HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



February
2001

Reviewed by
Jeff Fritz
REVIEWERS' CHOICE 2001




EdgeAudio
502D and SW-12
Home-Theater
Speaker System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Price: $1399 USD factory direct

Model: 502D speakers
Dimensions: 11" x 6.75" x 6.75"
Weight: 11-12 pounds each (Varies with type of wood)

Model: SW-12 subwoofer
Dimensions: 20.25" x 15" x 20"
Weight: 65-72 pounds (varies with type of wood)

Warranty: five years parts and labor


Features
  • DiAural crossover technology
  • Vifa drivers
  • Solid hardwood cabinets (walnut or cherry)
  • Drivers: 5.25" midrange, 1" soft dome tweeter (502D-LR, 502D-C), 12" long-throw woofer (SW-12)
  • Subwoofer with variable crossover (40-180Hz), level control and phase switch

Matched home-theater arrays consisting of five speakers and a subwoofer are more common than ever. In fact, there are so many of them that the choices for a consumer can be overwhelming, especially if the buyer is entering into the home-theater market for the first time. Within one manufacturer's line you may have numerous combinations to choose from, and at several different price points very close together. So how do you set yourself apart from the crowd if you are a manufacturer of this type of product? Well, if you are EdgeAudio, you use a high-profile patent-pending crossover technology developed by Eric Alexander, the company’s VP of product development, and you build your cabinets out of solid hardwood plank and use very nice Vifa drivers. Oh, you also market your products over the Internet, factory direct, thereby saving the consumer money and increasing perceived value.

The DiAural crossover technology that EdgeAudio uses is a licensed product marketed by Ray Kimber to various manufacturers. Yes, the Ray Kimber of audiophile-cable fame! EdgeAudio uses DiAural in all of their designs to allegedly eliminate "doppler decoding," which according to Kimber is a type of distortion created by the microphone during the recording process. While we don’t have the space for a full-length discussion of the DiAural circuit, I can refer you to www.diaural.com for further information. EdgeAudio doesn’t go into great detail about the actual crossover circuitry either, but they do claim benefits such as phase-coherent sound and low distortion.

Although you can’t see the crossovers to examine them, you certainly can see the beautiful hardwood cabinets that house the crossovers. The finish is very good, equaling that of many much more expensive products I have examined. The old knuckle-rap test shows these boxes to be fairly inert, with little or none of the pronounced ringing you get with thin, resonant materials seen in many speakers at this price point.

Speaking of price, the EdgeAudio system reviewed here is priced at $1399, which includes four identical 502D-LRs, one 502D-C, and a powered SW-12 subwoofer. EdgeAudio claims that the lack of retail markup enables them to provide a higher-value system than what is typically seen at this price point. From what I have seen so far, I would have to agree. When you see the excellent wood finish, it would be hard to go back to vinyl-wrapped speakers. But, of course, the performance has to be commensurate with the finish or all is for naught!

Setup

Installation of the EdgeAudio system was a snap. It must be noted that the small bookshelf speakers need appropriate stands, which are not included at the price but are available from the manufacturer and other sources. I happened to have some good-quality wooden stands that worked without a hitch. Getting down to the nuts and bolts, literally, I was happy to see binding posts instead of spring clips on the backs of these beauties. These posts will accept banana plugs, which make speaker connections easy, but if you have spades, you are in luck too. With a speaker at this price easily accepting a large spade termination, you would think that all receiver manufacturers would be able to follow suit. But that's another story.

The subwoofer is finished to the same degree of quality seen in the satellites with one exception. It will accept speaker-level connections, but these are via the dreaded spring clips. Yuck! Of course, it also has RCA connections for the LFE output of a Dolby Digital/DTS receiver. This is how I connected the SW-12, as would most consumers. The subwoofer has an auto-on feature, but it can be left on indefinitely without emitting any noise whatsoever. The SW-12 does have a built-in electronic crossover that is variable from 40Hz to 180Hz. The sub's rear is rounded out with a gain-level adjustment and phase switch.

Performance with music

Right off the bat I was impressed with the EdgeAudio sound. I started off the review using several CDs in DTS Neo:6 processing mode via the Denon AVR-5800 receiver. Male vocals were crisp and clear with good detail. Dave Matthew’s’ voice on "Crash Into me" from the Crash CD [RCA 07863 66904-2] had excellent clarity with just enough body to make it believable. The voice was not muddled by the myriad of sounds from the Dave Mathews Band itself. Diana Krall performed her entire CD When I Look Into Your Eyes [Verve IMPD-304] with convincing palpability, which illustrated the EdgeAudio system's ability to play well-recorded female vocals, a torture test for the all-important midrange. The treble never became harsh or spitty, but it did not lack detail either. The Vifa soft-dome tweeter seems to be a great choice here, delivering all that the music had to offer. Not until pushed really hard did the EdgeAudio speakers denote their diminutive size. They don’t have the sheer output capability that you get with larger, more expensive systems, but this was only noticeable on some music discs and at somewhat loud volumes. It was only then that the EdgeAudio system could lose its, well, edge.

