HECO Aurora 300 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Review
- Design: 2-way bookshelf speaker, bass reflex
- Tweeter: 1” Fabric Dome
- Woofer/Midrange:6.7" Paper Cone
- Power Handling: 75 / 150 watts (RMS / Peak)
- Frequency Response: 32 Hz - 42.5kHz
- Sensitivity: 90dB (2.83v/1M)
- Crossover Frequency: 3,300Hz
- Dimensions: 7.6" W x 14" H x 13.1" D
- Weight: 16.5 lbs. (7.5kg)
- Finish Options: Ebony Black, Ivory White
- Terrific off-axis response
- Great bass extension
- Good dynamic range
- Wide, enveloping soundstage
- Very good looking for the price
- Could use more cabinet bracing
- Packing could be beefed up
In our review of the HECO Aurora 1000 floor-standing speakers, I was very pleasantly surprised to find a real gem from a low-cost brand that I had not heard of. The brand was unknown to me, the packing was cheap, and much of the exterior evidenced a loudspeaker that was pretending to be more expensive than it was. However, the listening experience, as well as objective testing, showed a speaker that was designed to take sound quality seriously, and it ended up being one of the very best tower speakers in its price class.
I was left deeply impressed by the Aurora 1000s, and I wanted to see what else HECO brings to the table at such affordable pricing, and that leads us to today’s review of the Aurora 300 bookshelf speakers. Can HECO sustain the same level of sound quality in their lower-cost stand-mount speaker? Some other brands have been known to phone in their efforts in the simpler and less expensive speakers and subs within the same series; would HECO do the same? And how do the Aurora 300s compare to other competing bookshelf speakers in its class? These are the questions we will be asking in today’s review.
HECO Aurora 300 Packing and Appearance
The Aurora 300 pair arrived in a single, heavy-duty cardboard box. They were packed in styrofoam, and the foam did not quite survive the voyage to my home. What was supposed to be two pieces sandwiching the speakers turned into many pieces after what must have been a rough trip. Thankfully, enough key pieces survived so that the speakers weren’t tumbling around in a mess of Styrofoam particles, and the speakers only suffered minor cosmetic damage. Within the Styrofoam packing, the speakers are wrapped in a cotton sleeve to protect against moisture and scuffs. HECO should look into upping the packing protection by using polyethylene foam blocks instead of Styrofoam. Styrofoam is much less expensive, but if these speakers are indeed good ones, then they deserve better packing than what has been provided here.
Once unpacked, we are met with two handsome bookshelf speakers that came in HECO’s ebony finish. The front baffle and top are a continuous piece of satin black, and the sides, bottom, and rear use a vinyl imitation ebony wood veneer. The ebony imitation looks a lot more like a real wood veneer than the ivory white that the 1000s had which I previously reviewed. With grilles on, the 300’s drivers are hidden, and the 300s look like smooth black boxes with a wood panel siding. Without grilles, the drivers are exposed and give the speakers are more detailed appearance. The woofer looks very typical, and the dome tweeter looks slightly unusual owing to the radial ribbing on the tweeter faceplate. A metallic HECO badge rests on the lower edge of the front baffle, and an Aurora badge sits in the back of the top panel. To the extent that it matters, the rear of the speaker uses a faux brushed metal finish on the terminal cup as well as the port. It looks fine at a distance but isn’t terribly convincing upon close inspection. Overall, the Aurora 300s look like typical bookshelf speakers, perhaps a bit understated in the ebony finish, and not at all bad for the class.
HECO Aurora 300 Design Analysis
As a member of HECO’s Aurora series, the 300’s design has a lot in common a lot with the 1000s, so I will be borrowing some of the descriptions of its shared components. The tweeter, woofer/midrange, and crossover frequency are all the same. Let’s start our discussion of the 300’s design at the top with the tweeter as we often do.
The Aurora 300 uses a 1.1” fabric dome tweeter surrounded by a corrugated flange in a system that HECO calls the “Fluktus” tweeter. The faceplate of the tweeter has computer-modeled waves shaped into it that are supposed to assist with the dispersion, so they act as a waveguide somehow. It’s a strange waveguide, and I think the real purpose of the ripples in the faceplate is to modulate baffle diffraction in some manner. The results we saw in the 1000 were very good, and I expect the same to be true here. The tweeter uses a 2 ¾” diameter ferrite motor with a ⅝” thickness with a bucking magnet attached. In the ‘old days,’ bucking magnets were used to contain stray magnetic fields from interfering with CRT televisions. They can also have the added benefit of slightly raising driver sensitivity which is why I would imagine HECO is using them here.
