Sunfire is led by the iconoclastic inventor, physicist, and authentic audio legend Bob Carver, whose fertile imagination has, since the 1970s, been producing groundbreaking, and often imitated, A/V component designs. Carver, for example, first whetted audiophiles’ appetites for truly big wattage with his mammoth 1970s-era Phase Linear 700 power amplifier, but later demonstrated high-powered amps could fit in very small packages. He’s a man who has developed numerous circuits (such as the aptly-named “Sonic Holography” circuit) that improve sound quality in unexpected ways and who started the movement toward small but potent cube-shaped subwoofers with his famous Sunfire True-series subs. But one of his most famous creations was the six-foot-tall Amazing Loudspeaker (yes, that was its actual name), which pushed the envelope of hybrid ribbon-type loudspeaker design. And when it comes to invention and innovation, Carver shows no signs of letting up yet.
About a year and a half ago I met with Bob Carver to talk about an exciting product that, at the time, was still under development: namely, an extremely compact satellite/subwoofer speaker system that—Carver promised—would rival if not surpass the performance of his original Amazing Loudspeaker (a tall order for any speaker system to fill). The result is the Sunfire Cinema Ribbon speaker system reviewed here.
Our Cinema Ribbon system came with a set of three tiny, two-way, three-driver CRM-2 satellites for use as L/C/R speakers, a CRM-2BIP bipolar surround speakers and an SRS-210R SubRosa subwoofer with its companion SubRosa 2700EQ outboard subwoofer amplifier.
The diminutive, 8.25-inch-tall CRM-2s feature two side-firing 4.5-inch mid-bass drivers that handle all frequencies from the upper bass region on up to about 1500Hz, plus a single, forward-firing, waveguide-loaded ribbon tweeter that handles output from 1500Hz on up. Interestingly, the side-firing drivers work together as an omnidirectional array (meaning sound radiates evenly in a 360-degree pattern), which Sunfire says helps “enlarge the sense of acoustic space, in all dimensions.” The ribbon tweeter, in turn, is derived from the design of the almost 6-foot-long ribbon driver used in the original Amazing Loudspeaker but with the ribbon surface cleverly folded to fit within a housing that is only a few inches tall. Despite its small size, the CRM-2 carries a maximum output rating of—get this—115dB, which is extraordinary (frankly, if you tried to get 115dB of clean output from most satellites this size, you’d wind up with “loudspeakers flambé”).
The CRM-2BIPs, in turn, each feature two ribbon-type tweeters angled to the sides as a bipolar array, with a single, forward firing 4.5-inch mid-bass driver. An easy-to- use, front panel mounted tweeter level control lets you adjust treble output of the speakers to match the acoustics of your room. The CRM-2BIPs are intended primarily for wall-mount applications, though I found they worked beautifully on stands, too.
Although I opted to use a regular CRM-2 satellite as the center speaker for our system, I should mention that Sunfire also offers a dedicated CRM-2C center channel speaker. The CRM-2C uses the same drivers as the CRM-2, but with the ribbon tweeter flipped on its side and mounted in an acoustic lens said to help improve dispersion and with the two mid-bass drivers firing forward— not to the sides. In principle, the CRM-2C produces a slightly more focused sound on dialog, though its horizontal dispersion (especially of high frequencies) is not as broad as the CRM-2’s. In the end, I chose a CRM-2 for the center because I wanted the front speakers to have identical voicing, and because the CRM-2’s superior horizontal dispersion helps create more seamless surround soundstages. The good news is that Sunfire leaves the choice to you, so by all means hear both models and then pick the center speaker you feel will work best in your room.
Completing the package is Sunfire’s innovative SRS-210R SubRosa subwoofer/amplifier combo. The somewhat unorthodox SubRosa woofer enclosure resembles a thin, 44-inch-long “slab” that houses two extremely shallow long-throw 10-inch woofers. Because the slab is so thin (it’s only 3.5-inches thick), three distinct positioning options are supported. You can place the sub on its back (woofers facing up, with the cabinet beneath a couch or coffee table), rest it on its long side using included feet, or prop it upright against a wall—using a pair of included clamping “cups” that cinch the enclosure to the wall. The outboard SubRosa 2700EQ amplifier fits on a shelf or equipment rack and puts out an enormous amount of power (2700 watts RMS). What is more, the amp also comes with a calibration mic and an automated, four-band room EQ system. To dial in the system, you simply plug in the mic and place it in your favorite listening position, then push the Start button and watch as the amp/subwoofer combo automatically tests itself, then configures a custom-fitted EQ curve that addresses the acoustics of your home theater. Voilà: instant smooth bass response.