With the introduction of flat-panel TVs a few years ago, an all new category of speakers emerged, namely flat TV-friendly speakers. Their compact size and eye-catching designs certainly made them attractive to the consumers from the start. However, many audio enthusiasts have come to realize that these unconventional designs often compromise audio quality. You see, the truth is that in general, the best sound still comes from old-fashioned, conventional speaker designs: cone drivers and dome tweeters in cabinets with proper internal and exterior qualities. A conventional speaker’s size also plays an important role in its sound performance. The Canadian-designed Energy C-Series follows this conventional design and combines it with a gorgeous, modern finish. The C-Series replaces and improves on the sonic achievements of the now classic Energy Connoisseur series.
My Energy C-Series 5.1 speaker review set consisted of a pair of C-500 floor-standing towers, a pair of C-R100 bipole rear speakers, a C-C100 centre channel and an S10.3 subwoofer. The C-Series is a very handsome looking set of speakers. Each speaker comes in a black ash finish with a black lacquer front baffle. Dark gray woofers and tweeter plates blend neatly into the front baffles. Small chrome pegs allow the grilles to attach securely to the speaker. Metal floor spikes are provided for the C-500 floor-standers, if you choose to place them on a carpet. Each C-500 also comes with a factory installed black lacquer base that is removable if you desire a slightly different look. The Energy C-Series is also available in a cherry finish.
The C-500 towers feature dual 6-1/2 inch composite fiberglass woofers and a 1 inch chambered aluminium dome tweeter. These towers are just the right size. They’re large enough for a medium to large room, yet compact enough for a small space. Two foam port plugs are provided for the rear ports of each tower to customize bass output in your listening room. The C-500 towers can be bi-amplified for greater fidelity and resolution. Dual, silver 5-way posts allow independent connections to the high and low pass sections of the speaker. These dual posts can also accommodate bi-wire speaker wire.
The C-C100 centre channel houses two 5-1/2 inch composite fiberglass woofers separated by a 1 inch chambered aluminium dome tweeter. A single port plug also comes supplied with the C-C100.
The C-R100s are bipole rear speakers that combine a single 5-1/2 inch composite fiberglass woofer with two 1 inch chambered aluminium dome tweeters on each side. The bipole design means that the tweeters play in-phase with each other and deliver sound all over the sides and the rear of the listening room. Bipole speakers have the ability to produce a much better surround ambiance in the listening room than conventional bookshelves. The C-R100s are smaller than a typical bookshelf speaker and therefore easy to place towards the back of the room. But the Energy C-Series also offers three different models of conventional bookshelves that can be used for the rear channels, if that’s what you prefer.
Energy’s S10.3 front-firing subwoofer uses a 10 inch woofer and a bass-reflex design with downward firing ports to pump out the low frequencies, down to 21 Hz. It is rated at 200 watts continuous power and peaks at 800 watts. The S10.3 offers both low and high level inputs. Phase and low pass filter dials together with crossover filter and power switches are located on the rear panel. A large conveniently front-located level dial pokes through the cloth grill and allows adjustment even when the grill is installed and gives the S10.3 a more attractive look than a typical subwoofer. A sexy blue LED highlights the Energy logo on the front when the subwoofer is turned on or senses a signal in its auto power setting. The S10.3 comes finished in a black ash colour.
I powered the Energy C-Series with a Marantz SR8500 surround receiver. My sources included a Pioneer DV-563A universal DVD player, a Goldring GR1.2 turntable and an Xbox 360. The centre channel was placed on the floor and angled towards the listening position while the rear speakers sat atop speaker stands at ear level. I connected the subwoofer using its low level input and disabled its crossover. Instead, I used the crossover management of my receiver which was set to 80 Hz.
To begin with, I played some stereo CDs in order to evaluate the performance of the C-500 towers and the S10.3 subwoofer. I placed Norah Jones’ Feels Like Home CD in the DVD player and hit play. From “Sunrise” to “Don’t Miss You At All”, the C-500 reproduced Norah Jones’ exquisite and soulful voice spot on. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the C-500s had a warm and pleasant character to them. Acoustic, electric and bass guitar riffs together with the piano sounded nothing short of natural. The C-500s certainly had the ability to draw me in and make me listen to the whole album.
Switching up the pace, I decided to listen to the Oasis Don’t Believe the Truth disc. The C-500s did a great job at keeping up pace with this rock and roll album. Songs like “Lyla” and “Let There Be Love” sounded powerful but incredibly clean when I turned the volume right up. Stereo imaging was done very precisely by the C-500s. Listening to these tracks on the C-Series got me in the mood to play a few songs on my own guitar – something that not all speakers have the ability to do.
