audition surround system
BP9000 series surround system
Towers of strength Definitive Technology’s built-in subwoofers make for a surround system with low visual impact but sound which can shake the soul.
efinitive Technology is a company that does things a little differently, with often impressive results. The company has taken out Sound+Image awards not only for its loudspeakers but for headphones and multiroom speaker systems too. But it is best known for its high-level black fabric-covered tower speakers, which are notable for their inclusion of bass radiators and active drivers in their lower portions, adding to conventional passive drivers driven by external amplifier power. Even its new Demand series of standmounters take the path less travelled by adding a top-mounted passive radiator to reinforce their low-end response. Two stars aligned as we prepared this issue — we were invited to hear a complete Arcam-powered Definitive Technology BP9000 Series surround system, just as the Audio Connection store in Sydney completed work on two new listening room in its Leichhardt showrooms. Putting two and two together, we packed a bag of demo discs and headed over to spend time in the new room with a 7.2-channel system.
The system was led by the BP9060, a tower speaker which is positively festooned with drivers — eight per speaker, indeed, so let’s start by explaining how they work together. Only three drivers fire forward,
and these being an MTM-arranged (tweeter in the middle) 25.4mm aluminium-dome tweeter and twin 114mm midrange drivers positioned at the top of the cabinet. The main bass driver is a 10-inch unit which fires to the side about a third of the way up the cabinet, and this has its own 200W of Class-D amplification built in to the speaker. Below this are a pair of opposing 10-inch bass radiators firing to either side of the cabinet, driven by the back energy from the other drivers to produce additional supporting bass. By positioning the larger drivers on the deeper sides of the cabinets, the BP9060 is granted a remarkably slim frontage, and this, together with removing the need for subwoofers in the room, delivers an unusually neat solution for such a driver-laden and powerful front speaker pair. But there’s more — the ‘BP’ of the range title indicates these are bipolar speakers, with additional drivers on the back, firing in phase to the rear, in this case an additional second tweeter and a third midrange. The point of this kind of design is to produce a more diffuse sound from the speakers, particularly in the higher frequencies which, in regular loudspeakers, tend
to have a very well defined point of origin. With these speakers the higher frequencies are coming directly from the front drivers but also indirectly from the rear ones, with much of that reflected from the rear wall and other surfaces. We should distinguish these from dipole speakers, which have rear drivers wired out of phase. That arrangement also produces a diffuse sound, but with well-defined ‘nulls’ halfway between the drivers on both sides, and they tend to be more useful as surround speakers. Def Tech, however, prefers bipolar design also for its surround speakers, which in this 7.2-channel system included both side rears and back rears, so four of the SR9040 on-wall speakers. Again achieving a neat solution — they would near disappear on a black wall — these 24cm-high cabinets present two faces each with a one-inch aluminium-dome tweeter and a 3.5-inch mid-woofer. By firing each way, they manage to create a far more continuous soundfield than conventional boxes; if you’ve ever sat between a pair of rears and heard how unless you’re in the exact sweet spot they pull to one side or the other — well, that’s precisely what the Def Tech bipolar rears don’t do. In centre position is the substantial but unobtrusive CS9080, which has on the front the same tweeter as the BP9060, with a slightly larger midrange driver, while on top is an eight-inch driver again with its own internal amplification, alongside a 10-inch passive radiator.
This being an in-store audition rather than a full review, we didn’t have to get to grips with the wiring, but it’s worth noting that Def Tech’s inclusion of a built-in subwoofer necessitates a mains cable to each speaker, while speaker connections can be made either conventionally, leaving the Def Techs to do their own crossover to the sub section or, for greater control, with an additional line-level cable running from the AV processor or amp’s subwoofer output in addition. Audio Connection had chosen the dual connection option and its dem room was all neatly pre-wired to this end, while further keeping things neat (see pictures below) by locating all the electronics in a rack outside the room. There resided an Oppo UHD Blu-ray player as source, with Arcam’s AV860 processor atop two Arcam P428 four-channel power amplifiers to drive the passive Def Tech drivers.
Wot, no Atmos?
In this system, no. But Audio Connection’s room will also host the larger BP9080x models which have Atmos-enabled drivers on top, while these BP9060 models can also be Atmos upgraded by the addition of the little A90 Atmos-enabled modules which fit perfectly on the top. (Another option, of course, would be to use genuine ceiling speakers.)
We take every possible excuse to rewatch the UHD Blu-ray of Wonder Woman, so we started with that, and what a demonstration of the Def
NEW CONNECTIONS This is where we auditioned the system — one of two new audio-visual suites at Audio Connection in Leichhardt, this one dedicated to the Definitive Technology towers of strength and their brethren. One of the things that impressed us most about the room was the lack of clutter, with the electronics kept out of the room, and especially with the Def Tech system having the builtin subwoofers of the BP9060s, so no additional giant boxes to accommodate. The BP9060s were running when we were there, but we gather the BP9080x will also be in residence, the Atmosenabled top dog of the BP9000 series. “The new rooms were designed purely to be able to show off music and movies in the environment in which they are meant to be heard,” says Audio Connection’s Michael Rams. “Audio Connection has always been about highend two-channel audio — however with the recent launch of some fantastic new packages from Definitive Technology and Arcam, we can now showcase home theatre sound as it should sound.”
