Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

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Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by TNRabbit » Mon Oct 29, 2007 9:20 am

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers

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The link:

http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/speake ... akers.html

and the text:

Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers
by Daniel Kumin June 2007


Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers

Of the world's billions of loudspeakers, some 99.735% (an unassailable number I just made up) use only conventional dynamic drivers. That is, cones and domes. Coils and magnets. The remaining 0.265% of speakers use something else that something invariably being one or another variation of a flat panel suspended from or sandwiched between large magnets statically charged screens.

Of these already rare variations, probably the rarest is the ribbon speaker: a thin metal or metallized film suspended within a magnetic field, courtesy of perimeter magnets arranged one way or another. The audio signal runs through the ribbon, which as your vividly remembered high-school physics doubtlessly informs you then vibrates in response, exciting the adjacent air, and voila! Viola. Or violin, cello, fuzz guitar whatever.

Ribbon drivers are tricky, but Sunfire chief designer Bob Carver and his cohorts have been fooling with them for decades. Sunfire's new Cinema Ribbon speakers deploy a high-frequency ribbon driver in every model; the heavily pleated ribbon, though only about 5 inches in length, is claimed to approach the surface area and thus the power-handling and output potential of a standard 6-foot-long example. (Speaker-tech guru Tom Nousaine posits that the Sunfire driver is actually, technically speaking, a planar-magnetic type, a closely related form. Either way: makes no real difference to my purposes.)

The other two drivers in the CRM-2 speaker are twin conventional dynamic cones, 4.5-inch woofers that fire to the sides. Conventional only in their essence: Sunfire tells us that these are deployed much like the cones in the company's well-known miniaturized subwoofers, delivering extraordinary excursion and thus unprecedented power-handling and output potential from tiny means.

SETUP

Sunfire sent me a quad of identical CRM-2s plus a CRM-C2 center speaker, along with not one but two True Subwoofer Super Juniors. The Cinema Ribbons in this setup are compact speakers, but the line also includes somewhat larger on-wall versions for the flat-panel set. I positioned the CRMs in my usual spots: the left/right on stands astride my 50-inch Samsung DLP, the center speaker on a low stand just below the screen's bottom edge, and the surrounds on high shelves flanking the listening area. I placed one sub at about one-third the length of the front wall, the other in the right-front corner. The CRMs are very well made and extremely solid-feeling, finished in a high-gloss "ebonized rosewood" that I frankly could not positively identify as either real wood or manmade. Nice, either way. Heavy, all-metal multi-way binding posts and a mini-toggle switch nestle in the rear terminal plate; the switch engages "boundary compensation," a midbass cut to compensate if the speakers are mounted on or very near the wall.

MUSIC AND MOVIES

Beginning as always with stereo listening, I quickly confirmed Sunfire's suggestion that positioning and orientation are critical to getting the best out of the CRM-2s. Vertical alignment proved particularly critical no surprise with a ribbon driver whose sound-spread is fairly wide left and right but tightly controlled up and down. In my installation, atop 32-inch stands, I found that the "sweet spot" was actually slightly below straight ahead, so I ended up with the CRM-2s raked back a few degrees and toed in substantially. This yielded a clear improvement in balance from my first listen; although I had carefully followed the company's "break-in" advice, the speakers initially sounded distinctly warm, even restrained, across the top few octaves. Given that the little Sunfires do not make enough low frequencies to attempt any serious listening on their own, I also found sub-to-satellite integration to be a critical factor, and I spent a good chunk of time adjusting sub levels (and making small placement shifts) to get the smoothest, best-integrated result.

