HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



March
2001

Reviewed by
Jeff Fritz




Silverline Audio
Home-Theater
Speaker System


Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: Corona II speakers
Price: $4499 USD per pair
Dimensions: 44"H x 10"W x 16"D
Weight: 100 pounds each

Model: SR16 speakers
Price: $1499 USD per pair
Dimensions: 13"H x 8"W x 14"D
Weight: 25 pounds each

Model: Center Stage center-channel speaker
Price: $1199 USD
Dimensions: 8.5"H x 22"W x 8.5"D
Weight: 22 pounds

Warranty: Five years parts and labor, non-transferrable


Features
  • Soft-dome tweeters
  • Copper binding posts
  • Pulp paper woofers with rubber surrounds
  • Bass reflex enclosures
  • Magnetically shielded (Center Stage)
  • Bi-wireable
  • Real-wood veneers (Curly Maple, Rosewood, and Cherry)

Feed a signal to a speaker and it should be able to reproduce it, whatever the medium or source. This has been the conventional wisdom, and it makes perfect sense to me. I know the arguments on the other side of the debate though. Some would say that speakers all involve tradeoffs to one extent or another; most are optimized for a specific purpose. Well, this makes sense to me too. I certainly would not expect a bookshelf speaker to be able to reproduce a 20Hz tone, but I would expect it of a subwoofer or full-range tower. There are good examples on both sides of the argument, even though the theoretical ideal is oftentimes superseded by the practical reality.

It was this very subject that intrigued me going into the Silverline home-theater-array review. Silverline models have garnered praise from a number of SoundStage! writers whose hearing I trust. This seemed to bode well for them, but they had not as yet produced a system designed specifically for home theater. Would Silverline speakers fare as well with movie soundtracks? If so, would it mean that this system is not a pure music-making machine like some of the others? There are lots of questions to answer. Hmmm.

I asked Alan Yun to choose a system he was confident would perform well in the theater, and he did not hesitate in assembling one. The Corona II, SR16, and Center Stage arrived in walnut veneer ready to take on the likes of Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and an assortment of characters who love to talk, blow things up, and generally make a lot of noise. And no, my description is not incomplete -- there is no subwoofer. Yun feels the Corona IIs are capable of producing enough bass for home theater. This is how the system was submitted, so I did not augment the bass with my subwoofer.

The array

The system under review is based on the Corona II, a largish three-way speaker with a centralized 1" soft-dome tweeter flanked by two 4" midranges, flanked again by two 8" woofers. The speaker itself is narrow but deep and slants back away from the listener. The SR16s are a two-way bookshelf design that is similarly slanted. Each speaker possesses a 1" tweeter and a 6" pulp woofer. They appear close in overall width to the main speakers, which makes the system look cohesive when set up. In other words, it’s not just a thrown-together-looking kind of thing, but an attractive ensemble that will enhance the right decor. The last model of the bunch is the Center Stage center-channel speaker. This is a somewhat conventional-looking box that holds three drivers: two 6" midrange drivers and one 1" soft-dome tweeter.

The veneer is finished very nicely to a smooth, though not glossy degree. The cabinets appear well made, which you would expect at the price point. Each speaker came with two pairs of copper binding posts for biwiring, although I did not use this configuration during my audition. Supplied spikes are also included for the Corona II, and these thread into the bottom of the cabinet.

Setup

The Corona II was not fussy about setup, which leads me to believe that they could be used in a room that for various reasons requires flexibility. I ended up with just a slight bit of toe-in and about nine feet of space in between speakers. I placed the Center Stage on a small stand directly below my monitor, angled up slightly to point at the listener. The SR16s were placed on stands behind the listening position at just above ear height. Since the listener’s position is somewhat closer to one speaker than the other, I adjusted the further one so that the listening position remained the same for each speaker. This helped to balance the sound tonally from the rear of the room. Of course, I compensated for this setup discontinuity in my processor as well. I set all speakers to "large" in the Denon AVR-5800’s menu to optimize bass response without a subwoofer.

Overall sound

I started the review with a few music DVDs. This allowed me to get a good handle on overall performance, coloration (or lack thereof) of voices, and continuity from one speaker to another. The first thing that I noticed was a full, rich midrange. Male vocals leaned slightly to the warm side of neutral, possessing a full-bodied sound that gave weight and structure to voices. When a male voice was guttural, that’s how it sounded. This is in contrast to many systems that are detailed but lack apparent weight and realism. Not only were vocals tonally correct, they were placed properly within the soundstage as well. What was evident from the start was that I was getting a solid center image with plenty of vocal projection into the room. I tested the system in both 5.1 configuration and in phantom mode and the results were similar. The Corona II could place voices precisely, but with the Center Stage added, vocals became more solid, with even more weight. James Taylor's Live at Beacon Theater showcased this midrange prowess to good effect. The scale throughout the vocal range was very close to what one hears in real life. This, I surmise, comes from the ability to move the requisite amount of air while having a solid lower midrange/upper bass. As well, the sound never became overly thick or plodding. This midrange characteristic would prove important with movies too.