It should be noted that EdgeAudio is also introducing a floorstanding speaker, presumably for larger applications. Of course, it will have to live up to the 502D and then some to surpass this entry-level powerhouse. The 502D’s clarity and relative lack of cabinet coloration are excellent for surround-sound music in general. You may, as I did, lower the subwoofer's level relative to your home-theater setting to better integrate the sub when listening to music, but then this is true of many installations.

Performance with movies

The home theater is where the EdgeAudio speaker array really shone. The speakers disappeared when watching movies, creating a seamless surround-sound field in which action sequences came to life. This is partly attributable to using five identical speakers, which insures a voice-matched presentation. The 502D-C is identical to the 502D-LR except for its horizontal placement. While this is not absolutely necessary in all cases, it does make a difference when listening to a pan from left to right. Differences in tonality are easily discernible, especially in the midrange, which, of course, is the critical area reproduced by the center channel. It is advisable to have your surrounds matched with your front left and right speakers, but it is critical with the center channel due to dialogue.

The movie U-571 has explosive dynamics and deep, hard-hitting bass, especially in the underwater scenes with the depth charges exploding around the submarine. These DTS-encoded scenes require the speakers to produce instantaneous peaks that are incredibly lifelike. The EdgeAudio speakers handled this movie with apparent ease. Even the water drips and metal creaking within the damaged sub were sonically clear and bell-like, proving that the subtlety of this soundtrack is as impressive as its dynamism. The perfectly matched satellite array integrated to produce seamless pans and subtle surround effects. U-571 was handled without apparent discontinuities anywhere in the soundfield.

Picking nits, I found that it was apparent with some movies with heavy dialogue that the center-channel speaker was being pushed. A bit more output capability here would have been nice to fill out dialogue-rich soundtracks. Even with all channels level-matched, a little boost to the center channel’s level was needed to project vocals into the room in a realistic manner.

The SW-12 subwoofer drove my room without bottoming or rattling, reproducing frequencies down to 30Hz before rolling off appreciably. This is quite sufficient for the vast majority of movies. The explosions in the cannon shots of The Patriot were gut-massaging. This was a great surprise, as many subs in this price range have real problems with anything below 40Hz and simply can’t produce enough output to reproduce realistic bass at acceptable sound-pressure levels. In the very largest rooms, maybe even mine, I would want to try two SW-12s, but this is for an admitted bass fanatic like myself. For the vast majority of users, the satellites will run out of steam before the subwoofer. But, of course, this would be at levels that are quite high.

Comparison

The only system I had on hand for comparison was a Silverline combination that is frankly much more expensive -- about five times the price. This provides a good illustration, though, of what the additional dollars will buy you. The great news is that you are not missing out on much, but there are a few things you get for the extra outlay of cash. First, the sheer output capability of the Silverline Corona II, Center Stage II, and SR16s will eclipse that of the EdgeAudio system. They will play louder with an effortless ease that says "no problem" when you goose the volume control. Specifically, the midrange and lower midbass sound fuller, with more projection into the room. The effect is that of more realistic scaling of sounds. This is, though, most notable at levels louder than many people are going to listen. If you have a smaller room than mine, it may not be very noticeable.

The Silverlines also had a slightly fuller upper midrange that was not as apparent on all movies but was clearly superior on music. The EdgeAudio array did hold its own in the low-bass department, though, with the SW-12 equaling or exceeding the depth and authority of the almost full-range Corona II. These are areas that room size and listening habits will determine the relative importance of for consumers. Thinking about these issues before the purchase will yield long-term satisfaction from your home-theater system.

It is a testament to the EdgeAudio system that it could be compared with a much more expensive speaker setup and come out of the battle still kicking. This is truly what value is about.

Conclusion

The EdgeAudio 502D and SW-12 combination provided me with a glimpse of just how much the wary shopper can buy these days. The system taken as a whole provides a dynamic, concise sound, with clarity that is refreshing. How much this is attributable to the DiAural crossover circuitry I can’t say. But I will tell you that the speakers are real performers in the home theater, and you get a serious finish that will enhance most decors.

Many consumers need a system that is unassuming and will fit in a small to moderate-sized room, but they don’t want to sacrifice quality of performance either. The EdgeAudio system bespeaks quality and fits the bill on many levels. You can get better sound, but this would mean larger speakers and more money. At the price point, I don’t see how you can go wrong with this system. For Home Theater & Sound, this means that EdgeAudio earns a hearty recommendation for anyone shopping in the sub-$1500 price range or above. Well done!

Review System
Receiver - Denon AVR-5800
Source - Pioneer DV606D DVD player
Cables - JPS Labs speaker cables, Apature interconnects, Audio Alchemy digital cable
Monitor - Sony WEGA FD Trinitron direct-view
 

Manufacturer contact information:

EdgeAudio
Tigard, Oregon
Phone: 888-880-8992
Fax: 503-598-8831

E-mail: customerservice@edgeaudio.com
Website: www.edgeaudio.com

 


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