The more I listened, the more I concluded that the Sunfires sound different from many other speakers yet the more I listened, the more difficulty I had putting a name to the differences. The CRM-2s sound distinctly warmer up top: less forward, snappy, or aggressive than even some very refined conventional designs. Yet there clearly was no "missing" or dramatically rolled-off treble, as the Sunfires displayed no absence of air, depth, or shimmer. Ride cymbals, plucked strings, and brassy attacks were fully defined and lifelike, notably relaxed and transparent. Yet the speakers' tonality was uniformly mellower and less metallic when compared with that of a selection of dynamic-driver designs of known quality. Again: The differences were not so much of quantity of output as of character, and I'm not quite prepared to say that one is "right" and the other "wrong."

Importantly, the Sunfires get the critical midrange just about perfect. Voices of both men and women (and that alien diva who performs in The Fifth Element) were consistently open and natural, with little if any of the "cupped," "nasal," or "hooty" colorations that belie peaky response across these most sensitive octaves. And the Cinema Ribbons' dearth of output much below 120 Hz or so ensures that they at least will not contribute boomy or excessive midbass.

As already mentioned, sub/sat integration is an especially critical factor with this setup. The challenge is to get the Super Junior subs which have rather amazing output in the lowest octave-plus but do not seem to me especially flat up through 100-250 Hz to meld in an even and continuous way with the CRM-2s, which seemed to roll off below 150 Hz or so. A lot of fiddling, and light touches on each sub's continuously variable Phase control, eventually got it done, yielding solid, smooth upper bass to complement the Super Junior's astonishing lower-octaves power.

Ultimately, this Sunfire array most impressed me with its reproduction of massed strings. A favorite SACD of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste was simply hypnotic, with the Hungarian master's full, vibrant palette of woody colors and resonant nuance vividly portrayed. Equally gorgeous were bowed double-bass passages, such as the famous entry in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, and the Sunfire system sounded great on plucked jazz bass, too, though a half-shade less timbre-precise or "quick" than my everyday setup.

The CRM-2s produce a very wide and somewhat diffuse image, thanks to their side-firing woofers delivering a good portion of the midrange sound. This proved a boon, mostly, lending natural-acoustic recordings (classical, jazz, folk) a lively presence and a big image but producing a slightly less pinpoint effect on typical studio-pop "multi-mono" creations.

As a home theater system, the Cinema Ribbons were highly effective as well given their name, they'd better be! The CRM-2C center unit largely shared the CRM-2's natural vocals and defined, relaxed highs but with the clearly more focused presentation I expected of an all-forward-firing array. Its grille incorporates a louvered waveguide to help spread highs from its horizontally arrayed ribbon, and indeed the sound was quite consistent over a reasonably wide listening angle. I noticed some differences in tonal balance between the center and the CRM-2s on three-speaker vs. one-speaker mono comparisons, however. The CRM-2C delivered audibly less "bite" on voice articulations, and it was a bit "chestier" at either position of its boundary-compensation switch.

Yet in context, the CRM-2C acceptably accomplished its center-channel mission. Dialogue was clear and well defined on a wide variety of film soundtracks, and effects that panned across the three front speakers such as passing trucks or the single shot of a P-51 zooming leftwards from the indie World War II pic Saints and Soldiers were smooth and continuous. When I looped the fly-by and concentrated, I could barely detect a shift in spatiality as the plane traversed the center, probably caused by the different radiation patterns of the CRM-2s and the CRM-2C. But this kind of microscopic scrutiny is clearly different from normal enjoy-the-movie listening.

The CRM-2s made very good surround speakers. These are, after all, largely bipolar reproducers in all except treble, and their layout seemed a particularly happy compromise between the diffuse reproduction ideal for ambience and spatial cues and the sharper imaging sometimes preferable for discrete effects or multi-panned surround music. The Mustang flyover mentioned above actually begins from the right rear, and it displayed an impressively smooth, contiguous motion as it moved forward and then shifted left.

Bob Carver had encouraged us not to spare the ponies, and indeed the tiny Sunfires proved able to absorb remarkable amounts of power. The system is only a scant dB or so less sensitive than the average, yet I could unload very nearly all the output of my amp's 5 x 150-watt arsenal into the Sunfire system without inducing audible hardship. Indeed, the CRM-2s seemed almost to sound clearer, more dynamic, and livelier the louder they played.

