BG Radia LA-550 In-Wall Speaker System Page 3
It’s been said many times that at least half of the home theater experience is the sound. In reality, both audio and video are important. When both the aural and visual senses are sufficiently engaged, a home theater system becomes a seamless experience that convincingly transports you to another place and time. The BG system offered vocal clarity and intelligibility with most of the music examples I noted above, so I knew it would likely offer the same characteristics with film dialogue. 180˚ South (Blu-ray Disc) is a documentary that retraces the steps of two climbers who ascended the Cerro Corcovado peak in Patagonia over 40 years ago. The voice of the narrator and central figure, Jeff Johnson, sounded clear and distinct and blended well with the rest of the soundtrack.
A strong feeling of envelopment and pinpoint directionality of sounds is one of the most exciting parts of a high-performance home theater system. The result is a real sense that you’re there in the movie. When I added the SS-303 surround speakers to the LA-550 speakers, my living room sonically transformed into an enormous cathedral in Salt (Blu-ray), then a New York subway station in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (also Blu-ray). Both films are thrillers with quick scene changes, and the BG Radia speakers captured all the details and subtle sounds that make a good home theater sound like real life.
If the Bass Isn’t Right, Nothing Sounds Good
The mids and highs can be perfect, but if the bass is flabby or heavy, uneven or thin, any audio system stinks. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Getting good bass is probably the most challenging part of setting up a good audio system. It can also be the most rewarding when you finally get it right. The BGX-S6B subwoofer gets it right.
The BGX-S6B is BG Radia’s second generation of in-wall subwoofers, a half-sized version of the BGX-S12B THX Ultra2 in-wall subwoofer that Darryl Wilkinson reviewed and loved previously in Home Theater (January 2010).
Each of the four BGX-S6B in-wall subwoofer modules contains six 4-inch drivers, each mounted in a separate enclosure. The woofers face each other to offset unwanted forces caused by their motion. This provides totally vibration-free operation, which is critical for in-wall installation.
BG Radia calls this THX Balanced Bass-line, and it’s so effective that if you touch the subwoofer’s frame, it’s virtually impossible to feel any vibrations. Each 14-by14-by-3.75-inch module fits in a typical residential stud bay and comes with an inconspicuous paintable grille. When installed in a wall, they are nearly invisible.
A BGX-A2 two-channel power amp with 600 watts per channel drives the four BGX-S6B modules. The amp features your choice of THX fixed crossover settings or manual adjustments, plus a Music/Movie mode. Custom installation features include a 12-volt trigger and RS-232 control. Ideally, you should conceal the amp in your setup. Its cooling fan is noisy and can become a distraction when you listen to low-level music or movies.
In total, the four BGX-S6B modules have 24 small drivers with an equivalent surface radiating area of an 18-inch woofer. Here’s that low-mass thing again. The 4-inch drivers in the BGX-S6B have lower mass than a single 18-inch woofer. Thus, with an equivalent amount of locomotion applied, they’re less prone to overshoot. As I heard, they also have extraordinary depth, extension, and pitch definition.
Before I listened to anything else, I put on my ultimate bass test disc: Lyle Lovett’s She’s Already Made Up Her Mind, a DTS multichannel CD. I find it amazing that 24 small woofers can create enough acoustic energy to compress that much air and produce deep bass, yet that’s exactly what the BG Radia subwoofer modules did. The BG Radia system was totally enveloping, with a keen sense of directionality in the soundfield and deep, tight, extended bass.
At $600 per module, the BGX-S6B is a bit more than half the cost of the BGX-S12B ($1,000 each), but it delivers enough bass for small to mid-sized listening rooms. Although it can’t put out as much SPL as the BGX-S12B, the BGX-S6B has excellent depth and extension and can handle strong bass. Its limitations are apparent at high listening levels, but considering its lower cost and smaller footprint and excellent performance, I could easily live with four of the BGX-S6B modules in my room.
It’s impossible to overstate the benefits of using multiple subwoofers, but the results are clear with the BGX-S6B system (and the BGX-S12B). It’s not about more bass; it’s about better bass. The most noticeable improvement is more uniform distribution of bass throughout the room. You’ll notice fewer bass modes or standing waves that can contribute to heavy or lean bass in different locations. With a single sub, it takes some time to find the best subwoofer placement. Using multiple subwoofers makes the job easier and offers more rewarding results. It’s the best way to get solid, deep, and tight bass in almost any listening room.
Wrapping It Up
With the introduction of the LA-550 in-wall speaker system, BG Radia has not only broken new ground in performance, it’s made high-end sound more affordable. This system isn’t in HTIB territory, nor is it priced out of range for all but the very well-to-do. The LA-550s are $6,600 per pair, and this entire speaker system has a retail price of $17,800, plus installation. With the pure magic of the planar magnetic drivers and the THX Balanced Bass-line subwoofers, the performance of this BG Radia system far exceeds its cost.