This makeover thing is catching on. Mission has given the home-theater speaker system a full Van Susteren with the $999 FS2-AV.
It's not a few nips, a few tucks, either. It's a complete plastic reconstruction of the modern loudspeaker, speakers less than 2 inches thick and only 1.5 pounds each. And not so much as a single grain of wood.
So, Doctor, how did they do it?
Mission, a British manufacturer whose speakers are distributed in the United States by Denon Electronics, has adapted for home theater NXT flat-panel technology found almost exclusively in space-saving multimedia speakers. NXT SurfaceSurround technology uses tiny exciter elements mounted on a flat panel to produce a wide, if somewhat ill-defined, pattern of sound. Inherent in this skinny-mini design, unfortunately, is the absence of bass. The FS2-AV compensates with a subwoofer built more conventionally with a 6.5-inch paper-cone driver.
Even so, the FS2-AV doesn't play particularly loud, but neither do most small-scale, under-$1,000 home-theater speaker packages. In a small- to medium-size room, the FS2-AV requires no apologies for its size or output. Still, the flat-panel speakers make the FS2-AV's design more notable than its sound. These speakers, only about a foot high, 5 inches wide and 1.77 inches thick, give home decorators an exciting new way to install a home theater without the usual home-theater speaker glut.
Mission made the FS2-AV a virtual disappearing act. The five satellites have clip-on end caps in matching gray plastic and a screw-on base. Or they can be mounted onto a wall. Mounting takes much more time, and some drilling: The speakers must be disassembled before the plastic cradle can be screwed into the wall. The FS2-AV comes with almost 150 feet of flat speaker wire with a white jacket that can be painted to match the color of your wall or placed under a carpet. (In the interest of efficiency, I wired the FS2-AV with bulky, old speaker cables, already cut.)
Even if you're not mounting the speakers on the wall, plan on up to two hours to set up the FS2-AV. Each speaker must be wired to terminals on the front of the subwoofer. Then a cable connects the subwoofer to your receiver's speaker terminals.
The 19-pound subwoofer is an important player here. Let's look at the numbers. A good bookshelf speaker can reproduce low frequencies down to about 50 hertz. The surround speakers in a budget home theater get down to about 125 hertz, maybe 100 hertz. The FS2-AV satellites, by comparison, go only as low as 285 hertz. With the subwoofer, driven by a 55-watt amplifier, the FS2-AV reaches about 55 hertz. That's not quite low enough to peel paint off the walls, but it gives the FS2-AV's sound an invaluable fullness, especially on car-crash fests like H.B. Halicki's "The Junkman."
The subwoofer, finished in black vinyl wood-grain wrap, also has an ingenious two-way design. It can stand upright in a corner, where its triangular prism shape fits snugly, or it can be placed horizontally for a lower contour. Mission thought of almost everything: It also includes a choice of screw-on spikes or rubber feet for the sub. Everything's very prim and proper, British style, except that the wires show from the base of the subwoofer like a dangling shirttail. In the next go-round, Mission should design the sub to accept all wiring from a rear panel, where all cables would be out of view.
Sonically, the FS2-AV reminded me of a Paradigm Cinema system I reviewed a year ago. That system featured lightweight satellites that were tiny (6 inches deep) by conventional standards but cost $300 less than the FS2-AV.
Flat-panel technology, with its wide dispersion, is a natural fit for a surround-sound system. It comes at a premium, but it's precisely what a lot of design-conscious households have been waiting for.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
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