Boston Acoustics Horizon Home Theater Speaker System
If you study the demographics of those of us who really value high-quality audio gear, a frightening trend soon becomes clear: The audiophile population is aging rapidly, and very few 20-somethings are signing on. Usually, blame is assigned to the popularity of MP3 players like the iPod, and the gradual integration of the computer (with its low-end sonics) as the entertainment center of the home. But then when you look at the way flat-panel TVs are flying off the shelves, you might figure that people would want something better than those puny excuses for speakers slapped into most of the sleek new sets.
Problem is, because most speakers are styled by engineers rather than designers, many models simply ape a basic look that's been kicking around for over 40 years. Yet somehow, we expect people to plunk these plain wooden boxes amongst all of the hip and trendy furniture in their carefully coordinated living rooms. While "homely" might be acceptable to the blink-ered audiophile, for many it's not even worth considering.
The Short Form
|Price $1,850 (as tested) / bostonacoustics.com / 978-538-5000|
|A pleasant-sounding system with looks that break the mold of the traditional rectangular box speaker, the Horizon may just bring Gens X and Y into the world of high-quality audio.|
|•Hip and stylish with lots of color options •Diverse mounting options •Unfatiguing sound, even for lengthy listening sessions|
|•HS 460 may be unstable on thick rugs|
|HS 460 ($400 each) •(2) 6.5-in woofers; (2) 7-in passive radiators; 1-in soft dome tweeter; 43 in high; 25 lb HS 225 ($250) •(2) 5.25-in woofers; 1-in soft dome tweeter; 19 in wide; 11 lb HS 60 ($150 each) •6.5-in woofer; 1-in soft dome tweeter; 13 in high; 9 lb HPS 12HO ($500) •12-in woofer; 300-watt RMS amplifier; 17.6 x 17.6 x 13.6 in; 46 lb|
|All three upper channels have a similar moderately rough response above 1 kHz, while the HS 460 also has a 3-dB floor-bounce notch at 228 Hz, a 4-dB peak at 400 Hz, and a narrow 4-dB notch at 900 Hz. Port noise can be quite annoying for the center and surrounds; both should be sharply high-passed above 62 Hz. The center channel showed no off-axis lobing until the mike was moved beyond 22.5° off-center. The subwoofer was moderately dynamic, averaging 125 dB SPL from 25 to 62 Hz, but was limited by protection circuitry that can produce an audible "blat" on program material if levels are too high. - Tom Nousaine Full Lab Results|
With its new Horizon series, Boston Acoustics - a brand that's been largely silent in recent years - is making an obvious effort to get its speakers into homes that previously wouldn't have allowed for a high-quality audio rig. For starters, the cabinets are molded plastic, making it possible to impart a friendlier, more flowing shape than that of a typical hard-cornered box. Each enclosure is then finished with a nubby paint that gives the speaker a soft textured feel, the color being either a dark gray (dubbed Midnight) or an off-white (Mist). While these finishes are normally supplied with respectively Onyx (black) and Silver (gray) grilles, Boston offers additional grilles from a range of eight designer colors through what the company calls its Personal Options Plan (POP). These have tasty names like Chocolat, Chili Pepper, and Caramel, and should be helpful in getting the speakers past the household-design referee.
All of this focus on design would be a wasted effort if the speakers then skimped on the technological side of the equation, but happily this isn't the case. Skinny "plasma-friendly" speakers may be all the rage these days, but with the floor-standing HS 460, Boston has given us something more substantial. Unusual in that it incorporates both a port and a couple of passive radiators in addition to a pair of 6.5-inch woofers, the 460 reaches deep enough to be used by itself in a music system without the support of a subwoofer. (In a home theater rig, however, you'll probably want the added kick.) Even with all of those cones, the 460 is still a basic two-way system, using a soft dome tweeter to cover the upper octaves.
Unlike many tweakier products, the 460s don't come with carpet-piercing spikes or adjustable feet; they simply rest on the ridge formed by the front of the cabinet, along with a fixed bar toward the back. That's fine if your room has a hard floor or a thin carpet like mine, but the speakers are likely to be pretty unstable if your floor covering includes something on the deep and squishy side.
To round out my test system, Boston sent an HS 225 LCR speaker to be used as the center channel, along with a pair of the direct-radiating HS 60 bookshelf speakers for surround duties. Both of these models have the same finish options and use similar technology as the 460. The HS 60 is a basic ported two-way speaker employing the same woofer and tweeter as its bigger brother, while the HS 225 opts for a pair of slightly smaller 5.25-inch drivers. Also in my setup: the HPS 12HO subwoofer, which comes well equipped with a separate LFE input that bypasses the crossover, signal-sensing power-up, and a phase switch. With its ported enclosure and a big thick roll surround on its 12-inch cone, the 12HO appears to be tuned more for output than for ultimate extension - not a bad thing in a home theater.