We've been through this many times before: tiny home theater-in-a-box systems can pull off a convincing home-theater experience but can't quite muster a satisfying CD sound. We're not sure how they did it, but Boston Acoustics' seriously compact Avidea 610 Integrated Home Theater System sidesteps that bugaboo. The catch: it retails for a hefty $1,199.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The Avidea 610 consists of a combined receiver-DVD player unit, four generic-looking 5.9-inch-tall silver Micro 110x satellite speakers, a matching 8.25-inch-wide Micro 110c center speaker, and a midsize PV700 subwoofer. All of the speakers feature perforated metal grilles and wall-mounting brackets. If you place the center speaker on top of a TV, Boston provides an adjustable rear foot to direct the sound down toward the listening position. The sub mimics the styling of the sats in a black ash vinyl-wrap veneer, but it departs from the compact theme, being 14.25 inches high, 13.5 inches wide, and 16.75 inches deep and weighing 28 pounds.
With just six control buttons and a volume control, the receiver/DVD player is a model of simplicity. The display is also well organized, imparing information about source selection, surround processing, and volume level. At 9.6 pounds, it lacks the heft of a typical high-powered receiver; measuring 17.25 inches wide, 2.6 inches tall, and 13.6 inches deep, it'll easy squeeze into the most cramped cabinets.
That said, at this price level, we expect a higher level of build quality. The receiver/DVD player's silver plastic faceplate and the molded plastic sats just don't have the pizzazz of, say, Sony's aluminum-skinned DAV-FR9 or Onkyo's plasma-friendly LS-V955 HTIBs. We're not slighting the 610's actual quality, but it's not the sort of HTIB that'll woo buyers with flashy styling.
Setup menu navigation chores were reasonably straightforward, though we did note that unless we positioned the subwoofer within three feet of the front three sats, we could sense that most of the bass coming from the sub. We also noted the 610's background noise level was a little high; when we weren't playing CDs or DVDs, we heard low-level hiss coming from the speakers.Nowadays most HTIBs boast ridiculously optimistic wattage numbers, 600, 800, or even 1,000 watts, but that's pure marketing hype. When they're measured on a test bench, they're lucky to squeeze out 30 watts a channel. Boston doesn't supply power stats, but the Avidea 610 sounded powerful in our listening tests. The receiver/DVD player's surround processing modes include Dolby Digital, Pro Logic II, and DTS; it handles DVD, DVD-R/RW, CD, MP3, WMA, CD-R, CD-RW, JPEG images, and Picture CDs.
Connectivity includes the usual video suite: composite, S-Video, and progressive-scan video outputs, a VCR/DVR input/output loop, and two additional A/V inputs (one with S-Video). There's also an optical digital input and output and an unusual set of component-video inputs. But for $1,199, we'd like to see Boston offer an even more comprehensive jack set.
The satellites and center speaker feature a 3-inch copolymer woofer and a 0.75-inch tweeter. Sturdy, banana-plug compatible connectors also accept bare wire or spade-terminated wires. The subwoofer, which is also sold separately as the Boston PV700, features a downfiring 12-inch woofer and is powered by the onboard 200-watt amplifier. Its front-mounted volume control is handy for on-the-fly tweaking of bass volume.Most of the better HTIBs can sound decent playing DVDs, but their CD sound can be somewhat lame. Wilco or REM will likely sound undernourished or just plain small, and the subwoofers' muddy bass robs the music of its rhythmic dexterity. Based on looks alone, and that mighty 12-inch subwoofer, we expected the Avidea 610 would max out with DVDs and fall apart when we played our tunes. Wrong!
The Avidea 610 handled every type of music we threw at it--classical, rock, and jazz--with the poise of a much larger system. Mid bass, the hard-to-finesse region between the subwoofer and satellites' bass coverage, was abundant, so male voices had just the right amount of presence and warmth. Our concerns about the 9.6-pound receiver's power were unfounded; the 610's tiny speakers can fill moderately large rooms (up to 500 square feet) with sound. Dynamic punch was also impressive. Peter Gabriel's new DVD collection of music videos, Play, fully exercised the 610's brawny subwoofer. That bad boy supplies real muscle, and its deep, deep bass provided a secure foundation for the satellites. By HTIB standards, it's a monster.
The Avidea 610 rose to the challenge of a full home-theater workout with The Bourne Supremacy DVD. The musical score rocked, Matt Damon's brawls didn't pull any punches, and the car chases knocked our socks off. The DVD's dense textures, such as the sprawl of telephones and clacking keyboards, sounded real. Dynamic capabilities and enveloping surround sound were exceptional for a mini HTIB. If we had to pick on anything, we noted a tendency for the subwoofer to get a little muddy when we listened at high volume in our large home theater. In smaller rooms, the sub won't lose its composure.