One of the first and most lasting impressions created by the Radiance system is that it has a certain effortless and tightly focused way of presenting low-level transient and textural details—details that many other systems seem to gloze over, losing desirable bits and pieces of sonic information in the process. But what’s equally impressive is that the Radiance speakers retrieve and reproduce details without exaggerated etching, false “spotlighting,” or upturned treble response. True, the Radiance speakers did seem somewhat overly crisp straight out of the box, but as they accumulated playing time they smoothed out nicely and became, if anything, even more open sounding. Tonal balance is pleasingly neutral.
Another important aspect of the system is that, above and beyond what the individual speakers’ sensitivity ratings might suggest, the Radiance speakers are quite easy to drive, so that they consistently yield vigorous and expressive (yet not overblown) dynamics, and without overtaxing amplifiers or receivers. While the Radiance speakers are certainly refined enough to reveal subtle qualitative differences between associated components, they are by no means “fussy” about the amplifiers or AVRs used to drive them. For example, I used Rotel’s RSX-1550 75wpc A/V receiver (see my Playback issue 21 review by clicking on this link: http://www.avguide.com/review/playback-rotel-rsx-1550-51-channel-av-receiver)—a sweet sounding but not terribly powerful unit—during my Radiance system tests, and the combination gave excellent results.
Finally, I found the Radiance sub an unexpected delight. It combines three virtues I’m not used to hearing—at least not in such a refined form—from subs in this price class. Those virtues include the ability to go low, to play loudly when the situation requires, and, most importantly, to deliver an extremely taut and well-defined sound. Bass pitch definition is astonishingly good. When you first unpack the Radiance Sub it seems well made yet almost self-effacing in its appearance. But looks, here, are deceiving; within a few minutes of firing up the Radiance Sub, you realize that its performance is very special indeed. The real glory of this sub is that it produces a hearty yet not “bass heavy” sound that is unexpectedly rich in nuance and that is capable of impressive transient speed. I attribute these qualities, in part, to Acoustic Energy’s decision to use a sealed-box, rather than a reflex-loaded, subwoofer enclosure.
I noted only a small handful of drawbacks with the system, and they are minors ones. First, there can be moments—usually experienced on hard, sharp transient sounds—where the tweeter/DXT lens assemblies momentarily tug at your ears, disrupting the system’s ordinarily smooth and coherent imaging. Second, because the Radiance main speakers main speakers are short in stature (just 36” tall), they tend to throw an image that falls somewhat below ear level. But frankly, neither of these small flaws does much to undercut the system’s many positive qualities.
Sonic clarity, at its best, shouldn’t be a quality that draws attention to itself; rather, clarity should simply be present in a natural and unforced way, which is what happens when we hear richly textured sounds in real life. So it is with the Radiance system. To hear what is so right about this system, just try listening to the “Protecting Interests” chapter from Inside Man, where well-connected power broker Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) gets permission to enter an active crime scene to conduct a private negotiation with an ostensible bank robber, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen). White and Russell conduct their conversation at night in the darkened main lobby of the old-school downtown bank that Russell is robbing—a space with high, vaulted ceilings, marble floors, and paneled walls. The Radiance system renders White and Russell’s conversation, which is conducted in soft tones of voice just barely above a whisper level, with pitch-perfect clarity and dialogue intelligibility. But what’s even more impressive is the way the Radiance system captures the very soft and subtle reverberations of the actor’s voices echoing within the lobby. An interesting experiment I tried was to listen to the scene with my eyes closed. When I did, I found myself picturing a space almost exactly the size of the lobby shown, and one that has hard, acoustically reflective surfaces just as the lobby does. In short, the Radiance system helps myriad small sonic details coalesce to produce superior realism.