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Fluance ES1 Surround And Center Channel Set Up and Sound Quality

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The Fluance ES1 center channel and surrounds were double boxed and very well packaged arriving in perfect condition.  The high-quality 5-way binding posts were simple to connect using banana plugs for the center and bare wire connections for the surrounds.

3 Channel Setup 

ES1 Surrounds and Center Channel

Listening Environment

As part of the review process, I first connected loudspeakers to the system in my home office.  This affords me the opportunity to generate an initial impression listening to background music for long listening sessions while I work on other things.  The office listening system consists of a do-it-yourself Buffalo III SE DAC with volume control connected directly to an ATI AT1505 amplifier.  I use a MacBook Pro running Audirvana connected to the DAC via USB for all music tests.  I do not typically use any form of equalization but do have the capability implement extensive equalization using Audirvana plugins.  The surround speakers are positioned approximately 6.5 feet apart on a 28-inch tall cabinet with the listening position 8 feet away in a 12’x13’ room.  Since this is a 2-channel system, the center channel was not connected to this system.

The main listening room is a large 24’ x 20’ great room with hardwood floors throughout.  The room itself is not acoustically treated.  A 12’ x 10’ area rug with thick foam padding sits between the loudspeakers and listening position.  This space is pretty reflective but has worked very well for my reference open baffle dipole loudspeakers.  Traditional loudspeakers have a tendency to sound a little harsh in the high frequency range due to reflections, but reducing the listening distance reduces this effect.  The system signal chain for testing the Fluance ES1 surrounds and center channel was an Oppo BDP-105 connected directly to an ATI AT6012 amplifier using unbalanced connections.  The volume control in the BDP-105 was used for all listening impressions.  The surrounds were placed on 36-inch speaker stands adjacent to the couch approximately 12 feet apart. The ES1 center was placed on the TV stand directly in the center of the listening position.  Additionally, the ES1 pillar towers and a HSU VTF-3 subwoofer round out the 5.1 system used for multichannel listening.  All channels were level matched with a calibrated SPL meter set to B weighting and pink noise.

Sound Quality Tests

With a fully matched 5-channel system from Fluance along with a capable subwoofer, I was looking forward to a seamless soundstage for multichannel music and home theater.  After watching some television and listening to a little music to get a feel for the character of the system, a few things were clear

The Eagles - Hell Freezes Over   Bluray - War Horse

Eagles DTS DVD (left pic); War Horse Blu-ray (right pic)

The Eagles – Hotel California from Hell Freezes Over (DVD in DTS)

This DVD is really an excellent performance and a good recording for testing a multi-channel system.  Specifically, the separation of instruments and vocals in multichannel space creates a nice acoustic space that can be convincing on the right system.  With all channels in play, Don Henley was distinctly placed on stage with the ambient audience applause and instruments all sitting in their expected places.  The vocals emanating from the center channel sounded pretty natural and non-fatiguing.  The sound of the center channel was not super smooth, but it was definitely enjoyable.  It is important to realize that the ES1 pillar floorstanding speakers that compliment the ES1 surrounds and center channel sound completely different.  While the ES1 pillar accentuates the treble, the center channel and surrounds seem much more relaxed in the middle treble.  This may be due to the high crossover point to the tweeter.  A 5-inch driver starts to beam at high frequencies and the lack of off-axis energy in the mid-treble is likely the reason for the laid back sound.  I can’t fault the ES1 center channel or surrounds, they sound pretty decent for their low asking price.

Since all channels were crossed over at 100Hz to the HSU VTF-3 subwoofer, the mid-bass presentation of the center channel and surrounds was difficult to discern.  Given this, I moved the surrounds to replace the front channels and ran the same track in stereo without a subwoofer.  As expected, the ES1 surrounds rolled off above 100Hz with decent mid-bass for subwoofer integration.  These speakers can handle some power above 100Hz and sound clean at loud volumes.  With the subwoofer turned back on, the surrounds themselves are capable as main speakers.  I did notice that 30 degrees off-axis listening was not very good suggesting a narrow polar response.

Blu-Ray: War Horse

With the system back in a 5.1 channel configuration, I popped in Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse”.  With two and a half hours to sit back and listen to all 5 channels of the Fluance system, one thing became clear; this system can play loud without sounding strained.  Although the center channel seemed laid back in my earlier listening tests, it sounded excellent for its size and especially it’s price when it comes to movies.  Some center channels and surrounds have an over abundance of treble output that is exciting at first but causes fatigue when watching long movies full of action scenes.  The Fluance center and surrounds do not over accentuate dialog but have enough response at the right frequencies to make speech very intelligible. 

The ES1 series center channel and surrounds easily handle home theater at playback levels louder than most people will actually watch movies at.   

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

gene posts on September 19, 2013 22:18
Pruis, post: 989301
Thanks for posting this review of the ES1 center and surrounds. I'm considering the 5.0 ES1 setup for HT, so this review is of particular interest.

The posted SPL versus frequency plot appears to be identical to the ES1 towers, and I suspect this is incorrect. The center speaker sensitivity was noted to be 84.6dB between 300 and 3kHz, but the provided graph indicates the sensitivity stays above 85dB over nearly the entirety of the suggested frequency band.

Great catch on the Frequency Response graph. I just fixed it but give it about 20 min for the page to cache out. Thanks!
Pruis posts on September 19, 2013 20:36
Thanks for posting this review of the ES1 center and surrounds. I'm considering the 5.0 ES1 setup for HT, so this review is of particular interest.

The posted SPL versus frequency plot appears to be identical to the ES1 towers, and I suspect this is incorrect. The center speaker sensitivity was noted to be 84.6dB between 300 and 3kHz, but the provided graph indicates the sensitivity stays above 85dB over nearly the entirety of the suggested frequency band.
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