Face Off: Front and Center Phase Technology Teatro 6.5
You may remember the $225 6.5 from our review of Phase Tech's Teatro system in the October 2000 issue and the fact that I was rather impressed with its performance. Although I hadn't heard the NHT or AR units prior to this Face Off, I wasn't concerned about whether or not the 6.5 could hold its own against somewhat-higher-priced competition. There are a lot of years of design expertise behind Phase Tech's stuff, considering that they are essentially a brand name of United Speaker Systems, a company that has been building drivers and other speaker parts for several manufacturers since the birth of stereo itself. They still hold the patent for the original soft-dome tweeter and other innovations that have become virtually universal elements of loudspeaker design.
A. The Teatro 6.5's horizontal image was wider and better-defined than that of the NHT or AR speakers.
The 6.5, which can also be used as a L/R model in a smaller system, measures out at 6 inches high by 18 wide by 8.25 deep and is constructed of 0.75-inch MDF with a rosewood laminate (also available in black ash). It offers a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter (of course) and dual 5.25-inch midbass drivers, which are constructed from Phase Tech's vapor-deposited titanium. The cabinet is extensively braced and magnetically shielded for placement on or near video monitors.
At the heart of the 6.5's design is the company's proprietary Absolute Phase crossover design. Its primary purpose is to operate the drivers in-phase, both electronically and acoustically. This not only helps maintain consistency—obviously beneficial for pans and other fast motion effects—but also improves image accuracy and soundstage depth. The second goal of this crossover design is to improve, in the context of a horizontally aligned center channel, horizontal dispersion (if the speaker were placed vertically, vertical dispersion would be widened). The long-axis dispersion (as we'll call it for simplicity's sake) of a D'Appolito driver array is usually limited to a window that doesn't widen much beyond its original dimensions until the sound has traveled a fair distance. This long-axis dispersion is especially important in the center-channel context because the idea is to increase the horizontal window enough that those sitting off-axis will hear a sound that's not that much different from what those sitting in the middle are hearing.
|B. Five-way gold-plated binding posts make for a solid connection.|
The Absolute Phase crossover design works as well in the listening room as it sounds on paper. Given that I had already spent some time with each of these center channels myself (sitting in the sweet spot) before the session with Mike and Clint, I purposely parked myself off-axis to take in the second round from a different perspective—that of the last person to enter the room, who subsequently gets stuck out on the edge. I wasn't surprised to find that the Phase Tech's horizontal image was wider and better-defined than that of any speaker in the group. The image was still slightly more accurate in the center, but it varied far less off-axis than the images of the other two speakers relative to their images in the center position. Dialogue was cleaner and more intelligible off-axis with the Phase Tech than with either of the others. Helping matters is the fact that one of the 6.5's two 5.25-inch midrange drivers is a passive radiator. This way, less burden is placed on the crossover to address cancellation problems that can occur between two identical drivers playing identical signals. As a result, the 6.5's image is not only wide, deep, and accurate, but it never suffered from cancellations or nulls with the material we tried.
All three of us agreed that both the NHT and Phase Tech displayed a high degree of effortlessness and naturalness in their output. The difference between the two came down to detail. Mike pointed out, and we agreed, that the Phase Tech was nicely detailed and more on the mellow side than the NHT, whose detail (as we'll discuss more later) is pinpoint but also slightly harsh at some points. I agreed that the 6.5 was the warmest of the group. Also, while I liked the accuracy of the NHT, I would always side with slightly understated versus slightly overstated as we venture away from absolute neutrality.
Case in point was chapter 26 from The Fifth Element (aka the Diva scene). Throughout the scene, this alluring alien songstress' voice was especially open, airy, and natural on the Phase Tech and NHT. As she hit her high notes, however, the difference between the two started to become clear. The NHT's abundant detail caused a bit of ringing at these highest points of the frequency range that was clearly discernible, although nothing uncommon. The Phase Tech, however, punched these notes through with accurate tonality and clear emotion, but it lacked the hard edge that the NHT briefly displayed and the AR carried a little longer than that. This difference between the Phase Tech and NHT would prove to favor the latter on some occasions, as well, but ultimately the Phase Tech took top honors from the panel in the all-important blending of warmth and detail.
• Absolute Phase crossover design is for real
• Effortless, natural output with excellent detail and accuracy
HT Labs Measures: Phase Technology Teatro 6.5
This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the Teatro 6.5 center. Loudspeakers are measured at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input. On-axis response of the Teatro 6.5 center measures +2.2/-4.2 decibels from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. An average of axial and (+/-15 degree) horizontal responses measures +2.0/-3.8 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The -3dB point is at 104 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 83 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 3.13 ohms at 295 Hz and a phase angle of -38.41 degrees at 136 Hz. Sensitivity averages 89 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.—AJ
Teatro 6.5 $225
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