Quattro for your ears...
What is the XTZ Cinema Series?In a world that seems to be dominated by soundbars, tiny wireless boxes calling themselves subwoofers and Bluetooth streaming speakers, the XTZ Cinema Series is a welcome return to proper home cinema sound. With new surround formats about to hit the home, there seems to be a concerted effort from speaker manufacturers to launch new designs and higher performing products, to take advantage of what can be done and with some new confidence in the market.
In for review this month are Swedish manufacturer XTZ with their new Cinema Series line of high performance home cinema speakers. The company state in their PR that the Cinema Series exists for high SPL, high speed sound that you can feel and at a price you can afford. They state that their goal was to build a system without any compromise. To achieve their goal they have created small sealed satellite speakers with big powered subwoofers, using optimised dispersion patterns to perfect the balance of directivity for pinpoint imaging with a wide sweet spot. Their words not ours, but you can guarantee we will be testing these claims fully.
The package we are testing here consists of 3 main speakers, 2 surrounds and a 12-inch subwoofer. All the speakers can be purchased individually so you can build a system that will suit you and your desired layout. We have gone for what you could describe as the traditional 5.1 approach – but you could go 7.1 or even 7.6 with two 3x12 Subwoofer stacks! There are also Atmos and Auro-3D models on the horizon for the near future, so XTZ are certainly serious about their Cinema Series line-up fitting as many want lists as possible. Add to all this extremely competitive pricing, and you can see why there are numerous threads on the subject in our forums and that when we were offered a system to test ourselves, we couldn’t say no.
So, do the speakers live up to the hype being generated on the forums and can they offer something new to the market? Let’s go rattle some walls and answer some questions.
XTZ M6 Main SpeakerThe main left, right and centre channel duties in this system are handled by the Cinema Series M6 speaker. It is called the M6 because it is the main speaker and has 6 drivers/tweeters. XTZ state that a lot of thought and testing went into the speaker cabinet, the driver layout and the construction of each speaker enclosure. The cabinet walls are built using HDF board rather than MDF as it has a higher density and suits speaker design better. It also allows the cabinet to be compact (440mm a 230mm x 220mm HxWxD) and stable with enough internal volume for the drivers. The cabinet is a sealed design.
The stability and density is enhanced further with a front baffle made from 27mm dual layer HDF and internal reinforcement with bars to make the cabinet even stronger. Finally the actual trapezoid shape of the cabinet not only gives it some useful functionality and design flair, it also helps reduce internal reflections. Each M6 also has an angled front and is designated left or right which allows easy mounting on walls. The rear placement is flat but the front panel is toed (either right or left) to make sure the sound stage remains cohesive yet you can save on floor real-estate by wall mounting. You can also use the M6 either vertically or if space is at a premium, horizontally. The highly developed dispersion characteristics of the M6 help with optimum placement in a dedicated room or the living room.
One of the unique features of the M6 is what XTZ call the Quattro-Tweeter array. The faceplate for the soft dome tweeters is made from 9mm thick die cast aluminium which not only makes the centre of the cabinet stable but also helps with cooling. XTZ explain that the use of the four tweeters helps with frequency crossover, shares the thermal loads and reduces distortion. Therefore the frequency crossover is at 1.2kHz which helps with dispersion in this critical area of the frequency response. Plus, not all the tweeters are run all the way up to 20kHz. Only one tweeter handles that task with the other three rolled off around the 3kHz mark which prevents interference between all four units and creates a more cohesive result. Either side of the Quattro array are two 5 1/4 inch long fiber blended pulp drivers. You can get the full in-depth material and construction details on the XTZ site.
The actual matte black finish of the cabinets is pretty special but very prone to fingerprints. There are white gloves in the box, but I didn’t notice them until my grabby paws had been all over a couple of the speakers. They do clean off but it takes a while. The matte finish, in black, looks very contemporary and fits nicely within a dedicated room. We are not sure about living room placement, but as design and finish is subjective we will leave that to the end user to decide. The weight and density of the cabinets are a massive plus point with very little resonance likely to interfere with the final sound.
The impedance of the M6 is 4 ohm nominal and sensitivity is 89dB. We run the speakers with a top end Onkyo and an entry level Denon AVR without any driving issues. Obviously as the M6 are satellite speakers they roll off under 80Hz so you need to run them with a subwoofer and they can be bi-wired and bi-amped. Each M6 retails at £649.