The C-500s were also a great match for my Goldring GR1.2 turntable. Every record sounded just as it should – with warmth, clarity and the occasional crackle.
One of my favorite multi-channel discs to date is the Nine Inch Nails With Teeth DualDisc album. This entire album is so brilliantly produced in surround that it certainly gave the C-Series a chance to play as a team. Channel to channel transitions were handled smoothly by all of the speakers. The C-R100 rear speakers did a great job with subtle sound effects, deep bass notes and everything in between. The song “Right Where It Belongs” sent chills through my body when the cheering of the crowd faded in through the rear channels. With my eyes closed, the speakers disappeared in the sonic landscape and produced a soundstage far beyond the boundaries of my medium-sized room. The rear channels managed to create an ambiance of a good-sounding rock club. The sonic advantages of the bipole design of the C-R100s were clearly audible. I was also pleasantly surprised with the bass abilities of the C-500s. The S10.3 subwoofer wasn’t even necessary for most of the tracks on this album because the C-500s managed to reach low enough. I appreciated the easy access to the front-mounted volume dial of the subwoofer which allowed for smooth, gradual adjustments.
Back to something a little lighter, I listened to some tracks from a newly purchased DVD-Audio album, The Latin Jazz Trio. The C-Series reproduced the percussion, piano and the bass in all of the songs with detail and excellent dynamics through the entire frequency range. The imaging of these speakers was admirable.
So the C-Series were definitely musically talented when it came to stereo and surround music. But what about movie soundtracks? I put the C-Series to the test with the recent sci-fi flick, The Island. The movie started off quietly which gave me a chance to listen to character’s conversations. The dialog was intelligible and clear, even with various sound effects in the background. In other chapters, the rear speakers produced large sonic environments pulling me right into the middle of the on-screen action.
Reaching for something with more impact, I grabbed the Aliens DVD. The opening THX frequency transition was very smooth. I replayed it a couple more times, each time turning the volume higher until it got so loud that I felt like I was sitting in a real movie theater. Well, pretty close anyway! This movie has many scenes that demanded the S10.3 subwoofer to produce some serious thunder. As I’ve learned to expect from Energy subwoofers, the S10.3 produced bass that was always clean and tight, even at very high volume levels. Once again, the C-Series set of speakers created realistic sonic environments from rainfall to strong winds to thunder. Sounds panned between the channels smoothly in every direction.
Many modern video games have very well-designed Dolby Digital soundtracks so I had to give the C-Series speakers a run with my Xbox 360. It was a good excuse to play some video games anyway. Games like Project Gotham Racing 3 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter came to life far beyond the speakers and my room. I could hear cars approaching far from behind me and the panning of cheering crowds from the front channels to the rear was realistic as I sped past the bleachers. In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, I could tell which direction gun shots were coming from and they truly sounded like they were coming from way off in the distance. Explosions shook my room with a dynamic and tight bass.
Through my test, I discovered that the Energy C-Series are a set of very musical speakers with a sweet tooth for the home theatre. With their modest size, they can be easily accommodated into a smaller room, although their sound can effortlessly fill an average sized listening space. If you ask me, $2150 for these five speakers and the subwoofer from a respectable brand like Energy Speakers is a great deal considering their performance, aesthetics and size. If you’re looking for a 5.1 speaker system in the $2000 range, you should definitely give the Energy C-Series a listen.
Energy Speaker Systems
C-500 floorstanding $800/pair, C-R100 rear speaker $200/each, C-C100 centre channel $300, S10.3 subwoofer $650.
• Frequency response: 35 Hz to 20 kHz (± 3 dB)
• Impedance: 8 ohms
• Sensitivity: 91 dB
• Crossover points:1.2kHz and 2.5kHz
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 200 x 950 x 370 mm (8 x 37.5 x 14.5 inches)
C-R100 Rear Speakers
• Frequency response: 62 Hz to 20 kHz (± 3 dB)
• Impedance: 8 ohms
• Sensitivity: 85 dB
• Crossover point: 3.5 kHz
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 322 x 175 x 145 mm (12.75 x 7 x 5.75 in.)
C-C100 Centre Channel
• Frequency response: 50 Hz to 20 kHz (± 3 dB)
• Impedance: 8 ohms
• Sensitivity: 88 dB
• Crossover point: 2.2 kHz
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 500 x 170 x 250 mm (19.75 x 6.75 x 10 in.)
• Frequency response: 21 to 120 Hz
• Amplification: 200 Watts continuous, 800 Watts peak
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 440 x 366 x 465 mm (17.33 x 14 x 18 in.)