August 06, 2008
| by Rebecca Day
Boston Acoustics is betting there’s still a high-end market for tower loudspeakers but it’s a specialized one. The company unveiled its Vista line of loudspeakers Tuesday at a press luncheon in New York with the three-way VS 336 speakers leading the pack. At almost 4 feet tall, the speakers are the only floorstanding speakers in the company’s flagship line, and they’ll sell through limited distribution: roughly 40 specialty retailers and the custom installation channel.
The $3,400-a-pair VS 336s are a throwback to an era when audio enthusiasts were willing to devote room real estate to tower loudspeakers, but their attractive, tapered cabinets speak to today’s design-minded consumer. If you’re willing to devote airspace to loudspeakers, the VS336s give you aesthetic bang for your buck thanks to a palette of high-gloss lacquer finishes and the curved cabinet design. Standard are black lacquer cabinets with a choice of black or cherry end caps. Premium finishes include bird’s eye maple and ebony end caps. Limited edition cabinet finishes include arctic white and red. The latter, the company says, is for the “little red sports car” crowd.
The Vista line also includes models that appeal to consumers looking for compact speaker options. Boston execs took the wraps off a line of LCR speakers for wall mounting and two bookshelf models. The VS 224 two-way dual 4 ½-inch LCR speakers ($700 each) are designed to mount around a flat-panel TV.
Boston has long been associated with high-value bookshelf speakers and the VS 240 two-way speakers ($400 each) live up to the tradition. The 9-inch-high speakers more than held their own in the roomy demo space on a wide variety of tracks including Jennifer Warne’s “Way Down Deep,” Diana Krall’s “Little Girl Blue” and an a capella gem by the gospel group Fairfield Four.
That was before presenters added the VPS 210 subwoofer (see below). If you’re of the mindset that subwoofers are big, ugly and deserve to be hidden behind a chair, check out the VPS 210 ($1,700). It’s a looker and is the best example of the appealing design of the Vista series. This is a subwoofer you’ll want to show off. You won’t mind the 500-watt energy rating, either. According to Boston, the VPS 210, with a Class D amp is the first powered subwoofer to be given an Energy Star rating. That means in idle mode the energy draw is “virtually nonexistent.”
Although the Vista series is destined for the custom channel, the stylized speakers introduced today are all meant to be on display. That’s in contrast to the traditional custom speaker that’s meant to be heard and not seen. According to Phil Cohn, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, the Vista series offers desirable performance that’s typical of the custom and specialty retail channels. “Although the majority of speakers in the custom market are hidden, that market is also about high-end people looking for sophisticated products,” Cohn said. He added that additional Vista models will be unveiled at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association Expo next month.
Two-channel stereo loudspeakers may be in decline in the U.S. but there’s still a healthy market overseas, noted Senior Vice President and General Manager Eli Harary. “Two channel is alive and well,” he said, “and we expect these speakers to do well in Asian and emerging markets.”
In addition to the VS 240 bookshelf speaker, Boston also introduced a step-up bookshelf model, the VS 260 ($700 each). The larger model packs a 6 1/2-inch driver.
The floorstanding VS 336 speakers, VS 325C center-channel speaker ($900), and VS 240 bookshelf are in stores now. The VPS 210 subwoofer is expected to ship by the end of the month. The LCR speakers and VS 260 bookshelf are due out in fall. The speakers will also be available through limited online retailers.