Founded in 1973, Energy has not only survived in the perilous loudspeaker market, but thrived. Rooted in design principles and research projects created in conjunction with the famous Canadian National Research Council (NRC), Energy has consistently produced affordable, innovative, high performance products in many different categories. Expertly managed by Audio Products International for decades, Klipsch purchased the company in August of 2006, and has built very well on that heritage.
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Energy offers five series of loudspeakers, with its Connoisseur series a step up from its entry-level, "Take" series. The most expensive of three bookshelf models in the Connoisseur series, the two-way CB-20 (MSRP $350 per pair) couples a 1-inch hyperbolic aluminum-dome tweeter to a 6.5-inch woofer that utilizes Energy's patented Ribbed Elliptical Surround, which increases excursion and efficiency, according to the company. The design uses a 2.2kHz crossover point. As with all of Energy's speakers, the CB-20 employs the company's famous Convergent Source Module (CSM), which, according to the company, lowers distortion while improving dispersion and midrange by placing the midrange and tweeter as close together as possible (this design also makes for an elegant cosmetic presentation on the baffle). The CB-20 employs a rear-firing port, and provides a handy foam port plug for each speaker to contour the bass response. The CB-20 provides a single pair of gold-plated, 5-way binding posts, along with a 3/16-inch - 16 threaded insert for easy mounting. Put together like a rock and tight as a drum, the CB-20 offers a terrific Black Ash vinyl finish, complemented with a gloss black finish for the baffle, which really looks great contrasted against the silver drivers. The combination of the ash cabinet, gloss baffle, silver drivers, and ribbed woofer surround makes for a really striking, yet elegant look.
The CB-20 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with a 92dB efficiency. The CB-20 performed optimally with a wide variety of power sources, and didn't crave the better ones in the least. Good quality receivers more than fit the bill, along with even some entry-level ones.
Set up on stands in a stereo arrangement, the CB-20s smacked you with a very deep, wide soundstage with excellent imaging. The speaker imaged like a bigger model - which, given its relatively diminutive size, made a good impression. Tonally, the CB-20 offers an even, very listenable, natural presentation, with detailed highs running smoothly into a transparent, liquid midrange that exhibited very few artifacts. The CB-20 excelled on vocal and piano tracks, with superb speed, detail and transparency. Moving further down the spectrum, the CB-20's lower mids and bass did not disappoint, providing plenty of warmth, punch and extension on rock and electronic tracks with just a hint of muddiness on the occasional track. The foam port plugs made a subtle but valuable difference, especially in the midbass as the speaker moved closer to the wall. This feature, while appearing maybe a bit kit-like to some, could really appeal to a great many others, as it allows the speaker to bend into many different situations for the same user. Overall, the CB-20 sounded better with the plugs in, but, again, the beauty of this feature is if you don't like it, just take them out and voilà, bass reflex for purists.
"Balance" comes to mind as much as any other quality when listening to the CB-20s. Sure, they exhibit finesse and strength and punch, but never out of proportion with the whole. The CB-20 plays coherently, musically, and transparently, handling whatever material is thrown at it with aplomb and making you reach for more discs in the process.
Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2