XTZ S5 Surround SpeakerSurround duties are taken care of by a pair of S5 speakers. As with the M6 the fact there are 5 drivers/tweeters and it's a surround speaker brings us to the name S5. Uniquely there are 3 possible set up modes with the drivers working in various different ways to allow optimisation in all possible configurations. The three settings are front firing (front speaker over the sides), Dipole (Sides full range and front for low frequencies) and Dipole 3X which is both modes together, so full front and side at full range. After some experimentation we found that Dipole 3X gave the most rewarding and cohesive soundstage for our 5.1 room layout.
In terms of design and features the S5 is just as well built as the M6 - using the same enclosure materials and strengthening with one 4-inch driver and two soft dome tweeters on the front panel, with one tweeter going 1.2kHz to 3kHz and the other all the way up to 20kHz. At the sides are 3-inch full-range drivers. Again there is use of die cast aluminium for the tweeter section to help with stability and cooling. There are left and right designated models in the pair with the same HDF dual front baffle and trapezoid cabinet shape.
The finish is the same matte black scheme on the M6 and the same fingerprint nightmare. The S5 are best crossed over with a system subwoofer at 80Hz, they have a 4 ohm load and sensitivity is 87dB. The S5 is sold in pairs at £899 retail.
XTZ 1x12 SubwooferThere are currently two choices of subwoofer in the XTZ Cinema Series range. You have the 1x12 which we have here for review. You also have the 3x12 which is basically three 1x12 stacked together with three times the amplification and over 120dB of SPL! So, on this occasion we have kept it simple with the 1x12 Subwoofer for review and to preserve my back trying to lift subwoofers on my own. We might one day test the stacked system!
The 1x12 keeps the same matte black finish and trapezoid cabinet design that matches the mains and surrounds. The cabinet build quality is again first class and there is very little resonance to affect the sound quality. The walls of the cabinet are constructed out of 18mm MDF with 40mm thick bracing and the front baffle is 30mm thick as is the cabinet bottom. Also on the inside are multiple layers of acoustical damping material and of course the trapezoid finish also helps. For more construction information check out the XTZ website.
Next XTZ use what they describe as a high speed 12-inch driver inside the 1x12 (can you guess the naming convention?) These custom designed drivers have, claim the company, been in development for years to achieve the goal of being a light cone used with a strong magnet that has enough power to produce high sound pressure levels but remains precise to the source music and is musical. XTZ claim that the 1x12 achieves their goals and, as you'll see in the link above, go to great lengths to describe why.
Amplification is provided by a Class-D Claridy monoblock unit that has a high power output of 500W RMS and almost 2 times that in peak wattage whenever it is required. Plus the 1x12 is not a sealed unit, but rather a Sealed Hybrid Slot port design. XTZ claims this approach makes the cabinet more stable, maximises the floor coupling and reduces port resonances. When closed the cabinet acts as a sealed unit and ported when vented. There is also a degree of flexibility in set up with two preset EQ options. One is a room gain setting and the other called Anechoic and each can be further enhanced by closing or opening the slot. Connections options are also good with line-level and XLR input and pass-thru. There are also variable phase switches from 0-180 degrees and crossover points from 40-160Hz. The 1x12 retails for £675.
Sound PerformanceWe used the XTZ Cinema Series system in our dedicated bat cave cinema room. The main AV Receiver was an Onkyo NR5007 flagship unit which is 4 years old and an entry level Denon AVR-X3100 was also used during the testing period of 3 weeks. During the majority of the tests we used the speakers as intended in a 5.1 cinema system with images projected on a 10ft scope screen so the front channels were placed at the edge of this screen. The S5 surrounds were level with the viewing position and placed 5 –inches above ear height on dedicated stands. The subwoofer was placed in the dead centre position and placed in a spot well known and used over the last 15 years in this room.
We ran room-EQ during the tests conducted, but this was split 50/50 with no EQ added as the speakers were optimally placed in a well-used and well known room. As this is a Cinema System 80% of testing was with movie material. We also conducted some 2 channel testing with music.
The first thing I played when the system was set up fully and ready to go was a DTS demo disc with one of the opening scenes from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It is the scene where the camera starts on the very human looking eyes of Caesar. It is raining and the sound of thunder is echoing around the forest which we start to see in more detail as the camera pulls back. There is a transition from the low volume breathing of Caesar to a fuller sound of the rain falling and the thunder getting louder. We can also now see more apes hunched in the tops of the trees. The sheer dynamics and sense of envelopment in that scene had my jaw on the floor. It was the sense of all the speakers blending and disappearing – creating a fully immersive soundstage that was totally believable and had me asking myself why you would need Atmos or Auro-3D when you can get it this good. It’s also not reviewer hyperbole either. I have a very decent THX certified Teufel sound system normally installed in this room and with movies it is very, very good. But it can also be described as quite clinical, which is not a bad thing. But the XTZ Cinema system just gels better as a package and although it sounds like a cliché, they do tend to melt away and leave you with a natural sounding sound field that never distracts when it is called upon to get loud or even get laid back and quiet. The 1x12 also works so well in this package at underpinning the bottom end of the satellites but not at the cost of ultimate dynamics when it is called into action.
