Is it possible to find an accurate loudspeaker system that offers room-filling low frequency capability without an additional sub-woofer on a modest $200 - $300 budget? A little break-in patience reveals to that the Cambridge SoundWorks Model Six could be the answer to our quest.
Cambridge Soundworks Model Six Specifications Dimensions: 17.4" H × 11.4" W × 7½" D.
Woofer: 8" polymer cone sealed enclosure.
Tweeter: 1¾" cone.
Weight: 17 pounds each.
Price: $130 each.
Finishes available: Black Ash, Oak and Teak vinyl laminate.
Country of origin: USA
Number of dealers: 26 company stores and directly from the manufacturer.
(All specifications as per manufacturer)
Cambridge Soundworks Model Six Review
Everybody likes a bargain. However a bargain is only a bargain if it represents a good value. The marketplace offers a wide selection of loudspeakers at prices anybody can afford. Selecting a loudspeaker that represents a good value however has become a bit of a task.
Today there are a number of loudspeaker systems ranging from $200 - $300 that offers fine sound quality. Looking at an informal list I see several of the standout loudspeakers in this range are mini-monitors with a limited low frequency capability. Adding even a modest powered sub-woofer shoots our budget! Okay lets scratch off the mini-monitors from the list and see what we have. Hmm now the selection is really limited but a number of fine affordable loudspeakers are still on my list. Now lets request both deep bass and true room filling volume capability and watch the list dwindle to a select few! Is it possible to find an accurate loudspeaker system that offers room filling and satisfying sound for under $300/pr?
Enter the Cambridge SoundWorks Model Six loudspeaker system. Available directly from the manufacturer, here is a bookshelf loudspeaker system that at 18" tall and 11" wide yet barely over 7" deep is reminiscent of the classic bookshelf system. Unlike the typical high quality loudspeaker in this price range where a 5" or 6" mid-bass driver is utilized the Model Six boasts an 8" woofer in a sealed enclosure combined with a cone tweeter as found in Cambridge SoundWorks top Ensemble satellites. Build quality and finish is nicely done. Even the rear panel is covered in a black vinyl laminate, and speaking of the rear panel a pleasing surprise is found& 5-way binding posts that can accept very heavy gauge bare wire. Another nice touch is how ample space is provided in the terminal panel to allow easy cable connection even if audiophile grade spade lugs are used.
Around to the front side, the knit cloth covered removable grill features a frame molded with beveled edges apparently to minimize diffraction effects. All listening tests were done with the grills in place.
Installed on 24" high stands placed 12" out from the wall, my initial audition immediately revealed to me that this is a loudspeaker that requires "break-in" time. I make no bones about it fresh out of the box these speakers did not sound good. The midrange was strident and harsh, the treble edgy not good for a first impression. However just as is common with far more expensive loudspeakers, a good amount of time and listening at moderate (and higher) volume levels made a world of difference. The last "quirk" to fade away was a veiled quality to the midrange.
Once broken in I made a number of positioning adjustments, the first one was to move the loudspeaker closer to the wall behind. The resulting bass reinforcement did wonders for the overall total balance and is how I recommend you install them. Another adjustment I performed was to face the CSWs straight into the room as opposed to "toeing" them inward. The result is an image that is wider and more diffuse, which I found the most pleasing. Considering the nicely balanced bass and pleasing imaging I obtained by facing the Model Sixes straight into the room, I have concluded that here is a "bookshelf" loudspeaker system that sounds great when placed on a bookshelf!
So how do they sound? Overall without regard to cost, they are very pleasant to listen to a minimum of sonic coloration of their own. Taking cost into account they are outstanding! The total balance when installed near the wall behind is as close to "just right" as could be asked for! Bass performance is never "bloated" or "boomy" as is so common with affordable loudspeakers. Using the bass band sweep section of the Stereophile Test CD (STPH-002-2) I found bass output to extend smoothly down to 40Hz and with usable output at 32Hz! Naturally room boundary effects figure heavily here, however keep in mind that we listen in real rooms. I pulled my copy of Reference Recordings Pomp & Pipes (RR-58CD) off the shelf to see what these loudspeakers could do with organ works. As I type this I am listening to track 9 "Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper" and am shaking my head in disbelief! Impressive power and authority when called upon, yet subtle and polite during the more delicate passages definitely hold onto you hat during the finale! Alice in Chains' Unplugged (Columbia CK67703) album is already generally bass-heavy and is a good selection to see how well a loudspeaker can handle strong bass. I never over-drove the woofers, in fact they did not show any signs of strain at the highest reasonable (and unreasonable) volume levels.
I must confess that going into this review I was a bit concerned about the use of a cone tweeter. Even with my genuine hatred for those miserable ¾" polycarbonate dome tweeters that have flooded the affordable loudspeaker market I still was a bit uneasy. HA! My concerns were totally unfounded as this tweeter does a fine job far exceeding my expectations! The higher registers are reproduced with a smooth and crisp presentation. The quality of the treble is purely source dependent as opposed to an euphoric "airy" sound so common with the small, low cost domes. I was impressed by the album Eastwood After Hours Live at Carnegie Hall (Warner brothers 9-46546-2), an album I selected as a good source for well recorded cymbals. In particular, the "Satin Doll" selection (track 6 of disc 1) demonstrated both the clarity of the highest end along with a very impressive impact when reproducing midrange percussion. I have noticed this character with a number of the livelier sounding albums I have played while living with the Model Sixes. In simple terms, they reproduce midrange percussive instruments with a good "bite" and "attack" that is normally a forté of the mini-monitors in this price range. Vocals on every album or the radio during news broadcasts are consistently natural in balance and quality.
Now is when we do come back down to earth and remind ourselves that this is an affordable loudspeaker with limitations. While the frequency response and dynamic range characteristics outstrip expectations of such an affordable loudspeaker the three-dimensional imaging and sound staging depth does take on a veiled quality. This characteristic is a "sin of omission" as opposed to a "sin of commission" which would be fatiguing to listen to. Here is a loudspeaker that when compared with much costlier systems, simply does not offer the resolution and "inner detail" that I would expect from a higher priced loudspeaker. Is this a serious problem? In my opinion no. As a matter of fact I have logged more hours than I could possibly count using these loudspeakers day in and day out. During all those hours I have never felt the urge to "hook up the good speakers" these have done just fine thank you. I still shake my head in disbelief in what these loudspeakers have to offer for the money!
A funny thing happened as I was winding down this review. During an afternoon I was taking photographs of the Model Six along with three other pairs of loudspeakers I have here for review. Between the confusion, the components and stands moved around and so on& I really didnt pay attention to which loudspeakers that I placed on the speaker stands when I was finished. That evening in a darkened room I turned on the system, pressed "play" on the CD player and really enjoyed the music. The loudspeakers in use were none other than the Model Sixes! Now I could have swapped them with a pair of outstanding $900, $1,000 or even $1,800 loudspeakers which I have on hand but I didnt!
For anyone looking for a low cost pair of loudspeakers for a starter system or second system in the den or office the Cambridge SoundWorks Model Six is a fantastic value. I cant think of any other loudspeaker system that offers so much for so little cost.
More information about CSW products can be found at the Official Cambridge SoundWorks Web Site.
Text © Alan L. Maier; HTML © SMR Home Theatre and Images © SMR Home Theatre, Alan L. Maier & Cambridge Soundworks cannot be reproduced without permission.
Last updated 28 April, 1999
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