Sunfire HRS Speaker System Setup & Real-World Performance
I placed the satellites in the normal positions for such speakers in my room—the front left and right speakers approximately 7 feet apart in the front of the room, toed in to point at the listening position, and the two surround speakers at 110 degrees from the front centerline, which put them behind the listening position.
Next, I identified the speakers as "Small" in my AVR, which has a fixed crossover frequency of 90Hz that closely matches the specified frequency response of the HRS satellites. I set the subwoofer crossover to Bypass mode to prevent any interaction between the crossovers in the receiver and subwoofer.
The key to good subwoofer performance is correct placement. I placed one sub halfway between the front and rear of the room on the side wall and the other in the front of the room between the left and right speakers and three feet from the wall. Two correctly placed and calibrated subwoofers offer more uniform coverage and much better bass response throughout the room than a single subwoofer, as I've learned from long experience.
The ominous bass track in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead adds to the suspense in this often-unpleasant mystery. The bass from the two HRS-10 subwoofers sounded deep and penetrating, though not overbearing as you might expect from two 1000-watt subs in a medium-sized listening room.
The sound quality of the HRS satellites was quite remarkable, and their compact size belies their open and revealing qualities. They reproduced subtle details masterfully with a snappy, high-definition timbre. The rhythmic Cuban-nightclub scenes in The Lost City (DVD) had a very clean sound with tons of detail and delicate treatment of the multiple percussion instruments—real foot-tapping music. The speakers were very revealing without the sizzle.
In several scenes, the booming thunderclaps and pouring rain from tropical storms sounded completely convincing. Combine these characteristics with the enveloping soundfield produced by the HRS speakers and you have a highly pleasing home-theater speaker system.
Virgin Suicides is a very strange movie set in the upper Midwest in the 1970s that features memorable top-40 tunes from that era. For added effect, the music is presented with a slight amount of wow and flutter as if played on a funky record player. We have all but forgotten wow and flutter in the digital age, but the effect helps set the scene here.
Again, the HRS system brought the film to life with crisp, articulate music (despite the wow and flutter), a seamless soundfield, and highly intelligible dialog. Even subtle effects like the creaking of the stairs in a two-story home were clearly audible.
Home-theater sound is all about fooling the ear/brain system with realistic sound effects. In several instances, I found myself trying to distinguish between sound effects and the real sounds in my environment, which frequently became intertwined. The summer songbirds in Virgin Suicides could easily be mistaken for the real birds in the trees just outside my window. At times it seemed as if the birds outside were responding to the birds in the soundtrack.
I was not surprised that stereo and multichannel music had many of the characteristics of movie soundtracks—crisp, detailed, and very revealing. Holly Cole's vocals were clear and unveiled in "Blame It On My Youth" from her Best of Holly Cole CD, and the mandolins and fiddles on "The Lighthouse's Tale" from Nickel Creek's eponymously titled SACD exhibited a very quick transient response. The HRS system easily handled high volume levels on "Remember My Name" from Toy Matinee, a DTS multichannel rock 'n' roll CD with thumpin' bass and in-your-face vocals.
An overriding feature of the HRS system is long-term listenability with zero listening fatigue. Although mids and highs were crisp, clear, and open, they always sounded clean with no hint of distortion.