A friend of mine dates women based solely on their looks. I agree that outward appearance is the first thing to spark interest, but looks aren't everything. My friend hasn't come around to that realization just yet, so my wife and I marvel at some of the nuclear scientists to whom we get introduced. Thankfully, I found a woman with beauty and brains. Hopefully my friend will take my advice and start looking for more than just a pretty face. Oddly enough, the same advice applies to loudspeakers.
As the LCD and plasma craze continues to sweep the nation, home theater speaker systems are now being selected largely for their aesthetic appeal. Thinner, smaller and less obtrusive is the new name of the game; as a result, there are many tiny, shiny speaker systems available on the market. Many of them look nice on the wall and will generate the occasional "ooh" and "ahh" from passersby.
Unfortunately, when you start listening to them, "ooh" quickly becomes "oh." The Energy act6 speaker system has uniquely attractive styling coupled with ingenious mounting hardware and surprisingly potent sound. If you're in the market for a stylish and affordable sub/sat system that can actually deliver on the promise of theater-like sound, I suggest you read on.
Hanging speakers on the wall shouldn't be a chore, but it often is thanks to poorly-designed brackets and short-range swivel mounts. The actl satellite speaker has the most ingenious mounting bracket I've ever seen. For starters, the back side of the actl speaker is curved, so its footprint is a semi-circle. Energy provides an L-shaped bracket with gear-like teeth on the speaker plate that fit into slots on the underside of the actl. This allows you to angle your speakers toward the listening area while keeping the mounting bracket flush and tight to the wall. Thanks to the large number of "teeth" on the bracket, the range of motion is a generous +/- 32 degrees. This is a fantastic design. The act1's innovative design continues when you inspect its grille. Many listeners like to remove their speaker grilles from time to time. This process usually means fighting with plastic pins and making sure they're square in their holes so they don't snap. The actl uses miniature magnets to keep the grille in place and it works great! If you're mounting the actl satellites around a flat-panel television, you may find that the tweeters are higher on the wall than you'd like; a simple solution is to invert the actl and hang them upside down. Proving they thought of everything, designers also made the "Energy" grille logo magnetic so it, too, can be inverted if you decide to hang the speakers upside down. Brilliant.
I mentioned tweeters already, but the act1's tweeter deserves some special attention. One of the great things about buying an entry-level system from a high-end speaker company is the trickle-down effect. Once only available on their higher-end models, Energy offers an individually-chambered tweeter in the act1. This 3/4" aluminum dome tweeter features a cloth suspension and it lives in its own sealed chamber. This type of quality component architecture isn't found on many sub/sat systems at this price point. The act1's woofer is a 3.5-inch mica-filled polypropylene unit with a patented Elliptical Surround. Energy claims this design increases excursion as well as driver efficiency.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Energy carefully packs and ships the complete act6 system in one box. After unpacking everything, I used standard 12ga speaker cable to wire the actl satellites and a line-level Monster THX subwoofer cable for the sub. The actl satellites feature sturdy, spring-loaded binding posts hidden in a recess on the bottom of the speaker. Unfortunately, they don't accept banana plugs, but the spring-loaded design makes threading wire a snap. These posts are another example of the attention to detail not found on many mass-market sub/sat systems.