Craig Chase and Jon Lane are long time friends of the Home Theater Shack, and have been working hard this year to release new and updated HT and Hi-Fi products under their new brand, Chane Music & Cinema. Among those are the Theater Ten monitor and SBE-118 sealed 18" subwoofer. These models are geared toward providing low-distortion, and high output from even modest home theater receivers at a relatively low cost. The Theater Ten is a somewhat unique combination of pro monitor design and aesthetics and high fidelity home audio sound quality. The passive SBE-118 takes advantage of a huge 18" driver in a relatively compact sealed cabinet. As reviewed, this 3.2 system retails for $2400 and has the potential to be an incredible value in home theater performance.
Design, Build Quality, and Aesthetics
I'll start with the Theater Ten. At first look, it appears to be a pro monitor designed for stage or studio use. The wedge shape and heavy-duty grill give it that rugged look you would expect from pro gear. Chane has combined a horn-assisted compression driver and a 10" woofer in a ported cabinet to produce a high sensitivity speaker for clean and dynamic performance. Although it is not necessarily a lightweight, it is relatively compact considering the size of the drivers used. The Theater Ten's MDF cabinet is finished with a black textured PVC coating and a steel grill, both offering excellent durability. The SBE-118, like the Theater Ten is designed for performance and value. The cabinet is made from 1" thick MDF, with a 2" thick front baffle. The SBE-118 does not come with a grill. The enclosure is covered with four coats of a smooth semi-gloss black finish. The rear panel has a single set of binding posts for connection to the amp. The driver is a proprietary 18" long-throw woofer with power handling capability of up to 1000 watts. It also features high sensitivity, providing some flexibility for amp selection (although the Dayton amp was included with this package).
Both the Theater Ten and the SBE-118 are rock solid. The cabinets are heavy duty and more than sturdy enough for typical home theater use. These could easily take a fall off a shelf or speaker stand, or maybe even down the stairs. (don't worry, I did not test my theory) It is clear that Chane takes pride in the build quality of their products, and these particular units appear to be very well constructed. The only minor issues I noticed were a couple little chips in the finish near the corner of a Theater Ten. They are hardly noticeable, and may very well be a result of packing/shipping.
Compared to most speakers you would expect to find in a home theater, these have a rather utilitarian appearance to them. The design of the Theater Ten, with its textured finish and steel grill, is not what I would call elegant, but still very clean and even a little intimidating (in a good way). I would say that steel grill is my favorite part of the overall look of the speaker. It's different, but it works. I've also had a couple friends comment that they like the looks of them while they've been set up in my HT. The SBE-118 is plain looking with its smooth matte black finish and exposed driver. I personally don't mind looking at a big woofer like this, but some (i.e people with kids) may prefer to have some form of protection in place. This sub is about performance and value, so the simplistic design and no-frills aesthetic are no surprise. Chane has done a nice job of making these components look good in a home theater setting without adding unnecessary decorative elements.
Setup and Operation
My goal for setting up the Theater Tens was to place the HF driver of the left and right channels at or close to ear level, and to place the center channel directly below my display. On a pair of stands I already had, the height of the left and right speakers was spot on. They are 1/4 of the distance in from my side walls, which puts them just outside the edges of my display. The center channel is just below my TV, horizontally oriented. This is pretty standard, and basically mimics the placement of my personal speakers, so it is familiar to me. Unfortunately, my room does suffer from poor acoustics in some areas and the Theater Ten was not immune to this. I spent a bit more time arranging the subs. Dual subs can do great things for the bass response in a room, but placement is still critical. My HT is definitely a case that benefits from properly placed dual subs. After experimenting, measuring, and listening with the subs at several different locations, I ended up with one in the center of the front wall, and the other centered on the rear wall. This meant the center channel had to sit on top of the front sub, which still worked out ok for the review period. This provided nice even response at the MLP below the 80Hz crossover point and solid response down below 20Hz, with about a 10dB drop from 20Hz to 10Hz. Not bad at all. Additionally, there were very few noticeable variations in the sound of the bass as I moved around my seating area.
Although the subwoofer amp is a Dayton Audio product bundled with the Chane subs, it is a critical part of the setup, so I want to discuss it briefly. The SA1000 is purpose-built for subwoofer use. It has multiple RCA inputs and two sets of speaker level outputs. On the front panel are controls for gain, phase, low-pass frequency, and a single band PEQ. On the rear are additional controls for high-pass filter, auto power-on/off, and bass boost. Overall it is a very flexible unit with lots of features. It did not seem to have any difficulty driving the pair of SBE-118s even at high levels for extended periods of time. The controls are well-labeled and easy to use. With the AVR crossover set to 80Hz, I set the low-pass frequency on the amp slightly higher (based on measured response and trial/error), set the PEQ to boost 6dB at 18Hz with a wide bandwidth (based on Chane recommendation and listening tests), phase at 0º, and adjusted gain based on preference/measurements. Again, the flexibility of the Dayton amp made setup very easy.
