|Acoustic Research HC6 Home Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2002|
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Movies and Music
I love to use "Saving Private Ryan" (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) on theater systems because of its no-holds-barred assault on all frequencies. It is truly an equal opportunity sonic offender. It will push any speaker system to its limit, and it gives the reviewer a very good tool to gauge how well all of the speakers in a theater package work together, whether it be their dynamics, transients, detail, clarity, level matching, and low level authority, to name a few qualities.
In the opening scene, where the soldiers are storming Normandy Beach, the subwoofer is put to the test, reproducing the wallops and thumps of explosions with surprising dexterity, not the deepest to be heard, but visceral and satisfying. Some of the blasts did overwhelm the subwoofer once or twice, but this was at some pretty high volumes. The sound of bullets traveling underwater, moving from speaker to speaker, was also seamless and fairly balanced, one channel never appearing to overshadow the other. I did hear a slight disparity in loudness between the center channel and the main channels, the center being a little more forward, but not overly so. I also noticed a small yet detectable gap between the subwoofer and satellite that could have been attributed to my large room. When I changed the crossover to see if I could remedy the issue, the midrange seemed plodding and muddied, which actually made the issue more noticeable. On the B&K 307, I changed the speaker settings from small to large to see if that was the cause. After fiddling with the subwoofer crossover some more, I was able to minimize the gap, but could not eliminate it entirely.
The Energy Take 5.2’s did a better job at sorting out more of the detail at higher volumes than I had heard with the HC6 system. Bullets clanging off of metal had a little less presence than the Take 5.2’s, although they both play well at moderate volumes. In Acoustic Research’s defense, it is tough to match a small driver to a larger one. Blending a subwoofer with satellites is a big challenge for any setup, due to differences in driver sizes in the sub/satellite combo, the complexities in your room and the interaction of the components with said room. I feel that some of what I was experiencing had to do with room interaction.
The space battle towards the end of "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace" (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), the HC6 gives the listener the experience of being in the middle of the battle with star fighters flying around you. If you just sit back, the HC6 does make it fun to watch and listen to high quality sources
DVD music is something that is attracting more and more people. To have a concert recorded in 5.1 high resolution playing in your living room is one of the coolest things about the format. I popped in Dave Matthews Listener Supported (RCA Records) to check out what the HC6 did for music. The HC6 do have a little trouble sorting out some of the more complex musical scores on "Rapunzel." The snappy, complex beat is engaging, and the tonal balance is lean yet enjoyable, but lacks the musicality that I got from the Energy Take 5.2’s. The 5.2’s do a better job of presenting me with more of the detail at higher volumes and a little better midrange bloom than I hear with the HC6 system.
Next up was Sting's Brand New Day (DTS Entertainment). On the track "A Thousand Years," all of the channels come into play on this mellow atmospheric piece. The HC6 system does a credible job of filling my living room with this moody melody. Although lacking a tiny bit of the full-bodied presence I’ve heard with the 5.2’s, it still makes for an enjoyable experience. The mid and higher frequencies aren’t quite as resolute, although the lean presentation is very similar to the Take 5.2’s in this regard, which is definitely attributable to the smaller drivers in both products. Dynamics are surprisingly good for a small driver, highlighting the crack of a drumstick on the edge of the drum kit and the subtle cymbal taps on "A Brand New Day" as a strong point with the HC6.
Despite the HC6 package's ability to present an enjoyable movie and music experience, the small size does have its limitations. Transients and detail are not quite as good as I’ve heard on comparable systems, like the aforementioned Energy Take 5.2’s. Just because they sound "big" does not mean they will fill a big room. They need the midrange and bass support a smaller room will give them to balance the lean presentation. The lack of a provision for stand or wall mounting is also a glaring omission.
When you keep in mind what the HC6 system was designed for, it’s hard to be too critical of their performance. But when I compare them to the similarly-priced Energy Take 5.2’s, I am compelled to take a negative stance. The HC6 dynamics and subwoofer blending are very good for this level, but lack some of the resolution and detail offered by the Take 5.2 system. With the large number of micro-sized theater packages available, one should be cautious when investing their money on any one product before doing a thorough audition. Because there are differences between every one of these packages, you need to find the one that best suits your tastes.