With its new Play Smart mantra, Boston Acoustics is diving with both feet into the Apple-inspired world of eye-catching industrial design and playful corporate culture. Its about time another audio company in the consumer electronics industry acknowledges the consumer buying trends that have been passing the industry by for several years already.
Having just spent a couple of revealing days with the executive team of Boston Acoustics in Peabody, Massachusetts, I gained a pretty clear insight as to where the company is headed and why. Suffice it to say that this isnt your dads Boston Acoustics anymore. In fact, even the happy-go-lucky attitude of the companys senior VP and GM, Eli Harary, and seems to reflect the new corporate focus of combining technical expertise with a playful spirit.
Before you start thinking that Bostons new colorful speakers are placing flash ahead of substance, realize that this company has not compromised on quality. Yes, Boston has found a way to grab the attention of the casual (dare I say female?) retail shopper by adding an array of changeable grille colors for a typically black or woodgrain-colored speaker category, but they have done this without sacrificing their standards for high performance and strong build-quality.
I personally like the Boston P.O.P. (Personal Options Plan) approach, especially in the smaller form factor of the entry-level 5.1 line within the companys new Horizon Series. These little guys sound good and can blend in well with most interiors. If Boston can train its retail partners to sell as effectively as another Massachusetts speaker manufacturer already does theirs, then I think the Boston P.O.P. can offer a symphony of sonic success.
In case youre curious, the Horizon Series includes a range of 10 different speaker sizes and configurations, from compact bookshelf models to full-sized floor-standing units to home theater LCR models and powered subwoofers. The line includes the following models: HS 40 4.5-inch 2-way bookshelf (SRP: $99.99); HS 50 5.25-inch 2-way bookshelf (SRP: $129.99); HS 60 6.5-inch 2-way bookshelf (SRP: $149.99); HS 225 Dual 5.25-inch 2-way LCR (SRP: $249.99); HS 450 dual 5.25-inch 2-way floor standing (SRP $299.95); and HS 460 dual 6.5-inch 2-way floor-standing (SRP: $399.95), as well an 8-inch wireless powered subwoofer, HPS 8Wi (SRP: $399.95), and three powered subwoofers, the 10-inch HPS10 SE (SRP: $299.99), HPS 10HO (SRP: $399.99) and 12-inch HPS 12HO (SRP: $499.99), with 150-, 250- and 300-watt built-in amplifiers respectively.
I also love the industrial design of the corner-friendly SoundWare speaker line, which is a small cube with the corners cut off. I think this will be a real eye-catcher at retail and could single-handedly re-invigorate speaker sales with the entry-level customer. As I looked at and listening to this product, I thought to myself, Ive got to get a couple of those. And make them Expresso please. Did I mention the color choices? Not content with Crayola colors, Boston went with an interior designer palette of chili pepper, caramel, pearl grey, and rose bud, though black, white, and silver are also available. They all look pretty darn good.
Also noteworthy is Bostons TVee Model, which is flat-panel television accessory along the lines of other speaker bars on the market. A point of differention is that the TVee does not offer virtual surround, but simply (thats the point) enhances subpar flat-panel audio using RCA connectors and a wireless subwoofer. The real kicker is that Boston finally figured out a way to learn a CE product to your remote rather than the other way around. A simple button combo press on the speaker and your universal remote now controls the TVees volume instead of the TVs.
All of this is not to say that Boston has abandoned custom. On the contrary, custom installation still represents more than 50 percent of the companys business. Its revamped distribution model adds another 15 or so percent onto that. The custom line will receive a slight refresh in the Spring and more new products — in the companys higher end Vista line — will be unveiled at CES.
See what you think of Boston Acoustics new look and vibe while youre at CEDIA EXPO next month. I, for one, find it inventive and refreshing.