Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Energy is a Canadian loudspeaker firm, well known for packing a lot of punch for its dollars. But it also has some prestige loudspeakers among its wide range, from which the Reference Connoisseur series are drawn.
As supplied (there are a few other options in the series), we tried out the top-of-the-line RC-70 floorstanding stereo speakers, the RC-LCR for centre channel operation, and a pair of RC-R bipole/dipole surround speakers. To round it out there was the S10.3 subwoofer.
All five of the main loudspeakers are three-way units: that is, they each feature one or more woofers, one or more midrange drivers, and a tweeter. In each case, a 25 mm aluminium dome tweeter is used. The floorstanding speakers use a 140 mm cone driver for midrange duties, and this same driver appears in the centre as a pair of woofers, and each of the surrounds as a single woofer. The centre and surrounds each have a pair of unusual 50 mm aluminium cone midrange drivers.
The RC-70 and RC-LCR are each bass-reflex loaded, while the RC-R speakers have sealed enclosures. The surrounds are an unusual design, with the tweeter and woofer facing forwards, and the two midrange units on angled sides. A switch on the unit allows the two midrange drivers to be set to bipole operation (both operating in phase) or dipole (operating out of phase). There is also a level control for these. If you turn it right down, the side speakers stop producing output altogether, so that they become direct radiating speakers.
The subwoofer features a 254 mm driver with ample power. Given that the rest of the speakers add up to nearly $6,500, I was surprised at the low cost of the subwoofer (under $1,000). We normally recommend that about one-third of the loudspeaker budget in a surround system go on the subwoofer. Still, its specifications were promising, with output down to 21 hertz within the six decibel performance envelope specified.
I needn’t have worried. The output from the subwoofer was very good, and in fact the subwoofer constitutes outstanding value for money. Still, I would have preferred a bit more extension into the infrasonic bass regions. Sure, you can’t hear infrasonic bass, but you can certainly feel it. This would be more likely with a financially balanced subwoofer (that is, costing a bit over $3000), since this would bring it up to the superb levels of performance delivered by the rest of the system.
And as for the rest of the system, it truly was magnificent. Whether with music or movies, the sound was both supremely natural, yet carried all the authority that the sources demanded. The quite high sensitivity of the front main loudspeakers also meant that very high volumes were on tap, even with the fairly average 100 watt per channel home theatre receiver I used.
Add to this the glorious hand-finishing of veneer of the five main speakers, and the Energy Reference Connoisseur series delivered not just acoustic, but visual delight.