S.5 Satellite Speaker
Sugg. Retail: $250 (CAN) pr
Size: 8 5/8″H x 5 1/2″W x 8″D
C.5 Centre Channel Speaker
Sugg. Retail: $225 (CAN)
Size: 5 1/2″H x 15″W x 7 1/8″D
Sugg. Retail: $375 (CAN)
Size: 13″H x 10 1/4″W x 12″D
Total System Cost: $1100 (CAN)
(Reprinted from the Spring 2002 Audio Ideas Guide)
Athena started out as a research project headed by the NRC (National Research Council) into speaker performance in which Audio Products International (API) was heavily involved, along with other Canadian speaker manufacturers. I guess it seemed logical for Ian Paisley, research head at the company to name its new brand thusly.
The system here, the Point 5, is a stylish compact array that can be bought in toto, or by individual component, allowing a certain degree of user customization rather than just being home theatre in a box. For example, you could add a second sub to beef up bass at rear, or you could use 5 S.5s for perfect timbre matching, something I’ll elaborate on. But they’re sold in pairs only…ready for EX?
Like many of today’s budget speaker systems, the Point 5 was designed in Canada but manufactured in China. The basic configration is 4 S.5s, 1 C.5, and the P.5 subwoofer, but after discussing measurements and acoustic performance, I’ll offer alternatives (the system is packaged as an HTIB system in most cases).
Drivers are a 4″ bass/mid with a polypropylene cone and rubber surround (2 in the C.5), and 1″ fabric dome tweeter, lensed to minimize diffraction on the small baffle surface. The key to acceptable bass performance is a good deal of cone travel capability in the bass/midrange driver to compensate for its size. Of course, the key to good bass performance in the system is its subwoofer, which has crossover and level controls. The P.5 also has toggle switches for Video/Audio contours and Sub/S.5, the former the position for use with other satellite speakers, and the latter setting a fixed crossover especially for the Point 5 combination.
The small glossy black boxes have matte silver front baffles made, it appears, of an acrylic plastic. The S.5 cabinets are 1/2″ thick MDF with a hard plastic rear panel to which can be mounted a supplied swiveling bracket for mounting on walls and other surfaces with 4 screws; this mounting option is quite clever and should work well in many rooms. It is clear that the Athena engineers spent a lot of time on ergonomics and the designing of moulded parts for these speakers, in addition to that expended on acoustic design.
However, it is evident that this most important aspect of engineering has not been skimped on. Measurements show the system to have wide, smooth frequency response; in the Pink Noise Sweeps (PNS) at top we see the satellites down 5 dB at 100 Hz, very smooth through the midrange, with a rising top end above 5 kHz. This upper octave emphasis can also be seen in the quasi-anechoic curve on axis below, and is shown to be most pronounced on axis, moderating at 15 and 30o angles.
The Summed Axial Response shows a little more of a dip in the midrange than the PNS, probably because the latter better reflects the excellent dispersion of this system in room conditions. Looking at the several bass curves tells a number of things: first, the satellites themselves have quite extended response from the tiny drivers and ports at rear, down 5 dB at 100 Hz, and only 10 dB at 50. The upper two curves are, next up, the sub set at Audio, and, top with the Video boost, which adds about 2 dB centred between 60 and 70 Hz. As set up for flattest response in the Audio contour, the sub is down 5 dB at 40 Hz and 10 dB at 30, not bad for a budget sub the size of a Sunfire True Subwoofer (and a fifth the cost). At the fixed crossover setting it can be seen to be +/-2 dB from 50 to 300 Hz. The effects of the variable crossover can be seen below: top is full rotation, next down half, and bottom, minimum, with a range of 150 to 40 Hz.
Also near the bottom of the measurements are PNS curves for the C.5 centre channel at 0, 15 and 30o off axis. These show pretty good off-axis performance for a D’Appolito type driver configuration, response down in the midrange about 2 dB at 15o, and 4 at 30o. The lensing of the tweeter and the gentle vertical groove in the baffle above and below the tweeter both limit the lobing of drivers that causes the typical midrange droop. This is a subtle, but nice piece of design work by the Athena engineering team led by Gord Van Kessel, and it makes this a better than average centre channel for its price.
In fact, there are certain advantages in using the C.5 as an LCR/LS/RS, that is, for all channels. The first of these is better bass from all channels, since it has a little more oomph just below 100 Hz. Perhaps more important and obvious is the better power handling and greater dynamic capability that the two bass/midrange drivers provide for only a little more money. In effect, you’d be adding 4 more bass/midrange drivers to the system. You could call it the “Point 5 Turbo”. It will cost a few hundred dollars more, the C.5 priced just under a pair of S.5s.
But as I heard from the basic system, the Point 5 doesn’t do badly for its price at all. The key to minimizing sibilance from the upper midrange boost on axis is to set up the speakers, in particular, the left and right, so they do not face right at a central listener. As can be seen in the axial curves, by 30o they are quite flat.
Looking at the overlaid impedance and electrical phase measurement at left, we see highs in the former of 40 ohms in the bass, the lowest value being 4 ohms for the C.5 with its paralleled bass/midrange drivers. Electrical phase varies by +/-30o or so, quite good for an inexpensive speaker. This system should not be difficult to drive.
I found the system still a bit sibilant, but not annoyingly so, and this came with a high level of speech articulation and overall sonic detail. The Point 5 system was very fast, with surprising transient energy, this enhancing movie effects. I did miss the deepest bass, but bass in general was very tuneful, especially mid bass. Dynamics were excellent overall, and I was repeatedly surprised at how loud the sytem would play with movies.
It’s also an excellent music system, though it will perform best in a fairly well damped or upholstered room. I actually got out some of my SQ quadraphonic records and was much impressed by the enveloping musical soundfield, but again missed the deepest notes; I think I’d go for an upgrade subwoofer-wise if you listen to a lot of music, but home theatre bass effects were very well reproduced, the tunefulness of the subwoofer a definite factor.
But that’s a personal preference, and I have to conclude that this is one of the very best compact HT speaker systems I’ve heard for under $2000. If it looks good to you, you can also be sure it will really sound good when you get it home, with very clean sound and dynamics to spare.