Definitive Technology BP-8080ST Speaker System Page 3
In spite of that ample bass output, this isn’t a warm, boomy, or lush-sounding speaker. It’s not forward or unforgiving but what I would describe as matter of fact. It tells you what your recordings sound like, for good or sometimes for ill, which is what I prefer a speaker to do. In the midrange and especially with female vocals, I heard impressive resolving power. With my best recordings, it was easy to hear vocalists moving closer to or father away from the microphone, tapping their feet, and other low-level details. The treble was well defined, and if there was some bite in the recording, I heard it without relief. This wasn’t a characteristic imposed unduly by the speaker; if it wasn’t in the recording, it wasn’t there. In my room, there wasn’t as much upper bass/lower midrange warmth as I’m used to. With singers like Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, I would have liked more weight on their baritone vocals. But speaker design is always a series of trade-offs, and I don’t think I’d trade or compromise any of this speaker’s other attributes to get it. Overall, I listened to a broad variety of music and always found myself wanting to pull out more records or dig deeper into my music server’s storage for more.
Movies and the Brown Note
OK, I cheated on the headline above. It’s not the bass extension that will make you lose control of your bodily functions. It’s the jump factor. These speakers will scare the crap out of you, and I mean that in a really good way. One of the first movies I watched on this Definitive system was Robert Zemeckis’ over-the-top computer-animated take on Scrooge, A Christmas Carol (Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio). In chapter 3, even though I knew that Marley’s ghost was coming through the door, I still jumped out of my skin when his boxes and chains came careening into Scrooge’s room. I think I was more freaked out than Scrooge. This movie exalts in blasting through time and space, and with Definitive’s onboard subwoofers, every gotcha moment really got me. I haven’t heard better dynamic swing in my room. These speakers can go from a whisper to a full-throttle scream seemingly effortlessly.
The CS-8080HD center was as perfectly matched with the BP-8080ST towers as you’d expect. Toy Story (Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio) features a lot of dialogue that pans from left to right, moving right through the center speaker, so this title is a wonderful test for timbral integrity. It was absolutely seamless here. It drove home what a sensational aesthetic directionalized dialogue can be when it’s done properly and convincingly. Note that Anthem’s ARC system rolled off the CS-8080HD’s bass below around 65 hertz. Although this is probably conservative, this was a good choice for this review. Early in the review period, I was using the CS-8080HD with the stand I use for my reference center speaker, which uses screws to hold that speaker in place. I didn’t want to knock holes in the review sample, and I had carefully set passive speakers here before and gotten away with it. Before I ran ARC, I had the CS-8080HD full range. During the bassy opening sequence in Toy Story 3 (Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio), the CS8080HD vibrated right off the stand and face-first onto the floor. Rolling off the bass at 65 Hz did the trick, and it stayed put. But just in case anyone thinks dialogue is the only thing you’ll find in the center channel…
So, how ’bout them woofers for movies? They woof. Terminator Salvation is a turkey of a movie, but in accordance with prophecy, it looks and sounds phenomenal on Blu-ray (also DTS-HD Master Audio lossless). Chapter 9 features some of the loudest, most overpowering low frequencies I’ve ever heard in a movie soundtrack. And yet it also has surprising texture and expression for room-shaking bass. The Definitive towers kept full pace with the intensity, sound pressure levels, and especially the textures in the big robot’s signature sound effects. It was every bit the bone-crushing experience it was intended to be. As with the lowest synth notes in music, the Definitive towers didn’t quite get a few of the bottommost notes at the high levels I’ve heard from really big, really bad (meaning good) subs. Again, I consider this a dose of reality, not criticism. These slender speakers consistently surprised me with the bass they provided with movies, especially considering their price and how spectacular they are in so many other crucial areas of performance. They will thrill most people in most rooms, and to ask for more isn’t merely asking for more icing on the cake; it’s more like being a total glutton and asking for a second dessert altogether. To outbass these built-in woofers, you’d likely spend at least as much as one of the towers costs, if not more, and then you’ve got to find an in-room home for your bigger boat. I’d never discourage anyone with the funds from bringing more bass extension and output capability to their home theater party with a dedicated powered subwoofer, but for most people, going beyond what these speakers deliver isn’t practical, affordable, or even desirable, let alone necessary.
Four thousand bucks for a pair of flagship speakers and a matching center from a marquee brand, with not only proprietary but patented technology and built-in powered subwoofers that really put the woof in subwoofer is an extraordinary value proposition. But that’s a fairly clinical observation for a hobby like this, built on passion and emotional involvement. The BP-8080ST and CS-8080HD make big, bodacious, but refined and focused sound that was consistently thrilling, involving, and best of all, flat-out fun for music and movies.
This Forward Focused take on bipolar has resulted in nothing less than the best speaker I’ve heard yet from Definitive Technology, which is no small praise. And this speaker has the double fun of masquerading as a responsible, practical purchasing decision: “But honey, they have a very small in-room footprint, and now we don’t need a refrigerator-sized and -priced subwoofer.” However you sell it at home, you’ve got my backing. This is an early speaker-of-the-year candidate, and it earns as enthusiastic a recommendation as I can offer.