Powerful delivery, precision placement, good value
Ugly, boxy looks
Last year German brand Teufel graced us with the first ever home sound system to come with THX approval. The company which was originally founded by George Lucas is normally to be found applying its cinema-grade audio standards to public venues and high-end monitoring systems and Teufel's interpretation required not just one, but two hefty, boxy subwoofers to achieve the levels required for certification.
The company's latest system is slightly more practical, in that it only comes with a single subwoofer, and the dipole satellites have shed their built-in 5in woofer to make for a system that's altogether more natural fit for the average UK living room. It's also considerably cheaper, shaving more than £400 off the original system's £1,349 asking price.
The system may be more compact, but it's still not a looker. The boxy, blocky cabinets seem like a throwback to a bygone age, when speakers were simply expected to do their job, and little effort was made to help them blend into the home décor.
Which isn't to say they're not efficiently built. The S500 front, centre and rear speakers are exactly the same as the THX-certified system, sporting a pair of 5in flat diaphragm bass/mid drivers surrounding a 1in fabric dome tweeter within its 32x21x16cm cabinet. The unusual looking flat diaphragm drivers are designed to radiate midrange frequencies uniformly across the entire diaphragm, which should avoid the potential for phase shifts which can afflict standard cone designs.
The S50 dipole surrounds feature a 4in bass mid drivers above a 1in fabric dome tweeter. The line-up is reversed on the other side of the speaker so that rear effects are heard in a more diffuse way, and don't appear to come from a single point source. They're designed to be hung on a wall, for which a hook is provided, but if you can't do this, Teufel suggests using another pair of standmounted S500s instead, though that system will set you back an extra £100.
The S5000 subwoofer packs a 12in downward-firing bass driver into its hefty 55-litre cabinet and can pump out 200 watts of power from its onboard Class D amplifier. Controls include a phase switch, volume control with THX recommended level, auto start switch so it will switch itself off automatically if it doesn't receive a signal in 20 minutes, and RCA in/outputs for linking up other subs.
All the speakers include a single pair of offset binding posts and Teufel suggests that this set-up should be ample for rooms up to 35 square metres.
It's not subtle to look at, but that doesn't necessarily mean it can't be subtle to listen to. The System 5 excels in power but it also knows how to control its animal urges and deliver delicacy and detail when called for.
The THX-certified front channels have plenty of power but are also impressively transparent, delivering equally well whether its low-volume whispers and subtle sound effects or pumping fast-paced action soundtrack info directly into your shell-likes.
The dipole surrounds complement the main speakers with a diffuse input that helps to draw you into the action rather than merely showing off their ability, which appeared pacy and transparent throughout. There was no obvious tonal difference between the speakers either, which helps greatly in setting the mood.
The single sub is still more than capable of exerting a hefty degree of oomph but it displays an admirable sense of control too, quick enough to deliver low-end bursts without delay and tight enough to give direction and definition to subterranean rumblings.
For music too it delivers an exceptionally cohesive soundstage, with each of the speakers blending impeccably with one another. If we were focusing on music playback, we might be tempted to upgrade to the S500 surrounds for a little greater definition from the rear channels but it's a small detail and very much a matter of preference. If you're getting these primarily for movie playback (and we suspect most will be), the dipoles with their broadly diffuse soundstage are the better option.
The Teufel System 5 is unlikely to win any beauty contests, but if aesthetics come a poor second to audio performance, it's well worth taking for a test spin. The front and centre channels are adept at delivering the important aspects of a soundtrack, managing to make even low-volume incidental elements sound clear and articulate, while the surrounds do an excellent job of enhancing whatever mood's required with their diffusely spread effects.
The subwoofer meanwhile proved more than capable of reigning in its boom with taught, precise, low-end delivery that provided plenty of power without ever descending to imprecise rumbles.
It's a terrific sounding system at a decent price - so long as you don't have to look at it.