Extremely Luscious Theater
Home-Theater Speaker System
|One might think that,
for a reviewer, seeing yet another "budget" speaker system pass through the door
would not be all that welcome a sight. After all, budget speakers have the lowliest
technology and finishes, and after a while they all look and sound a little drab.
ELT LRS satellite speaker
Price: $249 USD per pair
Dimensions: 11.5"H x 7.5"W x 6.75"D
Weight: 12 pounds each
Model: ELT Center Channel center-channel
Price: $299 USD
Dimensions: 20"W x 7.75"H x 6.75"D
Weight: 20 pounds
Model: ELT SW-10 subwoofer
Price: $299 USD
Dimensions: 18.75"H x 14.25"W x 11.75"D
Weight: 50 pounds
System Price: $999 USD (when purchased as
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- Hybrid silk-suspended alloy-dome tweeters
- 2.5" paper-composite midrange (ELT Center Channel)
- 5.25" alloy-cone anodized woofers
- 10" paper-composite long-throw driver (SW-10)
- 200W internal amplifier (SW-10)
- Variable crossover, gain, and phase controls (SW-10)
- Cherry-stained birch cabinets
- Removable cloth grilles
- Five-way recessed binding posts
Or so you might think. Fortunately for me, thats the
furthest thing from the truth. I find what manufacturers have done with this class of
speakers over the last several years to be incredibly innovative. There was a time, not so
long ago, when budget speakers were almost entirely the victims of bloated bass, colored
midranges, and harsh highs. This is no longer the case.
Yesterdays exotic speaker technologies have become
todays mainstream, as much of the R&D expended on the top of the line trickles
down to the budget regions. Composite materials and once-innovative design and
construction details are now found in speakers the average person can afford.
A case in point is the new $999 Rocket Extremely Luscious
Theater (ELT) system. From its anodized woofers to the radiused corners of the cabinets,
the ELT is the very picture of the modern, newly sophisticated budget speaker. The simple
cabinets of cherry-stained birch set a new standard for what budget speakers should look
like. Finished in a thick, low-gloss lacquer, the ELTs possess an elegance that budget
speakers have heretofore lacked. While the days of particleboard boxes clad in black vinyl
may not be gone, competitors should take note and put some serious thought into upgrading
the appearance of their budget models.
Description and setup
The two-way, two-driver
Rocket ELT LRS measures 11.5"H x 7.5"W x 6.75"D, but it was their high
level of finish that caught my eye as I began to unpack them. While Ive seen a
number of attractive speakers over the last few years, I was unprepared for the level of
finish exhibited by the ELTs. The cabinets are rounded down the front sides, presumably to
reduce diffraction -- a technique that until recently, as far as I know, was limited to
much more expensive speakers. Still, corners have been cut to keep the cost down; hence
the use of birch veneer instead of the more exotic rosewood used on Rockets
upper-line speakers. However, the wood veneer, deep finish, and simple elegance of the
half-round at the bottom of the grille make this speaker look more like the middle of a
wide-ranging line than the bottom.
I placed the front left and right speakers atop a pair of
heavy, 24" Parts Express stands I had on hand. The speaker stands 9" top
plates proved a bit large, but the height was just what the doctor ordered. I placed the
ELTs about 18" to either side of my widescreen TV, which put them almost equidistant
from the main listening position. This tried-and-true position has worked well for almost
every speaker Ive used with this system, and the ELT was no exception. I
experimented with moving the speakers closer to the wall and from side to side, but while
there were some differences in soundstaging and balance, there were no serious detrimental
effects at any time. Placing the speakers very close to the wall caused a slight rise in
bass response and reduced image specificity and soundstaging, but never to a great extent.
The ELT passed the standard placement-flexibility test: it could be moved into
less-than-ideal positions without completely destroying the balance -- great news for
those of us with dimensionally challenged rooms.
The four-driver, three-way 20"W x 7.75"H x
6.75"D ELT Center Channel went in the only location available: high atop the TV. This
placed the speaker well above my head, which can create a serious problem with off-axis
response. To correct for this, I used my favorite $2 audiophile tweak: I tilted the front
of the speaker forward by placing two rubber doorstops under its rear edge. (If you do
this, make sure you place a little Blu-Tack under the front corners to ensure that the
speaker doesnt slide off the front of the TV.) The surrounds were mounted 6.5
off the floor at the rear sides of the room. The ELT LRS satellites can be stand- or
bracket-mounted; Rocket recommends Vogel, Haropa, and OmniMount brackets.
The ELT SW-10 subwoofer is small: 18.75"H x
14.25"W x 11.75"D. It ended up along the right wall near the front of the room.
This is not in the plane of the front speakers, which can be a problem when the main
speakers dont extend below 80Hz. Happily, that isnt an issue with the ELT LRS.
