GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema 3 Speaker Package Review

Does the GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema 3 system live up to its name?

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GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema 3 Speaker Package Review
SRP: £1,800.00

Introduction

You could be forgiven for never having heard of GoldenEar Technology, we weren't that familiar with the US manufacturer ourselves before the SuperCinema 3 sub/sat system arrived at the door. However, it's a company that comes with an excellent pedigree, having been set up by Sandy Gross who previously co-founded Polk Audio and Definitive Technology. The new company produces a number of different models that can either be bought separately or as packages and they all include some cutting-edge speaker technology.

The system we're reviewing here is the SuperCinema 3 system that comprises four identical SuperSat 3 satellite speakers and a matching SuperSat 3C centre speaker. The satellite speakers are combined with a ForceField 3 powered subwoofer to deliver a sub/sat combination that promises immersive surround sound and deep tuneful bass. The sub/sat market is a competitive one, with some remarkable systems available for around the £1,000 mark. At twice that price, the SuperCinema 3 has a lot resting on its innovative design and audio performance - so let's see if the third time is indeed a charm?

Design

The SuperCinema 3 speaker package comprises four identical SuperSat 3 satellite speakers, a matching SuperSat 3C centre speaker and a ForceField 3 subwoofer. It's worth noting that the speakers that make up this package are also sold individually, which is handy if you want to add an additional one or two satellites for a 6.1/7.1 setup. It also allows you to gradually build up to the full surround configuration, perhaps starting with a 2.1 setup, if you can't afford to buy everything in one hit. It's also worth pointing out that GoldenEar Technology's speakers are serious contenders in the looks department and if the design and appearance of a speaker is important to you, then you won't be disappointed.

GoldenEar SuperCinema 3

There are four SuperSat 3 satellite speakers, which use an elegantly curved and compact design measuring 12 inches tall and 2.7 inches deep. They are constructed from a rigid, non-resonant marble-powder infused polymer and finished in a beautiful piano-gloss black. We happen to come from the Henry Ford school of design and prefer our kit black but any company hoping to break into the lifestyle market, which the SuperSat 3 are clearly designed to do, should consider offering other colours, especially white. As a result of their excellent construction, the SuperSat 3's weigh a hefty 5lbs which gives them a pleasantly solid and robust feel. There is a detachable fabric grille at the front, which is protected by an underlying plastic lattice and is held in place by magnets, and at the rear are large and well-engineered binding posts. There is also a detachable stand for shelf mounting and a threaded insert, along with a keyhole mount for alternative wall mounting options.

GoldenEar SuperCinema 3
GoldenEar SuperCinema 3

The SuperSat 3C speaker is essentially the same as the SuperSat 3, using exactly the same size of enclosure and construction, as well as an identical driver array. The only difference is that the 3C has the tweeter and the logo badge oriented horizontally rather than vertically, thus optimising it for use as a centre speaker. The SuperSat 3C includes an adjustable angling foot which is ideal for positioning the speaker as the centre channel, either under your TV or projector screen.

GoldenEar SuperCinema 3
GoldenEar SuperCinema 3

The SuperSat 3 incorporates two 4.5-inch polypropylene bass/mid-range drivers employing Multi-Vaned Phase Plugs in rigid cast (as opposed to pressed) metal baskets. There is a proprietary, computer optimised cone topography, along with a high-gauss magnet assembly and a 1-inch high-temperature Kapton former voice coil. All of which results in an extended, resonant-free and linear frequency response from the speaker. These drivers sit either side of the High Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR) tweeter, which is actually a 1.1-by-1.6-inch folded diaphragm composed of a high temperature film and a high power Neodymium magnet. This approach is designed to squeeze or pressurise the air, rather than pushing it, which gives greater control and a smoother, more extended response. This design approach also results in very low distortion, improved dynamic range and detail and better dispersion characteristics. The SuperSat 3s are reasonably sensitive and are rated at 92dB with a recommended power of between 20 and 200 watts and a frequency response of 80Hz to 35kHz.

