Boston Acoustics A360 loudspeaker £720

12th Jul 2011 | 09:30

Boston Acoustics A360 loudspeaker

Boston Acoustics' new range has been tuned by Marantz's Ken Ishiwata for European ears

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

Like:

Wonderfully musical; Tonally even performance; Solid build quality

Dislike:

Not the prettiest or easiest to drive

Boston Acoustics are one of the major players in the American speaker market, producing a full range of conventional box loudspeakers, custom install products and car audio.

Since the company was acquired by D&M holdings – which oversees Denon, Marantz and McIntosh amongst others – it has been raising its UK profile.

The A Series speakers are the new entry-level range and made its low key debut at Bristol this year.

Rear surprise

The flagship A360 combines a number of design features that are relatively conventional with others that are relatively distinctive.

On the conventional side, it mounts a pair of 6.5-inch graphite-injected plastic woofers (a technology Boston calls Deep Channel Design or DCD for short) paired with a one-inch softdome tweeter. There is also a three-inch DCD driver aiding the transition between the larger drivers and the tweeter. This is not unusual in itself, but the small size of the driver is less common and most designs at this price point do without it.

Boston claims a sensitivity of 90dB at eight ohms and they need an amp of reasonable output to show their best.

Around the back, the mix of the expected and unexpected continues. A large bass port is normal enough, but we were surprised to find only a single set of speaker terminals rather than the more usual bi-wire capable set.

That said, many of our favourite speakers also favour a single-cable connection, so we don't regard this as an impediment, more something to be aware of if your existing speaker cable is for bi-wiring.

Sonic guru

The most interesting aspect of the development of the A Series is that Ken Ishiwata, the longstanding sonic guru of Marantz was involved in its voicing. While Ishiwata is better known for his work in electronics rather than loudspeakers, his input is rarely going to be unwelcome.

Ken's stated intention has been to voice the A Series to be better suited to European tastes (and in this context, the UK is defined as 'European').

In appearance terms, the Boston is still rather American. The gloss-black finish is smart enough, but we aren't entirely convinced by the leatherette baffle around the drivers.

At slightly over a metre tall, they are relatively large, but not unmanageably so and we obtained good results with them just over two metres apart and about twenty centimetres from the wall.

Solid ground

Deciding whether the Boston sounds 'European', or whether Ken's input has been worthwhile, is secondary to whether it sounds good full-stop and on this count, the speaker's on solid ground. This is one of the most cohesive and lifelike speakers you can buy under £1,500.

It has a tonality that is rich, full and utterly believable and, while the three-inch driver might be a bit of a design oddity, the payoff appears to be a excellent cohesion from top to bottom. Voices and instruments are extremely well handled and always sound convincing.

This means that although they have plenty of detail, they are never artificially placed forward in the context of the piece as a whole. Instead they present a finely detailed soundstage that grows and shrinks with the music in question. This is partnered with a bass response that is good, if not the most seismic around – despite a larger cabinet it will not go as low as the Triangle Color.

This is, in the purest sense of the word, a musical speaker that places no particular emphasis on any part of a performance; simply producing a fabulously entertaining whole that makes the Boston incredibly easy to listen to for long periods.

European sound

If this fantastic performance is the manifestation of 'European sound' and the result of some KI magic, we are all for it. The A360 needs to be in contention for anyone making the decision on sub-£1,000 floorstanders.

It doesn't have the top-of-the-tree to itself, the Epos Epic 5 is more forceful, exciting and subjectively better looking, but it still has to give ground to one of the most tonally excellent designs we have heard at anything like this price. This is a very fine loudspeaker indeed.

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