|by Robscix | August 4, 2007|
Edifier S5.1 Super Theater Review
Edifier S5.1 Super Theatre System Review
Price: $194.40 from Direct Canada
Availability: In stores now.
Manufacturers Part#: S5.1
Warranty: 1 Year Limited
Table of Contents
1. Introduction2. Packaging
3. Installation & Setup
a. Satellite speaker details
b. Subwoofer details
6. Amplification section
7. Listening tests
b. DVD Movies
8. Long Term Testing
9. Modding Options
11. Pro's and Con's
The Edifier Audio Group opened its doors in Beijing, China in 1996. They became a trans-national company in 1998 opening operations in North America, with the companies head offices in Vancouver Canada. They currently employ over 2,500 people and hit a sales record of over 6 million units produced and sold in 2004. The company and its product seem to be very well known and respected overseas and they are building a solid reputation in North America. They have an impressive and diverse product range from high end 2.0 systems to full surround sound systems. In their own worlds: "All originates from the unrelenting pursuit of high sound quality"
This review will be examining one of Edifier's flag ship products, the Edifier S5.1 Super theater system. This system is in a 5.1 configuration stock but has the option to be upgraded to 6.1 with addition of a rear center channel. This system is compatible with Dolby Digital and DTS using analog cables and with the optional rear center expandable to Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES. People are always quick to mention and to point out a PC speaker system cannot compete with a dedicated home theatre system. This Edifier system is marketed as a PC system and a home theater system. It seems they have successfully blurred the lines between PC speaker system and home theater speaker system with the S5.1. This system has many great features for your money and packs quite the punch as you will see from the findings. This system boasts 240 Watts RMS of crisp power driving 2-Way satellites speakers and a very large Bass Reflex subwoofer. Wireless remote control and high quality sound that is usually reserved for higher dollar systems so this is why this system definitely needs a closer look and an in-depth examination. Let’s begin….
These speakers arrived in 3 boxes, 2 very large and heavy and one smaller box containing the optional rear satellite. They had a combined weight of approximately 46Kg’s. All packages were double boxed and included full Styrofoam panels and dust covers to ensure product safety. The packaging was not designed to be flashy at all; they were designed with one thing in mind safety of the speaker system. The internal boxes were modern and contained product and company name for display. The satellite speakers were very well protected and there were no marks or scratches from shipping after a very close inspection. The units have a very stylish wood grain finish and shipping considerations were greatly appreciated. One large box contained the subwoofer and you realize how big this subwoofer is when trying to take it out of the box at 30 Kg’s. The other large package contained all the satellites; interconnect cables, speaker wire, remote control, batteries and instruction manual. The smallest box had the optional rear center for 6.1 configurations. They all arrived to this reviewer in perfect showroom condition. There is a definite “Wow” factor when you first see this system.
3-Installation & Setup
Setting up this speaker system was very simple; the procedure is very similar to setting up a quality home theater system. The included speaker wire is very good quality actually 14 ga. and the terminal ends of the wire had also been tinned with solder to ensure solid connections. The speaker signal outputs on the subwoofer and the satellite speaker inputs are outfitted with spring clips that are color coded and marked to ensure correct polarity and phase during installation. These spring clamps are commonly seen on mid-high end audio products. The Satellites also are furnished with sturdy wall mount brackets with the center containing two. The signal inputs on the back on the subwoofer are equipped with standard RCA connectors allowing for universal input. There is a 6 way RCA ribbon cable for connecting the system to a DVD player for a home theater setup and 3 X 3.5mm mini-jack adapters for connecting to a soundcards line level outputs. These 3.5 mini jacks were incorrectly colored, although their color scheme is mentioned in the owner's manual. The system has various factory presets for Normal, User, DVD, Music and Gaming usage. There are digital controls for individual volume level settings for all satellites and the subwoofer and master timbre settings for overall bass and treble adjustment. The system can be controlled from the front keys on the subwoofer or fully controlled from the wireless remote control. When turning the system on or off and when using the mute control you can see the volume level ramping up or down so the system doesn't produce that "snap" you hear on some systems of this power rating.
a-Satellite Speaker Details
The satellite speakers are composed of a 15 x 23 x 17 cm MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) enclosure with solid hardwood side accents. The system was built using a two way closed box design utilizing a 4” mid-range driver and a ¾” cloth dome tweeter. The enclosures feature a solid bracket for mounting on the walls. The center channel is larger than the satellites but still contains the same driver configuration and uses two mounting brackets, one at either end. The speaker terminals are color coded spring clips that securely clamp the wires to the terminals. The system can power the satellites speakers with up to 25 Watts RMS each. Each satellite is also magnetically shielded to prevent interference to your monitor and/or PC. Removable grills are also included for each satellite, removal of the grills makes the speakers look like studio monitors.
