XTZ Sound Divine 100.33 Speaker Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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XTZ Sound Divine 100.33 Speaker Review


XTZ Sound has been in the audio game since the early 2000s. Founded by industry veteran Olle Eliasson, the company is entering its eleventh year offering an incredibly well-stocked stable of high-end audio gear ranging from speakers to headphones, amplifiers to CD players, robust looking interconnects, even a proprietary room analyzer system.

The folks at XTZ brand themselves as manufacturing the best price-performance high-end speakers on the market. Before you roll your eyes and dismiss this as cliché marketing speak, it’s worth taking a closer look at XTZ. Companies typically touting “bang for your buck” look to cut costs by using lower quality materials. Their end products may perform well enough, but they’re rarely considered to be worthy of the tag “high-end.” XTZ Sound, however, has managed to make true high-end gear with noteworthy components and materials while keeping price points on the low end of their competition. The company finds its savings through a direct sales model that eliminates middlemen, shifting some manufacturing to Asia, and placing an emphasis on product quality as opposed to fancy marketing tactics. If you live in North America, then you’ve undoubtedly heard rather little about the performance of their products; they’re only just beginning to make inroads into our market.

What’s refreshing is XTZ’s realistic approach to the sound that buyers should expect to experience with their speakers. While they tout the exceptional performance capabilities of their 100.33 model, they aren’t peddling straight-up speaker voodoo magic. Their approach involves an open discourse on the impacts of individual room acoustics on overall sound quality (of which, they note, clearly can affect their models). While hardcore enthusiasts know that great speakers can sound incredibly ordinary in a room with terrible acoustics, a casual buyer might be more inclined to favor a great looking room over optimal acoustical conditions. As I’ll discuss, the 100.33 has several onboard tools to help owners make their speakers sound as good as possible in a variety of room environments.


Big Little Brother
The 2-way Divine 100.33 (Black and Walnut, $2000/speaker) is based on XTZ’s 3-way 100.49 flagship floor stander ($3,600/speaker). It’s a highly versatile “bookshelf” version of its larger sibling that can be used vertically or placed horizontally on a cradle (included) for center channel duty. XTZ employs the same 1-inch Visaton tweeter and 6.5-inch Accuton drivers on both models, however the drivers on the 100.33 are arranged in a MTM configuration.

XTZ says it chose the tweeter and driver models due to their ability to maintain clarity and composure when pushed to high volume levels. The Visaton tweeter features a ceramic dome design, a ventilated voice coil carrier, and an internal design geared for dampening. The 6.5-inch Accuton driver is also ceramic with a medium sized titanium voice coil, a neodymium magnet, and a long excursion design. The speaker’s crossover features air wound coils, MKP capacitors, and MOX resistors.



The exterior looks of the 100.33 is close to perfection.


The exterior of the “black” 100.33 is absolutely exquisite, sporting a wet-looking high gloss finish that covers the vast majority of the cabinet. The metal mesh grill covered drivers are mounted on an artfully raised 2-inch thick baffle that sports a matte black finish, which matches the finish on the back end of the cabinet. Overall visible fit-and-finish is excellent, making for a speaker worthy of a showroom pedestal. XTZ even includes a small magnetic logo that can be rotated on speakers that are used in a horizontal position. The plus side of XTZ’s choice of finishes is that the 100.33 is drop dead gorgeous. I wouldn’t hesitate to proudly display a pair in a high traffic area of my home. The downside is that the glossy areas of the cabinet can show dust and are a moderate source of light reflection in a light-controlled media room.

The back side of the 100.33 features two port holes (foam plugs included) flanking a brushed aluminum plate that houses four gold plated speaker posts for bi-wiring/bi-amping (jumpers included) and four tweeter adjustment plugs with two adjustment posts.



The rear of the 100.33 has four speaker posts and advanced tuning options.


Aside from its stunning outward appearance, the cabinet (10.6-in W x 23.6H x 15.7D) is an absolute brick. Actually, with an overall weight of nearly 60 pounds, a pile of bricks might be a better description. The knuckle knock test produces nothing more than a heavily muted “thunk” sound (something akin to knocking on a cinderblock); overall physical prowess is impressive to say the least. Constructed with strong 1-inch thick MDF, the cabinet is shaped with a convex design that should readily reduce internal modes. Opening up the cabinet, I found a plethora of dense insulating material paired with 2-inch thick bracing. I could continue to throw-around adjectives to describe the 100.33’s tank-like construction, but let’s just say it’s a resonance’s worst nightmare. Solid.