The Super Junior sub has appeared in S&V before (see Tiny Killer Subs), so its ability to pump deep bass out of a ridiculously small package did not come entirely as a surprise. But it's still impressive: The SJ has plenty of 35-Hz output to make real cinematic deep bass happen, and a pair of the subs pump just that much more about 6 dB, to be precise. As I had before, I found that putting something good and heavy, suitably padded, atop each sub to hold it steady made an audible improvement in output and extension (I used an old blown-up power supply and a huge dead car battery, each about 40 pounds). When it's really working, the Super Junior has a sort of rocking-couple vibration, which I theorize squanders electroacoustic effort as movement rather than sound. The dual subs had enough output to push the system to honest big-cinema levels with ease (a single unit did not, quite), though the very biggest hits induced a bit of "flappy" excess on peaks. Nonetheless, these remain simply amazing little subs. If you truly must have a subwoofer the size of a 12-pack (or two), I don't know that you can do better.

BOTTOM LINE

Summing up the Sunfire Cinema Ribbon loudspeakers is not much easier than describing them. To say you should give them a serious audition and make up your own mind may seem like a weasely-journalist cop-out, but it's the truth. The Cinema Ribbon system is different enough that I cannot simply rank it on a linear scale with other high-end ultra-compact systems. But I can say with complete confidence that anyone looking in this field and everyone else who's truly interested in good sound and innovative engineering owes it to himself to seek out a competent audition. Only then can you decide if the Cinema Ribbons' unusual route to high-end reproduction fits your ear.


The Short Form

$5,990 (as tested) / sunfire.com / 425-335-4748

Snapshot

Unique design combines tiny size with amazing output and extension, smooth balance, and impressive detail.

Plus

Terrific vocal-range accuracy and highly musical balance
Smooth, ultra-detailed treble
Super-small, super-dynamic

Minus

Setup alignment critical
Sub-to-satellite integration tricky
Sweet spot limits audience size
Tiny subs superb but trade bottom half-octave for size

Key Features

CRM-2
($800 each) Sealed enclosure; 4.5 x 1-in ribbon tweeter; (2) 4.5-in cone woofers; 8.3 in high; 7.5 lb
CRM-2C center
($800) Sealed enclosure; 4.5 x 1-in ribbon tweeter; (2) 4.5-in cone woofers; 17 in wide; 10.5 lb
True Subwoofer Super Junior
($995 each) 8-in woofer; 8-in passive radiator; 1,500-watt RMS "tracking-downconverter" amplifier; 9 x 10.5 x 10.5 in (including drivers and connectors); 29 lb


SOURCE: Sound & Vision Magazine, http://www.soundandvisionmag.com
Last edited by TNRabbit on Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by TNRabbit » Mon Oct 29, 2007 9:21 am

There's another good review of the new Sunfire speaker system in PDF format at this link:

http://www.sunfire.com/pdf/CRM-2HomeTheaterMay2007.pdf
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From FrankieD's lips to your ears: Sunfire - a quiet box of endless power.

Sunfire TG-IV/400~7 Amp
Carver SD/A-360 CDP
Benchmark DAC-1
Sony SACD/DVD-A
Active bi-amp: Ashly XR-1001 & 2 Rane PEQ-15s
Main: HotRodded AL-IIIs
Sub: Klipsch RT-12d
Center: Sunfire CRS-3c
Surround: Sunfire CRS-3 (x 2)

OconeeOrange wrote:"Gary likes to play it 'loud' as do I. His system begs you turn it up until you die"

RIP WIlliam B. Dibble, 1948-2012. I'll miss you my friend.

