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Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1 review: Ultrasmall surround sound for $500

CNET reviews the Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1, finding it to be an exceptionally compact system that sounds great for its size--although larger systems sound even better.

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If you like to flaunt your home audio system, you're probably not going to buy the Boston SoundWare XS 5.1 speaker system. That's OK; it's not made for you. But lots of people who don't make home theater their hobby still appreciate a true surround-sound experience, and Boston's system delivers that at an incredible size and price. The SoundWare XS 5.1 sounds surprisingly good, and we say surprising because its five satellite speakers feel only a little larger than a baseball in your hand. Combined with its compact 100-watt subwoofer, it's one of the most decor-friendly speaker systems we've tested. Our one nitpick, design-wise, is that the speaker connections are difficult to use, but you'll run into that problem only when you set the system up.

As good as the SoundWare XS 5.1 system is for its size, it can't defy physics. The Pioneer SP-PK21BS sounds much, much better, but it's also a much, much larger speaker system. And even if living room decor is your priority, you should seriously consider the larger (but elegant) Energy Take Classic 5.1 system, which sounds considerably better as well. However, neither of those systems can compete if space is at a premium, and the petite SoundWare XS 5.1 ($500 street price) is an excellent, affordable option with solid sound quality.

Read the full review of the Boston Acoustic SoundWare XS 5.1