HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



January
2008

Reviewed by
Kevin East
REVIEWERS' CHOICE


Energy
Take Classic
Home-Theater Speaker System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: Take Classic satellite speaker
Dimensions: 6.83"H x 4.13"W x 4.13" D
Weight: 2.9 pounds

Model: Take Classic center-channel speaker
Dimensions: 10.25"W x 4.13" H x 4.13" D
Weight: 3.2 pounds

Model: Take Classic subwoofer
Dimensions: 12.63"W x 12.63" H x 12.63" D
Weight: 19.7 pounds

Warranty: Five years against factory defects and workmanship, one year for subwoofer

System Price: $599 USD


Features

Speakers:

  • Magnetically shielded
  • Bass-reflex design with rear-firing port (satellites) or dual front-firing ports (center-channel)
  • Unique one-basket Convergent Source Module design
  • 3" poly-titanium woofer
  • 0.75" Hyperbolic aluminum-dome tweeter

Subwoofer:

  • 200W (manufacturer-rated) amplifier
  • Phase inversion control
  • 8" IM woofer with Ribbed Elliptical Surround
  • Front-firing port
  • Adjustable low-pass filter
  • Adjustable output level

I have a fondness for little speakers -- not the 10"-high bookshelf variety, but the truly dinky ones that can sit in the palm of my hand, and especially really small speakers that do big things. I still have a pair of RadioShack Optimus 7s, marvels of speaker engineering in their day, still in service here as outboard TV speakers. And in our family-room A/V rig, four Mirage Omnisat Micros pull surround and rear-channel duty. Yep, with the right engineering and the right drivers, petite speakers can do some heavy lifting indeed. Which is why I approached the Take Classic system, a significant ratcheting-up of Energy’s legendary Take 5 and Take 5.2 surround systems, with eagerness.

Attributes

The Take Classic system consists of four satellite speakers for the front and surround channels, a center-channel speaker, and a powered subwoofer. Each is built of MDF and finished in a lovely piano-gloss black, and all but the sub sport tidy grilles of knitted cloth. The rear panels of the satellites and center-channel all have sturdy five-way binding posts, spaced to accommodate dual banana plugs. The satellites have connectors for wall mounting, including a keyhole slot and a threaded hole for a 0.25" machine screw, the latter to accommodate articulating brackets such as OmniMounts.

Although directly descended from the Take 5 series, the Take Classic has undergone some profound changes. One significant aspect of the redesign was the conversion of the formerly sealed box into a ported bass-reflex design, a change first instituted in the Take 5.2. The driver complement, too, has been upgraded. The Take 5’s multi-laminate tweeter has been replaced with a Hyperbolic aluminum dome. Similarly, the Take 5’s 3.5" woofer has been replaced with a 3" cone of poly-titanium. Both drivers sit in one basket, the Convergent Source Module, which makes them behave more as a point source. The Take Classic center-channel uses the same drivers, though this time the tweeter is set to the right of the woofer. The point-source technology minimizes the expected tipping of the center-channel speaker’s sound to one side or the other, which is of course why, in so many center-channel speakers, two woofers flank a tweeter in a D’Appolito-like array, which was the original configuration of the Take 5 and its successor, the Take 5.2.

The Take Classic subwoofer is almost entirely new. The controls are now on the rear, the port on the front; the patented Ribbed Elliptical Surround woofer fires downward; and the onboard amplifier has been beefed up from 100W to 200W. Energy has also eliminated the crossover-bypass option, with which (as with my reference small sub, the Mirage LF-100) the receiver’s bass-management software and the music or movie you’re playing determine the sub’s appropriate response point and level. Energy has also traded in the sub’s speaker-level, low-frequency-input binding posts for spring clips, and eliminated the speaker outputs.

The subwoofer’s rear panel permits two kinds of connections: a line-level LFE feed via an RCA connection, or a speaker-level feed via spring clips. Either connection can be mono or stereo. It’s important to note, however, that the Take Classic sub won’t work with an amplifier or receiver that lacks a dedicated LFE output -- generally, older equipment. The speaker-level input is just that: an input. There are no corresponding outputs, as on older subs, to siphon off the LFE signal, as the entire audio signal was passed through the sub’s crossover. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single A/V receiver available today that doesn’t have an LFE output; the Take Classic sub’s absence of pass-through connectors simply reflects today’s technology.

The reengineered Take Classic system represents considerable advances in design along with a modest decrease in features, the latter all in the subwoofer. However, the tradeoffs have yielded a significant consumer benefit: the system cost of the last version of the system, the Take 5.2, was $900 USD. The Take Classic costs $599.

Setup

Setting up the Take Classic was a snap. I placed the front-channel satellites on stands about 6’ apart, to either side of the A/V equipment cabinet, and about 11’ from the center listening position. The surrounds ended up on stands on either side of our sectional sofa. The center-channel was placed in the A/V cabinet on a shelf directly above the plasma video display, and the sub was sequestered behind a big ol’ leather chair to one side of the cabinet.

Although I didn’t mount any of the Takes on walls, you should know that each satellite is so configured that the tops of the binding posts, when fully screwed down, are flush with the rear panel. It’s my sense that banana plugs will poke out too far from the rear to make mounting the speakers flush with a wall feasible. Luckily, most mounting brackets extend an inch or so from the wall, which should leave enough room for the Takes’ connection hardware.

I reset the bass cutoff of my Onkyo TSR-800 receiver from its normal 80Hz to 110Hz, the crossover point Energy recommends for the Take Classic, and set the subwoofer’s low-pass filter to the same frequency. After calibrating the speaker levels with the Onkyo TSR-800 and a RadioShack digital SPL meter, I experimented with the toe-in angles of the front and surround speakers. What worked best was when the fronts were aimed straight ahead, and the surrounds directly at the listening position.

