Boston Acoustics VS Series
22nd Aug 2009 | 09:00
Boston's exquisite speaker system is big, red and beautiful
The VS Series of speakers is Boston Acoustics' finest, with the most high-brow mission statement I have ever read, about merging art and science, like Californian hippies, man.
When they arrived I unpacked them lovingly and took a grille off – I nearly had a heart attack! The bloody tweeter was poked in like a belly button!
Now, the same thing happened on my Bowers & Wilkins HTM4. A mate's two-year-old squashed it – my own son saw it happen and didn't dare tell me, in terror of my reaction. I was able to get a replacement, but this was a review sample! A disaster!
There is a selection of ways to fix pushed-in tweeters and dust domes but the very best is to apply your mouth and suck it out with your tongue. I tried it and it wasn't having it. I could get purchase but could feel it was fixed, clearly more than just pushed in.
I looked at Boston Acoustics' very brief manual, which really just describes basic use and best placement. Then, like the tiny-but-crucial details on Ikea flatpack instructions, I could see that all the tweeter pictures had this irregular looking dent in the middle. Oops. Needless to say I grew donkey ears and glowed so red you could have used me as a traffic light.
Luckily, I hadn't been like a Dyson vacuum cleaner and sucked it rotten, but rather applied the most delicate and even pressure and, apart from some lick spittle, there was no real harm done.
All the cabinets in this VS Series use this unconventional tweeter design, called here a Super Wide Bandwidth tweeter. Boston worked out that you can go totally pistonic to 30kHz if you stick the middle of a regular silk dome tweeter to a brass plug in the middle. So, it has all the fabulousness of a ring radiator tweeter but, dare I say it, even slightly better performance – as the sound of these speakers is ethereally delicious.
The moment they fired up I was transfixed; even the crap at the start of my Wall-E Blu-ray was awesome. The balloons in the Up! trailer rustled seductively; the dynamic speed and purity of Luxo the lamp's boings were just absurdly right-there-in-your-face.
Then it was into Wall-E, with its clever use of an old show tune by Michael Crawford overlain with music by Hollywood composer Thomas Newman. The soundtrack is wonderful – atmospheric and at times hugely emotive. The sheer musicality of this 5.1 array was given a real test and it came out shining.
NO SLOUCHING:The center speaker has a little foot at the back to help it sit up straight
Louis Armstrong gets a number, too (La Vie en Rose), and it felt like he was in the room with me. The detail and placement was high-quality and would have silenced any flat-earth stereo hi-fi nutter with its accuracy. Back in Wall-E's world, I could count the footfalls of the tiny-but-cute cockroach; and the rest of the bandwidth was perfectly smooth and homogenous, with exquisite blending from driver to driver.
The single shortcoming to this high-end package, in my opinion, is the bass end, which became apparent in the scene where EVE has a joyous fly around Earth. Newman's soundtrack swells and will move you if there's any poetry in your soul at all, yet a crucial part of this feel is the exciting fullness of the bass, all rippling depth with taut edges.
In my own system, I use a B&W ASW825 subwoofer for its 1,000W of grip, along with a £2,500 REL Stentor for its absurd below -10Hz authority. Between them the combined result is, as Vinnie Jones said, 'Emotional'.
The trouble is, that while the Boston Acoustics' VPS 210 dual 10in woofer (one driven, one a passive radiator or wobbler) has a 500W amplifier in its guts, and does go very deep, it just cannot push enough air around in these overblown cinematic moments. You can hear that the product is struggling and have to wick it back a tad.
HOOK UP:All the speakers, including the surrounds, come with binding post terminals
The subwoofer is exquisite to look at, as are all the loudspeakers, but I would love to see this as a dual 12in beast with a kilowatt amp – or maybe even a three-kilowatt dual 15in monster – as the performance of the rest of the VS system is commensurately excellent. Bass is all about logarithmic scales of Watts and air to push about, so this isn't total madness on my part. It would be very costly, of course.
Elsewhere, the VS 325C centre has a wee foot to the rear to help the non-parallel sided enclosure face the right angle. Meanwhile, the VS 336 towers also have two small bars to support the back of the box, as no two sides of the enclosure are parallel. This is to avoid internal reflections. Only grunty old-fashioned or cheapo speakers are cubic boxes with square edges these days!
The cones are made from a processed paper pulp and are called, rather grandly, Organic Composite Cone Material (OCCM). All except the sub are rear-ported and nicely gas-flowed and curvy back there, so will need some space away from the walls, as do the VS260 bookshelf rears.
Overall, this is a very high-end group of speakers with an astonishingly posh, detailed sound, and premium-grade styling. Get four of those woofers and you will still slap the hell out of systems costing a serious slice more.
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