What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Fri, 14 Aug 2009, 8:00am

Cabasse Phi 5.1

Tested at £2525
80100
4

A funky French speaker package that can extract loads of detail from movie soundtracks

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For

  • Space-saving, slimline looks
  • surrounds come with wall-fixtures
  • wonderfully detailed sound
  • precise delivery

Against

  • Lack dynamics with large-scale action sequences
  • bass could be better defined

French company Cabasse has a reputation for producing modern-looking speaker ensembles, and you certainly couldn't accuse the Phi 5.1 package of looking dated.

This elegant set-up has been designed with flatscreen TVs in mind, and you can choose between a high-gloss piano black or glossy white finish.

The Phi surround speakers come with their own wall-mount brackets to keep them snug against the wall. The floorstanders (£899/pair) have a relatively small footprint and need little room to breath. Their slender appearance allows them to blend effortlessly into a listening room's surroundings.

All the speakers in the Phi package are two-and-a-half-way designs. Hidden behind the protruding hemispherical grille lies a co-axial driver unit that uses a 2.4mm soft-dome tweeter and a 10cm midrange woofer.

Adjacent to this is a 10cm mid-bass driver unit. The Santorin 21 subwoofer (£549) is responsible for the lowest frequencies and features an eight-inch driver unit.

Don't ignore the manual!
It's crucial that you heed the advice of the Phi system's instruction manual. The speakers only go down to 140Hz, so make sure your subwoofer's crossover is set accordingly – if you don't, you could find yourself with a large hole in the frequency range.

Once correctly calibrated, the Phi package shows a number of sonic talents. The speakers take the opening car chase from Quantum of Solace and dissect it with surgeon-like precision.

Whether its Bond's gear shifts or the sound of the Aston Martin DBS struggling for traction, the Phi package unearths it all.

As cars collide, the even tonal balance of the speakers ensures there's no sign of harshness or hardness to the sound. There's agility too: the Phi 5.1 fires out sound effects without a moment's hesitation.

No problems going loud
On the downside, this Cabasse package doesn't quite have the guts to give you serious large-scale dynamics.

It has no problems going loud, but doesn't really communicate large-scale dynamic shifts in the same way as the elite packages at this price. Bass notes from the Santorin 21 subwoofer could be marginally tauter too.

But for those of you who prefer speaker packages to be subtle and stylish, the Phi 5.1 certainly has enough sonic ability to warrant an audition.

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