A peek through the front baffle shows dense material lining all surfaces.


XTZ sells a robust speaker stand specifically designed to hold the 100.33. It features MDF construction and a matte black finish to mirror portions of the 100.33’s cabinet. I didn’t have these stands on hand for the review, but based on pictures and hands-on experience with the 100.33s, it’s safe to assume that the stand would mate perfectly with the speaker for a finished look.


Delivered Safe and Sound
The 100.33s were delivered in two separate double-boxed packages that were more than thick enough to withstand a pounding. Inside, each speaker was protected by a soft cloth bag and suspended by thick foam packaging blocks. Contents included a pedestal (for use with horizontal speaker orientation) and a collection of goodies consisting of white gloves, a microfiber cleaning cloth, an instruction manual, small rubber feet nubs, and yet another tuning tool (a Room Compensation Filter).



The 100.33's packaging is well designed.


Let me stop here and say that the sight of white gloves completely torqued my audiophile gears. After all, not many products are delivered with pre-packaged white gloves. Home theater screens, perhaps, but speakers? Not often.

It’s also worthy to note that the 100.33s were stocked in the United States and found their way to my doorstep in rather short order. That’s good news for North American buyers.


Setup
I placed the 100.33s in my treated theater room (14-feet W x 17.5 L x 8 H). Following some trial and error during initial listening sessions, their final resting positions were on stands about 8.5-feet apart (tweeter at ear level when seated), 2-feet from the front wall, 17-inches from side walls, and toed inward. My primary listening position was about 12 feet away from the speakers. The 100.33s seemed to like being wider in placement, as their imaging collapsed as I moved them closer together. They also didn’t seem to be greatly affected by placement closer to walls, which is a great quality to carry. Luckily, their placement fell on either side of my projection screen which came in handy when evaluating the interaction between the speakers’ glossy finish and bright images displayed in a darkened room (Results were not terrible, definitely doable, but not entirely ideal for true light controlled situations. Of course this would be a non-issue for placement behind an AT screen).

For my demo sessions, bi-amped power was supplied by my long trusted Elite VSX-21 THX AVR (which had nary an issue handling the 4 ohm / 89 dB efficiency rated 100.33s). The AVR was run in Pure Direct mode. Demo discs were played on an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player.


Tuning Options Galore
As touched on earlier, the 100.33s offer quite a few tuning options. The least unique of the options are standard port plugs that allow users to control bass output by making the speakers sealed, single port open, or double port open. I tested the speakers using bass sweeps generated by Room EQ Wizard (calibrated UMIK-1 microphone, 1 meter from speaker). Leaving both ports open resulted in decibel gain just prior to roll off (around 50Hz) followed by a rather sharp drop. Leaving both ports closed resulted in lower loudness around 50Hz with a much more subtle roll off, and one port open fell somewhere in between. Following some listening sessions, my preferred mode was one port open. That particular setting breathed noticeable life into the speakers' bass response while keeping it tight and snappy.



Of the three port modes, my preference was "one port open" (blue line).


The second tuning option is a series of four plugs and two jumpers that can adjust the tweeter response from about 3.5 kHz and higher. The jumpers can be used to create four modes, altering treble output by -4 dB, -2 dB, 0 dB, and +4 dB. Once again, Room EQ Wizard measurements showed the impact of the jumpers was consistent and true to their design. For my listening sessions, I left both speakers set on “0 dB,” as I felt that setting played nicely with my surroundings and kept the speakers running in the most neutral of modes.



Measurements of the 100.33's four tweeter modes.


The third tuning option comes in the form of a small cable filter. This “Room Compensation Filter,” used in lieu of the tweeter jumpers, has two possible settings achieved by plugging the filter into a tweeter speaker post and either the extreme right or extreme left tweeter jumper port. Measured results of the filter showed that one setting (extreme right jumper port) had a negligible impact while the other (extreme left) lowered treble output to a similar level produced by the -4 dB tweeter jumper setting detailed above. Because the impact was similar, it seems much easier (and cleaner) to make treble adjustments using the jumper settings. Besides, the Room Compensation Filter is inserted into the speaker post just like a banana plug, which makes it impossible to run speaker wire to the speaker via a banana plug in bi-amp scenarios (which, obviously would not be an issue for set-ups with single speaker wire connections). Nevertheless, the Compensation Filter does provide one more tool that can be used to help the speakers sound better in a particularly reflective environment.



Measurements of both Room Compensation Filters modes.

