HSU Research HB-1 MK2 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Reviewed

Published On: March 10, 2012
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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HSU Research HB-1 MK2 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Reviewed

HSU Research's HB-1 MK2 bookshelf speakers are cheap. However, they are also good. How good? Well read on to find out what Andrew Robinson had to say about the HB-1 MK2's performance.

HSU Research HB-1 MK2 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Reviewed

  • Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.

HSU-Research-HB-1-MK2-bookshelf-speaker-review-rosenut.jpgLet's face it, everyone loves a genuine bargain and home theater enthusiasts are no different. The reality is that there is no better time to be a budget-conscious home theater enthusiast than right now. Each year, more and more affordable products are introduced to the marketplace to compete favorably with product lines that have grown stale in comparison. While the subject of this review, Internet darling HSU Research's HB-1 MK2 Bookshelf Speaker isn't wholly new - it's been around for a few years now - it's still a genuine bargain and a worthy competitor to many of today's newer offerings. How much of a bargain is the HB-1 MK2? Try $298 ... per pair.

Additional Resources
• Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from the HomeTheaterReview.com staff.
• Find an amp to drive the HB-1 MK2 in our Amplifier Review section.
• Explore subwoofer options to pair with the HSU Research speaker.

The HB-1 MK2 is a modest-sized bookshelf speaker, which comes in your choice of Satin Black ($149 each) or real wood Rosenut veneer ($179 each). The HB-1 MK2 itself measures fifteen inches tall by eight inches wide and eight inches deep. It's rather hefty given its simple shape, driver complement and MDF construction at fourteen-and-a-half pounds each. The magnetic grilles cover the HB-1 MK2's two drivers, an improved horn tweeter and a six-and-a-half-inch woofer. The two drivers, along with the speaker's rear-vented design, give the HB-1 MK2 a reported frequency response of 60Hz to 20kHz plus or minus two dB, which is impressive, though the HB-1 MK2 is designed to be used in conjunction with a subwoofer, crossed over at 80Hz. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as HSU Research is primarily a subwoofer company, so their speakers naturally would mate well with their core product line. Sensitivity is rated at 92dB and impedance is listed at eight ohms, making the HB-1 MK2 ideal for amplifiers with as few as ten watts on tap on up to 250 watts. The HB-1 MK2 are single-wire speakers and feature a pair of robust gold-plated binding posts that can accept everything from bare wire to spade-terminated speaker cables.

I connected the HB-1 MK2 to my reference setup, consisting of my Parasound 5250v2, Integra DHC 80.2 AV preamp, Dune HD Max Blu-ray player/Media player and dual JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers. Everything was connected via interconnects and speaker cable from SnapAV. I only had two HB-1 MK2s on hand for review, as they were borrowed from a friend, as opposed to being supplied by the manufacturer. I had initially borrowed the pair of HB-1 MK2 to use as a comparison for another bookshelf speaker review I was working on and was so impressed by the HSU's performance that I asked to keep them for a few more days so that I could share my thoughts with all of you. Since I did not have HSU Research's center channel or rear channels on hand, I used them in conjunction with my Noble Fidelity in-ceiling loudspeakers to create a makeshift 4.2 surround system. Obviously, for music playback only, the HB-1 MK2s were used, along with my JL Audio subwoofers.

Upon initial listening, I came away with the impression that the HB-1 MK2 was a bit muffled and rolled-off up top. After about ten minutes of listening, I discovered my initial thoughts were wrong, and in reality many speakers -at least the ones I had on hand for comparison - were merely more forward and, in some cases, more aggressive. To say that for a sub-$200 speaker the HB-1 MK2's neutrality is rather staggering would be an understatement. More impressive, it's the first horn-loaded speaker I've heard that didn't sound "shouty" at volume. In fact, the HB-1 MK2's high-frequency response is practically the very definition of smooth. Does the HB-1 MK2's tweeter sparkle and shine the way many newer, more esoteric tweeters do nowadays? No, not exactly, but in not sounding like (or should I say chasing) what others are doing, it manages to be unique in its own right and the result is nothing but natural - not to mention non-fatiguing.

The HB-1 MK2's midrange is a real treat, for it is virtually without color and as close to neutral as I think I've heard at this price point and even several clicks above. The upper midrange is so organic and textural that it manages to put to shame a lot of other quality bookshelf speakers costing three and even five times as much. The HB-1 MK2's midrange performance, especially with well-recorded vocals and dialog tracks, is absolutely sublime. Speaking of sublime, the HB-1 MK2's soundstage is stunning and better in my room than even my reference Bowers & Wilkins. The air, detail, dynamics and three-dimensionality found in the HB-1 MK2's soundstage is simply amazing and one of the speaker's best attributes. Equally impressive is the level of detail and delineation that can be heard within the soundstage. While I've heard speakers with better focus, the HB-1 MK2 gets so much of the equation right that you'll come out of pocket a lot more before you begin to improve upon what the HSU's provides you out of the box.

