Boston Acoustics CS 26 Bookshelf Review

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Founded in 1979, Boston Acoustics established a reputation for high performance, affordable home loudspeakers, and then ventured into the mobile audio arena with equal success. Boston, along with companies like Adcom and B&W, played a huge role in the upper mid-fi boom of the mid-to-late 1980s. Boston also strongly delved into the mobile OEM business, and to this day still provides the audio systems for a number of high profile automobiles. D&M Holdings, owner of the Denon, Marantz, McIntosh, Snell, and Escient brands (among others), purchased Boston in 2005.
Launched late in 2008, Boston's "Classic Series" loudspeakers combine many of Boston's high-end technologies with a more traditional style and look, all at an affordable price. Along with the CS 26 Bookshelf Loudspeaker reviewed here, the line-up includes the CS 226 Floorstanding Loudspeaker, CS 225C Centre Channel, CS 23 Compact Bookshelf, and CS Sub10 Subwoofer. Boston also offers a complete CS 2300 5-channel surround sound system, consisting of four CS 23 Bookshelf speakers and a CS 223C Centre Channel.
The CS 26 Bookshelf Loudspeaker couples a 1-inch Kortec soft dome tweeter to a 6 ½-inch graphite injected polymer woofers utilizing Deep Channel Design (DCD) for more bass from less amplifier power, according to the company. The company says that Kortec® incorporates stiffening agents into a synthetic fabric to achieve high frequency response and power handling. The CS 26 employs a rear firing port, and provides two gold plated 5-way binding posts. The CS 26 also provides a keyhole bracket for easy wall mounting, along with a set of rubber feet. Available in either a black or cherry vinyl finish, the CS 26 provides a good level of fit and finish, and its inset grill design creates a smooth front appearance that will appeal to many (as long as you listen with the grills on, that is...take them off and the appearance looks a bit awkward). Boston has achieved its goal of offering a classic, simple cosmetic alternative in today's modern marketplace.
Sound
Set up on stands and driven by a good quality A/V receiver, the CS 26 delivered a well-rounded, sparkly presentation. The highs stood out just a bit, but not overly so. The CS 26 threw a very convincing soundstage considering its price, with depth and width and a good feeling of air. The bass had very good depth and tightness, and blended well into the lower midrange. The port definitely colored the bass a bit, but never to the point of distraction. While the CS 26 lacked ultimate bass depth, as that is to be expected at its size, the overall bass performance really stood out and drew you in as a listener. The CS 26 had a smooth midrange and only a bit of shallowness in the lower midband. Overall, vocals and piano had a very appealing, listenable quality, and blended well into the rest of the presentation. The CS 26 also played pretty loudly when asked, and held together pretty well. The CS 26 performed better away from rear walls, but not as much as you'd expect from a rear ported design. It held its own even mounted directly against the wall.
I preferred the CS 26 only slightly more with classical and jazz than rock and electronic material. Its solid midrange and consistent bass response allow it to stretch pretty much well across all types of music. But for me, its slightly sparkly tonal balance and big sound staging lent itself to classical; I really enjoyed listening to big symphonies and opera through the CS 26.
At 89dB efficiency with an 8 ohm load, the CS 26 needed only an average amount of power to open up properly. While I recommend at least a good quality power source, you could certainly get away with an entry-level receiver.
High Points
• The CS 26 performs well across a wide range of music, plays loudly without significant break-up, and doesn't suffer much even when wall-mounted.
• The CS 26 reproduces big classical and opera very well.
• The CS 26 is easy to drive and set up, and offers a pretty, classic cosmetic profile with an elegant grill design.
• The CS 26 offers optional matching centre and surround models for easy expansion.
Low Points
• The CS 26's slightly forward tonal balance lends itself to classical and opera recordings, but certainly does well overall with rock and electronic material, as well.
• The CS 26 produces midband coloration typical of budget bookshelf loudspeakers, but not enough to stand out and distract.
• The CS 26 looks much better with the grills on, as the inset baffle design makes things look a bit awkward when they're off.
Conclusion
The CS 26 offers a very appealing combination of sonics, ergonomics, and aesthetics. It can stretch across many types of material, and look good in the process. None of its sonic shortcomings came at the expense of the whole sonic picture, which is critical at any price point. While I didn't find any one aspect of the CS 26 truly extraordinary, I also didn't find anything truly unappealing, either. It sounds good, looks good, and is easy to set up and drive. This is a solid performer.