GoldenEar SuperCinema 3
GoldenEar SuperCinema 3

GoldenEar Technology's design innovation doesn't stop with the satellites and the ForceField 3 subwoofer also benefits from some interesting uses of technology. Measuring 11.4 x 15.8 x 11.5 inches with its feet installed and weighing 26lbs, the ForceField 3 combines an attractive and compact design with a very solid MDF construction. The unique cabinet shape, with its non-parallel rigid walls (the top is narrower than the bottom when viewed from the front) helps to minimise standing waves and distortion. It has a rated frequency response of 18Hz - 250Hz and the built-in amplification uses a 1000 watts digital amplifier. There are both speaker-level inputs and outputs (with a high pass crossover on the outputs) as well as a direct LFE input, with the latter bypassing the crossover. The ForceField 3 employs state-of-the-art DSP control between the input signal and amplifier to optimize frequency response, minimize distortion and prevent damage from overdriving.

GoldenEar SuperCinema 3
GoldenEar SuperCinema 3

The ForceField 3 uses custom-designed high-output drivers with very large motor assemblies, designed to handle increased power, with long excursions, at low distortion levels. There is an 8-inch long-throw high-output bass driver, which is front firing for optimal performance. The driver's response is enhanced with a carefully tuned, downward-firing, quadratic-shaped passive radiator measuring 9 by 11 inches. The quadratic shape allows the radiator to use the maximum surface area on the bottom of the cabinet and get even greater output from the slot-loading that results from the subwoofers' interface with the floor. The ForceField 3 uses soft, energy-absorbing feet which obviously provide support and stop the subwoofer from moving around but also hold the sub the correct distance off the floor so the passive radiator slot-loads with it for significantly increased output at the lowest frequencies.

Setup

As you would expect with a 5.1 sub/sat system, setup was very straightforward and the only decision you really need to make, is how to mount the speakers. Thanks to the options available with the SuperSat 3s, you can either utilise the provided stands or wall mount them. In the interests of expediency, we used the stands and we were able to remove our current speakers and replace them with the SuperSat 3s in a matter of minutes. We placed the front three speakers equidistant from the sweet spot and the rears to the side and slightly behind. The use of identical speakers in a 5.1 setup should not be underestimated, as this approach results in a sound field that is tonally cohesive and helps create a far more transparent sense of immersion. The smaller size of the ForceField 3 makes positioning the subwoofer much easier and provides you with a greater degree of latitude. We set the crossover on the Onkyo TX-NR818 receiver that we were reviewing at the time to 120Hz as per GoldenEar Technology's recommendations.

Sound Quality

As attractive and innovative in design as the SuperCinema 3 package is, what really matters is how it sounds and in this area it more than delivered the goods. GoldenEar Technology is to be congratulated for managing to combine a small life-style orientated speaker package with a fantastic sounding performance. The SuperCinema 3 package certainly sounds bigger than it looks, partly because of the wider dispersion of the SuperSat 3s satellite speakers and partly due to the seismic impact of the ForceField 3 subwoofer.

The five identical SuperSat 3s combine seamlessly to create an immersive and tonally cohesive surround field that really brings out the best in today's dynamic movie soundtracks. The SuperSat 3s also blend perfectly with the ForceField 3, giving the SuperCinema 3 the impact and authority of a much larger system. Considering its diminutive dimensions, the ForceField 3 was capable of an incredible level of bass performance, hitting the kind of depths that we've never heard from a sub this small and doing so without losing its focus. The result is the type of engrossing performance that you would expect from a much larger system that, as the name suggests, lends itself perfectly to home cinema.

In anticipation we broke out the big guns and sampled Terminator: Salvation, Kung Fu Panda and Battleship, all of which have some system challenging bass moments. The SuperCinema 3 took them all in their stride, with the little subwoofer acquitting itself well and delivering a truly visceral low frequency experience. There was a captivating quality to the sound as effects panned seamlessly around the room, creating an immersive surround sound experience that was all the more gripping. The system could go loud without losing its poise and definition but it could also perfectly reproduce quiet moments, demonstrating an enthralling dynamic range. Yet in amongst all this "sturm und drang", the dialogue remained clear and precise. The folded-diaphragm tweeters and conventional cone woofers certainly played a part in this spellbinding performance, extending the highs but never making them sound exaggerated or harsh.

