|Acoustic Research HC6 Home Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2002|
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Life is full of compromises. There is always a situation when you wished that you had paid the extra money, or waited a bit longer for something that would have been more satisfying had you stuck to your guns, instead of bowing to the pressure of other influences. When it comes to consumer electronics, the strongest influence is predictably cash. Another can be what I call "Spousal Acceptance Factor," or "SAF." In my case, statements like "you’re not putting that in my living room" can be common. Aesthetics play a big part. You want to make a physical statement to yourself and those around you with your speakers. Then there is size. Speakers have to fit into your existing environment without detracting from your living space. With all of this in mind, you are ready to start shopping for real loudspeakers.
One option that can please a fairly wide range of tastes and situations comes from Acoustic Research. The attractive HC6 system ($799) consists of four identical satellites that have a surprising weight to their eight-inch high, five-and-three-eighths-inch wide and six-and-three-quarter-inch deep gloss piano black MDF enclosure. A two-way design, the magnetically shielded, vented enclosure houses a one-inch tweeter above a three-and-one-half-inch woofer, which at first was glance looks like a Kevlar-type material. Upon closer examination, the driver material has this pattern printed on it.
The frequency response for these little guys is 80Hz – 20kHz +/-3 dB, with a sensitivity of 88 dB, and their recommended power handling capability is 20 – 100 watts at eight ohms. The speaker connections will allow bare wire, one-quarter-inch spade lugs, or banana jack connections for a hook-up that was challenging for my big fingers. The knurled thumbnuts are recessed in a circular alcove, which can make access a bit of a chore.
Also included is the center channel loudspeaker. It is also a two-way unit, with two horizontally mounted four-inch woofers surrounding the same one-inch tweeter. Deviating from the vented satellite enclosures, the center channel is a sealed design that measures six inches high, 13 inches wide, and six-and-three-quarter-inches deep. The frequency response is 80Hz – 20 kHz +/-3 dB, with a sensitivity of 88 dB. Power handling also is 20 – 100 watts at eight ohms.
Although you could assume a good match between satellite and center channel by looking at the specs, I questioned the reasons for having a mix of sealed and vented enclosures in the same system and was told that speaker matching dictated the deviation. My past experience has shown me that you get a different response with these two approaches, as a sealed design does not allow the air captured behind the driver to escape during high excursion. This has benefits and a downside. The benefit is that the negative and positive pressure in the enclosure helps to bring the driver more quickly to neutral than a vented design, giving a faster, tighter response which can produce more detail. The downside to this approach is a higher power requirement to overcome the enclosure’s pressure trying to restrain the driver, possibly making the task of matching all of the speakers that much harder. The designer has to weigh all of these parameters for a balanced presentation. If it was easy, anybody could do it. I’ll let you know in a bit what I’ve found.
The subwoofer provided with the HC6 package utilizes a 16-and-one-eighth-inch high, 10-inch wide and 14-and-three-eighths-inch deep port-tuned enclosure, with a single eight-inch-long throw driver, which has a response of 28Hz – 150Hz +/-3 dB. The cabinet proportions are similar to the satellite speakers, looking like a large version of the satellite. The subwoofer has an LFE jack for the input and has the ability to run the satellites through its onboard speaker terminals. Alternatively, you can run them directly from your receiver, as I did. To start off, I adjusted the crossover so that the crossover frequency didn’t go much above the 80Hz that the satellite speakers could produce. I mounted the four satellites on 24-inch stands one-and-one-half feet from the front wall and four feet from the sidewalls for both front and surround channels. I basically had to sit the satellites on the stand, which didn’t give me a good comfort level. I didn’t see any provisions for stand mounting on the satellites, nor did I find any stands AR recommended for these. The Energy Take 5.2 system that I reviewed a few months ago provided a pretty cool mounting bracket that allowed stand or wall mounting, and it looked fairly inexpensive, considering the convenience it provides for a wide variety of situations. I had to use the Energy Research stands ($75), but that was a reasonable price to pay, and they looked pretty cool as well. I prefer all speakers to be away from the wall to avoid early reflections that can add boom to the lower octaves and affects the detail of the higher frequencies.
When positioning the subwoofer, I found that the right corner outside of the right main satellite was a good location for my NHT SubOne i subwoofer. I therefore positioned the AR in the same location, as it offers good bass reinforcement in that corner. The center channel was put on top of the TV. Once I hooked up the 150-watt-per-channel B&K 307 receiver, I set up the speakers accordingly, did a few tweaks and was all ready to go.