During the three decades that Energy has been in business, the company has learned a thing or two about loudspeaker aesthetics, and we found the refined cherry wood finish of our Reference Connoisseur review system breathtaking. For main speakers we chose the tall, stately three-way, four-driver RC-70 floorstanders, while for the center channel we chose the RC-LCR. The RC-LCR has two outboard woofers with an oblique tweeter-between-two-midrange- cones array that allows the speaker to work equally well in horizontal or vertical orientations.
Rounding out the system were the four-driver RC-R surrounds (which come only in black ash), featuring user-selectable settings for dipolar, bipolar, or direct output. Since most of the speakers in the system are capable of reasonably extended low-frequency response, one could stop with this 5- channel system and have ample bass support, especially for music listening. But we chose to add the S12.3 subwoofer, just to give Master and Commander and other bass-rich films a thorough exploration.
The word refined, which I used to describe the appearance of the RC-70 and RC-LCR speakers, also is an apt description of the sound of the entire Reference Connoisseur system. It was as if my provincial country abode had been visited by our distant sophisticated Manhattan-reared cousins. Energy recommends 100 hours of break-in for its speakers, but even after only 50 or so hours the Reference Connoisseurs improved considerably and on many levels. In my musical tests, the Reference Connoisseurs produced broad and deep soundstages, placing individual instrumentalists and voices in realistic 3D spaces. Cuts from Nickel Creek’s eponymous album [Sugar Hill, SACD], Diana Krall’s The Girl in the Other Room [Verve], and from James Taylor’s Hourglass [Columbia, SACD] sounded more finely resolved than on any system I’ve heard recently. Small sonic textures that are often lost with lesser systems, were captured in fine detail by the Reference Connoisseurs. Classic film sequences such as Under Attack from Master and Commander and Echo Game from House of Flying Daggers were superbly rendered. Thanks to the panoramic sound of the front and center channels, the atmospheric details provided by the surrounds, and the foundational power of the subwoofer, the sound of these films came alive as the directors intended. Rather than overpowering the room, the subwoofer presents bass so that the sound permeates the floor and spreads out in a lifelike way.
For under $4k, you can sidestep all those country-cousin speakers out there. This grouping is aptly named as a reference system for its acoustic refinement, which offers referencelevel performance, which—with a bit of prudent saving—almost any enthusiast can afford.