Moving on to the woofer/midrange, we have a 6.7” treated paper cone attached to a stamped steel frame with a relatively large half-roll surround and Nomex spider. The motor uses a 3” diameter x ¾” thick magnet and is vented under the spider. It also has a 3” diameter by 9/16” thick bucking magnet attached, presumably to raise sensitivity. Cooling is done through the pole piece as well as under the spider.
The 9-element crossover looks sufficient for the job, but it’s not the fanciest circuit I have ever seen. The stated crossover frequency is 3.3kHz, and while that seems pretty high for a two-way bookshelf speaker with a 6.7” woofer, it worked well for the Aurora 1000s, so I am guessing it will work well here too. For some absurd reason, the 300s have dual binding post pairs so they can be bi-amplified or bi-wired. There is rarely a good reason to bi-wire any speaker, and the bi-amplification of a two-way bookshelf speaker that is only spec’d at 75-watt RMS power handling is also ridiculous. I am guessing they only added dual binding post pairs to tick off some marketing checklist to make the speakers seem higher-end. To be sure, dual binding post pairs don’t necessarily hurt anything, but misuse by users who don’t fully understand their functionality only makes them a source of trouble, not improvement. I would encourage users to just use the speaker normally and leave the jumpers installed.
The enclosure is made from MDF and has a 1” thick front baffle and top panel. Other panels are ⅝” thick. Sheets of acoustic stuffing line the side panels. There isn’t any cross-bracing or windowpane bracing, but the inner edges have blocks to reinforce the strength of the enclosure. The feet are some rubber cones with a hard plastic core. They should adequately damp contact with any surface while giving the speakers a solid footing. There is a rear-mounted port that has a 6” depth with a 2” diameter and is flared on both ends.
As an overall design summary, aside from the HECO-particular idiosyncrasies such as the ‘Fluctus’ tweeter and the high crossover frequency, the Aurora 300s look to be a very normal bookshelf speaker that mostly follows a tried-and-true formula for good performance. Let’s now see how it holds up in some real-world listening…
HECO Aurora 300 Listening Sessions
In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with a few feet of stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall and equal distance between speakers and listening position. I angled the speakers with a mild toe-in toward the listening position. The listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Processing was handled by a Marantz 7705, and amplification was handled by the Monoprice Monolith 5x200. The speaker stands were some Monoprice Monolith 24-inch Steel Stands. Subwoofers were not used unless otherwise noted.
HECO Aurora 300 Music Listening
For something that emphasizes voices, I found a terrific album from the Naxos label titled “Chesnokov: Sacred Choral Music.” Much like the title indicates, this 2023 release features choral music by Pavel Chesnokov, a prolific Russian composer who wrote over 500 works from the early to mid-twentieth century. Most of his output was religious in nature until the Bolshevik revolution forced him to compose secular works. Russian choral music has a reputation for being somewhat droning in nature, but Chesnokov’s works are not like that at all. These are much more animated and multi-colored pieces that use a great range of human vocal expression. This performance uses 50 singers from St. John’s Voices to the Cambridge University Chamber Choir, among others, and it sounds gorgeous from beginning to end. I streamed this album from Qobuz.
The 300s presented a wide and expansive soundstage, and it sounded as if I were seated in a front row at the performance. The position of the soloists resolved nicely, and the choral groupings were spread over an angle that seemed to span wider than the speakers’ placement. The moderate reverb in the recording gave my room a symphonic hall feeling through the 300s. The tonality of the voices sounded natural and did not have any undue emphasis on any range that I could hear. Indeed, the singers sounded exquisite on the 300s, much better than I would have expected given the price of these speakers. Though these are bookshelf speakers being used full-range without any subwoofers assisting them, I didn’t notice any shortcomings in bass at all. The lower end of the baritone singers sounded fully present. Of course, a performance like this doesn’t pound low frequencies as would some pipe organ recordings or electronic bass music, but if you are interested in vocal works such as this choral recording, subwoofers wouldn’t make any meaningful contribution on top of the 300s. Overall, this performance of Chesnokov’s works sounded lovely on these speakers, and it hammers home the point that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a truly high-quality sound.
