audica makes a lot of sense. But if you can handle a couple more boxes, you can do better.

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