Cambridge Soundworks Ensemble II Floorstanding Speakers

Ensemble II

2 Satalites and 1 Subwoofer

User Reviews (63)

Showing 1-10 of 63  
gongli   AudioPhile [Jun 30, 2010]

I think the reason for a low rating by some reviewers is due to bad system matching, with other gears. If it is setuped with anentry level CD player and a redceiver, it will sound shrill and annoying.

With the right high quality gears, it can sing in a dynamic clear way like an upscale piece !

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Joong-In Rhee   AudioPhile [Jun 30, 2010]

I think the bad reviews were given because it is hard to system match this speaker. With the wrong setup, it can sound annoying, but with the right setup, it can really sound like a much more expensive speakers ! It is a little metallic sounding, so it needs a good CD player to warm it up a bit - one with wide and deep sound - not an entry level one, but an audiophile one.

It also needs good powerful amp to sound good.

I am listening to them with a Parasound CD player, and an old Sansui G3000 receiver, and it sings ! Sounds dynamic and clear - like a much more hi quality speakers... I simply adore it.

When it was matched with a lower power amp with an entry level CD player, it sounded awful - down right annoying. It was sharp and shrill sounding.

With the right setup, this can sound really good ! When it first came out, it was named the best sounding speaker for the money by audiophile magazines. If you got a good CD player, and an amp, you won't be disappointed with this, but if you have just entry level gears, there are other speakers that are more forgiving, and will sound better, like PSB atom for instance.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Yudi   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 24, 2007]
Strength:

Balanced across the music frequency: crisp and airy high, tight low, detailed mid, at a budget cost

Weakness:

None so far. Depth of soundstage isn't evident tough, but that might be due to my too casual placement

Bought these speaker system when I lived in the US while ago, based on my former roommate's recommendation (he was doing his PhD in acoustic at that time, so I thought that was a credible recommendation). To my disappointment, this system didn't live to its hype; the high was ok I guess, the bass was on the weaker side, but the most noticeable was the mid which was very weak, although I still preferred its balance over Bose's. I tried it with various amplification, Kenwood AVR 105, NAD 710, Denon AVR1600, and even the humongous Adcom 5500, didn't pacify the problem. So, for the last 7 years, it was relegated to rear speaker in my HT setup, which I rarely used.

However, the story suddenly changed when a friend of mine built me a (fully) tube integrated amp, rather smallish 2 x 15 wpc. I paired the Ensemble with the amp in a set up which is rather blasphemous to an audiophile: the satellites on the left-right ends of computer desk, about 3 ft apart; in between sit the monitor and cd changer-printer stacked; the sub, CPU and amp side by side under the desk. Far exceeding my every expectation, the sound was fabulous. Gone is the weak mid. The bass is tight, the high is airy; with the volume set at 9 o'clock I still can hear the detail of the music balanced across the frequency spectrum. At 10 o'clock it rocks. Ravel's La Valse sounds glorious and spacious, the explosive sound of its tympani surely isn't for a faint heart; Yoyo Ma's cello in Bach Cello Suites suddenly comes into being, detailed and subtle. I can hear and feel the presence of an old and seasoned person in Doc Cheatham rendition of How deep is the ocean; he recorded it with Nicholas Payton, when he was 93; the noise from the tenor sax's valves of Joe Henderson as he blew in Strayhorn's Lush Life, can be heard clearly.

It might not work for every kind of music though, I listened to Genesis, detailed and crisp, but it's lacking in soul. However, for classical or jazz music, this is a near perfect pairing. I really can appreciate CSW's Ensemble now, this is a superb Kloss' design, if you can find a matching amp to drive it. It is a rather demanding speaker system.

Here's my setup:
Denon DCM460 changer
P-Mini integrated tube amp 15 wpc
CSW Ensemble II
Nordost Cinemaflex interconnect, Nordost Spellbinder amp to satellites, and a double run of Venom to the sub, Soundcare feet for amp and cd changer.