For something that places more emphasis on individual instruments, I listened to Berke Ozcan’s “Twin Rocks” on Qobuz in hi-res. This jazz recording was inspired by a discovery of a peculiar natural formation by Ozcan during a hike in southern Turkey. Ozcan is joined by Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henricksen and Brooklyn-based baritone saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson, and together they make an unusual sound that is dripping with atmosphere which could almost be called psychedelic jazz. This recent release from the Omni label was mastered by three-time Grammy-winning engineer Dave Darlington, and it sounds superb on a hi-fi system; how would the relatively inexpensive Aurora 300s handle it?
The tracks in this album start out with bells and chimes that ripple out and have an alternating echo from left to right channels, and that sets the tone for the trippy nature of this album. The 300s articulate this effect beautifully. When the trumpet kicks in, it images center-stage with a well-defined position. Piano was recorded using close mic’ing, so it has a ‘big’ image, an effect very easy to hear in these speakers. Percussion and bass are shockingly authoritative given the size and price of these speakers. I checked the low-frequency extension of the 300s in my medium-sized room, and I was getting solid bass down to 50Hz. That is good enough to catch the bass on most acoustic recordings, and I didn’t feel as if I was missing anything on this album. The saxophone prominently featured in track 4, “Hidden Valley”, was magnificently rendered; it imaged at the center of the soundstage and contrasted nicely with the atmospheric xylophone and distorted vocals. The album closes out with a track that uses a host of traditional instruments mixed in an ethereal haze of reverb and backmasking, and the 300s managed to track all of these odd sound sources with a sharp eye so that it didn’t turn into a blur as it might have on a less linear system. “Twin Rocks” was a terrific listen and is certainly one of the top jazz albums of this year, at least for me, and I am glad to have heard it on speakers as good as the 300s.
Bringing instrumental music out to a larger scale, I listened to Max Richter’s “Heard on Screen,” a recent release that samples some of the famed neoclassical composer Richter’s scores for movies and television. While I do prefer Richter’s non-score works, his soundtracks have been excellent as well, and this album serves as a great introduction to some movies and shows that I hadn’t seen. In this album, we get tracks from Apple TV’s “Invasion,” the 2018 film “Mary Queen of Scots,” HBO’s series “My Brilliant Friend,” and the science-fiction film “Ad Astra,” among others. This album presents orchestral music in a variety of modes, from the emotional and intimate to the epic and grandiose, but all bear Richter’s unmistakable fingerprint. This album is a great listen not just for Richter fans but any music lover thanks to Richter’s outstanding compositional talent.
On the 300s, the soundstage of this studio orchestral album was large and spacious. As with my experience in listening to Chesnokov’s choral works, it felt as if I were front stage at the performance. I could probably have reigned in the width of the staging by bringing the speakers closer together and angling them to face my listening position directly, but I enjoyed the encircling effect, and it didn’t seem to hurt the exactitude of the imaging much. On tracks where there were single instruments and not just entire orchestral sections, the imaging was very good, although not the most precise I have ever heard. I could certainly have focused imaging more by repositioning the speakers, but I did not want to trade that for this gloriously enveloping and wide soundstage. Again, the low-frequency extension was seemingly enough to catch most if not all the bass in this recording, and I was astonished by how deep these modest bookshelf speakers could reach. A great example of that was track 7, “The Consolations of Philosophy,” which lays into lower-pitched strings as well as the deeper end of the piano, and the 300s reproduced them with the same oomph as I would expect from a tower speaker. On this recording of a full orchestra, the 300s seemingly lacked for nothing. Overall, they provided an impressive sound, regardless of pricing or class of loudspeaker.
I wanted to see what the Aurora 300s could do when stressed a bit, and towards this end, I selected Mega Drive’s “200XAD,” a 2023 release that is filled with some of the hardest music to come out of the synthwave scene. This music is heavily influenced by 1980s media from video games, sci-fi films, and TV shows such as “Miami Vice.” However, it takes those inspirations as a launching point for music with an agenda beyond mere nostalgia. It conjures a dark future world that never was, a fusion of cyberpunk and horror that would have been the score for the coolest video game or movie that could only exist in the imaginations of those who dig this unique aesthetic. This music uses heaps of bass and heavy compression that serves as a great stress-tester for any speaker system at loud levels.