Moving to the frequency extremes, I observed solid low bass that was never boomy or muddy. It did not have the sheer punch of some larger, more potent systems I have heard, but was not slow, lightweight, or plodding either. There seems to be a good combination of low-frequency extension and midbass agility in the Corona II. Neither quality was state-of-the-art, but both were present to a degree that served the music well.

The treble was clear and smooth. It did not possess the last bit of detail and air that is found in the very best systems, but it also displayed none of the bright, spitty quality that many speakers seem to possess. This made various rock recordings in my collection listenable over a longer period of time than is usually the case with speakers having a less refined treble. Everything I threw at the Silverlines was handled without confusion. The Dave Matthews Band's track "Crash into Me" from Crash [RCA 07863 66904-2] was clear and focused with no congestion, which is a testament to the speaker system since this song is the epitome of busy music.

Movies

I started the movie auditioning with one of my reference DVDs, the most entertaining U-571. For sheer visceral punch and explosive dynamics, this movie is very hard to beat. The depth-charge blasts that the submarine has to persevere need to explode through the speaker system in order to communicate to the listener how bad the conditions were. The Silverline array did a very good job of delivering the goods while also reproducing the more subtle sounds, such as water drips and metal creaks. While the inclusion of a subwoofer would have added to the low-end impact and sheer physicality of the sound, most of the information was passed to the viewer without a hint of dynamic compression or strain. The Silverlines could startle you with their sound when the soundtrack called for it.

Another excellent DVD, Gladiator, was used to examine dialogue intelligibility and vocal projection. The Center Stage easily handled the pep talk Russell Crowe gives to his troops just before going into battle. I have heard other systems muffle this speech a bit as the center channel is overtaken by the effects. This was not a problem with the Silverlines, the midrange being the strength of the system. The German shepherd in this scene also makes a few noises that get lost on lesser systems. The Silverlines did a fine job of reproducing this scene in its entirety -- even the dog. The upper treble was not harsh while reproducing the Gladiator effects; if anything, it was a bit relaxed, which allowed the movie to be played back at a slightly higher volume than usual without the listener fatigue induced by an overly etched sound. The somewhat warm midrange character of the system was also a contributing factor in this regard, making the movie’s characters come to life with full-size, lifelike voices.

Comparison

The following comparison may seem a bit odd, but it is intended to describe just what you get when you make a major upgrade from an entry-level system (although an excellent one) to a fairly expensive array capable of equal performance with theater and music. The EdgeAudio 502D system is quite simply a steal at its $1399 factory-direct price. In terms of performance and build quality, it is typical of more expensive systems, possibly because of the direct Internet access to the manufacturer. At $7200, the Silverline array constitutes a serious outlay of cash, and would obviously be a major investment next to the EdgeAudio system.

What does the difference in price buy you? First, a much better midrange in either two-channel mode from just the Corona II or in theater mode from the Center Stage. The vocal presentation is just more full, rich and lifelike. It is also capable of projecting further into the room, denoting more output capability. The midbass has more weight and heft as well, with a slightly more refined treble. The upper reaches are equally revealing, but also have finesse and subtlety not found in the lesser-priced system. One area where the EdgeAudio system can compete, though, is in the extreme low bass. The subwoofer-enhanced Edge array plays slightly lower and with more output than the Coronas. But add a sub to the Silverlines and the score would be settled on all accounts, as it should be for the price.

Conclusion

The Silverline home-theater system offers music and film aficionados a finely balanced package capable of displaying subtlety and power. It does not offer the last drop of bass wallop that separate subwoofers are capable of, nor does it have over-the-top detail, but this is not nearly as important as what it does offer. The midrange clarity in musical passages and the dialogue intelligibility in the theater are clearly top-notch. Add to this the impressive dynamic range, excellent build quality and finish, and refined top end, and you have a winning system overall.

This package, it seems to me, will appeal to the audiophile who wants to integrate home theater into the listening room, but does not want to sacrifice the capability to reproduce fine music. It is also a system I would recommend to those with an eye on multichannel music from either of the two new formats. Although you can achieve more wallop for the same money, in all likelihood it will be at the expense of subtle music reproduction.

If you want to balance performance characteristics in a combination music/cinema system, look toward Silverline. They have married the two successfully, with few tradeoffs in either. 

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:

Silverline Audio
2170 Commerce Ave., Suite P
Concord, CA 94520
USA

Mailing Address:
Silverline Audio
PO Box 30574
Walnut Creek, CA 94598
USA
Phone: (925) 825-3682
Fax: (925) 256-4577

E-mail: sales@silverlineaudio.com
Website: www.silverlineaudio.com

 


PART OF THE SOUNDSTAGE NETWORK -- www.soundstagenetwork.com

All contents copyright Schneider Publishing Inc., all rights reserved.
Any reproduction, without permission, is prohibited.

HomeTheaterSound.com is part of
the SoundStage! Network
A world of websites and publications for audio, video, music and movie enthusiasts.