Boston Acoustics VS Series Speaker System

I'd like to admit something up front—I'm the sort of reviewer who's easily swayed by the sight of attractive gear. There, I said it, and I feel a little guilty about it. Sadly, I may have missed out on some great-sounding but drab-looking products over the years, including a number of Boston Acoustics speakers. So I was pleasantly surprised by the company's gorgeous new VS Series speakers when they were unveiled in New York City a few months ago.

They looked sharp decked out in ravishingly beautiful cherry veneers, set off with piano-black panels. Their dazzling finishes and distinctively contoured cabinets were a big improvement over the brand's previous staid boxes. Maybe that's why Boston's senior vice president and general manager Eli Harary had my full attention when he played the tiny VS 240 satellites and VPS 210 subwoofer. Man, they were good, real good. Now mind you, hearing decent—much less great—sound at this sort of press demo is a rarity, but the VS system was a knockout.

The VS review system strayed from my usual UAV course of full-size towers, center, and surround speakers. This time, I went for something a little smaller—namely, a 5.1 system featuring three incredibly sleek VS 224 LCR speakers manning the front left, right, and center channels; a pair of tiny VS 240 bookshelf speakers for the surround channels, and the VPS 210 powered subwoofer.

I've already raved about the finish, but I know what some of you must be thinking—sure, it looks great fresh out of the box, but a couple of years down the road, it'll inevitably wind up scratched and chipped. Probably not. Boston's designers used a polyester finish, similar to the type used on pianos; the super-hard finish should remain blemish free over the long haul. In addition to real cherry wood, the VS speakers and subwoofer are available in bird's-eye maple and ebony.

The cabinets' unique shape is formed from multi-layer, medium-density fiberboard in a specially shaped mold. It's a great look, but the benefits are more than cosmetic; the panels' sharp bends reduce internal standing waves and dramatically increase cabinet-wall stiffness.

The VS Series 1-inch fabric-dome tweeter comes with a slight "dent." Just kidding—there's a mild dimple in its center, but it's part of the design. The inside of the tweeter is attached to a brass phase plug that's said to lower distortion, extend upper treble response, and improve off-axis dispersion.

The woofer cones are fabricated from kapuk, a high-strength wood fiber (aka paper), or as Boston likes to call it, Organic Composite Cone Material (OCCM). That's fine with me—some of my favorite speakers feature paper drivers. Boston claims kapuk provides better damping than other wood fibers.

The VS 224 LCR speaker features two 4.5-inch OCCM woofers and a 1-inch tweeter, while the VS 240 uses the very same drivers, but just one woofer. The VS 224 comes with a sturdy metal wall-mount bracket; the front port won't be affected by wall mounting. The bracket allows for some degree of adjustment to angle the speaker toward the listening position.

A cast-metal "foot" for the VS 224 is intended for table-top or shelf mounting. It's fine, but its smallish footprint makes it a little too easy to topple a vertically oriented VS 224 with an inadvertent nudge.

The VS 240 bookshelf speaker also comes with a wall bracket and a little "foot" bolted to its backside for shelf mounting. The little speaker has a thin slot port on its rear end. While you're back there, feel free to admire the extra-chunky gold binding posts.

The VPS 210 subwoofer carries over the speakers' angular aesthetic on a larger scale. Stereo and LFE RCA inputs as well as a "Pass Thru" output (intended to simplify daisy-chaining multiple subs) are all stealthily hidden on the sub's underside. Boston's engineers designed the 500-watt Class D (digital) amplifier in house. The sub is finished to the same high standard as the satellite speakers.