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Boston Acoustics Horizon Speaker System Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
Article Index
Boston Acoustics Horizon Speaker System
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Music and Movies
I began my review, as I always do, listening in two-channel mode. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a speaker with dual five-and-one-quarter-inch woofers, so I immediately threw some challenging material at them to see how they responded. Tool’s Undertow (Zoo/BMG/Volcano) is an album that is never far from my CD player, so in it went. If you’ve never heard this album, well, I’m not sure how to describe it. Words that come to mind are “dark,” “angry,” “ominous” and “emotionally painful.” It’s an all-out assault on the senses and should be played with extreme caution, preferably at the gym or before you enter a cage fight.

The second track, “Prison Sex,” like the rest of the album, has tremendous impact and drive from the tag team comprised of bassist Paul D’Amour and drummer extraordinaire Danny Carey. The kick drum’s impacts were deep and powerful, more so than I thought possible with a pair of modest-sized drivers. I’m sure the dual six-and-a-half-inch passive radiators helped. The bass licks had snap and, even during the most violent portions of the song, each instrument maintained its individuality. The speakers are rated down to 46Hz and I have no reason to doubt this spec’s validity.

At extreme volumes, however, the laws of physics once again showed that small speakers can only move so much air, regardless of power or cabinet design, and the instruments began to smear together and the bass started to get a little bloated. The average consumer will probably never reach these limits, but if they do, they can simply power on the HPS12HO sub – more on that later.

I noticed that the upper frequencies had more energy than I am used to, but not overly so. My ears are very sensitive to aggressive tweeters and I was able to listen to the Bostons for hours on end with no fatigue. Boston uses a one inch Korec soft dome tweeter throughout the Horizon speaker line. I typically prefer a soft dome to a hard dome of some exotic material, as soft domes just seem more forgiving and listenable, although some will argue that this is at the expense of ultimate detail. When listening to Dave Matthews “Lover Lay Down” from Under the Table and Dreaming (RCA), Carter’s cymbal work came through with clarity and intimacy.

If I had to find one area to fault the HS450s, it would be the midrange, specifically vocals. This portion of the spectrum seemed to be a touch more attenuated than the rest. While listening to “Bullet the Blue Sky” from U2’s Joshua Tree (Island), Bono seemed to be singing behind the rest of the band, not out front as expected. I am not entirely surprised by this, considering the fact that the little drivers did such a good job on bass. I would assume the enclosure’s design is optimized for bass performance, so there must be a trade-off somewhere and this was it.

With the two-channel listening done, I switched gears to home theater mode and situated the remaining three speakers around my theater area. After all the hook-ups and optimizations were complete, I sat down for a listen. This was obviously what the Horizon system was designed for.

The center did a wonderful job with dialogue and, as expected, it blended perfectly with the mains, as did the surrounds. This is the sign of a strong center speaker. I generally expect these types of results from more expensive speakers, so I was pleasantly surprised.

One of my favorite movies of all time is 1990’s Oscar Award-winning Goodfellas (Warner Home Video), which tells the story of Henry Hill and his rise through the ranks of a mob family. The story is told in the first person, with Henry (Ray Liotta) talking directly to the audience. His voice is textured and clear, but for me, the tale is told by the background music, which runs the spectrum from Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis to The Rolling Stones and The Who. It all sounded fantastic.

The Sony Playstation 3 has become somewhat of an addiction of mine since I received it as a gift for Christmas. The game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare can blur hours into what seem like minutes as I hunt down enemies and try my best to end their virtual lives. The HS60s in the rear proved absolutely vital for saving my own skin, as I was able to detect faint footsteps behind me as would-be assassins tried to sneak up and put a knife in my back. They also really rocked when F-15s dropped cluster bombs on my head. The dynamic range of these little bookshelf speakers really impressed me.

The real thunder, however, was provided by the aforementioned HPS12HO. The sub is small enough to get stashed in a corner or under a TV without much objection from the wife. It can also be dressed up in any of the colored grilles that I mentioned earlier.

I played with the crossover and gain until it was just right for my listening tastes. It was obvious that this sub was designed to work with these speakers, as it added to the system without detracting in any way. It rolled in just as the HS450s began running out of steam in the lower frequencies. As good as the 450s were alone, they became that much better with the sub. Bass became more authoritative with additional weight and power.

As I watched Spider-Man 3 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), the room shook in the scene where the corner of a skyscraper got ripped away as a giant I-beam crashed through the windows. Massive chunks of the building, and a beautiful actress, came crashing to the ground. Spider-Man swooped in at the last second to save her, and the low-frequency fireworks were as impressive as the visual special effects. Another magical scene to my ears was when villain Sandman was formed from rivers of gravel. The sound of the gravel as it writhed along like a snake was just amazing. I found myself watching this scene over and over just for the coolness factor.


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