When we moved on to Prometheus and The Hunger Games, there were still plenty of bass moments to make you sit up and take notice but there are also moments of subtlety. The SuperCinema 3 system was able to expertly render the sounds of the forest during The Hunger Games, making you feel as though you were actually there. In much the same way that the sounds of the ship surrounded you in Prometheus, instantly transporting you to the titular spacecraft.

So when it comes to movie soundtracks the SuperCinema 3 is, unsurprisingly, a roaring success but what about two-channel and multi-channel music? This is often an area where sub/sat systems fall down, unable to translate the strengths required to effectively relay a film soundtrack into something more musical. We tried a number of our regular demo tracks, from the complex timings of various jazz recordings to simpler acoustic tracks using guitars, pianos and vocals. We also listened to plenty of loud rock tracks, as well as full symphonic recordings.

To our delight the SuperCinema 3 handled itself very well and whilst it wasn't quite as assured as it was with soundtracks, there was a sense of musicality that demonstrates the attention GoldenEar Technology have paid to this area. Female vocal and piano are never the easiest things to get sounding right on small sat/sub systems, but the SuperCinema 3's sound was wonderfully accurate. Again the folded-diaphragm tweeters' exceptional clarity certainly helped, surpassing some of the other systems we've heard.

Loud rock tracks can also highlight weaknesses in sat/sub systems but, again, the SuperCinema 3 didn't falter, which amply demonstrates just how well balanced the design really is. The same was true with symphonic recordings, although the SuperSat 3s did sound slightly thin in stereo, especially when compared to multi-channel recordings. Ultimately though, the SuperCinema 3 system does a remarkable job of delivering an engaging and riveting surround sound experience, whilst maintaining a degree of musicality with stereo recordings.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Fantastic surround sound
  • Small but powerful subwoofer
  • Attractive design
  • Excellent finish
  • Flexible mounting options

Cons

  • Sound is slightly thin in stereo
  • Only comes in black
  • Price

GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema 3 Speaker Package Review

With the SuperCinema 3 sub/sat system, GoldenEar Technology are to be congratulated for delivering a small, lifestyle speaker system that is able to deliver a sound that far exceeds its physical size. The SuperSat 3 satellite speakers combine an attractive appearance and excellent build quality, with an innovative design; whilst their small size allows for very flexible installation options. The ForceField 3 subwoofer also scores highly in the looks department but don't be fooled by the dimensions, the design of this little marvel will give many a larger competitor a run for their money. Our only complaint in this area is that the speakers only come in black and if GoldenEar Technology is serious about targeting the life-style market, they need to offer other colours.

The use of the identical SuperSat 3 satellite speakers pays obvious dividends, with the system delivering an immersive and tonally cohesive sound field. The integration of the satellites with the ForceField 3 subwoofer is seamless creating an enjoyably wide and impressive sound stage. The subwoofer can deliver a low frequency impact that makes a mockery of its diminutive proportions and its performance on some of the more bass heavy soundtracks was staggering, causing us to worry about the integrity of our listening environment. The SuperCinema 3 system lived up to its name, replicating soundtracks wonderfully and revealing a enthralling dynamic range - from the biggest explosion to the quietest whisper.

The area where sub/sat systems often falter is with stereo recordings but even here the SuperCinema 3 held its own, keeping the listener enthralled with a degree of musicality rarely found in speakers this small. At times the satellites did sound a little thin, especially when comparing stereo recordings to multi-channel recordings but overall we were impressed. Ultimately our only concern is with the price of the SuperCinema 3 - the sub/sat market is highly competitive and there are some very impressive systems available for half the price. However, that minor point aside, the SuperCinema 3 system is still more than worthy of an AVForums Recommended badge.

Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Verdict

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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