CVHD 5.1 - Build Quality and Setup
For years, Cerwin-Vega! has been known as a company that produces LOUD speakers (they seem to harbor this thought with their tagline "The LOUD Speaker Company"). Unfortunately, they've mostly fallen out of favor in the home theater market as their efficient speakers have become relegated to the "good for a dorm-room but not the living room" status. CV seeks to turn this all around with the introduction of their CVHD 5.1 (and little sibling CVHD 2.1) system. Geared for living room use, the slim profile and hi-tech looks complement many decors and more importantly the expectations of what home theater speakers should look like in many consumers' minds.
Build Quality and Assembly
The CVHD-63 satellite speakers and CVHD-63c center channel cut an interesting figure with their flat face and rounded back. Stuffed full of drivers, each speaker sports six 3" cellulose composite cone woofers and a single soft dome tweeter in its sealed enclosure. The plastic housing is light and fairly sturdy but I noticed that the edges tended to scuff pretty easily. According to the manual, the grills are removable but short of taking a hacksaw to the suckers, I couldn't get them off. The back of each speaker sports two places for mounting, one near the bottom of the speaker and the other flanking the binding posts. The red and black caps for the binding posts were all but impossible to get off the result being that all but one was completely destroyed in the process. The binding post just barely accepted the screw-down type banana plugs; so much so that I didn't even have to screw them down to keep them in place. I'm not sure how they'd do with the compression type.
The 12" powered sub is nearly a perfect cube and weighs in at a respectable 48.5 lbs. There are no threaded inserts for feet though sticky rubber pads are provided. The distinctive red ring that comprises the woofer's surround is mostly invisible with the grill on as long as there is no front light. The back of the sub has all the usual connections including an RCA input for LFE, line level ins and outs, 0/180 degree phase switch, and variable dials for volume and crossover. The finish is your usual matte black with nicely rounded corners to prevent shin damage. A knock test revealed an interesting hollow sound indicative of plenty of empty space within. The unit is front ported with two small ports on the bottom of the baffle on either side of the woofer.
The CVHD 5.1 comes with wall mounts or you can purchase floor stands separately. There are no table stands available for these speakers at this time. Given the form of the speaker, they are obviously made with wall mounting flanking a flat panel display in mind. While this may be a common occurrence (maybe… I'm not so sure as many people as HGTV would have you believe actually wall mount their displays), not many wall mount their surrounds so they'll be looking at an additional $180 for a pair of stands. There are three rubber sticky feel to place on the center channel (I guessed, there were no mention of it in the manual) if you'd like to shelf mount it (like I did) or you can purchase a special center stand for $75.
The stands themselves are fairly lightweight except for the base which is extremely heavy and constructed out of cast iron. The center column is hollow to allow you to run wires. The holes at the bottom and top of the stands are NOT large enough for any banana or spade connector I've ever seen so either you're going to want to use a bare wire connection or run the wire first and add the connector afterward (I have no idea why you'd do this but you could). There are little plastic bags provided used to hold sand if you'd like to add weight to the stand (don't puncture the bag during installation). The bottom of the stand has three threaded inserts for provided carpet spikes. There are no provided rubber feet.
The hardest part of putting the stands together is attaching the base to the upright. The base actually has two parts, the heavy, black, cast iron bottom and a silver vanity metal top. You need to line both these up with the upright triangular bar. The problem comes because there is really no good way to do this. The top of the upright is angled so you can't count on that and there is no easy way to do it by laying it on its side. Aggravating this whole process is the shape of the threaded inserts which are open on one side making it difficult to get them started. The Allen wrench provided worked OK but I had a much easier time with my own especially as I got toward the bottom. The provided wrench either didn't give me the clearance or the torque depending on how I held it. Personally, I ended up balancing the upright on its top and inserted the screws that way. It was awkward, but it worked.
When connecting the speaker to the stand, you have three options - Low, Medium, and High. The High setting seemed to be the best for me as it put the tweeter just about at ear height and (more importantly in this case) it gave me access to the binding posts. Both the other settings require that you use the connection points that straddle the binding posts which makes anything but a bare wire connection impossible. If you use bare wire in the High position, there is a provided wire hiding attachment. Don't forget, if you decided to use the Low or Medium to run the wire first. When using the Low setting, you're supposed to remove and flip the grills. Good luck with that, I couldn’t do it without risk of damage. You'll need to connect the brass connection points (included with the 5.1 system not with the stands so make sure you look in the right box) and slide them into the provided holes in the stand. The first thing you'll notice is that the speaker kind of flops around on them. Now, take the speaker off and attached one of the long pieces of the foam on each side of the connection points. This will give you a nice tight fit. If you don't have a tight fit, remove the black washer and tighten down the connection point as much as possible. You should be fine.
I wasn't able to break open the satellites but I did get the sub apart. As I suspected from the knock test, lots of room. Each edge is glued together with two triangular braces for additional support. The woofer basket is cast (rather than stamped) but the magnet assembly is fairly light (the entire driver was a bit lighter than expected). The dual ports are flared at both ends and run nearly the depth of the sub. There is about an inch of polyfill glued to the sides, top, and bottom of the enclosure. The amp has a standby light but no way to override the standby mode (weird) and the highest crossover setting is 150Hz (the recommended receiver crossover point) without any way to defeat it (unless the LFE in defeats it but I couldn't find anything on that in the manual). This would mean that you are forced to have cascading crossovers (not a good thing). Some odd design choices there.
I placed two of the stand mounted satellites on either side of my Diamond Case plasma stand and the other two on either side of the couch. The center channel was slim enough that I could place it on the stand right in front of the display (rather than inside of it). Of course I couldn't use the remote with the display but that what sons are for right? I'd prefer to keep my center out of the stand anyhow as it can only be detrimental to the sound but my other center is just too big. The subwoofer was placed to the right of the front right speaker closer to the speaker than to the wall (just over a foot off the side and nearly 2.5 feet off the back). While some of you may be wondering if I calibrated the sub with the Velodyne SMS-1 for this review, the answer is "no." Well, shouldn't I since a calibrated sub will sound better and again the answer is "no." Why? Well, I haven’t been running my sub calibrated since I moved it to this new position so uncalibrated is what I'm used to right now. If I were to calibrate it, it would be unfair.
The first really dramatic thing I noticed after I set up these speakers was how much more room I seemed to have at the front of my home theater. The RBH TK-5CTs are not a large speaker by any stretch but they cut a much more imposing figure. The Axiom EP500 may be a little thinner but it is quite a bit deeper than the Cerwin-Vega! sub and seems to fill that corner. I was so convinced that something was wrong that I re-measured the plasma stand distance to the side walls to ensure I hadn't jacked something up during installation. Setting the levels for these speakers was a strange experience. At a 95dB efficiency rating, I probably could have calibrated them to 85dB with the internal test tones if I wanted. I did run into a slight hum from the sub that was probably a ground loop but it was so slight I didn't worry about it.
It is most important to remember to check your receiver's crossover frequency setting when configuring these speakers. While they look Large and seem like they should be able to play fairly low, Cerwin-Vega! suggests a 120-150Hz crossover. Believe me, they mean it. While I found 150Hz to be too localizable and boomy for some settings, the 120Hz wasn't terrible. Localizable, yes, but not nearly as boomy. I switched it back and forth a few times and decided that you should do the same. I ran the SMS-1 sweep really quick to see what sort of usable bass I was getting and it seemed that the specification of 28Hz was just about right. I'd believe that.
i had some samsung HTIB speakers before so this should be a significant upgrade, i can't wait
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