Home-Theater Speaker System
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
- 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
- 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 Energys legendary Take 5 and
Take 5.2 surround systems, with eagerness.
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
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
5s multi-laminate tweeter has been replaced with a Hyperbolic aluminum dome.
Similarly, the Take 5s 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 speakers 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 DAppolito-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 receivers bass-management software and
the music or movie youre playing determine the subs appropriate response point
and level. Energy has also traded in the subs speaker-level, low-frequency-input
binding posts for spring clips, and eliminated the speaker outputs.
The subwoofers 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. Its important to note,
however, that the Take Classic sub wont 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 subs crossover.
Off the top of my head, I cant think of a single A/V receiver available today that
doesnt have an LFE output; the Take Classic subs absence of pass-through
connectors simply reflects todays 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.
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 didnt 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. Its 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 subwoofers 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.
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. "Theres no way," I thought, unpacking the Take Classics,
"that these lil 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 Syndromes 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. Dashs 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 Dashs 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 Bessons sublime The
Fifth Element (chapter 31) rumbled with lethal intensity, as did Syndromes jet
destroying the Parrs house in The Incredibles (chapter 30). These and the
multitude of similar incidents in both of these action-packed thrillers werent 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 subs depth and fidelity, and its seamless
integration with the satellites, created a convincing soundscape. Ive 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 cant keep up with the 5.1-channel soundtrack. Energys
Take Classic system not only kept up, it filled my not-small room with sound -- quite a
feat for such diminutive puppies.
"Yes, OK," I thought, "they can do movies.
Hell, tin cans can do movies . . ." Well, not really, but it doesnt 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 theres 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 Joness 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 Dixons 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: Theres 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 Symphonys recording of
Mendelssohns Symphony No.4 ("Italian") [CD, London 433 822-2] because I
was feeling particularly lighthearted one day and thought Id give the hometown boys
a plug (their recorded legacy was solidified under Blomstedts leadership).
Blomstedts 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 SFSOs sections clearly identified: violins lower left, brass
upper right rear, etc. It was even more impressive when I realized that Id 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.
There are a number of ways one can enthusiastically endorse
and recommend speakers without doubt, hesitation, or reservation. Well, thats one.
Not only are the Energy Take Classics superior loudspeakers, theyre a superior
value. I cant 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 youd 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. Youll thank me for it. I offer just one phrase of caution:
Prepare to be astonished.
|Receiver - Onkyo TSR-800
- Onkyo DV-S555 DVD player
|Cables - RadioShack, generic
14AWG terminated with banana plugs
Device - Dell WD4200 plasma