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Post by BillD » Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:39 am

I wonder how audioassissin77 is doing on his project?
It should sound like it isn't there!
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Post by engtaz » Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:17 pm

Those are cool.

engtaz

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Post by Bill » Sat Feb 09, 2008 2:24 pm

He did nail the sound though, I can't quite describe it....I went and listened to a few different sets from Magnepan, Gallo, and Wilson.....The Maggies were VERY forward, even being powered by a massive set of mac tube amps, I wasn't really impressed. They were the 3.6 I believe...The Gallo duet, I think....I forget, they are a discontinued model of similar size to the CRM-2s, with the same ribbon-type tweeter as the Ref. 3.1s...They were nice, and had a little more bite than the CRMs in the low(er) end, but there was something missing, I can't quite explain it...I tried those hooked up the a C372 they had in the rack there, they thought I was insane O:)

Once the HRS arrives, and everything breaks in, I'll be able to give a better review...These are sounding better by the day, every time I turn the rig on it's a new adventure at this point....Hell, none of my new gear has really broken in either, so I have no f'in idea what is causing what, but I like it all so far.. \:D/
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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by stereo_buff » Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:48 am

Here's my take on the CRM-2, guys...

The Sunfire® Cinema Ribbon CRM-2 may be Bob Carver’s most “amazing” speaker yet, but its greatness may be obscured by the fact that it is marketed totally for home theatre use; its superb suitability in reproducing old fashioned two channel stereo being totally ignored. In fact, I had previously overlooked this speaker, being swayed (if subconsciously) by the manufacturer’s marketing effort that it was singularly focused on home theatre use. If it wasn’t for Robert Harley’s review in The Absolute Sound, Issue 183, which piqued my curiosity, I might have continued to overlook it.

The biggest shortcoming I have found with the CRM-2, in my opinion, is the lack of detailed setup information in the owner’s manual when used for stereo music listening; there isn’t any at all! Fortunately, my technical background, some hints from Robert Harley (both in his review and via the forum his magazine supports), not to mention a little email/telephone discussion with Bob Carver, helped speed up the setup process, unlocking the wonderful capability of these units.

The key to releasing the genie of great sound from the CRM-2 lies almost solely in its setup. (A good listening room helps too.) By investing a few hours upfront during setup, the CRM-2 will reward the listener with countless hours of some of the best sound they have ever experienced, bar none. Therefore, I will address a few basic points about setup that will hopefully assist any who may purchase a pair of these in the future.

Due to their size, the Sunfire CRM-2s must be mounted either on stands or on the wall, though for serious music listening, the former location is dictated. (The CRM-2 has a feature called “Boundary Compensation,” whose intent, according to the Sunfire manual, is to “compensates for the bass and mid-bass loading that occurs when a loudspeaker is wall-mounted, compared to when it is placed away from a wall” but I did not use it and therefore, cannot personally comment on its use or effectiveness.) Be aware, however, that there is indeed a “sweet spot” that must be selected and subsequently used as the focus for the remaining setup tips.

First off, both speakers must be exactly the same height, with the center of the “ribbon” centered approximately at the listener’s ear level. The ribbons must also be perpendicular to the floor. Fortunately, both of these are quite easy to establish using a measuring tape and a level.

In my listening room, 13’ wide x 21’ long, I placed the CRM-2s on the long side of the rectangular space. Though I suspect their spatial imaging would likely be even better when placed on the short side of my room, that placement option was not possible for me to try, due to limitations of the room and its furnishings. I ended up with the rear of the speakers approximately 20” away from the rear wall and separated from one another by a bit over six feet. My sweet spot, with respect to the speakers placement, forms an isosceles triangle with my seat about 8’6” from either speaker. I started off with the speakers “toed-in” toward the sweet spot slightly, fine-tuning the position as I proceeded with my listening. (I suggest starting with each speaker toed-in so as to point directly toward the listener’s respective ear.) With this, I have related an infinite amount more information about setup than the owner’s manual.

