This isn’t home-theatre-in-a-box. It’s something else entirely. Loewe’s Reference System is a matched set of speakers, AV receiver and TV – which also includes a 500GB HDD and PVR functionality.
Often when you drop serious money on AV gear that’s as much about style as it is about power, you have to make compromises – if not sacrifices – in various aspects of functionality. Not so here. The Reference System does everything a black-n-boring pile of kit will do, but looks roughly one thousand times better while it’s doing it.
The key building material here is aluminium. It gives the Reference System an exclusive feel, as if it was born in a wind-tunnel out at a secret aerospace research facility.
Let’s start with audio. Output is sensibly beefy for the stylish pad you’ll install this in: total system power is 800 watts, with six individual D-class amps pushing 100 watts to each of the five speakers and 300 watts to the subwoofer.
The speakers are super-thin, thanks to electrostatic drivers. Instead of a cone, a thin membrane is suspended in an electrostatic field. Changes in the field vibrate the membrane, creating sound. The result is a thin speaker with big, big audio.
The subwoofer? Well, it needs to be a bit chunkier, that’s physics, so Loewe has encased it in an almost featureless block of aluminium. It’s still square, but it’s very, very minimalist.
Now the TV. It’s a 200Hz, 1080p LCD that’s just six centimetres thick. Static contrast is 5000:1 and dynamic is 30,000:1. The size? A massive 52 inches (132cm). The photograph on this page actually makes it a little hard to show exactly how big this thing is: consider the TV is designed to sit on the ground, not up on a cabinet of any kind. So it’s at perfect couch-eye-level, just as it is.
What’s more, the TV houses a 500GB hard disk drive and dual HD TV tuners, so it’s also a PVR.
So far so good. But there’s even more to this system. The Reference Mediacenter manages all your content. It’s designed to be either wall-mounted, tabletop mounted or – our favourite – placed on a floor stand that makes it reminiscent of an orchestra conductor’s podium. Or you can get a Floor Panel Medium that holds both the TV and Reference Mediacenter, unifying them into one double-stemmed device.
A motorised optical drive loads your CDs and downloads album art and track names from the Net, and archives them. DVDs are automatically upscaled to 1080p, natch. No Blu-ray, but you can grab a matching Loewe BD player and plop it on a little alumium slab called the Cube R.
Naturally the Reference System also has multi-room functionality. Add in several Individual Multiroom Receivers and Individual Sound Universal Speakers and you can wander the many, many rooms (well, up to seven) of your mansion creating different ‘chill zones’ for your cocktail party – all using the one Assist Media remote.
The remote combines the best elements of your favourite universal remote with the kind of design and build quality you’d expect at this price-point. It has a 2.4 inch OLED display at the top that lets you tweak individual speaker settings – and because it’s Wi-Fi enabled, you don’t actually need to point it at anything to get the Reference System to respond. So you can use it while receiving your in-home massage from the hot masseuse who’s every bit as German as your amazing Reference System.
The only question at the end of the day is this: after you spend your money on a Loewe Reference System, will you have enough left over for a deposit on the empty art gallery, converted warehouse or aircraft hangar you need to really do its style justice?