August 29, 2012
| by Grant Clauser
I’ve been doing some mean tricks to get my kids out of bed lately, but it’s summer, and I don’t want them to sleep so late. These tricks involve 2,700 watts, 20 inches of bass drivers and some frightening sounds.
Picture this, a quiet Tuesday mid-morning, birds chirping, kids still snoozing and suddenly the throbbing, menacing chords of Philips Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi come shattering through the house. The kids woke up, that’s for sure.
For a couple of weeks I’ve been enjoying a healthy three-piece audio system from Sunfire. The system consists of two gorgeous CRM-2 Cinema Ribbon speakers and the commanding SubRosa SRS-210R flat panel subwoofer. Even though the CRM-2 speakers are small, calling this a satellite/subwoofer system just doesn’t do it justice. In fact, when I first received the system I was most interested in the subwoofer (and I still am very interested), but the main speakers turned out to be just as enthralling.
So first I’ll talk about the main speakers. These are not your basic bookshelf speakers. Each is 8.5 inches high, weighs nine pounds and is fronted by a 6-inch folded ribbon tweeter. Ribbon tweeters are extremely efficient and produce amazingly clear sound from a small size. Complementing the tweeter are two 4.5 inch side-firing woofers. They actually face out opposite each other using a design Sunfire calls High Back-emf. The idea behind putting so much speaker into such a little box (and a very pretty rosewood box at that) is to make a small speaker perform like a big one. Sunfire says the CRM-2 can deliver 115 dB.
Matching those little beauties is the SubRosa, a subwoofer designed to be mounted on a wall. Yup. On a wall. Most people think of subwoofers as bulky boxes that (ideally) sit up front near the main speakers, though often people tuck them in corners and top with a plant. Even small subwoofers are just black boxes. Sunfire pioneered a technique that would let a speaker that’s only 3.5 inches deep deliver the sound of something you could use as a coffee table. An in-wall version is also available.
The SubRosa does its big bass magic with two 10-inch, low-profile woofers and a device it calls IBEAM that has something to do with Newton’s 3rd law (hey, I was an English major). It allows the drivers to create equal, but opposite, forces which cancel out mechanical vibrations. Sunfire calls the system StillBass, because it a makes a ton of bass without turning into a jackhammer. The benefit is you can hang it up, and it won’t rattle your wedding picture off the wall. This same system is employed in a new Sunfire in-wall sub as well.
The SubRosa itself if a lovely looking thing, housed in rosewood and covered in 11 layers of hand-rubbed lacquer. If you don’t want to hang it on a wall or display it in the open, Sunfire says you can also slide it under a sofa.
Part of the trick to keeping that subwoofer so slim is that the amplifier is a separate box. The SRA-2700EQ amp delivers 2,700 watts of class D power to the sub. It uses a tracking downconverter power supply to adjust the output of the amplifier to the audio signal’s needs. The amp is thin, runs remarkably cool and can be easily rack mounted.
The CRM-2 speakers connected directly to my Onkyo receiver. I then connected the receiver to the Sunfire’s line-level inputs. I used QED Silver Anniversary XT speaker wire to connect the amp to the SubRosa.
The amp includes its own room equalization feature that will automatically make EQ adjustments by measuring the frequency response with a microphone. The process is simple and quick. First, I sent my dog outside because I didn’t want the test tones to test him.
The microphone connects to a port in the front of the amp. Then you place the mic at your listening positon and press the start button to let the amp send out some test sweeps. If you want to tweak the EQ yourself you can with the Equalizer Authority control.
I mentioned Koyaanisqatsi earlier—I played the DVD-A version using an Oppo universal player. The recording is repleat with both subtle details sometimes interrupted with devastating bass notes that smack you in the gut. The Sunfire combination revealed all the recording’s nuances wonderfully.
On more mainstream music, the system also was well-balanced and delivered an excellent aural image. Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” took on a personal and emotional tone—appropriate for the folk song’s subject matter, and created a fine illusion of space and structure in the image. The kick drum sounded especially satisfying and realistic. 2,700 watts of bass power isn’t all about sonic booms—delicacy is just as important.
Can it rumble? Yes it can. To give it a workout, I tried two of my favorite bass-kicking movie scenes. The first was from Polar Express. Early in the movie the train rumbles up onto a front yard, and sitting on my sofa I was worried that it was going to run over my feet.
Next up was the monster movie Super 8—another train scene. During the last few blasts of the scene in which the train crashes into the pickup truck, I’m pretty sure the foundation of my house shifted.
Ultimately, this system is a perfect balance of grace and power. The lovely CRM-2 speakers are compact and impressive, but the SubRosa and its accompanying amp are Atlas that holds it together.
SubRosa package (in-wall cabinet + speaker baffle + grille): $2650
Subrosa On-wall version (rosewood cabinet) : $3136
SubRosa 2700W amp: $1450
CRM2Speakers = MSRP $1100 (each)
Complete specs can be found here.
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.