Soundbars are a hot topic in today's ever-changing home theater world. A soundbar can fall into one of two categories: powered and passive. Powered soundbars have built-in, usually digital, amplifiers that drive the speakers inside so that all the consumer needs to complete their home theater is a source and a display. Powered soundbars generally feature some sort of DSP (digital signal processing), allowing them to create faux surround sound effects and even decode multi-channel surround sound formats such as Dolby Digital; they also often come with a small subwoofer. Passive soundbars are a bit different, employing none of the before-mentioned features, instead opting for purity. Passive soundbars are essentially three discrete loudspeakers contained within a single chassis, meaning three sets of binding posts and three sets of speaker wire all going to your multi-channel amplifier or receiver of choice.
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The Fineline FC-3 Ultra-Thin Soundbar reviewed here is a passive design employing, essentially, what are three discrete loudspeakers in an LCR configuration within a very slim, very minimal chassis. The FC-3's 42-inch wide by four-inch tall and two-inch deep cabinet houses six three and a half inch midrange drivers and three one-inch textile-dome tweeters. The drivers are arranged with the tweeters each falling between a pair of midrange drivers that are spaced evenly across the FC-3 entire 42-inch width in an LCR style fashion.
The FC-3 has a reported frequency response of 80-20,000Hz with a 90dB sensitivity rating into a six-Ohm load, making it ideal for most of today's modern receivers. However, due to its limited frequency response it also means prospective buyers will have to bring a subwoofer or two to the party. The FC-3 comes in every finish so long as it's black and costs $745. I should also point out that all Fineline Speakers, the FC-3 included, come with a money-back, 30-day in home trial which takes the worry out of buying a product blind and from a fairly new company.
The FC-3 can be wall mounted under your HDTV or placed on a table in front of it and comes with all the necessary hardware to facilitate both installations. The FC-3 also comes with small crimp style spade lugs to make connecting your speaker cable to the FC-3's screw post style binding posts. Sorry, no five-way or push-pin style posts here, meaning higher-end cable such as Transparent, Cardas or Kimber are out of the question - in fact, anything short of hardware store spool wire is going to be too thick and bulky to work with the FC-3.
In terms of sound quality, the FC-3 is on par with many other of the best passive soundbars that I've demoed recently. The FC-3 has a slightly lean midrange but no so much so that it feels anemic and/or harsh at high volumes. Its treble performance is good, a bit rolled off at the extremes and lacking the air and snap you'd get from thicker bookshelf speakers. Still it's pretty darn good considering its thin size. The FC-3's high frequency performance doesn't glare nor fall to pieces when pushed like others in the class, in fact at higher volumes it backs off subtly so as not to cause adverse attention to itself, which I appreciate.
In terms of bass there isn't any really to speak of (nor should any be expected from a speaker of this size), meaning a subwoofer will have to be employed if you're hoping for any semblance of full-range sound. In my system, I used GoldenEar's ForceField 4 Subwoofer with excellent results, though Fineline does make a subwoofer in their Sub-8, which retails for $679. While adding a capable sub is a must with the FC-3, its presence also helps open up the FC-3's sound and changes its performance dramatically.
Read about the high points and low points of the FC-3 on Page 2.