Sound: Subs Need Not Apply
I went into this review fairly convinced that the 100.33s would require a sub to achieve detailed warmth in the lower end. I was wrong. Flat wrong. In fact, after several trials of blending my dual PSA XS30s into the mix, I decided to shut them down for the duration of the listening sessions. For music purposes, the 100.33s more than hold their own in the lower end of the equation.

The 100.33s are incredibly detailed speakers with a presentation that’s just a notch above neutral, hitting a natural sweet spot in my audio preference spectrum. Highs are crystal clear (never shrill) while midrange sounds are full of textured details and warmth. They strike a perfect balance between treble and bass that remains constant. Their imaging from left-to-right is spectacular as is depth (which ranged both forward and back). And they have the ability to disappear, giving them all the ear markings of something special.

I began my listening sessions with a classic techno favorite, Orbital’s Orbital 2. It’s an album fully capable of exposing a speaker’s true capabilities with a plethora of dynamic sounds. Not wasting time, I skipped directly to the track “Lush 3-2” and the 100.33s exploded to life sending a tingle down my spine. I knew I was in for a cool ride. The 100.33s proceeded to calmly deliver an incredibly layered soundscape that seemed to wrap its sonic arms around the room. Accurately forceful bass existed low in the sound stage, visibly rolling forward, while various electronic bleeps, blips, and beats occupied their own spaces as they floated in the air. Some sounds appeared to punch through the front wall while others held their ground. One particular part of “Lush 3-2” introduces an isolated techno rhythm that pushes itself well outside of the stereo channels, and the 100.33s handled it perfectly.



The 100.33s delivered incredible imaging with Orbital 2.


The 100.33s reproduced Orbital 2 to perfection without a moment of bungled or botched playback. I enjoyed the session so much that I reached for another techno-driven favorite: Ultramarine’s United Kingdom. This album is a much gentler affair that pairs vocals, smooth rolling bass, clarinets, and other gentle sounds with electronic rhythms. It gave the speakers a chance to showoff their airy presence and wide soundstage capabilities, which were also on full display when I listened to Nora Jones’ Come Away With Me. During that session, the 100.33s transported Jones directly into the room. Her voice, every raspy and smoky detail, was reproduced perfectly right down to wispy subtle gasps of breath as she sang. The 100.33s slipped to the background as the track “Turn Me On” flowed with smooth bass and a Hammond organ that floated from side to side.

My glowing impressions of the 100.33s were continually reinforced with each disc I played. Keith Jarrett’s Live at the Blue Note was very pleasing to the ear (Jarrett’s piano seemed to hover in the upper right, DeJohnette’s drums clapped away to the left, and the audience's approval sounded narrow and to the middle), Taylor Swift’s crisply mixed 1989 was incredibly detailed and expansive, and Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing purred with depth and grace. The 100.33s handled everything I tossed their way with ease. I lived with the speakers for a tad over three weeks, thoroughly enjoying all of the time spent with them.


Blu-ray
I find it difficult to accurately estimate a speaker’s capability in home theater duty with only two channels to demo. Typically speakers capable of stellar two-channel playback won’t balk when pressed into movie duty. I did run through some listening tests with The History of the Eagles, which is a mix of interviews and live performances. Musical reproduction was excellent and very similar to my CD demo sessions. More importantly, dialog sounded exceptionally warm and throaty, which leads me to believe that a single 100.33 would be killer in center channel duty.


Conclusion
The 100.33s sound as beautiful as they look. XTZ Sound has a real gem on its hands – a true high-end entry. Their price tag ($4000/pair) isn’t cheap, but they deliver a lot with desirable driver technology, superb construction, and tuning options. I was absolutely smitten with the speakers only minutes into my first listening session and completely floored by their ability to reproduce thick and detailed bass. If you’re looking for audiophile grade speakers that have pricing value in their corner, the 100.33s deserve serious consideration.

For more information about XTZ Sound’s Divine 100.33 Loudspeakers, visit http://www.xtzsound.com.

Manufacturer Specifications
Dimensions: 10.6 x 23.6 x 15.7 inch (W x H x D)
Weight: 58.4lb
Efficiency: 89dB
Nominal Impedance: 4ohm
Frequency Range:45Hz-25kHz
Crossover: 2000Hz
Magnetically Shielded: No
Power: 350W/175W (Short/Long term IEC 268-5)
Tweeter: Visaton ceramic dome tweeter
Woofer/Midrange: Thiel & Partner Accuton C173-11-191
Available Colors: Piano Black, Walnut Veneer



Please use the XTZ Sound Divine 100.33 Speaker Review Discussion Thread for questions and comments.
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