When the beats and bass first kicked in, I was again impressed by the capability of these modest bookshelf speakers. The 300s could create a surprising amount of thump on their own. I could see the woofers moving pretty furiously at loud but not super-loud levels, and that means I was pretty close to the edge of what these speakers could do in terms of dynamic range. Cranking them a bit louder confirmed that they were past their comfort zone by adding a fuzziness to the sound that was distortion from overdriving. The low frequencies in this music were pushing the woofers hard, so I decided to see what could be gained by bringing in a subwoofer and high pass filtering the speakers, which would give the woofers a break. That gave the speakers a bit more headroom, but this music was so mid-bass heavy that not even a 90Hz crossover frequency could stop the vigorous motion of the 300s’ bass drivers. So the Aurora 300s are not quite enough to power a house party on their own, but that would have been way too much to expect of some simple 2-way bookshelf speakers using 6.7” woofers anyway. At reasonable volume levels, the 300s could handle this bass-heavy electronic music just fine, better than what would have been expected given their specs and pricing. In the end, the 300s provided an enjoyable experience with Megadrive’s “200XAD,” although at loud levels, the listening experience was markedly improved by bringing in subwoofers.
HECO Aurora 300 Movie Watching
A movie that looked like it could be a good demonstration of a sound system’s ability to deal with modern sound mixes is the new Netflix thriller “The Killer.” This film stars Michael Fassbender as an assassin who must survive after bungling an assignment thereby becoming the target of a criminal syndicate. It is directed by David Fincher who always brings some interesting new ideas to the look and sound of a movie. This glossy Hollywood production should have as good sound mixing and mastering as money can buy.
“The Killer” turned out to be fairly restrained for a movie about a hitman, but it did have its moments of interesting sound engineering. Most of the protagonist’s dialogue was in voice-overs, as Fassbender’s contract killer wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but it all sounded crisp and clear on the 300s. Dialogue intelligibility was never an issue, even though our main character’s journey takes him all over the globe and is met with a variety of heavy accents. A chase scene at the beginning where the main character must evade Parisian police cars was relayed with a good sense of spatial geometry, and I always had a clear sense of where the Police car's sirens emanated from with respect to Fassbender’s electric bike. A vicious fistfight midway through the film exhibited the 300’s ability to recreate physical action. Punches and body slams were all delivered with a muscular thud that could almost be felt. It was a brutal fight made all the more so with such a vivid sound reproduction. The most interesting and memorable aural aspect of “The Killer” was the music, which was a mix of diegetic tracks from The Smiths, our hitman’s favorite band, as well as the non-diegetic score, which was rather experimental electronic music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who are frequent collaborators with Fincher. Reznor and Ross’ score was somewhat minimal and bass-heavy, and it provided a nice undercurrent to the nearly constant tension of the film. It sounded great on the Aurora 300s. A subwoofer might have brought out some of the deepest frequencies in the sound mix, but I didn’t miss that super deep stuff at all, and “The Killer” was perfectly enjoyable on the 300s alone.
A movie I had long intended to watch but hadn’t taken the opportunity was Daren Aronofsky's “Black Swan.” This 2010 psychological drama concerns a talented but unstable ballerina who is picked for the lead role in a prestigious production of “Swan Lake.” Her mental condition deteriorates under the pressure to achieve perfection for the role. I figured it would make for a great exhibition of a loudspeaker since classical music would be featured so heavily. Aronofsky is known for making some of the most intricately edited movies in the film business (see “Requiem for a Dream” for example), so the sound mixes in his movies can be quite dazzling.
“Black Swan” was filled with music, as was expected, and it all sounded quite good on the Aurora 300s. Of course, much of it was directly from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” or inspired by “Swan Lake” much like Clint Mansell’s original score here, which uses themes from the ballet. It all sounded great on the 300s. Many instances of the music were simple piano playing during rehearsals and were accompanied by the sounds of dancing and dialogue, and the speakers reproduced these layers of sound with admirable lucidity. The sound mix featured many subtle cues indicating our main character’s decaying mental state such as phantom whispers, subdued laughter, and imagined footsteps, and the 300s had no problems relaying the offscreen spatial positioning of these sounds. Dialogue intelligibility was always clear, and I never had a problem understanding spoken words. One interesting aural aspect of the movie is the evolution of Natalie Portman’s character’s voice. At the start, her voice is high-pitched and girlish, but as she progresses, her voice becomes notably deeper and unsteady. It’s a subtle effect but easy to hear on the 300s. The psychical qualities of the sound mix of “Black Swan” might have been rendered a bit better in a full-blown high-quality surround sound system, since some of the sounds are meant to originate behind the listener, but the 300s in stereo do a good job of imparting the sometimes complex soundstage of this mix. I liked the movie and what the Aurora 300s was able to bring to this listening experience.
