Typically before I get to review a set of speakers, I get a chance to check them out on the manufacturer’s website, so I have a good idea of what I’m dealing with. When I received the five cardboard boxes from Sinclair Audio, for the first time I had no idea what to expect. These speakers are so new, the manufacturer website went live the same day I received them. Judging by the weight of the boxes, especially the floor-standing towers, I could tell right away that these were some solid speakers.
The speakers I am writing about are Canadian-designed Sinclair Audio Brighton series. The 5.1 set I received consisted of two SB3600T towers, two SB150S bookshelves, an SB250C center-channel, together with an SB1000W subwoofer.
Pulling the speakers out of the boxes, I finally got a first look at their design. With the grilles on, they appeared to be an average set of speakers. The black cabinets have traditional styling, with the exception of black lacquer above and below the grilles in the front. It wasn’t until I pulled the grilles off, that the Brighton series’ true beauty was revealed. The entire front baffle of each speaker, including the subwoofer, comes in a stunning black lacquer finish. The white woofers of the towers, bookshelves and center channel are surrounded by silver frames. Each woofer has a black surround and a polished-silver dust cap. The subwoofer is also a looker with its black surround, white cone and black dust cap. Chrome pegs in the front baffles allow the grilles to fit firmly but smoothly into place. The tower speakers and the subwoofer sit just over 2 centimeters off the ground on black factory-installed feet. The combination of black, white and silver give the Brighton series a very attractive, classy finish that will easily complement the style of any living room or home theater.
The SB3600T three-way towers combine three 6.5″ woven fiberglass hybrid drivers and a 1″ polymer soft dome tweeter. They offer two pairs of gold-plated multi-binding posts that provide a direct connection to the low and high pass sections, allowing either bi-amplification or the use of bi-wire speaker wire. Both towers are treated with Dead as Lead Technology (DALtech) in strategic parts of the speaker cabinet that captures and absorbs unwanted resonances for pure, untainted speaker reproduction. The entire Brighton series is constructed out of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). Added bracing is used in the floor-standing models to further eliminate distortion.
The SB150S surrounds feature two-way designs combining a single 5.25″ woven fiberglass hybrid driver with a 1″ polymer soft dome tweeter. The SB250C center channel is also a two-way design with two of the same 5.25″woofers and a 1″ tweeter that’s found in the surrounds.
The SB1000W is a front-firing 10″ subwoofer with a built-in 175 watt amplifier. The rear ported enclosure has all controls and connectors in the back. These include volume and crossover frequency knobs, as well as an on/auto/off power and phase switches. A low-level subwoofer input and high-level speaker level inputs and outputs are also present in the back allowing this subwoofer to connect to receivers old and new. Connecting speakers to the speaker level outputs allows you to adjust the frequency being sent to them using the frequency knob. A red/green LED on the back indicates if the subwoofer senses a signal coming from your receiver. With the power switch left in the auto position, the subwoofer goes into stand-by mode after 5 minutes without a signal.
For the listening tests I connected the Sinclair Audio speakers to my Onkyo TX-SR701 receiver. I played music and movies through a Pioneer DV-563A-S universal player with a Goldring GR1.2 turntable also connected to the receiver.
I began by listening to a regular stereo CD. Pearl Jam’s Jeremy (single) seemed like a good place to start. The Brightons played a natural, well balanced reproduction of “Jeremy” and my favorite Pearl Jam song “Yellow Ledbetter”. Song’s off Radiohead’s Ok Computer including “Paranoid Android”, “Karma Police” and “Lucky” sounded natural throughout the entire frequency range. The stereo imaging of the Brightons was done very well in every song I listened to.
Next I played Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. record on the Goldring GR1.2. The details of the stringed instruments, drums and his voice were impressive. The dynamic contrast was also excellent.
