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Hands on: Definitive Technology BP9000

No room for a sub? Def Tech's BP9000 series blow up your living room without one

With cutting accuracy and barreling bass without a sub, even the smallest member of the BP9000 line impresses.

“I didn’t have time to write a short story, so I wrote a long one.”

That’s Mark Twain, as quoted by Definitive Technology President, Kevin Duffy. It’s another gem from the famed novelist, used by Duffy to illustrate the biggest motivator for his company, DEI Holdings, when it purchased Definitive Technology a few years back. Founded in 1990 by Sandy Gross, Definitive Technology’s signature silver and black industrial design has long been a hallmark of its overriding philosophy: Simplicity and elegance through innovative engineering. It’s how Definitive Technology does design, and it’s fittingly central to how the company thinks about the newest addition to its Bipolar speaker series, the BP9000.

Having folded everything from built-in powered subwoofers to drop-and-play Dolby Atmos/DTS:X height speakers into its new line, Definitive Technology is excited about the BP9000. So much so that the company flew journalists/reviewers to see (and hear) them ahead of their official debut.

The BP9000

The 9000 series isn’t a wholly new enterprise, but a fourth-gen spawn of Definitive Technology’s original Bipolar speakers, the BP10. Created in 1991, the BP10 were the company’s first to emit sound from both the front and back in an effort to create a bigger, more immersive sound. A lot has changed since then, of course, and these advanced new speakers are positioned as both an homage to 25 years of Bipolar pedigree, and a ground-up redesign of the previous series, the BP8000.

Drop-and-play height speakers allow you to build out your system piece by piece.

The towers are cut into four minimalist sizes and flavors, accompanied by center-channels, surrounds, and height speakers. The BP9000 flagship is the BP9080X ($1749 each), a mammoth tower with two-way height speakers built right into the top. Along with the Dolby Atmos-ready topside, each 9080X comes with an integrated 12-inch subwoofer and dual bass radiators for even richer low-end sound, three 5.25-inch midrange drivers, and dual 1-inch aluminum dome tweeters.

But it’s the other three towers in the series — including the BP9020 ($649 each), the BP9040 ($899 each), and the BP9060 ($1,099 each) — that sport the most intriguing new design trait of the BP9000 line: the drop-and-play height speaker system. The design allows users to easily build their setup as they go, adding the $500 two-way A90 height speakers by simply dropping them into the aluminum cradles atop the towers. The height speakers still require a separate wired signal from an Dolby Atmos/DTS:X ready amp, with terminals located at the bottom of the towers, but the sleek port design fits right in with Definitive Technology’s minimalist philosophy. When not in use, the height ports are covered with magnetically-sealed plates of aluminum.

Definitive Technology BP9000

Pre-production sample

That elegant look is carried throughout the design of the new speakers, including affixed grill wraps that obscure the drivers tucked into the cabinets, aluminum platforms at the bottom with available pads or carpet spikes, and an illuminated “D” (which can be dimmed) that lets you know the speakers are ready for action. Like the BP9080X, each of the speakers also sport integrated subwoofers, including 8-inch subs for the 9020 and 9040, and a 10-incher for the 9060. 3.5-inch midrange drivers are employed in the BP9020, while 4.5-inch drivers line the BP9040 and BP9060, with all of the speakers featuring the same 1-inch aluminum tweeters.

Related: Dolby Atmos will rain down sound from above in home theaters

Along with their new look and design, the towers come with other innovations, including fully-redesigned drivers, as well as technologies like Intelligence Bass Control, a DSP system designed to allow bass to be raised or lowered without affecting the other frequencies inside the cabinet. Like the BP8000, the new towers also employ Definitive Technology’s patented “forward-focused” Bipolar driver array, designed to keep the center image accurate for both music and movies by pushing most of the sound to the front, while still offering room-filling sound thanks to the drivers on the back.

