Product: Infinity Ref 1 mkII bookshelf loudspeakers
Manufacturer: Infinity - USA
Approx. price: 200 Euro (pair)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu
No need to waste time and Kb to explain the role a Company like Infinity has played and still plays in the world of HiFi loudspeakers. It suffices to say that the US-based Company is certainly one of the largest in the Planet and that it has been making HiFi loudspeakers for 25 years already.
As many other HiFi Companies, Infinity has a line of products specifically designed and built in Europe to satisfy the European standards and the Ref 1 mkII is one of those. The baby Infinity is one of the more affordable speakers into the catalogue: a standard 2-way rear-firing bass reflex enclosure, equipped with a 13 cm (5") graphite-coated woofer and a diminutive gold (???)-plated tweeter. No biwiring is allowed - obviously - considering the price target of the speaker.
The cabinet is available both in black and simil-oak vinyl finish and it makes use of "rounded" edges to minimize diffractions.
Claimed tech specs are:
This model seems not to be available in the American market and a plate in the rear of the cabinet tells us the whole story: Made in Denmark, exactly like many other US speakers, some JBL models, for example, like the Ti 600i we've recently reviewed here on TNT-Audio.
The Ref 1 mkII have been extensively tested in different operating conditions, both as main speakers of a budget system, as main speakers into an expensive set-up and finally as rear speakers into a good Home Theater system.
These are really inexpensive speakers so you should be aware of what you can expect from them. Please keep this in mind when reading the listening test.
Normally, this kind of speaker is sold in large commercial centers, put somewhere among dozens of others, eventually along a large wall covered with speakers. Single speaker demonstrations are rare for speakers this cheap.
Considering this "habitat" and the common man's real tastes in terms of "sound", if you really want to sell your speakers you need to make them emotionally appealing: a bright and "shiny" mid-high range and a boomy bass is what people search for.
And yes, Infinity makes no exception to this golden rule: this speaker does sound bright in the highs and has a prominent 100 Hz bass range. But don't forget Infinity has a good reputation among audiophiles also, so their baby speaker does still sound correct, it is not the "booz-tizz" kind of sound one could expect.
It is rather "in yer face" but definitely not so disturbing. And so is the bass: a bit "overloaded" in the 100 Hz area but still clean and pretty fast. There's not much below 100 Hz (the - 3 dB point is @ 65 Hz) but it still can produce a good punch and impact in the bass.
With respect to the mid range, I'd say it is the upper portion of it that dominates: voices (male and especially female ones) are clearly above the rest and again "in yer face", with subtle traces of harshness, which have to be considered normal into this price range.
The main problem occours when one tries to examine the frequency response above 3500 Hz, the frequency where the tweeter crosses the mid-woofer. The tweeter is indeed very cheap and its main fault is the almost total absence of harmonics. For example, cymbals all sound the same, it is hard to distinguish one from the other. It is not something you can cure by lowering the emission level of the tweeter, it is rather the "one-note only" behaviour of the driver.
It is clear to me that the quality of the tweeter is much lower than that of the woofer. BUT!!! considering how powerful is our brain when it works as graphic equalizer and DSP :-), after a couple of weeks the Infinity Ref 1 mkII were playing into my "budget" system, I was even starting to tolerate the one-key tweeter.
Yes, it is bright, open, not exactly what one could call "transparent and refined" but still enjoyable into an entry-level pop-rock oriented HiFi system.
This could be the right speaker for your son's system :-)
Nothing to share with "velvet" and "euphony", these speakers are solid, bright and punchy instead.
The Infinity Ref 1 mkII's claim to have a 89 dB/w/m sensivity, pretty high considering their diminutive size. I must admit that the claimed data seem very realistic: these babies sound loud even with few watts (20-30 watts are enough for a medium room) and their easy load (6 ohm) seems to be strongly welcomed by any amplifier, even the wimpiest one.
Pumping up the volume the babies begin to sing loud and, till they reach their physical limit (in terms of power handling), they never become harsh or aggressive, not bad, considering they will be played loud most of the times :-)
The woofer succeeds to keep a fast and svelto pace with good punch and responsiveness. If you are used to loud listening levels (as yours truly is, ahem) the Ref 1 mkII will suit your needs, handling even pretty high amounts of power without much effort.
So these speakers are lively both with respect to "tonal balance" and to dynamics.
The "in yer face" attitude certainly doesn't help much here. The 3D image is mostly in front of the speakers (and rather inside 'em) instead of being behind them.
Turning up the volume doesn't help much either, as the sound remains close to the cabinets of the speakers.
You can do better with outrageously large amounts of toe in, 45 degress and even more could help here. Now, don't get me wrong, please consider the usual customer simply ignores what a 3D stereophonic image is. He will put the "boxes" somewhere inside the living room bookshelf and that's it. Why should a company waste its time to give decent imaging to a pair of 200$ speakers, after all? :-)
Let me remark just few things: 1) the rear firing reflex port doesn't help when installing the speakers close to a rear wall where they will be installed most of the times. 2) The suspension of the woofer is made out of foam, the kind of stuff that evaporates after 15 years or so. OK, who's going to keep a pair of 200$ speakers for 15 years? Next year a new, improved and probably cheaper model will be available...so....you get the picture.
The binding posts welcome almost every kind of connection, are fairly spaced and easy to use. The absence of double binding posts for biwiring is not a reason for complaining here.
Sonically, if you listen mostly to pop and rock you will find these babies pretty convincing. They can still play decent symphonic classical Music but don't ask for miracles and please have in mind how much they cost.
I'm still convinced a slightly better tweeter could make wonders to the overall sound quality of the Infinity Ref 1 mkII.
Positioning: keep 'em not too close to the rear wall, the rear firing reflex port could cause more than one trouble. Keep 'em at 40-50 cms of distance, at least. If you can, avoid the REAL bookshelf positioning and choose cheap speaker stands instead.
Also, you may want to put soft rubber feet between the speaker and the stand (or the bookshelf) so to minimize vibrations and to smoothe the high range a bit.
Try a good amount of toe in for better imaging and less aggressive treble.
Match them with a decent amplifier, trying to avoid bright sounding ones (a hard task in budget class) and hook 'em up with a decent speakers cable. There's no need to spend much, for example our zero-cost DIY TNT Star seems an excellent partner, especially considering its sound in the mid-high range.
If you can find them during a "special offer" campaign (like I've seen here in Italy, sometimes) for 130-150 $ or less, give 'em a try, if you know what to expect from entry-level loudspeakers. For example, if you need a second HiFi system for your family (c'mon, we all know our main system is "off-limits" for our relatives :-)), a pair of speakers for your rock-addict son (or daughter) or, finally, a set of surround boxes for your Home Cinema rig, these are the speakers for you.
At 200 $ (more or less the MSRP here in Italy) they appear a bit "overpriced", especially here considering how many good Italian competitors they have.
© Copyright 2000 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com