ABOVE: Four of Definitive Technology’s SR9040 bipolar surround speakers created the system’s immersive sound; Arcam’s AV860 processor decoded the soundtracks and fed the Def Tech speakers’ passive drivers via two of Arcam’s P429 four-channel power amps.
Tech’s immersive power it proved, as a hail of multidimensional bullets and shell explosions rained down on the young Amazon drawing fire in No Man’s Land. In addition to demonstrating the sheer power available from the system, it proved how the bipolar rears were able to combine an atmospheric rear-channel spread with imaging accuracy of individual elements, as bullets ricocheted over our shoulder to the rear left. Also notable was how that large centre speaker was able to retain complete composure and clarity for dialogue even over this level of sonic mayhem. Less impactful scenes showed the system’s ability to deliver more subtle results too. In the ‘sword-dress’ cocktail party there was a fully enveloping soundfield with a nicely subtle and realistic surround, not overly pushed or fake, but spread wide and outward. And upward too, even without the use of Atmos drivers. While the front top tweeters were precisely at ear level, the surrounds were all wall-mounted slightly higher, so that the complete effect was a soundfield raised above as well as around the listener. More Ultra-HD Blu-ray action with Star Trek Beyond, its Atmos soundtrack downmixing automatically to TrueHD 7.1 in the absence of Atmos channels. It’s a wildly energetic soundtrack during action scenes (notably the swarm attack), with a sometimes strangely recessed score, but it’s also tonally thrilling, with elements such as Krall’s hull-breaching ship arrival delivering a deep metallic grind through the Def Tech system while wide-spread laser fire sprayed the room with high-frequency death rays. Great fun. Again more subtle scenes were a highlight — alien insect buzzes along the side channels down on the planet, the acoustics around Spock and McCoy in the cave network. Manufactured as such soundscapes are, the BP9000 system made it entirely convincing. Another fine delivery, though perhaps less convincing owing to very odd variable choices
of delay times by the sound mixing team, was the echoes from Peter O’Toole’s singing as El-Orens passes between the giant rocks of Wadi Rum in the Blu-ray of Laurence of Arabia. This disc provided the only instance we heard of the system delivering less than the optimum, with the swell of the main theme following the deep rumble and rising orchestration of the desert sunrise proving a little too much at full bore. Not that this system has a weakness for music — quite the opposite. We concluded our listening with two Blu-ray surround music mixes: the 2002 Concert For George, and the 2007 Led Zeppelin Celebration Day reunion, both from Blu-ray. The first requires delicacy of both imaging and tone to separate the many players on stage for this event, and the complex DTS-MA mix was here rendered both clear and punchy, the dual drummers kept distinct yet integrated, Ray Cooper’s tambourine cutting through cleanly. On Give Me Love Jeff Lynne’s vocal was just beautifully delivered, not a spit or an ess out of place, yet as clear and crisp as if laid down in a studio, while lower down the range the bass guitar was perfectly proportioned, if just a smidgeon soft in its definition. The Zeppelin concert set presents an entirely different task — a mix of just three instruments delivering a massive stadium-filling sound. For some reason the original mix is quite stodgy for the opening two tracks, but it settles in (as does the band) by the end of Black Dog, so that the subsequent In My Time Of Dying becomes an absolute ejaculation point as Jimmy’s mega-rich bottleneck slides into the thunderous thumps from Bonham Jnr. These received a massive delivery through the Def Tech system, Plant rising above the wall of sound which was quite shaking the dem room, yet still providing the immersion of great crowd surround, and again with real height to the soundfield. (So good did this Blu-ray look on Audio Connection’s projection screen that we rewatched the whole gig the next day at home, sitting far too close to a
55-inch 4K telly in a not entirely successful effort to recreate the experience.)
One of the most remarkable things about this Definitive Technology BP9000 system is how neatly it achieves these superb results. For an in-room system, you face the narrow towers of the BP9060, the large but unobtrusive centre speaker, while the rears go up on the walls, and there are no additional subwoofers to mess up the rest of the room. You can add the A90 modules or upgrade to the BP9080x fronts for Atmos, but even without those, this system delivered full immersion for both movies and multichannel music soundtracks. And of course you can go hear it for yourself in Audio Connection’s new dem rooms. They even have their own copy of Wonder Woman waiting for you. Jez Ford THE SYSTEM
Definitive Technology BP9000 BP9060 front speakers – $4495/pr
2 x 25.4mm aluminium-dome tweeters; 3 x 114mm midrange; 1 x 254mm woofer (220W internal power each); 2 x 254mm passive radiators
BP9080 centre speaker – $1995
25.4mm aluminium-dome tweeter, 133.4mm midrange, 203.2mm woofer (300W internal power) 254mm passive radiators
SR9040 surround speakers (4) – $995/pr 2 x 25.4mm aluminium-dome tweeters; 2 x 89mm BDSS bass/mid woofers
Combined price: $8480 Arcam AV860 AV processor $9495 Arcam P429 4-channel power amplifiers (2) $3595 each
Nordost cables Contact: Advance Audio Australia Telephone: 02 9561 0799 Web: www.advanceaudio.com.au
Sound & Image Magazine