Hsu Research HB-1 MK2 Bookshelf Speaker
Hsu Research ranks high on home theater enthusiasts' "most favored brands" list, largely because of its high-performance, low-priced subwoofers. Indeed, the HB-1 MK2 ($318/pr) seems to be designed primarily as a home theater bruiser: At 15.4 inches high, it's the largest speaker in this roundup, and its 6.5-inch, polypropylene-cone woofer gives it more bass real estate than any but the Axiom M3v3. A horn-loaded, aluminum-dome 1-inch tweeter provides the highs. The price given above is for the satin black finish; the wood veneer finish shown will run you an extra $60 per pair.
Incidentally, I've had this pair around my listening room for a while, largely because they're efficient enough to give me good, full-range sound no matter what kind of amp I hook 'em up to -even the little 2.5-watt-per-channel Qinpu Q-2.
Geoff raved about the HB-1 MK2, ranking it among the best in this roundup, so maybe I'll just let him talk. "It has a lot of bass, but it's well controlled," he said. "The treble sounds smooth and open, the response is pretty flat, and it has the biggest soundstage of any of the speakers in the test." I, too, thought the treble was well extended, ambient, and detailed, and I also loved the HB-1 MK2's unrestrained dynamics and willingness to play loud.
Flaws? The transition from the woofer to the horn tweeter could be smoother; we all felt that the HB-1 MK2 could use a little more upper-midrange energy. That softness in the upper mids gives it a sound you might call polite, or you might call soft, depending on your taste.
For an audiophile wanting to revel in delicate, detailed recordings - chamber or folk music, for example - the HB-1 MK2 probably isn't the best choice. It's really a speaker for those whose listening tastes demand effortless dynamics and a decent dollop of bass, such as rock fans and home theater enthusiasts.
Frequency response of the HB-1 MK2 measures 59 Hz to 20 kHz ±4.3 dB on-axis, ±3.0 dB avg 0°-30°. That's pretty flat overall, and especially impressive in the off-axis response. Measured impedance is 4.4 ohms minimum, 8 ohms average. Sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz averages 85.7 dB.