Boston Acoustics may be one of the oldest American speaker companies, but the company is trying to reinvent its brand with some nontraditional product options. Take the Horizon MCS 130 surround sound speaker package. It's one of several "Personal Options Plan" products the company introduced in 2007. So instead of just choosing between black (onyx) or silver (mist), the MCS 130 lets you choose from six other sets of snap-on grilles--glacier (light blue), rosebud (pink), pearl gray, chocolate (brown), chili pepper (red), and caramel (tan). The grilles are available for $20 to $28 each--buy as many as you'd like to match the decor of your room, or go crazy and mix and match. The system itself lists for $800, but it can be found online for half that.
The MCS 130 system comes with three LCR (left/center/right) satellite speakers for the front, a pair of smaller matching surround speakers, and a subwoofer. The satelites are all small enough to be unobtrusive. The LCRs measure 13.8 inches tall by 5 inches wide by 4.1 inches deep, and can be used in either a horizontal or vertical orientation. They weigh 5.5 pounds each. The surround speakers are a bit smaller: they're 8.9 inches by 5 inches by 4 inches, and weigh 3 pounds. The subwoofer, which looks like an overturned wastepaper basket, isn't exactly small--the 16.5-inch square is 13.8 inches high, and tapers to a trapezoidal shape (the top is smaller than the base). Its 31.2-pound weight feels fairly solid.
The LCR speakers feature the classic woofer/tweeter/woofer arrangement with newly designed dual 3.5-inch drivers and a 1-inch soft dome tweeter. The molded cabinet combines subtle curves and a distinctive flared "lip" around the edge of the front baffle. Around back you'll find a sturdy bolt-on "foot" that supports the speaker when it's placed on a shelf or stand, or take the foot off and mount the speakers on the wall using the keyhole slots. There's also a pair of molded-in bass-enhancing ports on the back panel.
The smaller surround speaker uses just a single 3.5-inch mid-bass driver and the same 1-inch tweeter as the LCR speaker. It also has the foot and keyhole slots. One gripe: all of the satellites' recessed plastic binding posts are somewhat difficult to access; that won't be a problem with banana plugs, but threading bare wire or spades into the recessed connectors can be a minor hassle.
If you're running a 6.1 or 7.1 channel system, additional LCR and surround speakers are available for $130, and $90 MSRPs, respectively. Likewise, if you want to save some cash, you could downgrade to the Boston Acoustics MCS 100, which uses smaller satellite speakers all around. (That said, recent price breaks make it more affordable to stick with the MCS 130 at many retailers.)
The subwoofer's down-firing 10-inch driver is powered by a 200 watt amplifier. Connectivity options are limited to just a single LFE input, and that's fine with us (your AV receiver's bass management will handle crossover functions). We used the 120 Hertz setting on our Denon AV receiver.
We got acquainted with the MCS 130 by playing the Seabiscuit Blu-ray. The little MCS satellites cruised through the horse racing scenes with grace. The thundering gallop of the horses was nicely balanced against the distant sound of the cheering crowds.