Because of its relatively high sensitivity, the HB-1 MK2's dynamic prowess is quite good, though because its driver integration is so good and its sound so neutral, dynamics carry with them an organic, almost analog quality, as opposed to being explosive or in your face. Again, it might sound like this is a bad thing, but in reality it's quite something, for this little horn speaker manages to make other speakers sound "shouty" or aggressive when pushed. Furthermore, at loud volumes, the HB-1 MK2 doesn't collapse and/or fall to pieces, though it does need a subwoofer to augment its bottom end in all but small rooms. Push the bass driver too hard with a solid signal and it will distort, but match it to a capable subwoofer and the aural presentation afforded you by the HB-1 MK2/subwoofer combo will be epic. With a subwoofer in the chain, the HB-1 MK2 can easily play into the high 90dB range without breaking a sweat. For those with larger room or a tendency to play things a little more on the loud side, I would recommend stepping up to the larger HC-1 MK2 horn center channel, which can also pull double duty as left and right mains.

Read about the high points and low points of the HB-1 MK2 on Page 2.

HSU-Research-HB-1-MK2-bookshelf-speaker-review-black.jpgHigh Points
• The HB-1 MK2 may not be the most visually striking loudspeaker out there, but its build quality is still high quality and its finish is first-rate.
• The HB-1 MK2 manages to be so affordable thanks to its manufacturer's Internet direct sales model. All HSU speakers and subwoofers come with a thirty-day satisfaction guarantee and a seven-year warranty.
• For such a modest speaker, the HB-1 MK2 manages to sound more neutral and thus high-end than many costing several times its sub-$150 price.
• The HB-1 MK2's sound is one of neutrality and openness that possesses a smooth, grain-free high-frequency response that, after a few minutes of playing time, will have you convinced that many other speakers' tweeters are bright in comparison.
• The HB-1 MK2's soundstage is truly epic and, when properly set up, is nearly as good as it gets, and not just for its price.
• As a home theater speaker, the HB-1 MK2 simply excels. As a pair of two-channel mains it's not bad, though some lesser-quality recordings definitely benefit from other speakers' color and character.

Low Points
• HSU doesn't offer a matching stand for the HB-1 MK2, so you'll have to do a bit of research and find your own, which does add to the cost a bit.
• For true full-range sound, and frankly for optimal performance, the HB-1 MK2s need to be mated to a subwoofer. Like the stands, this also adds to the overall cost of things, but not as much as you'd think.
• The HB-1 MK2's tweeter doesn't have the best vertical dispersion, so you'll want to make sure it's mounted as close as possible to ear level for best results.
• Because of its neut
ral character, the HB-1 MK2 should be grouped with other HSU speakers, for I found it doesn't mate well with other speaker brands.
• For those with larger rooms and/or a propensity to take things to 11, I recommend stepping up to the larger HC-1 MK2, for the HB-1 MK2 won't play loud the way a larger speaker will.

Competition and Comparison
There aren't a lot of bookshelf speakers retailing for less than $300 per pair that manage to sound as good as the HB-1 MK2, but there are a few. Other bookshelf speakers in this category to consider are Aperion Audio's Verus Forte bookshelf speaker at $175 each, as well as Infinity Primus P142 bookshelf speakers at $198 per pair and, finally, Paradigm's Atom Monitor at $250 per pair (last I checked). I believe the HB-1 MK2 to be the best of the aforementioned trio, but nevertheless, you do have a few options. For more on these bookshelf speakers and others, please visit Home Theater Review's Bookshelf Speaker page.

Let's not beat around the bush. The HB-1 MK2 isn't a sub-$200 speaker that somehow manages to beat out $10,000 ones, no, but it is a sub-$200 speaker that manages to hold its own against speakers costing between $500 and $1,000. But more than that, the HB-1 MK2 is a loudspeaker for someone who isn't looking to fuss with all the usual enthusiast ailments, it's for the enthusiast who just wants to get on with enjoying favorite music and movies. When viewed in that light, the HB-1 MK2s are virtually unbeatable. The bottom line is this: you could easily assemble a 5.1 system around the HB-1 MK2 and a matching HSU Research subwoofer for less than a grand; throw in a modest Outlaw Audio amp and perhaps an AV receiver as a preamp and you have a no-nonsense, non-apologetic home theater for less than what many speakers cost - each. I love 'em.

Additional Resources
• Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from the HomeTheaterReview.com staff.
• Find an amp to drive the HB-1 MK2 in our Amplifier Review section.
• Explore subwoofer options to pair with the HSU Research speaker.

  • Offei
    2021-06-11 13:51:43

    Hi, I have Denon X1500h AV receiver with the HSU bookshelf speakers and STF2 subwoofer with SVS SBS-01 speakers as surrounds. The Denon does not sound as good with stereo music compared to my previous AV receiver, Onkyo TX NR 414. Wanted to know whether a Marantz NR 1509/1510 can provide enough power to power speakers and also sound excellent with 2.1 channel music? My room is 10ft by 13Ft with height of 9Ft thanks. The Denon has a subdued sound (like veil covering the speakers) which I am not used to. The Onkyo was bright, crisp and solid bass yet not overbearing.

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