My response to the thought of stage monitor/PA system sound quality tends to be something like "yuck", and yours may be too. Let me be clear that Chane's Theater Tens sound NOTHING like that. They sound natural, balanced, clean, and lifelike. My ears tend to be a bit sensitive to higher frequencies making brighter sounding speakers sound a bit harsh. The Theater Ten sounds very smooth to me and they have been very enjoyable to listen to. They were not harsh sounding at any point during my review. Movie dialog is presented with excellent clarity, and music is very detailed and dynamic. The large woofer, though it requires the aid of a sub for deep bass, is balanced and smooth up through the the midrange and the crossover to the compression driver is seamless. Imaging is accurate and stable, with good separation between elements. Although I did not move them around much due to my limited placement options, they did not appear to be overly sensitive to positioning and/or toe angle. The sweetspot was wide enough to create a nice soundstage for all of the seating positions in my home theater. I really can't complain about the sound quality of this speaker, especially considering the modest asking price.
I would not call myself a basshead, but I do like good clean, deep bass reproduction when the content requires it. The SBE-118 is more than capable of that, without overdoing it. It has the muscle to pound out intense action movie sequences with authority, but enough finesse to provide a rich music experience. It blends well with multiple types of speakers and is not intrusive during the more quiet moments. The pair, properly positioned, easily knocked out the pesky room modes that tend to cause some unfortunate dips in response below 70Hz. They performed their job, and did it with authority. I know, it sounds like rainbows and butterflies, and it is important to mention that I spent quite a bit of time setting these up and trying different crossover, phase, and PEQ settings. Dual subs can be tricky, and they're all sensitive to room placement. Once I had them set up though, these SBE-118s definitely made it worth the effort.
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds (Live At Radio City, Blu-ray)
[Taken from my review for the Onkyo TX-NR737]
I tried stereo and surround modes with this Blu-ray and both sounded excellent. Start it up, turn the lights down a bit and it's easy to just relax and listen all the way through this concert. I got the feeling of being inside the Radio City Music Hall, surrounded by hundreds of other fans. Much less smokey than a typical Dave concert, but I wasn't missing that part of the experience. The vocals and acoustic guitars complimented each other very well. Even though there were only two instruments on stage, a rich sound filled the room. Clarity was excellent and nothing seemed out of balance.
Although a great action movie is always a good choice for a speaker test, I also like to include movies that focus on dialog and other "normal-life" stuff. All vocals were completely lifelike and made it feel like the characters were right there in the room with me. Without giving too much away, I will say that throughout most of the movie, the main characters are communicating with a couple different forms of artificial intelligence which have been given their own voices. In the mega-complex that houses one of them, the AI's voice seems to come from all directions at times, but with an almost tangible presence in the room. The transition from the omnipresent words of the AI and the focused dialog of the main characters was very distinct, adding to the mystery of the relationship between the two. Beyond the dialog, the soundtrack includes a lot of very subtle sound effects and textures to augment the sci-fi imagery on the screen. The Theater Tens presented these environmental details with excellent clarity, but kept them balanced so they did not interfere with the dialog or action.
I would be lying if I said I was not interested in hearing what kind of deep, thunderous bass these SBE-118s were capable of producing. The Oblivion soundtrack gave them plenty of opportunities to prove it. Each time Tech 49's maintenance ship took off or landed, the Chane subs shook the seats and floor, as though a rocket powered space craft were really close enough to be rattling my foundation. And that's with plenty of headroom yet. The movie is full of big, deep bass. Not just booming bass, but bass you can feel. The 18" duo handled it all with ease.
Open Range (DVD)
While it has a great plot, Open Range is maybe most well known for its dynamic recreation of a wild west gunfight. I'm not going to say I skipped right to the end... ok, yes I am. I skipped right to the end for the final action sequence. Charley's first revolver blast just rips through the room. You can feel it as much as you can hear it. It was startlingly realistic. As expected, things escalate quickly. Pistol, rifle, and shotgun fire come from all directions with incredible intensity. What makes it even better is the presence of the echo of the shots, bouncing off the mountains, the chunks of wood and shards of glass being scattered about, boots shuffling through the dust. No detail is lost. The Theater Ten and the SBE-118 really shine here, and the whole system instantly proves its worth and value during a scene like this. A friend happened to be at the house and sat down to watch part of this scene with me. All I could hear from the back row repeatedly was "oh my goodness...oh my GOODNESS this is awesome!". Oh your goodness indeed, it was awesome.
The word "value" is often used as a sort of disclaimer for cheap construction or compromised performance when it comes to home audio electronics. Although I consider the Chane speakers and subs to be a great value, their design and performance are far from cheap or compromised. They have taken advantage of simple aesthetics and internet-direct sales to reduce the cost of these models, and passed that savings on to their customers. They have certainly not skimped on performance though, and I would call this system an excellent deal. Sure, $2400 for the whole package might seem like a lot, but $300 a piece for the Theater Ten? That's what I call a bargain. Advanced DIY-ers might say "I could build my own sealed passive 18" sub for less than $500" and it's possible. Not much of a deal though, in my opinion, when you add labor and other factors to the DIY cost, and the years of R&D that Craig Chase has poured into these monsters.
Conclusions and Recommendations
It is no mystery that Chane has well-informed, budget-conscious home theater enthusiasts like us in mind when developing speakers and subwoofers. They know what matters to us, and that's performance. The Theater Ten offers excellent dynamics, imaging, and clarity, and blends well with conventional home audio speakers in a surround system. The SBE-118 has power and finesse, and is built like a tank. Both offer big sound in a relatively small package at a very competitive price. Considering the price and performance, I can confidently recommend both the Theater Ten and SBE-118. Did I mention Chane Music & Cinema has partnered with Home Theater Shack to GIVE THIS WHOLE SYSTEM AWAY to a lucky member of our forum? Yeah, I'm just a tad jealous BD55.
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