The massive subwoofer is 27 x 50 x 50 cm MDF enclosure featuring an 8” Long-throw Super Woofer and a Bass reflex port. The main power system is a high-power drive, with high-current Toroidal ring transformer isolated from the main section of the subwoofer and supplies a maximum power of 90 Watts RMS to the driver.
The control panel features a VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) and all settings can be controlled through an infra-red wireless remote control or front panel keys. Inside the subwoofer is a Micro-Computer controlled, digital volume IC that performs Volume fade-in and fade-out when power is switched on/off. There is also an integrated flash memory to save user presets and recall factory presets. The subwoofer is also magnetically shielded to prevent interference to monitors, computer systems and other electronics devices. The front grill is also removable.
After my internal examination of the integrated power amplifier section, the circuitry shows Edifier's audio engineers opted for the LM1876 "Overture" stereo opamps from National Semiconductor using 6 stereo chips for the satellite channels. The subwoofer channel is outfitted with aTDA7294 power amplifier. These are both very good choices and work very well together for this system. Power ratings are good examples to show how much power the system can handle without introducing amplifier distortion to the signals. Both of these amplifier chips allow almost full power from the Satellites and the subwoofer before distortion that would be considered negative. Satellites represent an 8 ohm load on the power amp and the Subwoofer represents a 4 ohm load. At maximum volume levels the THD+N is about 10%. When the volume level is backed off from full, the distortion characteristics of both power amps drop very sharply and the system will produce negligible distortion around normal listening levels.
Satellites Power amplifier LM1876 –Characteristics (20Hz & 20Khz)
Subwoofer Power amplifier TDA7294 – Distortion Characteristics
I let the system burn-in for 3 days before adding higher volume and balancing out levels of the system. I quickly noticed the system has no internal cross-over circuitry for the subwoofer. The exact cross-over frequency needs to be set in software by your soundcard. The setting is usually referred to as Bass-redirection or Flex-Bass. This is definitely not typical of a PC speaker system which usually has a fixed internal crossover setting. The bass range of this subwoofer is very good, dropping down to 32 Hz. The two way satellites provided silky smooth midrange and shimmering highs. I found I needed to use my equalizer to trim some of the higher frequencies but large changes were not needed as this system has a relatively flat response. The speaker system was tested with an Audigy 2 and a Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 For music and movies the X-Meridian was used alone and for gaming the Audigy 2 and X-Meridian 7.1 were used running Velbac “virtual cable” software to link the cards providing EAX/OpenAL support and the sound quality of the X-Meridian 7.1 to truly test the sonic range possible with this speaker system.
a. Music Listening Tests
I used a myriad of file types and music genres to give an accurate picture of what these speakers were actually capable of. They easily out performed my expectations and brought out details of the music my previous system seemed to gloss over. The sound stage produced by this system is very wide and deep and the speakers seem to “disappear”. There is no smearing of mid and high frequencies that you may expect from a PC system. You could easily discern the different instruments in the mix very easily. The bass range was full and articulate and deep without being boomy or “one-noted” typically heard in lesser subwoofers and certain unmentioned consumer systems. There were different music types tested some very bass heavy and the system still performed admirably without losing low-end definition or punch. There was no tubbiness or flabby bass present. The system was tested a number of times on full volume and there was little noticeable distortion. You could hear the noise floor of the amp at this full volume when there was no signal sounding like a low dull hiss. Testing Bass heavy music such as Trance and House, I fully expected to hear some smearing or distortion in the low end but there was none preset This system easily handled the heavy music as well as soft delicate types such as live acoustic solos and unplugged tracks and again the system did not disappoint. I did find the high range needed to be adjusted slightly. This could be personal taste or preference. The mid and high range extends quite nicely without sounding analytical. I used an assortment of sound system test material such as THX files and bass tests. The system had no problem with them and this assisted with demonstrating the capabilities of this set. I was very impressed indeed. Live music that was recorded properly was a definite treat on this system.
b. DVD Movies
The system was tested with 5.1 DVD movies and they were exceptional in drawing me into the action. The surround imaging was amazing and there were no noticeable gaps in the soundstage. THX and Lucas arts material are great for testing a surround system. The opening scenes of EPIII does great job of testing the surround imaging. The center channel faithfully reproduced any dialog and the surround satellites truly shined during flying scenes were focus quickly shifted from speaker to speaker, the imaging was flawless. The sub easily handled all low frequency effects and bass tracks. I found myself enjoying the intro music probably more than I should have. I also watch television on my PC and noticed that commercial music became ear catching and I found myself tapping my foot. Watching movies with this system is simply a treat.