This brings up a distinct benefit of the compact shape of the ELT SW-10: its easy to
find a spot to tuck it away in. In my room, it fit nicely beneath one side of a small
writing table that sits in front of the window. Sub integration was a simple task --
its nice to see a manufacturer do a good job in their manual of explaining how to
integrate a subwoofer into a system. The SW-10 has a paper-composite long-throw 10"
woofer and a 200W amplifier module with continuously variable crossover, gain, and phase
Movies and music
The Rocket ELT system showed its true colors with Pirates
of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The little ELT SW-10 sub proved something
of an overachiever, shaking my moderately sized theater with considerable authority during
the cannon shots from The Black Pearl. Transient response was also
surprisingly good; the knock on Elizabeths door in "A Pirates Life"
sounded just about exactly as if it was right there in the room. More impressive still was
the sense of space created by the tight integration of all five speakers. From tropical
wildlife to ocean sounds, there are enough subtle cues sprinkled throughout this movie to
make it a good test, and the ELT system passed with flying colors. Pans from left to right
and front to back were absolutely seamless. Further, better-than-average imaging locked
sound into tight focus on a clearly three-dimensional soundstage.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
reinforced my early impressions about that three-dimensional soundstage. This was most
obvious as the helicopter passes overhead in chapter 6. Sonically, the copter passed
through my listening room as if it actually were overhead. The speakers contributed
precise imaging and a complete lack of tonal shift from front to back. The sub held its
own during the capsule crash in chapter 9, playing much louder than expected while
retaining excellent clarity and definition. This is not expected behavior for a sub in
this price class, but it was sure nice to hear. If I must nit-pick, I thought Angelina
Jolies voice from the ELT Center was a bit too warm at times, though never to the
point of distraction. To keep this in perspective, I have an older PSB Stratus C5
center-channel ($500) that exhibits more of this problem than did the ELT Center. This was
better than merely fine performance on the ELTs part, considering the difference in
If any doubts remained about the Rocket ELTs ability
to create a three-dimensional soundfield, they were forever banished during X2: X-Men
United. The voices in Janes head in chapter 4 came from all around, yet were
distinct and tightly placed in the room. The ELT system made the most of this slick sonic
effect. Additional proof was provided in the form of less subtle effects, such as the
echoes of Logans footsteps in the hall outside the chamber in chapter 8. There were
times when I found the surrounds a bit easier to localize than normal.
Considering the excellent performance of the Rocket ELT
system on movies, I had high expectations of it on music. I was not disappointed. On Miles
Davis Sketches of Spain [Columbia CK 65142], the trumpet at the opening of
"Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)" was amazingly true, and the tambourine caused
me to look up from the notes I was writing. But localization again reared its head, the
harp sounding as if it was coming directly from the left speaker on this track. While it
is tightly focused in that general area with any speaker, the ELTs didnt disappear
into the background quite as well as some other speakers Ive had here. On the other
hand, from the point of tonal balance, imaging, and soundstage, the ELTs could pass for far
more expensive speakers.
On the SACD of Jeff Becks Blow by Blow [Epic
ES 85440], the quintet of ELTs combined to create a perfectly seamless soundstage on
"Scatterbrain." Transient response was better than expected as well, with a
nice, clean snap on the drums in "Thelonious." The sub continued to prove its
virtues by providing a tight, clean foundation with the bass drum at the start of
The Rocket ELT compared favorably to the Paradigm Esprit
home-theater speaker system ($1546). The Esprit is a bit warmer through the midrange; the
ELT is a little leaner. I wouldnt call one better than the other; just slightly
different. However, the ELT seemed to have a somewhat smoother and more extended top end.
Dialogue clarity with both systems was excellent, and too close to call. The levels of
overall detail were also similar, though the upper midrange and, again, the upper
frequencies were marginally cleaner through the ELT.
When it came to surround envelopment, the Paradigm system,
with its hybrid dipole surrounds, was the clear winner in my smaller listening space.
However, the ELT performed at least as well as any other budget monopole speaker in my
recent experience in this respect. The little 10" Rocket subwoofer outdid itself --
and several more expensive subs -- in definition, but couldnt keep up with the
larger Paradigm when things got really loud and nasty. The two subs were a tight match:
the more dynamic Paradigm was able to play louder in a large room, while the Rocket would
be a better match for small- to medium-sized spaces.
Cosmetically, it was no contest. While I find the Paradigm
systems understated laminate finish very attractive, its no match for real
wood. South of about three grand, Ive had only one other system through here in the
last few years that looked as good as the ELT, and it was still more than twice their
I could find no major fault with the Rocket ELT system. It
was at least the equal of any of its peers, and in most cases surpassed them.
Cosmetically, I dont believe Ive come across anything that can match it in
this price class. If youre looking for a system thats easy to look at, set up,
and listen to, then this may just be the system youre looking for. Extremely
|Processors/Receivers - Anthem AVM 20, Onkyo TX-DS696
- Chiro C-300 (front channels), Rotel RB-976 (surrounds)
|Sources - Pioneer DV-563A
DVD player, Sony DVP-NS755V DVD player, Adcom GCD-600 CD changer, Sony SAT HD200 DirecTV
- Analysis Plus, Audio Magic, Straight Wire, Monster Cable
|Monitor - Hitachi 46F500