|Boston Acoustics Horizon Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Jim Swantko|
|Saturday, 01 March 2008|
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Boston Acoustics was founded in 1979 and over the years has grown into a true powerhouse in home, mobile aftermarket and OEM audio systems. My history with the brand dates back over 20 years ago, when I purchased a pair of their Pro 5.2 separates and Pro 12.0 subwoofer for my car. Mobile audio was where my interest in the audio hobby began – and Boston Acoustics played a big part in what made it so much fun.
The speaker system I was asked to review was Boston’s budget-conscious Horizon surround sound system. When I unpacked the main speakers, the HS 450s, my first thought was, “When did Boston start making electrostatic speakers?” These speakers are dead ringers for panels. When viewed from the side, they have a leaned-back graceful arc from top to bottom and stand about three-and-a-half feet tall. To my eye, they are exceptionally stylish.
The grilles are standard black, but the rest of the speaker is covered in a grippy, rubbery gray material which Boston calls their “soft touch finish.” This color scheme is much more appealing to me than all black, which seems to be the norm today. Should you decide that black grilles don’t quite match the interior design of your home, don’t worry. Boston has you covered. They offer eight additional grille colors, which range from caramel to rosebud pink. Boston designed these with the clear understanding that today’s consumer requires not only performance, but also easy integration with home décor. It’s a wonderful idea and I am surprised that no other company has thought of this design approach so far. The HS60 surround sound speakers, HS225 center channel and matching HPS12HO subwoofer all share the aesthetics of their taller siblings.
My second thought was, “Wow, these are light.” The 450s weighed in at 20 pounds and had large recessed handles in the back, which made moving them around a breeze. The HS60 and HS225 weigh nine and 11 pounds, respectively. The HPS12HO comes in at a hefty 45 pounds.
The HS450 driver complement is a single one-inch soft dome tweeter and a pair of five-and-one-quarter-inch woofers coupled with a pair of six-and-one-half inch passive radiators. The HS225 and the HS450 share the same dual and one-quarter-inch woofers and single tweeter, with the exception of the passive radiators. The HS60 surrounds utilize a single six-and-one-half-inch driver, along with the matching one-inch tweeter. The HPS12HO sub has a 12-inch driver in a ported enclosure with a 300-watt internal amplifier. It includes an infinitely variable 40-180Hz crossover and phase control for easy system integration.
The product literature states that these speakers utilize Deep Channel Design (DCD) woofers for more bass from less amplifier power, and maximized bass output system (MBOS) for improved bass acoustics. It seems obvious that Boston designed these to be overachievers in the low frequencies, even though they chose to use small drivers. The speakers are all magnetically shielded, so monitor interaction is not a concern. They also include five-way gold-plated binding posts and adjustable feet, as well as built-in wall-mount brackets.
The retail pricing on the HS450 main speakers is $299 each. The HS225 center is $249, the HS60 surrounds are $149 apiece and the sub is $499. Considering the very reasonable pricing, I was very impressed with the build quality. The speakers were all solidly constructed and very nicely finished.
I experimented with speaker placement and found the best results were to pull the HS450s approximately three feet away from the back wall. Closer than this, the bass was a little boomy. The speakers had nearly two feet of space between them and the side walls. I found that toeing them in slightly helped to focus the image. I listened to the HS450s alone to get a feel for their two-channel performance before listening the system with full surround. The components used in the two-channel system were an Esoteric DV-50 CD/DVD/SACD player, an Audio Research LS26 tube preamp and a pair of NuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition mono amps, with cabling by way of Audio Magic.
For the surround set-up, I placed the HS225 below my monitor, which is about one foot out from the back wall. The HS60 surrounds are about three feet behind my seating area and about two feet away from the side walls. I got the best results by aiming them toward the center of the room. The sub was corner loaded in the front right corner of the room. For this set-up, I used a Denon AVR-988 surround receiver for processing, switching and power for all five speakers, and fed the sub the LFE output. I used the on-board automatic set-up and room correction to optimize.
I began listening immediately and noticed that the speakers sounded good right out of the box, which was a pleasant surprise. Typically, I dread the break-in period and the associated harshness which usually accompanies it. Over the course of a week or so, I could detect a slight change in sound as the drivers broke in. The speakers began to open up after the first 24 hours and break-in was completed within a week or so.