By design, the CRM-2 only reproduces down to about 95 Hz and is, therefore, intended to be used with a subwoofer. According to Sunfire, the ideal match is one from the Sunfire product line, though not necessarily limited to that. Since I had an existing Sunfire True Subwoofer Mk. II (which, I might add, was sold several years prior to the release of the CRM-2) I used that in conjunction with the CRM-2 to supply the low bass. Unlike “dialing in” the CRM-2s for the best sound they can provide, integrating the subwoofer with them was child’s play. Following the manufacturer’s guidance, I connected my preamp’s output to the True Subwoofer, then connected the subwoofer’s high-pass output to the main amplifier used to drive the CRM-2s.

Even before I began working toward fine-tuning the speaker placement and alignment, I could tell on first listen that these units were something special. As I continued to more precisely hone the setup, my respect and enjoyment grew exponentially. During the setup, I tried various things like adjusting the toe-in and adjusting the distance between the speaker and the back wall, as well as changing the distance between the speakers. What works in someone else’s room will likely be different than mine, but will require the same amount of time and effort of changing some parameter, listening, then changing the same or another parameter, then listening again, until sonic nirvana is achieved.

The CRM-2 has perhaps the widest, most well-defined soundstage I have ever experienced, once they are correctly setup. It is so broad and fills the space so well that non-audiophile types (like my wife and daughter) remark that so much of the sound is coming, for the most part, from “two tiny little boxes” that they are visually distracted from the soundstage they produce. (The broadness of the soundstage may be accentuated somewhat, in my case, as a result of ‘long wall’ placement in my listening room, mentioned previously, but it is not significant either way, just different, when it comes to the quality of the sound produced.) Besides the soundstage, they are probably the most detailed speakers I have ever listened to. Subtle noises, like the nearly silent swishing of musicians changing the sheets of music on their music stands during live or direct-to-disc recordings, are revealed. Moreover, the extended frequency response of the ribbon, claimed to be 40 kHz by Sunfire, allows the harmonic richness of acoustic instruments, e.g., guitar, to be fully fleshed out in a manner heretofore unheard.

As a bonus to all of this, the CRM-2 will also play quite loud (115 dB, according to the manufacturer), though its clarity and richness suffer somewhat at very high volumes. But it’s not a big deal – after all, what kind of detail are we going to hear anyway when listening to Deep Purple’s Made in Japan album at ear-splitting volumes?

Like many of us that have been involved in this hobby for any length of time, I have gone through various phases, when it comes to loudspeakers. Starting with some non-descript box speakers, followed by Bose® 901s (remember “Direct/Reflecting sound?), to a set (they included an outboard subwoofer “commode” and “Motion Control Module”) of Phase Linear Andromeda (later Phase) III loudspeakers, and the ‘wall of sound’ they produced, to a pair of Spica® Angelus speakers, perhaps some of the most natural sounding of their day, to a pair of Carver AL-IIIs, my first brush with ribbon technology, and now to the CRM-2, each change, in my mind, was an upward improvement. That’s not to say that these others didn’t provide me with many, many hours of enjoyment. In fact, I loved the Spicas so much that I had stored them “in reserve” for an eventual return to service that I “knew” would happen because they sounded so good to me. With the CRM-2, however, the “spell” of the Angelus was broken, and I sold them without any regret. The CRM-2 not only provides that “natural” sound I became so addicted to with the Angelus, it also has the detail and dynamics (only better) of the AL-III (when used with a subwoofer, of course), the ‘wall of sound’ I first enjoyed with the Phase Linears, and delivers on the promise of a more lifelike soundstage/presentation that the Bose 901 could only promise, but never truly deliver. It is clearly a speaker destined to be a part of my two channel stereo system for some time.

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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by Scarabeo » Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:51 pm

stereo_buff wrote:Here's my take on the CRM-2, guys...
=D> =D> =D>
This is a review from 08 but it is a GREAT review! I removed my review and will point back to this one to read! I must say tho to me you "MUST" remove that Damn Grill or you will be missing some Detail that is being muffled. I will get back here soon and give my take on the OEM stands. CHEERS!
BillD, You will be forever with us! RIP until we meet again on the other side...