This is further evidenced with the plain old Blu-ray edition of Gravity – not the forthcoming Atmos version. It was my first time watching this movie with the XTZ system and my trusty Onkyo. The cohesive nature of the speakers is the ultimate appeal of this system - as are the dynamics. For large sections of the movie there is a silence of breathing and nothing more. It is almost a silent movie in that respect with only a few instances of full on low end grunt and action. It is at these moments that the XTZ package also surprises with just how fast it reacts to changes in dynamic volume levels, how deep that sub can go in an instant and yet it does so with aplomb and without breaking into a sweat. I was listening at reference level more with the XTZ’s than I ever do with the THX system normally in this room. You can listen at slightly higher SPL levels and it never gets uncomfortable, dialogue is always rich and intelligible - it also just feels better when things hit the fan on screen.
So my overriding thought with the XTZ is how well they work together to ‘perform’ their task. Bass is stunningly good from the 1x12 and I can only imagine what the 3x12 can do, yet it’s not all crash bang wallop. The subwoofer can also cope with being musical and adding a nice floor to dance or R&B, while changing quickly with bass lines from legendary hip hop cues like Chic’s Good Times. The sound stage is nice and wide with the M6’s across the front and in stereo they also create a convincing picture of what is going on, be it solid vocals to the centre or sweeping strings to the left and brass to the right. It is also with music that you start to get a feel for the warmth of the sound the XTZ’s produce, something I noticed was quite obvious when compared to my editing suite Genelec’s and the THX package normally used in the cinema room. That is no bad thing to be honest and of course is entirely subjective when it comes to the finer points of where we get our musical enjoyment. There is a time and a place for clinical and accurate, but I also enjoyed the sound the XTZ conjured up with classic dance tracks and some Metallica.
Overall when assessing the sound quality and how well these XTZ Cinema Series speakers work together I am struggling to think of any negatives at all. The sheer soundscape they are capable of producing and the way they are so well matched to create a cohesive soundstage, that just melts away and does so on a few levels, makes you wonder why you would want the new 3D sound formats. There are a few occasions when you just hear a well put together speaker and sound system and things makes sense and you are transported away without noticing. That is what the XTZ’s were capable of doing for me in my system and it was the cohesive nature of the performance that nailed it for me. They go loud, they are dynamic and they can get in your face when required. However, at no time were they offensive, sibilant or harsh and were able to be driven by even the most modest of budget AVR without any issues. (Obviously try and drive them too hard without adequate power and they will start to get brittle and fall apart like any other speaker will).
I have tried so very hard to stay away from clichés when putting together my thoughts on these speakers, because it is more subjective than reviewing a projector or TV, but at the same time it is important to try and get across the emotional nature of a product that does something so good it re-ignites the passion for the hobby. The XTZ Cinema Series are very, very good and had me hunting out demo scenes old and new to play about with – and I think that says it all.
- Excellent sound quality from all speakers in the system
- Cohesive system creates a realistic sound stage
- Excellent build quality
- Stunningly good 5.1 performance levels with excellent bass from the 1x12 Sub
- Good value for money
- Good use of materials and excellent cabinets
- Finish attracts greasy fingerprints
- Limited demo availability
XTZ Cinema Series ReviewThe M6, S5 and 1x12 make a very compelling case for being your next home cinema speaker system. The build quality is first rate with very well put together cabinets that are well braced and dampened. The components, drivers and tweeters are all high quality parts and the design of the trapezoid cabinets; the matte finish and the engineering all work well together. There is a genuine feeling of a very well made product when it comes to the build quality.
The design of the cabinets helps with the installation of the system with dedicated left and right models making sure that you can wall mount as well as traditional stand mount the main speakers and surrounds. The 1x12 Subwoofer is also a well-constructed and powerful addition to the package which makes sure that the lower end is taken care of in this sub/sat system.
And it is the performance of the system as a whole, the way it blends together to create a convincing soundstage with brilliant dynamics that makes the XTZ’s stand out. There are other Cinema Speaker System packages out there. But you can see why there are the discussions on the forums about the XTZ speakers when you add the stunningly good performance, materials, build quality and price together. If you can, go and get a demo of this system doing its thing, you won’t be disappointed - Highly Recommended!
Value For Money9
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