Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 loudspeaker

You can bet Infinity plans on selling a respectable number of $8000/pair Prelude MTS speakers (reviewed in the May 2000 Stereophile) over this ambitious, full-range design's anticipated lifespan. But will the company make enough money to recoup the megabucks spent on researching, designing, and developing the all-new CMMD (Ceramic Metal Matrix Diaphragm) drivers, BASH (Bridge Amplifier Switching Hybrid) powered subwoofer, and RABOS (Room Adaptive Bass Optimization System) bass-equalization system? NOWAY (Never Over-Estimate What Acronyms Yield).

Part of Infinity's grand development strategy clearly included trickling down the innovations in the Prelude MTS into simpler, more affordable products designed to sell in far greater numbers. But for that strategy to succeed, the flagship product has to float—pieces of sinking vessel usually don't attract customers.

Fortunately for Infinity, the Prelude MTS has garnered nearly universal praise from reviewers and consumers, encouraging the development of new CMMD/BASH/RABOS-equipped speakers like the Intermezzo 2.6—a small, stylish, two-way bookshelf model selling for $2000/pair. But is the Intermezzo 2.6 a worthwhile chip off the old block or just a marketing divot?

No Chipboard was Injured in the Making of This Product
There's not a natural fiber in the Intermezzo 2.6—no wood, chipboard, or paper that I could find. Instead, the powered 6½" woofer (powered by a 250W BASH amplifier) and 1" tweeter with integral waveguide are housed in a curvaceous, asymmetrical enclosure of cast aluminum, finished in a textured powder coat. The stylish shape avoids parallel surfaces, which should help reduce or eliminate internal resonances. The CMMD drivers feature ultra-lightweight, ultra-stiff aluminum diaphragms anodized with a ceramic material on both sides. Their measured results include fast transient response, low overall distortion, and fundamental resonances well out of the operating bandwidth.

An optional stand includes a threaded mounting plate that allows you to securely attach speaker to plate and plate to stand. Most stands place the pillar at the back of the floor plate. The Intermezzo's snazzy design puts the pillar on the outside, with the speaker hanging over toward the center of the soundstage. The mirror-imaged cabinets look striking: the curvier sides of the front baffles face each other, and the straighter edges—accented with snap-on decorative trim of black or optional plastic "wood"—face the side walls. Grille covers are available in a variety of colors.

When the 2.6es are viewed from the front, it's not apparent which is the left speaker, which the right. Nor are the instructions clear about this. In fact, the cover photo has the proper orientation reversed, but because of the unusual design, it looks correct, which is probably why the photographer placed them that way. A top view in a placement diagram offers a correct silhouetted outline, but given the reverse cue on the front, I wasn't sure. Casting numbers on the enclosures were definitive: one ended with an L, one with an R. The instructions should be rewritten.

I set up the Intermezzo 2.6es where all speakers have worked well in my room, including the Prelude MTSes: about 3' from the back wall, 30" from the side walls, 9' apart, and 8' from my listening position. Like the Preludes, the Intermezzos sounded best firing straight ahead—aiming the tweeters at the listening position was too "in your face." Each powered speaker must be plugged into a wall socket and switched on. When fed a signal, the amp wakes up and the backlit bass-level potentiometer on the front baffle goes from red to green.

The RABOS is a single variable-frequency parametric equalizer that allows the user to determine and attenuate the characteristic "room bump" that most spaces exhibit somewhere between 20 and 80Hz. These bumps usually create an overabundance of midbass; this can sometimes be reduced with proper speaker placement, but it often conflicts with effective imaging and soundstaging. RABOS makes it possible for the end user to place the speakers where they image and soundstage best, without worrying about low-frequency bloat due to a room resonance.

Infinity supplies a test CD, a battery-sucking SPL meter (have 9V spares on hand!), and an ingenious gauge of clear plastic that can be adjusted to mimic the width and height of the "bump," determined by connecting dots on a graph you create using the CD and SPL meter. Once you've determined the width, amplitude, and center frequency of the bump (or bumps, which the excellent instructions offer options for dealing with), you refer it to a chart that tells you how many clicks to turn the three adjustment pots on the front of each speaker. You then rerun the test; hopefully, the resultant curve will indicate that the peak has been significantly reduced. You then set the woofer level to the recommended position or to wherever your ears prefer.

The results of the RABOS test were similar but not identical to the curves obtained with the side-firing Preludes sub, which probably loaded the room differently (and, of course, extended down to 20Hz): a 6dB peak at 85Hz and a 4dB peak at 56Hz. After the RABOS optimization, the larger peak was reduced by 2-3dB, resulting in a frequency response of 30-100Hz, +4/-1dB. When I dialed in the Audio Physic Rhea subwoofer, the response extended to 20Hz and was essentially flat from 20 to 43Hz, with no effect above that. The Rhea was left off for all critical listening, however.

250 Crossways Park Drive
Woodbury, NY 11797
(800) 553-3332