Recently Braden started looking for some new speakers for his house. Recommendations came flooding in, but one that really intrigued us came from good friend Ray. He suggested we check out what HSUResearch has to offer. We know they make great subs, but were unfamiliar with their speakers, so we decided to check them out.
In addition to the unbelievable subwoofers made by HSU Research, they also make a bookshelf speaker, the HB-1 MK2, a center channel speaker, the HC-1 MK2, an in-wall speaker, the HIW-1 and a satellite speaker based surround sound system called the VT-12 Ventriloquist. For our review we were specifically interested in an LCR setup so we got two of the bookshelf speakers and one center channel.
The HB-1 MK2 bookshelf speaker is comprised of a improved, controlled directivity horn with a more powerful Neodymium magnet for the tweeter and a 6½ inch woofer. It measures 15” H x 8” W x 8” D and weighs 15.5 lbs. It retails for $149 for the satin black finish and $179 for the Rosenut veneer (real wood veneer).
The HC-1 MK2 is similarly built, but adds a second 6 ½ inch woofer. It measures 8” H x 23” W x 10” D and weighs 22 lbs. Each one comes with an optional base the bumps the height up to 9”. The HC1-MK2 sells for $239 for satin black and $279 for Rosenut. If all you need is a center channel, they’re currently clearing out the Walnut veneer models for $219.
The VT-12 Ventriloquist is a unique looking setup. It includes a large-ish center channel that almost looks like a soundbar and five satellite speakers. It retails for $299; extra satellite speakers cost $40. Add a sub and you’ve got a full 5.1 setup. We didn’t get a chance to review this one, but we did get a few of the satellite speakers by themselves to try out for surrounds for those who can’t use the HB-1 MK2s in the back of the room. We haven’t had a chance to review them yet, so we’ll update you in a couple weeks on how they do.
We’ll skip the typical “setup” portion of the review because, well, they’re speakers. You plug them into your amp. You probably want to recalibrate your amp if you change speakers, but that’s nothing to do with the speakers themselves. The only other item to note is that they don’t have keyholes or threaded inserts for wall mounts. These speakers are meant to be placed on stands.
There’s really not much more to say than “wow.” We’ll admit that we weren’t expecting awe inspiring results from $150 speakers, but HSU Research has built a great product. Dialog in movies and HDTV was clear and sounded very real. The HC-1 did an excellent job with the sound of the human voice. For surround effects the HB-1s were every bit as good and very complimentary to the center channel. Together they produced a very full and very crisp soundstage.
We don’t often listen to music in our home theaters, call it a weakness, but we’re really more movie and TV guys. But of course doing a speaker review we had to do music. We played some 2 channel stuff from CD and it rocked. Then we decided to get the best of both worlds and plugged in some Dave Matthews live stuff in 5.1. It sounded like we were there. For the price, we were simply amazed.
Of course we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just the amp/receiver that was doing such a good job, so we ran the speakers on two different receivers, an Onkyo TX-SR608 and a Denon AVR-3806. You always hear subtle differences between receivers, but we’ve never heard those differences so clearly. It’s almost like the speakers removed disappeared into the sound and let us hear every subtle difference in the personality of the two amps. But in both cases, they sounded excellent.
Coming from a company known for its subwoofers, the HB-1 and HC-1 speakers are really meant to be used in conjunction with a good sub to really get that low frequency punch. They do well with bass, but you do miss something without the dot-one in your 5.1 setup. The setup we used got us 4 of the 6 ½ inch woofers, but that still wasn’t enough to replace the need for a good sub. Luckily, HSU Reseach knows where you can get a good one of those.
HSU recommends using 5 HB-1 MK2 speakers if you want a 5.1 setup, and of course 6 of them for 6.1 and 7 for 7.1. Doing the math, that comes out to $984 for a 5.1 setup in black satin, that goes up to $1282 for 7.1 - not including the subwoofer. Obviously the Rosenut veneer adds a bit of a premium to the bottom line. HSU has a few packages built with a subwoofer included. The Enthusiast 3 is a great package for any home theater, it is a 6.1 setup and costs $1599.
Of course, if you want to get creative, HSU also sells the satellite speakers you can get with the VT-12 for only $40 each. Using those for the rear surrounds drops the price of a package like the Enthusiast 3 by about $435, getting the price under $1200. Of course we don’t set prices for HSU Research or their package deals, so don’t quote us on the numbers. We’re just going off the prices listed on the website. And again, we haven’t had a chance to demo the satellite speakers yet. We’ll update the review as soon as we have.
Overall we were very impressed with the HSU Research speakers. If you’re in the market for new speakers, they should certainly be on your short list. They’ll sound every bit as good as speakers that cost much, much more. You can thank us later for letting you in on this little gem.
Posted by The HT Guys, June 14, 2011 7:41 AM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.