Sunfire HRS Speaker System Page 2
I’ve seen In the Line of Fire before, but the Blu-ray release let me hear it for the first time in Dolby TrueHD. The difference was immediately apparent when I heard the distinctive orchestral score by Ennio Morricone play during the opening moments of the film. There was a sense of a veil being dropped. Crowd scenes felt genuinely big. I wouldn’t call the HRS speakers airy, but they’re exceptionally clean, communicative, and dynamically savvy. The speakers don’t noticeably change their character with volume shifts either. It was a pleasure to revisit this Clint Eastwood thriller with John Malkovich’s Oscar-nominated bad-guy performance.
Be Kind Rewind, in DTS-HD Master Audio, contains a surprise: the vividness of ancient performances by Fats Waller that were originally recorded on mono analog lacquer discs. One of the pleasant paradoxes of high-resolution audio (even the DTS core stream, in this instance) is that it facilitates the ear’s separation of music from noise in crackly bits of audio history. I’m sure the mixing engineer worked some additional magic with this soundtrack. But the Sunfires brought the virtuoso pianist and his buoyant personality right into my living room. It was just about the last thing I expected to happen in the middle of a movie.
I got so caught up in Vantage Point’s Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that I finally left behind my notebook. With the controversial plot relentlessly flashing back to scenes of explosive action and accompanied by pounding war drums, the sub got a heavy workout. This might have become oppressive if the sub hadn’t been so superbly controlled. The ported design that most subs use would have likely decreased the transient response, perhaps accompanied by port chuffing. Carver’s sealed sub kept its cool while it maintained high enough output to make this thriller thrilling.
Born in Surround
The longer I used the HRS speakers, the livelier the top end became. By the time I got to a Telarc SACD of works by David Del Tredici, Christopher Theofanidis, and Leonard Bernstein, the choral harmonies practically exploded out of the little speakers. They sounded best on the middle work, The Here and Now by Theofanidis, which includes texts by the Arabic poet Rumi. Paul Revere’s Ride by Del Tredici features a siren among its novel effects. It sounded fairly prominent, and with an edgier-sounding speaker, it might have hurt. But the HRS skillfully wove the siren into the mix. Both works are world premiere recordings, and if I were a piece of music, I’d love to be born into the world via multichannel SACD.
Led Zeppelin III might have been subtitled Zep Goes Folkie. With this album, the band developed beyond the blues-rock that first cemented its reputation. They took on a broader variety of roots music and acquired a whole new palette of emotion and atmosphere. Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar parts sounded gorgeous, the way acoustic guitars used to sound before they were ruined by electronic pickups. The Sunfires handled them (and John Paul Jones’ mandolin) in a knowing way that said, “We remember the ’70s.” I was especially intrigued by the shimmering cymbal crashes that bring “Immigrant Song” to a close. They sounded soft and yielding, yet realistically metallic at the same time.
The sub proved to be reggae compatible on Exodus by Bob Marley & the Wailers (CD). The title track felt epic as the bass line danced through time and space. It reminded me that reggae bass lines on well-produced albums like this one often sound more agile and tuneful than many subs make them seem. Marley was exploring feelings of sublime contentment by this time in his career—this is the album that provided the Jamaican Tourist Board with the widely televised “One Love.” The voices of the I Threes never sounded sweeter or sassier than with this silk-dome ring-radiating treatment.
A good speaker designer can make a sat/sub set sound bigger than its size. But it takes an inspired designer like Bob Carver to make a sat/sub set sound huge, yet gentle. Have I mentioned that HRS stands for High Resolution Series? These speakers have earned their name. Put this on your short list of must-hear compact speaker systems.