American company Cerwin-Vega have been around since the inception of the whole hifi-in-the-home shebang. They produced the very first solid state amplifier in 1957 and they were instrumental in developing Sensurround in the 1970s. That deep rumbling sound that engulfed many a Charlton Heston scene in Earthquake? You have Cerwin-Vega’s subwoofer dev team to thank.With an impeccable R&D pedigree that’s better revered in their home country, Cerwin-Vega have continued to make inroads in the home and pro hifi markets where they direct-sell an extensive range of loudspeakers and subwoofers to customers across the USA. The line-up currently consists of no less than six different loudspeaker ranges. And that’s just under the home audio umbrella.
The CMX range was launched in late 2009. CMX? Cinema/Music eXperience. Home theatre applications are on the menu. It might be the largest of the two standmounts in the range, but the CMX-6 (AU$689) has nine siblings. Nine! The smaller CMX-5 standmount sits below, the floorstanding CMX-26 above.
So what do we get from this larger-than-average two-way? The horn-loaded tweeter is obvious; and redolent of fellow Americans, Klipsch. The mid/bass driver runs six inches across. A single pair of binding posts graces the rear of the speaker. Bi-wiring is overrated anyway, right? The CMX-6 feels light in hand and build quality is good, if a little pedestrian. No fancy frills here. It’s available in any colour you like as long as it’s black.
Hooking it up to a REDGUM Sonofa’GUM 5500 I witnessed a straight-spoken account of Ladytron’s Velocifero. Nothing too brash or too harsh and a loudspeaker that could display shades of delicacy or finger-snap speed when called up to do so. I was in the company of a sound that was confident and self-assured. The top end displayed a frosty edge that melted somewhat as the run-in period progressed, ultimately providing superb resolution of recording “room ambience”.
There’s no getting around it though – the CMX 6 has a plump rear end. Nothing obese, but there’s a rotundness that will please those looking for a standmount with plenty of low frequency action. Running through Robag Wruhme’s new Kompakt mix CD, I noted the insistence of the German’s electro-pop leanings to be nimble and flexible, bass never heavy or over-laden with baggage. My listening notes read “bouncy”. Then later “determined, muscular bounce”. Think Diego Maradonna in his glory years.
Soundstaging on more guitar oriented material was good; detail retrieval being better than average at the price point. Wire’s Read & Burn 03threw a wide sonic net but a hint of synthetic sheen with the REDGUM integrated was evidenced. They’re not as ponderous as the Usher S-520 and instrument placement didn’t reach as far back toward the rear wall. No biggie. On a few occasions during my listening sessions, the restrained punch of the CMX-6 reminded me of the Rega RS-1, but I doubt the Cerwin Vega would play as nicely in small rooms. The Americans aren’t as organic as the Brits either.
Before I switched amplifiers I discovered a hidden secret within: these noise makers can go LOUD. Playing Death To The Pixies at neighbour troubling volumes, dynamics didn’t seem to suffer. The CMX-6 retained the evenness across the frequency range that I’d heard at lower volumes. Treble didn’t overcook itself and bass didn’t blow out. A party speaker for pop lovers then. And doof fiends. Party speakers that don’t sound like shit as soon as you put the pedal to the metal.
Maybe it’s the 89db sensitivity or maybe it’s the horn-loaded tweeter – there’s greater breathing room with amplifier choices. I hooked in Eric McChanson’s DIY SET (which is more glass than iron) and had quite the time digging more restrained material: Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Shades of synthesis keep them distanced from true audiophile speakers (as does the price). I peg them as winners for students, for young’uns that like to turn the volume up to 11. Bang them in the garage or the rumpus room and let ’em crank it. Even with a single-ended integrated. Clearly, the CMX-6 possess some unusual talents in the budget standmount market. Talents that give lie to their humdrum appearance – a perfectly enjoyable loudspeaker that serves up an occasionally refined listen, particularly with valves.
Those looking for a more traditional audiophile sound – a richer, thicker, more organic one – will probably opt for something like the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1. Those looking for more slam and weight from the low-end might spend their cash on the Usher S-520. If you’re trying to do string-driven music on a budget, both of the aforementioned loudspeakers will probably be tonally more satisfying.
However, the CMX 6 wins out in terms of detail retrieval, in playing LOUD without chucking a hissy fit (or flattening out) and – most critically – can be served by low-powered tube amplifiers; even with eight measly watts per side. Tubes are recommended as the most effective way to dodge the metallic edge that could be more apparent with cheaper solid state integrateds; the CMX 6 represent an easy (read: cheap) entry into a life of single-ended-ness WITH two-way standmounts.
In student digs they could team well with the Miniwatt N3 or even the softer tones of some cheap-as-chips tripath action. Moreover, they are a more-than-acceptable loudspeaker choice that exists beyond the familiar Brit-dominated budget market: cost effective, well balanced AND affable. The CMX-6 are for those looking for the halfway house between excitement and refinement. Not necessarily the main-stage headliner then but still enough of interest to the niche audience found in a just-as-valid side show.
Want a standmount that’s big on fun, easily driven and can play stupid loud? That’ll be the Cerwin Vega CMX-6.
- Logitech Squeezebox
- Peachtree Audio iDecco
- REDGUM Sonofa’GUM 5500
- Eric McChanson DIY SET
- Virtue Sensation M901
- Robag Wruhme – Wuppdeckmischmampflow (2011)
- Ladytron – Velocifero (2008)
- Wire – Read & Burn 03 (2007)
- Pixies – Death To The Pixies (1997)
- Leonard Cohen – Death Of A Ladies Man (1977)