Moving onto something more exciting than stereo, I inserted The Crystal Method Legion of Boom DVD-Audio album. Unlike many older Baby Boomer albums remixed in the multi-channel format (to give the feeling of being in the same room as the band), this album is a true mastery of the new format. This hard-hitting electronic music puts you right into the music, not just in the same room. The Brightons’ performance was incredible throughout all frequencies. Stereo imaging and speaker transitions were natural sounding and executed very smoothly. The deep electronic bass of “I Know It’s You”, featuring vocals by Milla Jovovich, pushed the SB1000W to some impressive depths. The subwoofer’s performance was powerful and tight on every track.
Blue Man Group’s Audio is another DVD-Audio favorite of mine. Apart from being performers these guys also create some of their own unique-sounding and looking instruments. If you’re interested in seeing them live, their show is coming to Toronto this June and July (to the Panasonic Theatre). The Audio album is much more than just a music CD, it is a true surround sound experience. The Brightons produced a seamless sound from top to bottom, in every song I listened to from this disc. The multi-channel reproduction of “PVC IV” and “TV Song” were simply stunning. Music flowed between the channels flawlessly, producing a good-sized sound stage with me right in the center.
I first experienced the speakers in a home theater mode by watching some scenes from the martial arts film Hero. An action sequence, first ten minutes into the movie, put the speakers through a series of excellent tests. I turned the volume up slightly on the subwoofer for a better impact while watching movies. The battle between Nameless and Sky began in a palace courtyard with ancient weapons slicing through the air. The mood of the scene was set very effectively by the sound of steady rainfall. I was amazed by the realism theses sounds added to the scene. I could pinpoint individual rain drops around my room as they hit the ground, pots filled with water and the fighter’s weapons. Accompanying the battle was an ancient string instrument that was choreographed to every sequence of moves. Every time the weapons met, the sound of the metal resonating through the room swept through the Brightons. In a later scene, during a different fight sequence, the speakers did an incredible job of placing me right in the middle of the fight. The scene took place in a windy forest. Everything from the sound of swords sifting through the air, to the character’s silk capes and leaves sounded unmistakably real. The speaker to speaker transitions of this windy autumn scene were smooth and convincing. The speakers also transitioned very well from high to low frequencies and vice-versa. Hero turned out to be a great movie for testing sound.
I also watched a few action scenes from the Spider-man 2 DVD which again reaffirmed the Brightons’ sonic abilities. The sound effects from several battles between Spider-man and Doctor Octopus were powerful with an appropriately tight bass. Sound swept between the speakers seamlessly creating a firm home theater experience. From low to high frequencies, this DVD sent the Brightons all over the sonic landscape. Breaking windows sounded as they should, and endless car crashes were realistically powerful and never overwhelming.
Summing it up, the Brightons make a great contender to similar-priced speaker systems. Their above average looks make them eye-pleasing and their performance was equally impressive while listening to music and watching movies. Of course every speaker design has a slightly different sound, so in the end it’s up to your ear to decide whether these speakers suit your taste. At $1950 for this 5.1 combination, the Brightons present a great value in a truly well-designed speaker system.
Price: SB3600T $849.95/pair, SB150S $299.95/pair, Centre SB250C $249.95, SB1000W $549.95 (Canadian MSRP)
Brighton Series SB3600T
Description: 3-way, triple 6.5″ driver tower, 1” tweeter
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Power Handling: 250 Watts
Frequency Response: 35Hz-20kHz
Dimensions(HxWxD): 1100 x 203 x 398 mm
Brighton Series SB160S
Description: 2-way, 6.5″ driver bookshelf, 1” tweeter
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Power Handling: 125 Watts
Frequency Response: 50Hz-20kHz
Dimensions(HxWxD): 350 x 203 x 254mm
Brighton Series SB250C
Description: 2-way, 5.25″ driver center channel
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Power Handling: 125 Watts
Frequency Response: 55Hz-20kHz
Dimensions(HxWxD): 180 x 530 x 203mm
Brighton Series SB1000W
Description: 10” forward-firing powered subwoofer
Amplifier Power: 175 Watts
Frequency Response: 26Hz-150Hz
Dimensions(HxWxD): 420 x 290 x 400mm