- Review Price: £569.00
Teufel’s latest home cinema speaker system is a less lavish affair than some of its other offerings – the System 8 springs to mind – but it’s a good bet that the German ‘direct sell’ manufacturer has still made sound quality a top priority even at this lower price point. Theater 100 is the successor to the Theater 1, which according to Teufel is one of the most beloved systems in the company’s history – that’s hell of a lot to live up to…
In order to take the Theater 1’s performance to the next level, Teufel has packed the 100 with ‘technical extras’ found in its higher-end systems without having a major impact on the price. That makes it the ideal system for people looking for the maximum bang for minimal buck.
The Theater 100 is a 5.1-channel system that uses bookshelf style speakers (T 100 F) for the front channels, each measuring 16(w) x 26(h) x 18(d) cm; a centre speaker (T 100 C) that boasts a significant new tweeter arrangement; a pair of dipoles similar to the ones used by System 8; and a burly-looking 250W subwoofer called the T1000 SW.
The word we’d mostly use to describe the speakers’ design is ‘traditional’ – the black wood-effect film finish found on all of the speakers is conservative but easy on the eye. It may not jump out at you with avant-garde cool like some high-end systems do, but we imagine it settling in nicely with the decor of most homes, although it only comes in a black finish.
Also pleasing is the build quality, which like most Teufel systems is magnificent across the board. Just picking up one of the front speakers is evidence enough – the enclosures are heavy and rigidly constructed, while on the back of each is a pair of sturdy gold-plated binding posts. The front, rear and centre speakers all come with removable grilles – when taken off they reveal a gorgeous gloss-black finish on the front and a silver trim around the cones, which really don’t deserve to be covered up.
Inside the newly-designed two-way T 100 F fronts is a 25mm cloth dome tweeter that tackles frequencies of 3.5kHz upwards, accompanied by a 130mm coated cellulose mid/low woofer that dips down to a frequency of 90Hz, giving you a decent dynamic range if you want to use them as hi-fi speakers. Like the centre speaker, these fronts only come with this system and are not sold separately.
In order to achieve the same driver arrangement as the front speakers – and therefore a more homogenous sound – the centre speaker has its 25mm textile dome tweeter placed on top and set back a few millimetres from the edge, attached to a fetching silver arch. Some might find this external tweeter placement a little gawky but we actually think it makes the T 100 C look rather cool.
Moving onto the rear speakers, Teufel has once again opted for dipoles, which tend to deliver a more enveloping soundstage than monopoles due to their ability to fire sound in two different directions. To do so each speaker is equipped with two 25mm tweeters and two 130mm mid/low drivers, the same ones used in the fronts and centre.
If you mount them on the wall (using the supplied brackets) they’ll spread effects along it, offering a diffuse cinema-like ambience that doesn’t allow you to pin-point exactly where the effects are coming from. This won’t appeal to everyone of course, so if that’s the case you can flick a switch on the back and use them as monopoles, effectively turning them back into a pair of T 100 Fs. This sort of flexibility is terrific from such a relatively affordable system.
Underpinning it all is the T 1000 SW subwoofer, a bass reflex design equipped with a 250W (RMS) Class D amplifier driving a 250mm woofer. This is no shrinking violet – it’s a chunky, imposing box that might require a reshuffle to accommodate, but thankfully the high gloss black finish and eye-catching plinth makes it attractive enough to have out on show.
On the back you’ll find a bevy of buttons and knobs that let you tweak performance to perfection. A pair of audio input jacks let you feed signals from your AV receiver’s pre-out, while a pair of outputs let you daisy chain other subs if this one doesn’t hit the spot on its own. Three dials allow you to control volume, phase and frequency crossover, but the phase and crossover controls can be bypassed by flicking the adjacent switch to ‘Full Range’, which is handy if you’d rather these were governed by your AV receiver.
Onto performance and the Theater 100 is clearly punching above its price class. Working in unison, the six speakers conjure up a deep and dynamic sound, hitting crisp high-frequencies and eking out a mesmerising tapestry of detail from any movie you throw at them. Once again we returned to old favourite ”The Dark Knight” on Blu-ray, a vigorous work-out for any speaker system, and the Teufel reproduces its Dolby TrueHD track with relish (amplification and processing comes courtesy of the Onkyo TX-SR807).
Starting with the big action sequences, the Teufel is hugely powerful but in a way that seems effortless. Watching the opening scene is a pulse-racing experience thanks to the way the gunshots crack around the room with visceral ferocity, and the force with which it conveys effects like the bus crashing though the bank wall. The inherent sensitivity of the speakers easily draws out detail and background ambience too, which injects an extra sense of drama and tension into the scene that lesser speakers systems can miss out.
The later vehicle chase through the Gotham streets is another terrific showcase for the Teufel’s talents. It displays power, finesse, expansiveness and cohesion between the speakers. We love the way the rear channels deliver a clean, full range sound with deep bass extension that makes the entire soundstage feel solid and absorbing, plus the dipole arrangement really does improve the sense of all-round immersion.
Other pluses include the centre speaker’s rich and authoritative dialogue handling – again fusing seamlessly with the front speakers – and the incredibly deep and agile bass tones mustered by the powerhouse subwoofer. And when the slam-bang action takes a back seat, the system laps up the subtle stuff, digging out delicate detail all over the soundstage. We’re not saying the Theater 100 is up to the same standards as some of the company’s more expensive efforts, but it’s far better than you have any right to expect for just over five hundred quid.
The Theater 100 can also add superb musicality to its performance portfolio. We listened to CDs like Miles Davis’ ”Kind Of Blue” and Paul Simon’s ”Graceland” and these classic albums both sounded better than ever thanks to the warmth and wide dynamic range provided by this superb system. It even sounds great in stereo mode with the subwoofer off.
If we’d have listened to the Theater 100 without knowing how much it cost, we’d have put its price tag at well over a grand based on its powerful, detailed and immersive sound. Thankfully you don’t have to spend anywhere near that much to experience this wonderful performance, which surely makes it one of Teufel’s best-value offerings to date.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.