The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is an international trade association of companies that specialize in designing and installing electronic systems for the home. Some CEDIA members develop innovative products for commercial and residential applications, and others are professional installers sometimes called the "fourth contractor" in the building and remodeling industries alongside electrical, plumbing and HVAC professionals.
Each September CEDIA hosts a trade convention where companies display their newest products for home theater and home automation installers to view. This past year, high performance audio manufacturer Boston Acoustics unveiled a new series of speakers designed to complement plasma and LCD televisions and monitors as well as DLP rear projection consoles and traditional screens. The new P4 series of speakers includes five loudspeaker models to match screen sizes from 26 to 60 inches. The flagship speaker in this line is the P400 High Performance Slim Theater Speaker. Instead of using two vertically and one horizontally mounted speakers for left, right and center channels, the P400 acts as three speakers in one long, thin cabinet for an uncluttered look and simple mounting. For a surround sound solution, Boston Acoustics offers multi-purpose surround sound speakers and powered subwoofers with vented enclosures. I auditioned a Boston Acoustics 6.1 home theater consisting of a single P400 loudspeaker, three Bravo II surround speakers and a PV900 powered sub.
It's a safe bet that no matter what kind of display you have, the included speakers are, at best, only adequate. Even the most expensive flat panel televisions are often accompanied by 20-watt speakers designed for watching news or sports broadcasts. Therefore, it's good that Boston Acoustics has addressed this issue by developing the P400 speaker. This unique three-in-one solution delivers separate left, center and right channel sound from a horizontally mounted single speaker. The P400 enclosure is home to three 4.5-inch bass drivers, three 4.5-inch passive radiators, and three aluminum dome tweeters; one pair of speakers and radiator for each channel to provide a wide frequency response and accurate sound imaging.
The speakers in the P400 are encased in a stylized silver cabinet made from extruded aluminum for great structural integrity. The strength of the cabinet reduces unwelcome vibrations and reverberation that can degrade speaker performance. Because Boston Acoustics designed the P400 to be mounted or placed near the display, they used MagnaGuard magnetic shielding to protect against magnetic interference with the picture.
The speaker is supplied with a wall bracket for easy mounting, but an optional P4TS table stand is available ($80). Silver is the "in" color for televisions, and the P400 has an elegant silver aluminum cabinet to match. However, if silver doesn't work for your application, Boston Acoustics thoughtfully includes two different mesh speaker grilles in silver and black.
The similarly shaped Bravo II speakers complement the P400 rather well. The vented enclosure is made from textured ABS, not extruded aluminum. The cabinet is available in black, white or silver with a matching metal grille to correspond with the P400 or to disappear into the surroundings. Each Bravo II has a 4.5-inch bass driver and a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter. A vent is located near the top of the baffle for a deeper bass response.
Bravo II loudspeakers are billed as multi-purpose high performance speakers. They are designed to fit in tight corners and out-of-the-way places without disturbing the lines of a room. A mounting bracket is included with each Bravo II for installation on a wall, or to attach to an optional floor stand, the P4FL ($320 per pair). Bravo II speakers are sold separately, so designing or upgrading a system is as easy as buying additional speakers.
What would a home theater be without a good powered subwoofer? Boston's PV900 sub rounded out my 6.1 test theater to the delight of my ears. The PV900 is near the top of the Boston Acoustic evolutionary scale. The sub is equipped with a 300-watt amp and 12-inch down-firing DCD (Deep Channel Design) woofer. DCD technology uses a deeply grooved pole plate to enable the voice coil to travel farther for greater output without bottoming out. The powerful amp has a built-in variable crossover that allows a seamless blend with the main speakers.
The cabinet of the sub is a vented design with a large flared port on the rear panel and is finished in black ash vinyl veneer. A large volume knob is conveniently located on the front of the subwoofer for easy balancing with other audio components. The PV900 has line and speaker level inputs and a crossover bypass function is provided for use with receivers and amplifiers that perform bass management duties.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The single chassis of the P400 was designed to fit above or below a 42-inch display. I attached the speaker to the optional table stand and placed it below a 42-inch LCD. However, if this ensemble were going to be part of my permanent home theater, the included wall mount would be my preferred choice. Once installed, I was pleased to see the width of the speaker was nearly identical to the display. Moreover, with similar finishes, it looked as though they came from the same factory. I connected the Bravo II speakers to the Boston Acoustic floor stands for rear surround. The heavy-duty table and floor stands have a silver finish and hidden speaker wire channel.
Read more about the performance of the Boston Acoustics P400 on Page 2.
The P400 uses three sets of five-way binding posts, and the Bravo IIs have a pair of push-button style spring loaded posts. The binding posts permit connections of banana plugs, spade lugs or bare wire.
The .1 of the system, the PV900 subwoofer, was positioned a few feet from the display by the front wall. The sub has two line level inputs. One uses the built-in crossover control to filter out the high frequencies and the second bypasses the crossover control. I relied on the bass management processing of my NAD T763 receiver and bypassed the sub's crossover.