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Acoustic Research HC6 review:

Acoustic Research HC6

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The Good Elegant appearance; good sound at moderate levels.

The Bad Distorts at high volume; connectors don't accept banana plugs; can't be mounted flush to the wall.

The Bottom Line These speakers look fantastic and sound good, but other similarly priced speakers sound better.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

Review Sections

Acoustic Research's HC6s will certainly catch the eye of those looking for a compact, elegantly designed home-theater speaker system. This six-speaker set sounds pretty decent, too, though not as good as some similarly priced speaker systems that we've tested. Acoustic Research's HC6s will certainly catch the eye of those looking for a compact, elegantly designed home-theater speaker system. This six-speaker set sounds pretty decent, too, though not as good as some similarly priced speaker systems that we've tested.

Handle with care
All six speakers, including the subwoofer, have a glossy-black, pianolike finish, and neatniks will appreciate Acoustic Research's considerate inclusion of a pair of white cotton gloves so that you won't get fingerprints on these babies when you're handling them. The system includes four identical, 8-inch-tall satellite speakers (with 3.5-inch woofers and 1-inch tweeters), a 13-inch-wide center-channel speaker (with two 4-inch woofers and a 1-inch tweeter), and a powered subwoofer with an 8-inch driver. Except for the subwoofer, all of the speakers are magnetically shielded so that you can place them near your TV.

Though we like the speakers' sleek look, we have a few gripes about their design. First, we are a bit disappointed that the connectors on the HC6 system don't accept banana plugs, though you can use raw speaker wire or spades. In addition, unless you have hands of steel to tighten those thumbscrews, the connection may come loose.

Secondly, such small speakers seem ideal for wall-mounting, but the HC6s have a rear-facing bass port, so you can't attach them flush to your wall. You'll need to use wall mounts that work with the speakers' 0.25-inch mounting sockets and give the speakers at least 1 or 2 inches of air space in the back for that port to function. If you can't make that happen, you'll just have to set them on bookcases or speaker stands.

Smooth sounds--at moderate volumes
In our listening tests, each channel of the HC6 system seamlessly blended into the next, filling our room with a clean 360 degrees of sound. In chapter 6 of the Video Essentials test disc, the narrator's voice panned smoothly around the room; the transition from speaker to speaker was almost unnoticeable. The effect was equally convincing during the numerous chase scenes in The Mummy Returns.

This system sounded really good with recordings such as Dave Grusin's Gershwin Connection so long as we kept it at a moderate volume. However, as we increased the volume on our Pioneer Elite VSX24TX receiver, we began to hear a harsh edge on what was previously a bright but very detailed sound.

And regardless of volume, the HC6 system sounded a little as if it were transmitting from a distance, especially compared to the audio from similarly priced packages, such as . The 8-inch subwoofer just didn't have the oomph or precision to give us the kind of clean bass we've heard on other speaker systems. An ugly side effect is that the subwoofer tends to muffle the sound of the satellites a bit.

For smaller home theaters, the $799 (list price) HC6 is worth considering because of its impeccable finish and small size. However, critical listeners should take a look at the offerings from Home Theater Direct and at the before choosing the HC6.

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