HECO Aurora 300 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Measurements and Analysis
The Aurora 300 speakers were measured in free air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 1-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at an 11-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.
The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the 300’s amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Understanding Loudspeaker Measurements Part 1. While the on-axis response is a bit rocky here, the listening window is fairly smooth, and the good news is that the listening window is much more important than the on-axis response. The listening window encompasses much of the forward acoustic response across probable listening positions, whereas the on-axis response only describes a single angle. The early reflections curve is also fairly smooth, but we start to see effects of crossover cancellation, although much of that is probably stemming from the vertical responses which aren’t that critical and thus less impacting on the sound. The power response and directivity indexes do show a slight directivity mismatch between the tweeter and woofer, and the tweeter does have a broader radiation pattern at its bottom end than the woofer has at its top end. I would imagine that the Aurora 200s with a smaller 5” woofer would probably have a better directivity match with the tweeter, but I think that the audible consequence of any of this would be small.
The above graphs depict the speaker’s lateral responses out to 90 degrees in five-degree increments. More information about how to interpret these graphs can be read in this article: Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. In these graphs, we get a better look at how the on-axis response and nearby angles compare to the off-axis responses. The bump in the on-axis response centered at 5kHz might make the 300s a tad sibilant to listen to when aiming the speaker directly toward the listener, but without a toe-in, these speakers exhibit a very smooth response. There is a small rise in treble above 12kHz or so, but that is too high in frequency to matter in any realistic listening situation. There is not much content up there, and many listeners’ hearing isn’t very sensitive to such high frequencies anyway. The directivity mismatch that we see from the above ‘spin-o-rama’ family of curves isn’t apparent in these measurements of the horizontal radiation, which is more reason to think it's not going to have a serious impact on the sound.
The above polar map graphs show the same information that the preceding graphs do, but they depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude, and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is that they can let us see broader trends in the speaker’s behavior more easily. For more information about the meaning of these graphs, we again refer the reader to Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II.
In this graph, we do see some very slight waistbanding at just under 2.5kHz, but it is pretty mild. We do see that the tweeter does constrict its dispersion as frequencies rise above 5kHz, and that is typical of dome tweeters without waveguides. This narrowing of upper-frequency radiation of this dome tweeter is not as severe as many that we have seen in the past that have this type of design. The good news is that we see a lot of solid light red color which means that the response is stable and consistent across so much area. That will result in the speaker having a similar tonality over a broad listening area. This is particularly good news for those looking at these as surround speakers since they offer coverage over a wide area with an even, uniform sound.
The above graph takes a closer look at the individual amplitude responses on the horizontal axis from zero degrees out to 35 degrees which covers pretty much all of the area that anyone would reasonably listen to on these speakers. Here, we get a better look at the optimal angles where the response is the smoothest. From zero degrees going out, we get a peak at 5kHz that softens and is completely gone by 20 degrees. If you position the speakers to face outward in parallel directions, then those listening at a center point between the speakers would be around the 20-degree angle. That means these speakers work best with no toe-in. That is smart engineering (or just good luck) since most people do not angle the speakers to face the listener directly as audiophiles so often do. At responses at and around 20 degrees, we get a very wide band of flatness stretching from lower midrange to upper treble. There is a bump centered at 700Hz that occurs at all angles, and that might lend a slight nasally quality to some voices, but I don’t think it is high enough or wide-band enough to have a serious detriment on the sound. I didn’t notice anything amiss in my listening.
The bottom line here is that, for the best sound, just position the Heco 300 speakers to face forward WITHOUT angling them inward at all.
The above graph shows the 300’s response behavior along its vertical axis where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter. We can see that we don’t get an extremely wide angle before crossover cancellation occurs on the vertical axis, about +/- 10 degrees. That means that, as with so many other speakers, these speakers should be placed around ear-level height and try not to listen too high or low with respect to the tweeter angle. That is very typical of this type of design. The 300’s might have gained a broader vertical angle before crossover cancellation dips kick in if the tweeter was mounted closer to the woofer, but the large tweeter plate and its odd ‘Fluktus’ design make closer mounting impossible.
The above graphs show the 300’s low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide-open area). This is a remarkably smooth low-frequency response with a gradually tapered low end indicating that the port isn’t quite producing as much output in the low end as the woofer is in mid-bass frequencies. That is a very common strategy since a dead flat response down to port tuning doesn’t account for room gain and often causes a boomy in-room response. In my home theater room, I ended up with strong bass down to 50Hz, but in a smaller space, this type of response could potentially yield usable bass down to lower frequencies. I appreciated the fact that HECO decided not to boost the port-generated frequencies as can sometimes be done on lower-cost bookshelf speakers. That can cause muddy and indistinct bass depending on the nature of the bass boost.
