Review: BG Radia's Supersized Surround System Page 2

 

Setup

 

BG delivered the speakers to my home in the large enclosures the company uses for trade shows. Each of the 7-foot-high boxes is built much like a wall; when I placed them against my walls, the speakers sounded essentially the same as they would have if I'd actually cut them in.

To set up the subs, I placed one in each of the four corners of my listening room and then ran a wire to each. I connected the front subs to one channel and the back subs to the other. (BG assured me that the amp could handle two speakers per channel.) Although the BGX-A2 has a built-in crossover, I deactivated it because I was using one in my A/V receiver.

BG warned me that my usual listening distance of roughly 12 feet would be inadequate to hear the full output of the six planar magnetic drivers, and BG was right. In my usual position, the sound was soft in the treble. Moving back to about 15 or 16 feet livened up the sound considerably. Of course, this requirement limits real-world applications; only large home theaters allow such a long speaker-to-listener distance.

 

Performance

 

Having heard only a few speakers that are even remotely similar to the LA-550 - none of which were in-walls - I had no idea what to expect. So I cued up an old favorite, the Blu-ray of Ratatouille, to give me a quick idea of what the BG system could do.

The sound I heard bore little resemblance to anything I've previously experienced in my listening room. Basically, the BG rig sounded like a commercial cinema system. Ever witness that sense of effortless dynamics, natural midrange, and truly enveloping surround effects that the best theater sound systems produce? That's what it sounded like.

And I think I know why. A typical commercial cinema system uses a single horn to cover the entire midrange (and sometimes the treble, too). The LA-550 uses its line array - which has a horn-like dispersion pattern - to cover everything from 270 Hz to 20 kHz. So acoustically, it has a lot in common with a big theater system.

The BG system treated all of the various voices in Ratatouille with great care, producing negligible coloration with male and female dialogue. The SS-303 surrounds produced an enveloping sound field, just as the surround speaker arrays in a commercial cinema do (although I didn't sense a great deal of treble detail in the surround channels). The system never sounded strained, no matter how loud I cranked it; I bet my 150-watt-per-channel AudioControl Savoy amplifier would give out before these speakers do.

The LA-550 sounded good with stereo music, thanks largely to its neutral midrange. I have to say, though, that it didn't "light up the room" the way my favorite cones 'n' domes speakers do. I enjoyed the sound of the lead vocals when I played my vinyl copy of R.E.M.'s Lifes Rich Pageant through the LA-550s, but I've heard Peter Buck's bright, jangly guitar chords sound livelier.

I think BG supplied me with the BGX-S6B subs because I'd already reviewed its BGX-S12B. The BGX-S6B sounds every bit as melodic, precise, and controlled as its big brother, but not even four of them could deliver the deep-bass horsepower I craved. I strongly recommend stepping up to BGX-S12Bs if you have the space.

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