Similar Products Used: Pioneer, Sherwood Newcastle cd changers, Paradigm Atom, Wharfedale Sapphire speakers, Kimber, MIT and Wireworld cabling.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
lloyd502   Audio Enthusiast [May 30, 2003]
Strength:

Big sound but small package (I can place these things almost anywhere), binding posts accept 14 AWG wire

Weakness:

No magnetic shielding, bass needs assistance, cabinets only available in charcoal gray

These speakers sound very good for the money. I paired it with an Onkyo TX-8511 stereo receiver and an old Realistic 12-band EQ and it sounds awesome at at all volumes. The EQ is necessary because the bass output is really weak. The overall sound, however, is pretty well balanced. From Joe Pass to Linkin Park, these speakers present a very satisfying listening experience. The tone controls on my receiver are all flat and the loudness switch (aka Selective Tone Control) is off. The upper 10 bands on my EQ are also flat. I only touched the 36 kHz (+12db) and the 63 kHz (+6db) controls. With these settings, I get a really good full range sound, even at low volumes. At high volumes, my pant legs start to shake but the sound is still very crisp and clear and the bass is especially deep and tight. However, if I bypass the EQ the bass goes away, even if I turn on the loudness and crank up the bass knob to full. Also, keep in mind that these speakers are not magnetically shielded so don't place them near your TV or computer monitor.

Similar Products Used: KEF Q35, Advent Baby II
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
audiorange   Audio Enthusiast [May 27, 2003]
Strength:

Outstanding fit and finish, compact design, electrically simple, tough. Big band jazz, pop, piano trios, and latin music sound very nice, very engaging. This system seems very comfortable at high power levels (at least for me; I'm not trying to crack the drywall). Also, the small size of the satellites makes for a small source of sound, which helps what imaging abilities this system does have (not a great deal).

Weakness:

The upper treble is a bit muddy. Strings sound like they are shoved inside the speakers themselves. Low mid bass suffers from a big dropout - symphonic trombones and don't jump out at me like they should. Not much spaciousness or imaging to speak of.

I had seen these speakers in ads and catalogues for years, and I have some other items from Cambridge Soundworks (model 88cd radio and the soundworks powered sub/sat). The Ensemble II once carried a higher price, so when they went on sale, I grabbed them. The fit and finish are excellent, and the styling, if unexciting, is not trendy or irritating. The gold plated binding posts are nicer than I expected. And of course, the system is very compact. These speakers sound bigger than they look. I bought an Audiosource Amp Two at the same time, and they seem to get along very well. The Ensemble can take a lot of power, and the subwoofer, which some would call "picky," offers lots of adjustment options. I do not use any eq (cd player straight into the amp), and these speakers sound very good. The bass is tight, and it's really there (no mid bass boom pretending to be bass). Unfortunately, not much midbass that's really midbass, either. Not much upper treble, and you don't get the spaciousness of good dome tweeters, but these are an absolute steal.

Similar Products Used: Cheap old Onkyo speakers, wonderful little Harman Kardon bookshelf speakers which are no longer made, Polk RTA 15t's, Carver 1.0t power amp, Audiosource Amp Two, Monster Cable
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Arienrhode   Casual Listener [Nov 20, 2002]
Strength:

-Cheap -Small -Good quality (had them 8 years) -Good overall sound

Weakness:

-Doesn't cover full range well -Music not recorded perfect comes out awful

I bought these on closeout at Best Buy when I was in 8th grade! Now I am in college and looking to finaly upgrade. I have been using these daily for nearly 8 years with my Sony SDR-315 reciever and Sony CPD-C345 changer. Not exactly an impressive setup, but definatly something I have really enjoyed over the years while my friends used those crazy mass consumer stereo setups. I don't know how to accuratly describe the sound of them, I have them mounted on angled brackets at ear leval, the hi frequencies are usually nice and clear, mid bass it adaquate, high bass could be better...but for $250! These speakers don't seem to transition well between the sub/satalite frequencies, but what can you expect from a sub/sattalite setup. Music like Nine Inch Nails, classic rock, anything that doesnt go too crazy with instruments that are not recorded well sounds great. Music like Nirvana that is not recorded clean, and they fall apart.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Ryan   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 19, 2002]
Strength:

Strong and clear sound in small & mid size rooms. Crisper detail than similar systems they are commonly compared to (Bose).

Weakness:

Tinny at times(I compensated for this with my EQ), sound a bit hollow if you''re not in the "sweet spot" of the listening area.