The above graph shows the electrical behavior of the Aurora 300 speakers. This has to be considered a 4-ohm speaker thanks to the mid-bass region’s minima at 4-ohms, but this is a very mild 4-ohm load. Any AVR should be able to run these speakers without problem. We can see from the dip between the saddle peaks in bass that the port tuning is just under 50Hz. We can also see from the second saddle peak being so much taller than the first that the enclosure resonance is higher than that of the bass driver. There is a slight blip just under 300Hz that might be a panel resonance since the 300 doesn’t have any cross-bracing within the cabinet.
I measured sensitivity to be 88.2dB for 2.83v at 1 meter which is a bit below HECO’s sensitivity specification of 90dB for 2.83v watt at 1 meter. But even by my measurements, the 300s are above average in sensitivity for a medium-sized bookshelf speaker. They don’t need a ton of power to get loud, and indeed they could not handle a ton of power anyway with a 75-watt RMS power-handling spec.
HECO Aurora 300 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Conclusion
Before bringing this review to a close, I will briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under review, and, as usual, I will start with the weaknesses. The HECO Aurora 300 is such a well-rounded product for such a reasonable selling price that there isn’t a lot to criticize it for. Of course, it isn’t perfect, and it couldn’t be for such a low price. One shortcoming with it is that its on-axis tonality is a bit rocky in treble frequencies, and to get the most balanced sound from it, it should be positioned to face straight outward instead of being toed in to face the listening position. While many people will position them in such a way, that type of placement isn’t intuitive for audio enthusiasts who normally have the speaker facing the listening position directly. Something else I could criticize the 300 for is that the enclosure could stand to have better bracing such as a windowpane brace at the midpoint of the enclosure. We see that kind of construction in similarly priced speakers, and it would help the 300s feel more substantial on the side panels. It would be great to see HECO get rid of the dual binding posts and reallocate that manufacturing budget to beefing up the side panels. Something else I would ding the Aurora 300s on is the shipping packing. The styrofoam packing blocks will break under particularly rough transit.
There isn’t a lot more I have to complain about, so let’s go over the Aurora 300’s strengths. Firstly, it can produce a nicely balanced sound that is uncommon for a loudspeaker of its price range. When set up correctly, everything sounds tonally neutral and proportionate. It images well and presents a wide, enveloping soundstage. It doesn’t quite image as sharply as more expensive speakers, but it localizes specific sound objects fairly well. Most audio enthusiasts will be happy with its imaging abilities. The 300’s low-frequency extension is unexpectedly good for its size and cost. Those who just enjoy acoustic recordings will not need to add a subwoofer, and its 50Hz extension is enough to catch the bass in most conventional music recordings. Effects-driven movies and electronic bass music will benefit from the addition of a subwoofer, however. The 300’s dynamic range is good for the class, and it could hit pretty loud levels without overdriving. Its dynamic range is limited by the excursion of the woofer, so the inclusion of a subwoofer gives it even more headroom.
Outside of its sound, the appearance of the Aurora 300 is good for the class. In the ebony black version that I received, it has a handsome satin black front and top along with a decent vinyl wood veneer on the sides. The binding posts were fine, even though I could have done without the bi-amping/bi-wiring extra set, and the 300 has feet built into the cabinet, whereas many bookshelf speakers do not include feet at all.
There are better two-way bookshelf speakers, but they are all more expensive, and few similarly priced bookshelf speakers will have the 300’s combination of neutrality, bass extension, good off-axis response, and dynamic range. Some of its competitors include the JBL Studio 620, KEF Q150, Polk Audio Signature Elite ES20, and MartinLogan Foundation B1. At its usual price of $419/pair shipped (Which is not its MSRP), I don’t think I would trade the 300s for any of these, although the Polk ES20s do look like an interesting alternative.
Much like its tower speaker brethren, the HECO Aurora 300s are a pleasant surprise, and I think most people will quite like them. A lot of people will be using these as surround speakers, and they would work well in that role, but it’s almost a shame since they are very good on their own. Anyone looking to build a cost-effective audiophile system has a great choice in the 300s. I enjoyed my time with them, and I would have a hard time trying to think of a bookshelf speaker that equals them at their usual pricing.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
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