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One of the cool things about a loudspeaker pair teamed with a sub is that it's easy to turn the sub on and off and listen for differences. Unlike the multi-channel mixes so common in today's films, the overwhelming majority of music releases are two channel. In those cases, the sub isn't there for the “.1” LFE channel reproduction but for lower frequency level production. The first time I used a subwoofer, I assumed there would be a recognizable “separation” between the main stereo speakers and the sub to the point where it would be too dimensionally disparate for enjoyable listening. I was wrong. The keys are proper sub placement and fine-tuning the volume and crossover. For my listening space, I set the sub approximately 1 foot out and 45 degrees from the side wall and about 3 feet from the back wall. I then positioned it roughly parallel to and 2 feet apart from the right channel CS 226. I found my “default” sub setting where the volume was at about 40% and the crossover at around 50Hz. That gave me plenty of weight and presence without unnatural bursts of bottom end.
My 18-year-old nephew moved to my town this summer and brought with him a teenager's enthusiasm for music. Through him, I found myself going back to The Beastie Boys and the magnificent Check Your Head. This album is a grooves picnic, and I reveled in the crunchy and impossibly catchy retro groove of “So What'cha Want” and rump-shaking thump of “Funky Boss.” These are tunes that scream for a subwoofer, and the 10Wi delivers articulate and powerful bass that complements the output of the CS 226s. There's a lot going on in the Beastie's music and keeping it together is a task for any speaker, but the CS 226s do a nice job of presenting everything from vintage organ and drum samples to the melange of vocals and other sounds that pervade these recordings. The 226s also have an easy-going naturalness and a hint of warmth that makes them very listenable.
Going back nearly 20 years earlier to 1970 and The Who's Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival performances showcases equally cantankerous performances. The whirlwind of drum sticks that was Keith Moon was in full spin along with his bandmates arguably at the peak of their game. Whereas the Beasties couldn't be contained by society's norms, The Who couldn't be contained by most PA systems. The raw and destructive energy the foursome brought to covers such as “Young Man Blues,” “Shakin' All Over” and “Summertime Blues” is still the standard for rock and roll. The wild flights of noise can be both exhilarating and exhausting, but I found the BA trio kept the ball in the former court, with good balance between Roger Daltrey's husky vocals, Pete Townshend's power chords and John Entwistle's snake-like bass runs-yet another reason for a subwoofer!
Staying in the subterranean world of bass, that brings me to Black Sabbath and the band's self-titled debut album. Strip away the banshee-like operatics of Ozzy and the doom-laden guitar riffs of Tony Iommi, and you'll find an incredibly musical underbelly thanks to Geezer Butler's bass ventures. But for that pure Sabbath sound, check out “N.I.B” with its ominous four-string warbles that portend the song proper. Listen sans sub and then with it; the difference is like a punter and Charles Bronson. One kicks football, the other kicks... well, you know what.
The CS 226s and CPS 10Wi were my first taste of Boston Acoustics in several decades. A classic made current and a current made very well. Either speaker can stand proudly on its own, but together make three of a perfect pair-and at a very fair price. You get excellent sound and excellent value. If you're still on the fence and need a final reason to leap off, Boston Acoustics makes it totally risk-free to audition any these or any of its speakers. You get a 30-day in-home trial, as well as free shipping and free return shipping, should that be necessary.
- Boston Acoustics CS 226 floorstanding loudspeakers
- Boston Acoustics CPS 10Wi wireless-ready subwoofer
- Pathos Logos integrated amplifier
- Emotiva ERC-1 CD player
- Pro-Ject Audio RPM 5.1 turntable with Sumiko Blue Point No. 2 MC cartridge
- Better Cables Premium Anniversary Edition Speaker Cables (3 meter/bananas)
- Better Cables Silver Serpent Anniversary Edition Interconnects (1 meter pair)
- Parasound Zphono phono preamplifier