Boston Acoustics VS 344 Review

boston acoustics vs 344 review

Boston Acoustics VS 344

“Its articulate yet powerful bass, open midrange and refined highs make for a speaker that is worthy of ample praise.”
  • Thin, beautifully finished cabinet
  • Tight, room filling bass
  • Airy, detailed highs
  • Easy to drive
  • Overly tall
  • Top to bottom grill may attract unwanted attention
  • Premium Price at $2500/pair.

Introduction

Chances are you are familiar with Boston Acoustics. That’s because the company has been producing quality speakers for the home audio market for over 30 years and, more recently, has led innovations in mobile audio as well.

The firm’s reputation for quality products at a moderate price is well earned, but with so many specialty speaker makers and Internet-direct options exploding onto the scene over the last 10 years, it’s inevitable that the outfit’s popularity has suffered a bit. That may be changing soon, however, courtesy of the VS 344 loudspeaker, whose beautiful aesthetic and even more beautiful sound should have people buzzing over Boston again shortly.

By leveraging its expertise as a driver manufacturer and combining it with top-notch engineering, the manufacturer has managed to create a truly outstanding floor standing loudspeaker with an incredibly small footprint and a remarkably big sound. As part of its flagship series, the VS 344 represents the best of what Boston Acoustics has to offer and, as you’ll soon read, we think it’s pretty fantastic.

Out of the Box

The VS 344 comes packaged well enough to handle the rigors of today’s most unkind nationwide shippers. Though the outer box looked a bit worse for wear following its journey to our office, the speaker was adequately protected by molded EPE foam and, thus, blemish free. The highly reflective piano gloss lacquer and dark cherry wood end caps were further guarded by a thin plastic sheath akin to the sort of protection you remove from the windows of electronics or the glass of a wristwatch. When peeled back, the high quality of the speaker’s finish was evident, with its mirror-like surface free of haze or streaking – a testament to the quality of the cabinet’s manufacturing. A black grill-cloth spans the entire height of the speaker top to bottom and the front baffle curves elegantly back to an even thinner cabinet body, giving the VS 344 a very thin appearance in any room.

Features and Design

The magnetically shielded VS 344 loudspeaker measures 44 x 5-3/8 x 8-3/8” and weighs in at a respectable 35lbs. Each unit utilizes a 1” Super Wide Bandwidth tweeter to handle the high frequencies, a 4” OCCM (organic composite cone material) midrange driver and, for the bass department, four more 4” OCCM drivers. The speaker is rear ported to enhance bass response and bi-wire/bi-amp capable using the provided gold-plated binding posts. We’re still waiting to speak with Boston Acoustics for verification, but our bet is that the tweeter and midrange driver are in their own, sealed cabinet, leaving the remainder of the cabinet volume to the 4” bass drivers. According to Boston Acoustics’ website, the bass drivers are crossed over at 250 hz and the midrange driver at 2500 hz. The rated sensitivity of the speaker is 87 db SPL/ 2.8v/1m – a relatively low rating, considering that Boston Acoustics claims high sensitivity is one of the speaker’s notable attributes. However, as you’ll note from our performance evaluation, we had no problems test driving the VS 344.

Performance

For our evaluation of the VS 344, we used a variety of amplification and sources that included a Harman/Kardon 430 stereo receiver; Marantz SR6004 receiver; Dynaco ST-70 tube amp; LG BD370 Blu-Ray player; and a Marantz turntable outfitted with an Ortofon OM5e catridge. The speakers were auditioned in a two channel setup with no subwoofer. The wiring used included a standard 12 AWG all copper wire terminated with banana plugs as well as KimberKable 8TC also terminated with bananas.

After a customary 50-hour break-in session, we placed the VS 344s about 10 feet apart and 1.5 feet from the wall behind them.

Ignoring our urges to test the VS 344’s bass capability, we started with James Taylor’s Covers album and the track “Suzanne.” This is an extremely well-recorded track with minimal instrumentation that has a way of revealing a speaker’s midrange and high frequency response traits. Though the recording features mostly guitar and voice with some background violin, there is an abundance of nuance in this cut, and a lesser speaker will miss it. The VS 344 didn’t miss a thing. Not only did we hear all of the finger noise on the guitar strings and hammers on the piano strings, but James’ potentially sibilant “S” sounds came across sparkling clean. It isn’t often that we get to enjoy all the air and detail around instrumentation without also having to endure overly bright, sometimes screechy cymbals, strings and brass. Thankfully, the VS 344’s tweeter is top notch and does a tremendous job of holding up under stress.

Since it is capable of being crossed over at lower frequencies, this same tweeter also benefits midrange production. By tasking the midrange driver with fewer high frequencies, the VS 344’s engineers have been able to simultaneously avoid harsh highs and refine the midrange. To hone in on the VS 344’s midrange performance, we queued up both the CD and Vinyl version of The Sermon! by Jimmy Smith. On the bonus track, “‘S Wonderful,” Lee Morgan’s trumpet gets set right in the listener’s face. Later in the same track, Jimmy Smith takes a monster solo, exploring the upper and lower regions of his B-3 organ and everything in between. Pulling this recording off well can be tough for speakers with smaller drivers, but the VS 344 did a more than admirable job of bringing the recording into our room. Even when Lee’s trumpet gets aggressive and tends to smear the sound a bit, the units produced only what is on the recording and didn’t seem to add any color of their own.

We mentioned earlier that the VS 344 uses four 4” drivers in each ported cabinet to handle bass response. Given enough cabinet volume, a single 4” driver can actually produce some fairly low bass frequencies, but ask too much of it, and you’ll soon know it. In theory, two 4” drivers should behave more like a 6.5” or 8” driver in terms of their capable bass output: More surface area equals more sound. So how do eight 4” drivers actually perform at handling the bass responsibilities of this speaker? They do just fine, thank you.

We put the VS344 through a barrage of bass tests in an effort to trip them or expose some sort hidden flaw, but it was hard to fault them in any case. Acoustic upright bass had the right sort of smooth, woody feel with just enough bottom end to be felt in the room. More aggressive bass tracks by the likes of Nathan East and Victor Wooten were clean and taught. We even ran a couple of demanding movie tracks through the VS 344 to see how it handled big explosions. Though not quite as visceral as a subwoofer, the VS 344 did very well, and we certainly didn’t feel like we were missing anything without the subwoofer. More importantly, the VS 344 never chuffed or bottomed out during out tests, which is impressive because we really pushed on them.

Sonically, the VS 344s are impressive. They have a sort of seamless quality that gives you the feeling that you are missing nothing in your recordings. Their bass response is impressive for any non-powered floor-standing speaker, the midrange open and transparent, and the high frequencies very well controlled. Top to bottom, this speaker does what a quality speaker ought to: It gets out of the way and lets the music do the talking.

Conclusion

Boston Acoustics’ proprietary drivers, superior engineering and high-quality cabinetry combine to produce the stealthy VS 344 floor-standing loudspeaker. Its articulate yet powerful bass, open midrange and refined highs make for a speaker that is worthy of ample praise. Whether used in a two-channel environment or as part of a home theater surround system, we think you’ll be very pleased with this very capable tower speaker.

Highs:

  • Thin, beautifully finished cabinet
  • Tight, room filling bass
  • Airy, detailed highs
  • Easy to drive

Lows:

  • Overly tall
  • Top to bottom grill may attract unwanted attention
  • Premium Price at $2500/pair.

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