The way I see it, the demand for the skinniest possible speakers will be forever linked to the rising popularity of flat screen displays. You know the type: those svelte “soundbar” designs that look great under the screens, but typically sound undernourished. As I unboxed Boston’s new MCS 130 satellite/subwoofer package, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The tiny sats had all the earmarks of a style-over-sound effort, but the substantial subwoofer definitely looked like it meant business. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because Boston Acoustics earned its reputation as a purveyor of high performance, high value speakers and the MCS 130 definitely lived up to the company’s heritage.
The MCS 130 system comes with three LCR satellites, a pair of smaller matching surround speakers, and a mid-size subwoofer. The whole shebang is finished in a soft-touch grey paint and the speakers have black cloth grilles (the MCS 130 is also available with light grey mist cabinets with silver grilles). You can jazz up the looks with Boston’s P.O.P. (Personal Options Plan)—extra-cost cloth grilles available in eight colors including Glacier, Rosebud, Onyx, Pearl Gray, Caramel, Chocolat, Silver, and Chili Pepper (go to http:// www.bostonacoustics.com/ pop_viewer_satellite.aspx to learn more). Feel free to mix and match the grilles, or perhaps stick with the stock ones for the front three speakers, and order Pearl Gray grilles for the surrounds.
The MCS 130’s LCR speaker features dual 3.5- inch mid-bass drivers flanking a 1-inch soft dome tweeter. The drivers are all new designs engineered specifically for the MCS series models. The cabinet combines subtle curves and a distinctive flared “lip” around the edge of the front baffle. The compact speaker feels solid and well built. Its backside hosts a bevy of useful features: sturdy bolt-on feet that support the speaker when placed on a shelf or stand; nicely designed keyhole wall mounts; and a pair of moldedin bass enhancing ports.
The smaller MCS 130 Surround speaker uses just a single 3.5-inch mid/bass driver and the same 1-inch tweeter as the LCR speaker. If you’re running a 6.1 or 7.1 channel system, additional LCR and surround speakers are available a la carte for $130 and $90 respectively.
The matching subwoofer employs a down-firing 10-inch driver powered by a 200-watt amplifier. To keep things simple it doesn’t have an internal crossover— that function will be handled by your A/V receiver’s bass management system (which will be accessible via the speaker set-up menu).
The Home of the Brave DVD quickly established the MCS 130’s home theater chops. The portions of the film set in Iraq sounded clear, even as the going got rough during an ambush of a humanitarian supply convoy. The roadside bomb explosions fully exercised the subwoofer’s talents. Surround mixes throughout the battle scenes were well served, and the center channel speaker’s dialog clarity never faltered during heavy combat. Considering the MCS 130’s compact dimensions the sound was awfully impressive and dynamic.
It’s one thing to belt out convincing home theater hijinks, but how did the Boston ensemble score with music? I showed no mercy and cranked John Mellencamp’s The Best I Could Do greatest hits CD [Island] to a healthy clip. Gawd, it felt good as the band served up rhythmic hooks by the boatload on “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane.” This is exactly the sort of music that humbles poser speaker packages, so they wind up sounding like glorified boomboxes. Not this time: Mellencamp’s kinetic rock came through intact, thanks in large part to the nimble subwoofer.