VAF DC-Cinema LCR Loudspeakers Review

Posted on 30th November, 2023

VAF DC-Cinema LCR Loudspeakers Review

Michael Darroch auditions a compact new home theatre speaker from a famous South Australian speaker brand…

VAF

DC-Cinema LCR Loudspeakers

AUD $1,249 LCR, $799 SLIM (each)

South Australia might be widely known for its wine regions, but it’s also an incubator for fine loudspeaker makers. Nestled just outside the heart of Adelaide’s city centre, VAF has been in operation since 1978, providing a range of unique sound solutions. The DC Cinema series is the latest dedicated home theatre product to grow out of the VAF vineyard. Priced at $1,249 for each LCR (front Left, Centre, or Right) unit or $799 for each slim surround version, we spent some time tasting the former to determine whether the company has managed to create a palate pleaser, or pomace. 

In keeping with VAF’s overall approach, the DC Cinema LCR is largely built to order, and accordingly, you have several options to suit your designs. Available as an on-wall or in-wall cabinet design (with the $125 flush-mount grill option), the range will suit a variety of small to mid-size family, media, or dedicated rooms. With black or white finishes, you can easily blend it into the décor or hide it unobtrusively behind a transparent screen. With its fabric grille covering a simple black rectangular cabinet design, VAF hasn’t rewritten any rulebooks on speaker styling. 

Looking behind the cover, you see familiar cues of the DC speaker range – with the tweeter and its unique star-shaped felt surround being a staple of this series. VAF says this treatment is borne from the acoustic choice to recess the 25mm dual-concentric diaphragm tweeter further into the cabinet to time-align the drivers. The felt design helps avoid any resulting sound diffraction and gives a smoother driver response. Either side of the tweeter sits two 130mm fibre cone bass/midrange units, which combine to provide a claimed frequency response of 80Hz to 25kHz, with a recommended input power of 50 to 200W. The DC has a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a quoted sensitivity of 88dB – so you’ll need reasonably muscular amplification in larger spaces. 

VAF has opted to use a sealed cabinet design, which means that although each speaker carries a double-barrel of the same driver powering the DC-2 MkIII, the frequency response at the low end is shorted by 35Hz compared to its stablemate. In practice, this isn’t something VAF is worried about, for several reasons. First, speakers like this are always going to be paired with subwoofers in a media/theatre room environment, redirecting low bass frequencies to it or them. Second, the design allows the benefits of eliminating any port resonance, and third, it allows the speaker to be startlingly small.

While some in-wall designs might require a pre-planned increase in wall-depth, the DC Cinema LCR is only 600mm high, 181mm wide and 100mm deep, allowing it to be placed into a standard plasterboard stud wall (with the optional flush grill bringing it to 275x695x6mm). Weighing 5.15kg per unit, this is hefty enough to reassure you that it has been properly made – without having to worry about structural support.

For this review, my Marantz 8805A and MM7055 surround preamplifier and power amp combination were used. Subjectively, the DC Cinema LCR appears to have a much softer tonal profile than my reference loudspeakers. Firing through the Audyssey MultEQ app, the pre-calibration chart showed a placement-based consistent peak across all three front channels in the 150 to 250Hz range, as well as a roll-off which appears from around 4 to 5kHz, with the imbalance at the upper end between my existing non-VAF surrounds and VAF front stage proving to be a little unsettling. For the review, I removed that variable and ran all demos as a 3.1-channel system. This is a good callout to those looking to mix and match, as you may be best off keeping your stage and surrounds all VAF, or ensure that you select your accompanying surrounds to suit.

THE LISTENING

The DC Cinema LCR is likely to form part of a family or media room, so it’s important that it can hold its own for musical entertainment when called for. This is an area that VAF has a lot of experience with, and this speaker is no exception in its ability to produce a pleasant listening experience. At the same time, though, it is exciting enough to hold your interest with movie soundtracks. 

For example, on the 4K UHD version of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the opening crawl is based on a brass-heavy score, and this can sometimes present as a harsh overture, especially truer in smaller speakers. Despite the compact size, the mid/high roll-off helped the DC Cinema LCR well here, presenting a detailed but restrained rendition of John Williams’ famed instrumental piece, with good definition of the various orchestral sections within the larger musical canvas. 

Moving into the battle on Jakku, I was impressed at this speaker’s ability to handle large action pieces without becoming flustered. As the First Order Storm-Trooper transports encroached into the valley, opening up with volleys of blaster fire and explosions, there was plenty of headroom and detail available to hear every crackle, burst and bang. While the detail was there, the dynamics didn’t quite deliver what I was expecting. This was partially due to the small cabinet and limited low-end response leaving a bit on the table at the bottom, combining with some HF rolloff at the top end. The presentation felt subdued in some small way, as a result.

While some of this comes down to personal preference, where this paid dividends was in dialogue reproduction. Through all the scenes I watched, this loudspeaker proved adept at presenting vocals clearly, whatever else was happening on screen. This was particularly helpful during the UHD of Top Gun Maverick, where much of the dialogue is presented through masks atop a cacophony of jet-engine and environmental noises. Here, the DC Cinema LCR defined every line of dialogue with clarity, making it an easy listen despite the busy nature of the soundtrack. The penultimate attack on the facility was filled with thrilling action as the jets fly through the canyon and later evade missiles, and this speaker was able to play the Hans Zimmer score smoothly alongside the tense exchanges between pilots.

Non-movie music is also cleanly rendered by the DC Cinema LCR. The last ever Beatles release Now and Then has famously aged vocals with a distinctly analogue tone, which the VAF reproduced confidently. There was no sense of fatigue even at high volume levels, although I did feel the chorus lost some definition. Similarly, Eric Clapton’s live rendition of Layla from 1992’s Unplugged had great soundstaging and presence, with the acoustic guitar rhythms simmering just under the surface, and bubbling up for the solo. At the same time, the vocals and piano riffs danced over the top with clarity and definition. 

The ability to place varying dynamics of instruments was important in the Atmos edition of Time from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The opening percussive rotation was given realistic space and resolution, impressive even in 3.1 channel format. The sound wrapped around my listening space convincingly and gave a much larger recorded acoustic than I expected from such a small design. The speaker’s sealed cabinet allowed for pinpoint timing on the drums, without any laziness. Across most source material, I felt the DC Cinema LCR provided a relaxed and enjoyable music reproduction without any strong dynamic response to challenge the listening experience. 

THE VERDICT

VAF’s DC Cinema range is a ‘many thrills and no-frills’ option for a lounge, media or small dedicated theatre. What it lacks in outright dynamics, it makes up for as a cost-effective, versatile, and tantalising taste of the company’s hi-fi credentials. It can be easily integrated as an in-wall solution to an existing room, and offers predictable, confident and comfortable listening across a range of genres. VAF has integrated some novel approaches into a tight design profile, which helps solidify the DC Cinema LCR as a value-conscious option among its peers.

For more information visit VAF

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    Michael Darroch's avatar

    Michael Darroch

    With a 20 year passion for home cinema ensuring he will never be able to afford retirement, Michael’s days involve endless dad-jokes and enjoying the short time before his son is old enough to demand the home theatre becomes a temple to Frozen II.

    Posted in:Home Theatre Loudspeakers Dedicated Cinema
    Tags: vaf 



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