Movies

For the last few months, our 20’ by 16’ by 10’ family room has played host to stellar home-theater speaker systems from Canton and Audes. Both were anchored by full-range front-channel speakers and hefty center-channel monitors that delivered rich, varied cinema sound -- all we could ask for, and more. "There’s no way," I thought, unpacking the Take Classics, "that these li’l fellas" -- each is scarcely larger than a saltbox -- "are gonna fill this big ol’ room with sound."

Then I loaded The Incredibles into the DVD player. As the droning synth of the THX certification announcement began, I was jolted upright. This was no lame attempt at or pale imitation of holographic, room-filling sound -- this was the thing itself. The Incredibles spun its magical spell. When Elastigirl breaks into Syndrome’s island stronghold (chapter 20), those little railpods swooshed hither and yon, from the remote right rear through the center stage and off to the remote left rear, all captured in a single motion by the Take Classics. Dash’s dash (chapter 23) -- it seems an homage to the speeder-bike chase through the Forests of Endor in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi -- envelops the listener in a whirling soundscape, from the pit-pit-pat of Dash’s water run to the pursuit of the velocipods, all splashed unerringly across the soundstage by the Take Classics.

As astoundingly faithful as the satellites were to both dialogue and the placement of ambient cues, the Take Classic subwoofer provided a smooth, deep anchor. The explosion that destroys Phloston Paradise in Luc Besson’s sublime The Fifth Element (chapter 31) rumbled with lethal intensity, as did Syndrome’s jet destroying the Parrs’ house in The Incredibles (chapter 30). These and the multitude of similar incidents in both of these action-packed thrillers weren’t the chest-smacking, foundation-rattling events that you can expect from the combination of a set of full-range speakers and any of the massive subs now available -- a Hsu, say, or a Velodyne -- but the Take Classic sub’s depth and fidelity, and its seamless integration with the satellites, created a convincing soundscape. I’ve watched The Fifth Element and The Incredibles through a number of different sound systems, some much more expensive than, and others on a par with, the Energy system. The worst thing that can happen is to be jarred out of the wonderful story told by either film because the speakers can’t keep up with the 5.1-channel soundtrack. Energy’s Take Classic system not only kept up, it filled my not-small room with sound -- quite a feat for such diminutive puppies.

Music

"Yes, OK," I thought, "they can do movies. Hell, tin cans can do movies . . ." Well, not really, but it doesn’t take a genius to design a speaker that can reproduce dialogue, tire squeals, and explosions. However, it takes something special to capture the timbral complexity of even an unaccompanied violin. ". . . but there’s no way they can do music."

Wrong again. In plain ol’ two-channel stereo, the Take Classics sounded accurate, though at times I felt the soundstage was a bit reticent and the mix a tad muddy. For example, on Marti Jones’s Any Kind of Lie [CD, RCA 2040-2-R], her voice was tonally accurate, but lacked the depth provided by speakers with larger midrange drivers. Although Don Dixon’s bowed bass on the title track breathed with life, the band on "Living Inside the Wind" crowded the soundstage. However, when I switched to Dolby Pro Logic II, with four more speakers moving the air and the Pro Logic encoding discreetly, shunting various sounds -- especially ambient percussion -- to the space between the front channels and the surrounds, the congestion disappeared and the recording roared to life. As skeptical as I am about the benefits of DSP, this is one instance where it made a palpable difference for the better.

Pop recordings are one thing. After all, each instrument is generally accorded its own track or two in the studio; whatever "soundstage" you hear is a facsimile created by the mixing engineer. Orchestral recordings are a different animal: There’s no cozy room or baffled isolation booth for the high strings or brass. All instruments play together in the same venue and produce all that messy bleed and interaction -- and orchestral soundstages, besides being unavoidable, are huge. I chose Herbert Blomstedt and the San Francisco Symphony’s recording of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.4 ("Italian") [CD, London 433 822-2] because I was feeling particularly lighthearted one day and thought I’d give the hometown boys a plug (their recorded legacy was solidified under Blomstedt’s leadership). Blomstedt’s reading of the "Italian" is lively, almost sprightly, especially in the Allegro vivace and its Wagner-ish theme.

Once again, the Take Classics system embraced an inherently complex task with almost tangible vigor. The sound was interesting and polite in two channels, but in Pro Logic II the Take Classics threw an enormous soundstage, high and wide, with all of the SFSO’s sections clearly identified: violins lower left, brass upper right rear, etc. It was even more impressive when I realized that I’d lost track of the fact that all this glorious sound was emanating from a few dinky boxes.

That, ladies and gents, is one helluva performance. The Energy Take Classic is one helluva sound system.

Summary

There are a number of ways one can enthusiastically endorse and recommend speakers without doubt, hesitation, or reservation. Well, that’s one. Not only are the Energy Take Classics superior loudspeakers, they’re a superior value. I can’t imagine too many better speakers at this kind of price. For all of 600 simoleons, you get a home-theater speaker system that can handle any movie you’d care to throw at it -- and handle it well. You also get a system that can handle music with aplomb -- so long as you process it with Dolby Pro Logic II. And if you want genuinely rich, enjoyable cinema surround sound but are on a budget, go no further -- buy the Energy Take Classic system. You’ll thank me for it. I offer just one phrase of caution: Prepare to be astonished.

Review System
Receiver - Onkyo TSR-800
Source - Onkyo DV-S555 DVD player
Cables - RadioShack, generic 14AWG terminated with banana plugs
Display Device - Dell WD4200 plasma
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Energy Speaker Systems
3780 14th Avenue, Unit 105
Markham, Ontario L3R 9Y5
Canada
Phone: (866) 441-8208

Website: www.energy-speakers.com


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