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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by OconeeOrange » Sat Nov 06, 2010 8:40 pm

Scarabeo wrote:
stereo_buff wrote:Here's my take on the CRM-2, guys...
=D> =D> =D>
This is a review from 08 but it is a GREAT review! I removed my review and will point back to this one to read! I must say tho to me you "MUST" remove that Damn Grill or you will be missing some Detail that is being muffled. I will get back here soon and give my take on the OEM stands. CHEERS!
That is a great review because it says the things you want to believe. Guys who review for a living say good things for money or so they will not be cut off from future products.

SCARABEO - your review is the better one - thanks. You are the man on this.

TN was just adding to that. Your review is better. I understand the guy agreed with you.

All systems and needs are different.

Anyway you look at it, the CRS is better in every application. :D

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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by Scarabeo » Mon Nov 08, 2010 10:31 pm

OconeeOrange wrote:
Scarabeo wrote:
stereo_buff wrote:Here's my take on the CRM-2, guys...
=D> =D> =D>
This is a review from 08 but it is a GREAT review! I removed my review and will point back to this one to read! I must say tho to me you "MUST" remove that Damn Grill or you will be missing some Detail that is being muffled. I will get back here soon and give my take on the OEM stands. CHEERS!
That is a great review because it says the things you want to believe. Guys who review for a living say good things for money or so they will not be cut off from future products.

SCARABEO - your review is the better one - thanks. You are the man on this.

TN was just adding to that. Your review is better. I understand the guy agreed with you.

All systems and needs are different.

Anyway you look at it, the CRS is better in every application. :D
I think stereo_buff's review was done very good but Yeah - Those who are paid to give them have motives! I must say the CRS-3's Grow on you and having them wall mounted is very nice - Too bad there was not a version of these with 2 in-line Ribbons & 4 Woofers and "2" 12 inch Sub's like the Sunfire Sub's built in as one BIG GREAT SPEAKER!!! Those would cost too much and have no purpose though...The 3's and 2's are both Plenty of GREAT speaker!!!
BillD, You will be forever with us! RIP until we meet again on the other side...

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Re:

Post by OCCD » Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:38 pm

BillD wrote:I wonder how audioassissin77 is doing on his project?
Been a while since he's been around.
Give me a "Fist" full of coins and I'll save it for Carver gear!!!

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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by jjptkd » Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:55 pm

Since Oct '10? :-k Who is this OCCD guy anyway? :lol: :lol:
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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by Kingshead » Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:41 pm

Ribbons are special, try anthing with the Infinity Emit-k tweeter and be ready to cry MaMa.

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Re: Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Loudspeakers (CRM-2)

Post by stereo_buff » Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:42 am

Scarabeo wrote:
OconeeOrange wrote:
stereo_buff wrote:Here's my take on the CRM-2, guys...
That is a great review because it says the things you want to believe. Guys who review for a living say good things for money or so they will not be cut off from future products.

SCARABEO - your review is the better one - thanks. You are the man on this.

TN was just adding to that. Your review is better. I understand the guy agreed with you.

All systems and needs are different.

Anyway you look at it, the CRS is better in every application. :D
I think stereo_buff's review was done very good but Yeah - Those who are paid to give them have motives! I must say the CRS-3's Grow on you and having them wall mounted is very nice - Too bad there was not a version of these with 2 in-line Ribbons & 4 Woofers and "2" 12 inch Sub's like the Sunfire Sub's built in as one BIG GREAT SPEAKER!!! Those would cost too much and have no purpose though...The 3's and 2's are both Plenty of GREAT speaker!!!
I am not a paid reviewer or in any way connected to ANY audio company - the review is my own and based on my own personal listening experience.

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