Bjork's Live at the Royal Opera House DVD was something else. She shared the stage with a symphony orchestra and a small group of electronic musicians--and the whole affair was beautifully handled by the MCS 130. The orchestra sounded rich and full over the three front channels and all sorts of downright strange electric and synthesized noises came from behind. The surround mix was especially effective, with Bjork's and her women choir's vocals clearly defined against the gigantic spread of acoustic and electronic instruments.
Next, we popped on the House of Flying Daggers Blu-ray for a shoot-out between the MCS 130 and the Definitive Technology's ProCinema 800 surround speaker package. The now-famous circle of drums scene packed a healthy wallop, and the MCS 130's sub was definitely ready for anything. The bass was plenty deep and powerful, but we were maybe a bit too aware of the sub--ideally the bass should sound as if it's coming from the satellites, but that was not the case here. Switching over to the ProCinema 800, the bass definition was tauter and cleaner. Also the sat/sub blend was seamless, so the big drums boom seemed to come from the satellites, not the subwoofer.
The sword fights were plenty exciting over the MCS 130, but we felt the metal-to-metal clangs and clashes sounded just a bit dull; the ProCinema 800 resolved more of the detail of the treble sparkle so the swords sounded more realistic. We also noted we could hear the sounds of the sword clashes reverberating in the palace with the ProCinema 800. The MCS 130 was less clear on that score.
For music, we played the Led Zeppelin I CD. The MCS 130 definitely had the muscle to put across heavy metal rock with gusto. In stereo or Pro Logic II (faux surround), the sound floated free of the satellites. We'd rate the MCS 130 as equally accomplished with music as it was with movies.
At the end of the day, the Boston Acoustics Horizon MCS 130 proved itself a capable system, but it didn't blow us away. It's best recommended for users who will take full advantage of the Personal Options Plan, and opt for a set of the unique grille covers. Likewise, price makes a big difference on the MCS 130. At its $800 list price, we'd much prefer something like the Cambridge SoundWorks Newton Theater MC155 or Definitive Technology ProCinema 600. But if you can score it for $400, it's a much more attractive proposition all around.