Centers

In addition, the BP9000 line also includes three new center channels, including the CS9040 (with bass radiators on board), the CS9060 (with an 8-inch powered sub on board), and the CS9080 (with both built in). The CS9040 and CS9060 both sport dual 4.5-inch midrange drivers, while the big dog brings in 5.5-inch drivers, and all three offer the 1-inch aluminum tweeters. The powered speakers also include Definitive Technology’s Intelligent Bass Control to keep the low end from distorting the midrange and treble, while bellowing bass allows for more natural sounding dialog from low voices and centered effects.

Surrounds

Finally, the line offers two surround options, including the SR9040 ($249 each), and the SR9060 ($349 each). As you may have guessed, the 1-inch matched aluminum tweeters supply the high notes, alongside dual midrange drivers to beef up the lower end, including the 3.5-inch size for the SR9040, and 4.5-inchers for the SR9060.

The speakers in action

For our short demonstration, we were surrounded by the series’ entry towers, the BP9020s, but trust us when we say that was more than enough to blow the doors off the small listening room nestled inside Definitive Technology’s headquarters. Sure, most listeners won’t have four towers encircling them like a squad of Sherman tanks, but even with just two of the towers in stereo, Definitive’s smallest member of the BP9000 line-up revealed power and precision.

Our first listening example included the front two towers isolated for stereo listening, with Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. Bipolar aside, the towers revealed Paul’s vocals with excellent accuracy, carving out a clear and precise center image, and drip-dropping nuanced details in the dialog. Bass from the 8-inch subs was big, bulbous, and punchy — balanced with just a bit too much mid bass for our taste, but without becoming sluggish or heavy.

Next, our sonic guides showed off the BP9000’s Intelligent Bass feature on Chris Isaac’s Wanna Fall in Love Again. As the song rippled in like a slow tide, Definitive Technology’s engineer cranked up the bass, while instructing us to focus on vocal clarity. Sure enough, while the powered subs within each tower worked overtime to boost the dry bass strings, Isaac’s vocal remained utterly clean and clear, seeming to hum as it rode above the heavy swells beneath.

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But, of course, with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height speakers bouncing sound off the ceiling, along with Bipolar sound bouncing off the back wall, the BP9000 line is equipped to deliver a powerful level of dimensional surround sound. The system completely engulfed us in the harrowing firefight from the WWII-era film, Unbroken. As the bomber in the film approached its target, the towers belted out bursting mortar rounds that rattled the room with warm pulses, punching gutturally with each hit. The metallic clicks of guns loading and bullets striking steel were cut with icy precision, while dog-fighters barrelled overhead in a visceral globe of sound.

The opening to Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t quite as striking, though it really shouldn’t be given the nature of the sequence. Still the whispers from inside Max’s head cut through hauntingly behind and above us, and the following crash sounded real enough to get a whiff of gasoline. And the Dolby Atmos demo scene of a falling leaf that reviewers have seen all too often was delivered with excellent precision and dimensional realism as the wind swirled through the room.

We’ll have to wait for a full evaluation to give our conclusive decision, but suffice it to say that even the smallest member of the BP9000 lineup impresses — especially at just over $1,300 a pair, offering cutting accuracy, and barreling bass without the need for an added sub.

Definitive Technology’s new line begins hitting stores this month, with the flagship models out in July. You can see the full list of pricing and release dates below.

Pricing & Availability:

    • BP9080X – $1,749/each (summer)
    • BP9060 – $1,099/each (available this month)
    • BP9040 – $899/each (available this month)
    • BP9020 – $649/each (available this month)
    • A90 Module – $499/pair (available this month)
    • CS9080 – $999/each (summer)
    • CS9060 – $699/each (now available)
    • CS9040 – $499/each (now available)
    • SR9080 – $349/each (summer)
    • SR9040 – $249/each (now available)

Highs

  • Rich, powerful Dolby Atmos/DTS:X surround sound
  • Massive, accurate sound stage
  • Barreling bass without the need for an added subwoofer
  • Clever drop-and-play height speaker add-ons
  • Intelligence Bass DSP keeps control and clarity in check

Lows

  • Speaker grilles not removable
  • Treble tended toward iciness