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Definitive Technology BP-8060: A skinny speaker that sounds big

True to the company's name, the Definitive Technology BP-8060ST speaker boasts a healthy amount of innovative technology.

The Definitive Technology BP-8060 hides big woofers on its side flanks. Definitive Technology

Definitive Technology's BP-8060ST ($999 each) is a big, but not too big tower speaker. A little more than 44 inches tall and just slightly over 5 inches wide, it doesn't dominate a room, until you listen. The BP-8060ST's gravitas and poise, even when cranked up loud, are truly impressive.

The market trend to smaller and smaller speakers gets me down. Yes, little speakers can sound fine--as long as you don't compare them to something more substantial, like the BP-8060ST. If you've never heard what a big speaker can do, you'll never notice how little speakers miniaturize the scale of the music or home theater experience. Right, size still matters.

The BP-8060ST is a bipolar design, meaning it projects sound forward and off the wall behind the speaker. The rear midrange and tweeter's output is exactly the same timbre (tonal balance) as the front's dual 4.5-inch midrange/1-inch tweeter speaker array (check out the picture to get a better idea of what this looks like). The bipolar radiation pattern produces a bigger, more spacious sound field than a conventional front-firing speaker would.

The built-in 300-watt power amplifier drives a 10-inch subwoofer, and the woofer's bass output is augmented with a pair of 10-inch bass radiators. No wonder this svelte speaker sounds so well endowed.

So the BP-8060ST eliminates the need for a separate subwoofer, and the advantages of using two subwoofers in the room instead of just one go beyond more bass output: the two speakers' bass is more evenly distributed throughout the room than a single sub's would be. Of course, the blend between the BP-8060ST's sub and its midrange drivers are part of the design, but it's easy to tweak the bass balance to taste with the subwoofer volume control on the speaker's rear panel.

The BP-8060ST's onboard, 300-watt amplifier features a 56-bit digital signal processor (DSP) that extends and shapes the bass response to perfectly blend the subwoofer system with the speaker's three 4.5-inch midrange drivers. A digital protection system monitors and controls the woofer system to lower distortion and prevent woofer damage at ultrahigh volume levels.

Definitive Technology BP-8060ST
Definitive Technology CS-8060HD
Definitive Technology SR-8040BP
Definitive Technology Mythos ST SuperTower

I listened to the BP-8060ST in a stereo home theater in the CNET listening room, but if you prefer a multichannel home theater, Definitive offers a matching CS-8060HD center-channel speaker ($699) with built-in powered 8-inch subwoofer and SR-8040BP surround speakers ($249 each). That would bring the cost of a five-channel Def Tech ensemble built around the BP-8060ST to less than $3,200, which is still very reasonable for a system of this quality.

This cutaway view shows the BD-8060's driver array Definitive Technology

Starting with Norah Jones "Come Away With Me" SACD, the BP-8060ST absolutely nailed her sweet vocals, and when her drummer used brushes instead of sticks, the swishing sound of the wire brushes was perfectly rendered. That's a rare feat; brushes usually sound like a hissing noise, but here on the BP-8060ST, the brushes sound like they do in real life.

Tom Petty's "Mojo" album, on high-resolution Blu-ray, ignited the BP-8060ST's subwoofers, and the skinny speakers generated heavyweight bass impact, with solid control. "Mojo" sounded so good I pushed the volume way up, and the speakers stayed in cruising mode. They can rock and roll like much bigger speakers, that's for sure.

Moving onto home theater I fast-forwarded to the action-packed scenes from the "Black Hawk Down" Blu-ray, and the BP-8060ST's soundstage was so deep and wide I didn't miss the surround channels one bit. Dialog was firmly anchored in the "phantom" center channel, and dialog intelligibility, even in the most intense battle scenes, was very clear. Massive dynamic range assaults, like when the helicopter crashes, were handled by the BP-8060ST with ease, as were the explosions and gunfire. The speaker doesn't need the assistance of a separate subwoofer, and that wasn't the case with any of the previous powered tower speakers I've tested.

Finishing up with the orchestral score from "Perfume," the BP-8060ST demonstrated its refinement. The sound was so beautifully played, the strings had just the right balance of detail and lush tone. High treble detailing was sweet and airy.

So the BP-8060ST succeeds on both fronts, music and home theater, but my only question is, how can Definitive Technology's top-of-the-line Mythos ST SuperTower's sound possibly surpass the BP-8060ST?