First, let me say the the $500 got me the Ensemble II, Center Channel Plus, and the Dipole surrounds. Hifi.com had a good sale right when I was moving into my new house. These speakers are good performers in their price range. I had larger DCM tower speakers from my college days that I wanted to replace. My house was built with surround sound wiring in place, so a sub-sat system was a natural fit. To keep my wife happy, she wanted the speakers to be fairly small. I simply wanted good sound. Because of the size, she was nearly sold on the Bose system that cost around $1000. I told her I could get these for a lot less and that they''d sound better. We both are happy with how they perform in our setup. Although the living room is actually 17''x28'', the soundstage the way I set things up is 17''x17''. These speakers can crank it up pretty well in that space. Sure, there are better speakers out there as many other reviewers have said. At the time, I really like the Definitive Tech Pro Cinema 100 Series, but they were going to cost me a good bunch more. I also heard some Polks and NHT''s that I liked, but again the cost was prohibitive at the time. Overall, I''m very satisfied with these speakers for what I paid. If the system would''ve cost me over $700, I may have bought something else, but these are a good bang for the buck buy at $500. Oh, and the Bass is not bad, but for movies get a powered sub. I already had and Acoustic Research 12" sub (it was $250) and overall the whole system sounds real nice for movies. I''m gonna give these 5 stars for Value (especially when on sale and compared to Bose), and 4 overall because they do have a couple of areas Cambridge could have improved on over the years.

Similar Products Used: Bose AM10 (actually my uncle''s), they cost him double what I paid and then he ended up adding some 301''s to help round the sound out.
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Robert Lehe   an Audio Enthusiast [Aug 15, 1997]

A couple of days ago I happened into Best Buy to see if they had anything on sale. To my surprize they had one set of Cambridge Soundworks Ensemble IIs for only $199. I eagerly snatched them up, ending 3 years of speaker frustration. Three years ago, after the acquisition of a grand piano made impossible the placement of my former speakers I bought the Bose AM 3 Series III. Space, decor, and wife constraints dictated either satellites or in-wall speakers, and they had to be white. I would like to have gotten CSW Ensembles then but they didnt have white. (The ones I got now were on sale because Best Buy is discontinuing the white ones. My wife loved the smallness and the contemporary look of the Bose, and thought the sound was O.K. I thought the sound was decent at first but over time they really became very grating. They are not without their virtues--they are clear and clean and have good resolution and detail. But the overall tonal balance is way too skewed to emphasize the treble. The common saw "No highs, no lows, it must be Bose" is absolutely wrong. One guy even wrote in a review of the AM 5 that they had no highs lows or mids. They must have been disconnected!! But Bose has way too much treble and the shrillness eventually made listening to them very unpleasant to me. To give some idea of the difference between the Bose and the CSW, when the treble control is turned all the way up the CSW s are still not as bright and shrill as the Bose with the treble down a little and the satellites aimed so that the listener is off-axis. The Ensembles sound much more musical, with the kind of tonal balance I like. They are a little bottom-heavy and the treble is rather subdued, but they are very clean and rich sounding, with no disagreeable qualities. They are just very enjoyable to listen to. They are not particularly detailed, and the imaging is not outstanding, but they have a very solid, firm, authoritative sound that makes you not want to stop listening (as opposed to the Bose, which makes you constantly wander what can be done with the tone controls or the placement to get rid of the irritating, grating, shrillness.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
J. Bradley   an Audio Enthusiast [Aug 14, 1997]

I love my Cambridge Soundworks Ensemble II sub/sat system. It provides flawless bass and clarity at any range of volume and on every style of music. The speakers, coupled with the Harmon/Kardon 3250 receiver that CSW offers in a VERY reasonably priced package (around $650), provide lifelike sound that many other comparably priced speakers (Bose, etc.) do not even come close to matching. I highly recommend these speakers. CSW service and support is excellent, and you can't beat the 7 year warranty!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Yanni Topsis   an Audio Enthusiast [Aug 20, 1997]

Over the last couple of weeks I have bought many speakers, ranging from twodifferent type of Bose speakers, one pair of JBL's, and I have listened to many
more. Today I got the Ensemble II and these are the only speakers I am not
returning because I love the sound quality. Unlike Bose they give warm music
that is full of life, Bose sounds hollow and cold. I used t like Bose untill
I came to listen to CSW speakers. I just love them, and since I also got them
on sale from the internet for $370 I just could not go wrong. Considering
everything I just have no choice but to give them a rating of 5 Stars.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 63  

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