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TopTenREVIEWS - Bronze Award - Awarded for excellence in design, usability and feature set

The Boston Acoustics CS 26 bookshelf speaker is a member of the company's respected Classic Series of high-fidelity speakers. The line is known for warm yet precise sound reproduction at a reasonable price. While some of our other top-ranked bookshelf speakers beat them in terms of specifications, none are better in terms of pure musicality. They perform well in a stereo music system and can also serve multiple roles in your home theater system as main or surround-sound speakers. Overall, we found these Boston Acoustics bookshelf speakers to be among the best, and they earned the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.

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Performance
Compare
8.1/10
Klipsch Synergy
Polk TSx
Boston Acoustics CS
Polk RTiA
Cerwin-Vega XLS
PSB Alpha
JBL ES
Fluance XL
BIC America
Definitive Technology ProMonitor
10
9.4
8.1
8.1
8.1
8.1
6.9
8.1
7.5
6.9

The Boston Acoustics CS 26 speakers do a pretty remarkable job of reproducing the full range of musical frequencies, given their diminutive size. Keep in mind that these aren't full-range speakers, so the frequency response isn't that of a tower speaker. Reaching down to a respectable 52Hz, the lowest tone these speakers produce is still rather impressive for a small bookshelf speaker system.

They're more impressive on the high frequency end, reaching up to an ultrasonic 25kHz. Though 20kHz is generally recognized as the upper limit of human hearing, we can discern ultrasonic overtones. Not actually heard, they contribute markedly to the musical experience by giving you a feeling of spaciousness and realism that is missing when speakers can't reach these heights.

At 89dB, these bookshelf speakers are more sensitive than most of the competition, but less so than the two speakers we rated better. This is important because a decrease of just 3dB SPL requires double the amplifier power to achieve the same output. Amplifiers produce much cleaner, more precise sound when they're not being challenged so much.

It doesn't take much power to drive these bookshelf speakers. You can use them with as little as 10 watts of power. On the other hand, they can handle a pretty impressive 150 watts maximum input. That's quite a lot of power for a small bookshelf speaker, and it's rare that you would meet that limit.

Design
Compare
8.8/10
Klipsch Synergy
Polk TSx
Boston Acoustics CS
Polk RTiA
Cerwin-Vega XLS
PSB Alpha
JBL ES
Fluance XL
BIC America
Definitive Technology ProMonitor
8.8
8.1
8.8
8.8
6.3
8.1
10
7.5
6.3
8.8

These bookshelf speakers are magnetically shielded, a feature that can be particularly important in home theater applications. A speaker's magnets can cause interference when you place the speaker near a CRT television or monitor, but magnetic shielding prevents it. The five-way binding posts allow for great cable connections, whether you're using bare wire, single or dual banana plugs, or spade or pin connectors.

These bookshelf speakers are of the bass reflex design, which typically produces more bass than otherwise equivalent acoustic suspension speakers. The design uses pressure produced by the rearward movement of the low-frequency driver to produce additional sound and route it out an external port. Typically, the trade-off for more bass is muddier bass, but these speakers generally produce clean and appealing sound.

Cosmetically, there are two available finishes. The cherry vinyl appears somewhat unnaturally red, but the black ash is similar to that of competing products.

Drivers
Compare
10/10
Klipsch Synergy
Polk TSx
Boston Acoustics CS
Polk RTiA
Cerwin-Vega XLS
PSB Alpha
JBL ES
Fluance XL
BIC America
Definitive Technology ProMonitor
8.8
10
10
8.1
10
7.5
7.5
7.5
10
6.9

Like all but a couple of the bookshelf speakers we reviewed, the Boston Acoustics CS 26 includes a single low-frequency driver and a tweeter. The low-frequency driver measures 6.5 inches in diameter, and its cone is constructed of graphite-injected polymer. It incorporates the manufacturer's deep-channel design, which produces more bass response with less amplifier power.

The high-frequency driver, or tweeter, has a 1-inch dome design made of a proprietary material called Kortec. It's essentially a slick fabric reinforced with a stiffening agent to make it highly responsive. The soft fabric combined with the reinforced underside is a winning combination because the treble tones are precise and responsive while maintaining a superior, smooth musicality.

Help & Support
Compare
9.4/10
Klipsch Synergy
Polk TSx
Boston Acoustics CS
Polk RTiA
Cerwin-Vega XLS
PSB Alpha
JBL ES
Fluance XL
BIC America
Definitive Technology ProMonitor
10
9.4
9.4
9.4
9.4
9.4
9.4
8.1
6.9
6.3

You can contact customer support by email or telephone during specified business hours. The telephone number is not toll-free, though. The user manual is available online, and the company's website includes a FAQs section. These speakers are covered by an impressive five-year warranty.

Boston Acoustics CS Summary:
8.9/10

The excellent musicality of the Boston Acoustics CS 26 places them among our favorite entry-level bookshelf speakers. They produce pure and musical tonality, and they're a great set of surrounds for your home theater setup. Boston Acoustics is a respected name in home audio, and it continues to impress with the CS 26.

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Electronics » Home Audio » Bookshelf Speakers Review » Boston Acoustics CS
 
 

Boston Acoustics CS 26

Pros
These speakers can run on very little power and produce exceptional sound.

Cons
We would have liked to see the efficiency rating in the 90dB range along with our top-rated speakers, and the bright-red cherry finish looks unnatural.

The Verdict
: 8.88/10

Boston Acoustics has continued its trend of high-fidelity speakers with the CS 26. These speakers sound clean and pure, and will improve your home stereo sound.