When I’m not reviewing things, my late-nights are usually occupied by Amazon window shopping accompanied with a neat glass of bourbon. One night I inadvertently found home theater speakers made by Fluance, a Canadian company who have seemingly built a reputation through word-of-mouth and unexpected affordability.
After reading some impressions my interests were definitely piqued for the SXHTB High Definition Surround Sound System, a nice ensemble that won’t cost a fortune for many burgeoning entertainment centerpieces for $400 direct, including shipping.
And no, that’s not a typo either – this is a credible setup that can be had at a bargain. It really does exists.
The initial presentation is pretty darn convincing as the packaging came to my doorstep heavily fortified, with the tower (floorstanding) speakers requiring either a hand truck or a second person just to move it. All the contents are double-boxed and reinforced with thick foam materials and plastic inlays, I was not expecting this type of physical care of this caliber. It is worth mentioning because Fluance is considerate enough to take the gamble of carrier shipping into account, adding some thoughtful protection against lazier delivery handlers.
Many will be quite fond of the Beech vinyl appearance (the finish also comes in an equally clean Black Ash option); a look that tastefully imitates woodgrain, and cabinet build that utilizes a medium density fiberboard with sturdier brass pins for the removable grilles. There are additional details specifically for the surround and towers like the veneered bottom plates pieced together by corner discs, a clever trick to give them to a superficial presence that can be further enhanced by the included floor pegs.
Either way, I doubt anybody will confuse the front towers for being anything less than full-sized as they come in at a large 33.46 pounds and stand tall at 38.8 inches, the wide 15.8 inch center and two 8.8 inch high surround satellites are more appropriate in scale as heft is 9 and 5.1 pounds – respectively.
The acoustic features of the ported towers sport dual 6-1/2-inch driver (aka woofers) that are poly-coated with butyl rubber surrounds and a single inch silk dome tweeter to match – the surround and center speaker get the same treatment, except that the poly-coated drivers are downsized to 4 inches (the center channel has a dual setup like the towers). Around back you’re treated to gold-plated binding posts for a pseudo-sophisticated accent, especially if you’re after bi-amp and/or bi-wire performance through the towers.
Since our particular package lacked a real subwoofer, we listened to the system au-natural at first with the front towers handling all of the low range frequency. For listening with Transporter 2 though, the SXHTB does get the job done – in the brief scene where Frank Martin and his Audi A8 barely escape death by attached car bomb, the engines and tense score is adequately portrayed. However, the larger effects such as explosions were engaging but some of the accompanying low-end rumblings were broken down or barely heard in less detailed execution. The core 5.0 setup didn’t get everything right by itself but dialogue was intelligible, with a good emphasis on the room-filling audio where it counted most in Dolby Pro Logic IIx.
The simple pleasures of music on the other hand is where the SXHTB retains its composure, despite some of the limitations heard for films. Depending on your tastes, the sound for pop, rock, and jazz is a little bright for more treble, and is sometimes countered with rich, overenthusiastic, and slightly distorted mid-range bass. Fortunately, with vocals from Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt the dynamics of the sobering guitar melody with rising piano notes was distinct and gave us needed balance of how good these speakers can be for the right material.
But a real criticism is the amount of impact you don’t get without that subwoofer. As a whole, the experience was adequate for non-critical listening but we could definitely tell that the tower and center woofers were working hard in lieu of the absent sub. They felt out of their element when trying to reproduce those deep low-end frequencies, a problem instantly alleviated and a hell of a lot tighter with even the most basic 8” external woofer connected. I would recommend either adding the Fluance DB150 10″ Subwoofer (our review unit didn’t include it for testing) to complement this setup, or think about their competent but very stripped down AVHTB-DB150-KIT.
It’s remarkable that the Fluance SXHTB Surround Sound System is still able to play against slightly more expensive speakers without sacrificing too much quality. However, with expectations in check, you’ll definitely want to include a subwoofer by any means, any subwoofer in fact (a foundation for any traditional home theater anyways) to ease the overworked load of the drivers – although it’s an decent attempt on their part. All told, it’d be hard to find anything else comparable to the SXHTB speakers for so little scratch.