I recently wrote about a Hsu Research subwoofer, "Shaken & stirred: The Hsu VTF-1 MK2," but today I'll cover a complete Hsu 5.1 channel sub/satellite system. There are four HB-1 MK2 sats, one HC-1 MK2 center channel speaker, and the VTF-1 MK2 sub. The six pieces sell for $1,159, and the sound is truly astonishing for the money. A Denon AVR-1912 receiver and an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player completed the test system.
The Hsu system has extraordinary power and dynamic oomph. It also sounds sweet at late-night listening levels, but it can rock with an ease that nothing near its price can equal. The VTF-1 MK2 sub deserves most of the credit for the system's freewheeling dynamic kick, but the Hsu speakers are also unusually lively performers. The helicopter crash scene from the "Black Hawk Down" Blu-ray was a far more visceral experience with the Hsus than what I get from my reference $1,624 Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD system. The HC-1 MK2 center speaker delivered a scale and presence far beyond the Aperion center speaker's capabilities. The big drums on "Biko" from Peter Gabriel's "New Blood" concert Blu-ray packed a much bigger wallop on the Hsu system. The five Aperion speakers trumped the Hsus by creating a more seamless, front-to-rear surround effect. The Aperions put you in the concert hall; the illusion is a little less convincing via the Hsu system because there was a "hole" in the image between the front and rear speakers, but the Hsu ensemble was certainly acceptable in that area.
The Andrew Jones-designed Pioneer SP-PK52FS speaker/subwoofer system ($630) was clearer and more transparent sounding than the Hsu system, but the Hsu sub is considerably more powerful than the Pioneer sub, and the Hsu speakers sound like bigger, more full-range speakers than do the Pioneers. One possible work-around solution -- use the Hsu VTF-1 sub with the Pioneer speakers -- but the Hsu speakers will outclass the Pioneers for sheer home theater muscle. The Hsu speakers' have softer treble detail, compared with the Pioneers and Aperions, which might be preferred by some buyers. As always, there's no such thing as a universal solution that everyone will love.
The Hsu speakers aren't small -- the HB-1 MK2 measures 15.2x8x8 inches -- and the HC-1 MK2 is even bigger, it's 8x23x9.5 inches! Both speakers have black cloth grilles, 6.5-inch woofers and horn tweeters, and they have rear ports. My review samples were beautifully finished in satin black, but a Rosenut finish is also available at extra cost. The entire system comes with a seven-year warranty.
The Hsu Hybrid 5.1 channel system and individual speakers and subs are all sold direct by Hsu, and you have 30 days to decide if you want to keep them.