Tested DVD Movies included Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars EP III - Revenge of the Sith, U571, Twister and Terminator III
I used a few first person shooters to test out this system and found the sound utterly amazing when cranked up to about 50% and in the middle of a firefight or major action sequence. The mid range on this system made certain elements of the game much more noticeable. Reloading guns for instance had more of a mid range thud then just a plain high pitch snap, all sounds were definitely more lifelike. Any type of explosions could be felt in the floor and in the middle of your chest. I am embarrassed as I found myself shifting in my chair "dodging" incoming ordinance. These are definitely an amazing set of speakers for the gamer. When the nieghbors were out I cranked the system to 75% of rated power and the sound was phenomenal for gaming. Some distortion was noticeable after the 70% mark, mostly in the high range. I managed to make my way through Call of Juarez with this system and even found myself enjoying the cut scene acoustic guitar music. The imaging was full with these speakers and you can easily hear enemies wherever they may be. I found myself unconsciously shifting and moving away from threats.
8-Long Term Testing
I will be further testing this system for long term stability and durability. This system will become a fixture in my audio lab for speaker comparisons in this price range. I find the sound of a speaker system does change over time as the system further “burns-in” and the drivers settle. I look forward to testing new soundcards and games with this system.
When examining the amplifier section of the system I decided the section could use the introduction of some Black gate audio capacitors. Adding better quality components to a system can always improve the signal quality to some extent. One could also consider shielding the power amplifier compartment with ERS Paper or other shielding medium to prevent any RFI/EMI radiating from the power supply section. DC coupling the inputs on the amp might also be possible. I always suggest changing out the all stock wiring on a speaker system. That includes both the speaker wiring and the main signal cables. Better quality wire can only help and I suggest better shielding on the main signal cables.
Note: Please take these suggestions as just that, you can permanently ruin your system and most definitely void your warranty. These procedures are not for the novice.
There are definitely bigger systems out there today providing more raw RMS power and larger subwoofers but the S5.1 can easily stand with the best of them on its own merits, features and sound quality. This system has a very balanced smooth response thanks to the two way driver closed box design of the satellites and the bass reflex design of the sub itself. The all wood design plays a factor in the overall sound signature adding warmth to the system that many feel plastic cannot imitate. Some may see the exclusion of a crossover as a fault I personally see it as a positive point and feature. You can dial in the cut-off point of the sub perfectly and to your personal tastes.
This system just drips with quality from the time you open the box until the time you turn it off. The speakers have a flawless wooden finish and modern styling that would be at home in a modern living room as they would on a computer desk. I find many of the speaker systems available today in this price range concentrate too much on big subs and high range satellites and they don't pay enough attention to mid range. Unfortunately I could not include a measured frequency response graph at this time but this system has a very flat response across the spectrum. This tends to reproduce the sound or music evenly and doesn’t add coloration heard on other PC speaker systems and creates a large full sound.
While this system can be said to be less than a true home theatre it is definitely much more then a normal PC speaker system, this system truly is a desktop theatre. There are a few details about the system that people may find negative. The system does not contain a headphone jack possibly due to the system being meant for home theater also. It is a very large and heavy system that may not work with all desks or PC set-up’s. I would easily say this system can surpass other current “popular” systems in the same price range for sound quality because of the two way satellite design and good bass response. When you consider the competition available at this price range the Edifier S5.1’s are definitely in a class by themselves for sound quality, style and build quality. They were truly a pleasure to review and the satellites were some of the best I have had the pleasure of listening to on a PC speaker system.
- Provide great sound quality
- Two way satellite design
- Full wooden enclosures on all speakers
- Spring clips for speaker wires
- Software tunable cross-over filter
- Wireless remote
- No headphone jack.
- Incorrectly colored jacks
- No digital input.
- Software tunable cross-over filter
- Can be too large for small PC setup
Review by: ROBSCIX
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