I have to say that my expectations for a small surround system to shine at multichannel music reproduction are generally modest at best. The Tannoy’s were passable, but still had weaknesses in meeting the demands of my music collection and the Hsu Ventriloquist system just didn’t perform up to audiophile standards for music playback. So thus jaded by experience, I began my testing of the CTMAX system with MonsterMusic’s Demonstration DVD Vol. 1, which has some cuts from Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company and Peter Cincotti: Live in New York. In the cut “Crazy Love” with Ray Charles doing lead vocals and Van Morrison backup, the voice clarity was impressive as was the instrumentation. Peter Cincotti’s “St. Louis Blues” presented a richer palette of sonic challenges. The thumping standup bass rhythm sets up the piece, soon joined by Cincotti’s syrupy vocals, and, in the second-verse, by percussion (a trap drum set). At the “break” Cincotti does his signature jazz piano riff up and down the keyboard and then is joined by saxes (tenor and alto) and trombone to flesh out the sound. These recordings have a gritty “outside in the neighborhood” feel to them that the CT-MAX system re-created flawlessly.
In the sonically challenging “Allegro Molto” movement of Concerto for Violin and Orchestra [Area 31, David Chesky, SACD], Tom Chiu’s violin has a distinct voice offset against the frenzied string and horn sections. The CT-MAX surrounds rose to the occasion with convincing authenticity.
It has been awhile since I’ve been this impressed with a surround-sound speaker system, and one that handles multichannel music as effectively as it does film soundtracks. The Triangle Odysseys referred to above certainly fit the bill, but they’re not tight-budget, small-room speakers, as are the RBH Sound C-4s and MS- 8.1. In the interest of being a critical reviewer, I tried my best to find a challenge that would reveal weaknesses in the CT-MAX system, but frankly I can’t find a nit to pick. I can confidently go on record in saying that this system will very likely meet or exceed your small-room allaround cinema and music playback needs, and you won’t have to sell your motorcycle to afford it.