Acoustic Research WHT6024 5.1 Wireless Speaker System Review
- Product Name: WHT6024
- Manufacturer: Acoustic Research
- Review Date: October 23, 2007 10:20
- MSRP: $ 899
- Elegant speaker design & build quality
- Robust wireless system
- Rear speaker stand design
- System not great with music
Gear Corner Review
One of the trends I noticed at the recent CEDIA expo in Denver was
the emergence of more and more wireless speaker systems. I saw everything from a portable speaker
that you might use out by the pool, to systems designed to be used with
traditional full-range speakers. Probably the most prevalent use of
wireless in speaker systems is for rear surrounds in a 5.1 satellite
speaker system. Acoustic Research has released the WHT6024, which
falls into this popular category.
Design and Features
The idea behind the WHT6024 is a popular one - a small satellite
speaker-based system that will blend easily in a family room or den,
but without the hassle of running speaker wires to the rear surround
channels. Acoustic Research achieves this with the WHT24, a 2.4 GHz
wireless system combined with their HT60 satellite 5.1 speaker
The WHT24 contains a transmitter, and two receivers that are built into
the base of each of the included wireless speaker stands. The packaging
resembled an oversized pizza box, and assembling the two stands
reminded me of the college days when I was putting together the halogen
torch lamps that were essential to 80's single-guy decor. You have
the base, a threaded bottom pole and a smaller upper pole, with speaker
wire running through the interior. And sadly, it was just as
frustrating putting these together as I remember with the lamps. The
first one went together just fine, but the second one had issues. The
top and bottom poles are connected via an inner plastic grommet and an
outer locking sleeve nut. The sleeve is plastic, and just did not want
to lock down. The thread was probably stripped, or at least became
stripped as I tried over and over to get the alignment right so I could
tighten it down. This is an issue, because it determines the height of
the speaker that will be installed on it. I was finally able to get it
tight enough to work, but any adjustment for height was going to be
tough due to the weight of the speaker. I talked to AR about the
design, and they were very interested in the feedback. They explained
that there were several challenges in creating such an elegant, slender
design for the rear stands, while still controlling costs and
functionality. They also felt that most consumers will not be
constantly adjusting the height of the stands. This is a good point,
because with the design as it is, after repeated use or adjustment the
sleeve is going to wear out and this will be a problem for the owner.
Once I had assembled the stands and attached the speaker cable (which
is pre-threaded through the poles) to the standard push-pin type
connectors on the underside of the base, all that was left was to plug
them in. Each base comes with an AC brick/power adapter. This is
important to keep in mind with a "wireless" system such as the
WHT6024. It is wireless only in that you do not need to run speaker
wire from your amp or receiver. You still must have AC outlets nearby
to plug each base into. Still, finding an AC outlet is much easier than running surround cables for most folks.
The transmitter is simple, and at first glance looks like an old
Motorola Surfboard cable modem or a Vonage router box. There is a
stand included that allows you to mount it vertically, just as you
might with your modem. On the rear are push-pin type speaker
connectors that allow you to run speaker wire from your AV receiver to
the transmitter. There are also left/right line level audio inputs for use with
rear surround pre-outs if you prefer (you can use either method but not both at the same time). A power switch, RCA/Speaker
selector, "Link" switch and power supply input round out the rear
panel. A green LED on the front of the transmitter lets you know it
is powered up.
The rear surround speakers slide onto the top of the pole stands, and
have push-pin connectors for the speaker wire. Once in place, I
plugged in both receivers, and powered everything up. All the
indicator lights (one per base and one on the transmitter) turned green
and the wireless portion of the system was ready to rock. I have to
admit, I was expecting to spend a few minutes getting the wireless
system "linked," but it was truly plug and play. There is a link
button on the components that allows you to find a clear channel if,
for example, the people in the apartment next door to you have the same
system, but for most users it will be as easy as plugging it all in and
turning it on.
The HT60 satellite speaker system includes four identical vertical satellite speakers and a matching horizontal center speaker. Each speaker is magnetically shielded, allowing for placement near your CRT-based TV. Each speaker includes two 3" woofers and a 1/2" PEI dome tweeter. The speakers have a frequency response of 100Hz - 20,000Hz, and can handle up to 100 watts of power. The sleek black cabinets are constructed of extruded aluminum and measure 8" H x 3.5" W x 3.4" D, and weigh 2.7 pounds. The fit and finish is very nice, and they look great.
Tech Note: It is no longer necessary to have shielded speakers for new digital televisions such as LCD, plasma, DLP, or LCoS/SXRD/D-ILA. Shielded speakers are only a safeguard against legacy CRT-type systems (including CRT-based rear projection sets) with which magnetic sources can disrupt operation significantly. Using shielded speakers with newer display technologies is certainly acceptable, just not necessary.
The included powered subwoofer has a front-firing 10" non-pressed paper
cone woofer hidden by a removable, black fabric grill on the front.
The black, rear-ported cabinet measures 16" H x 10.5" W x 15.5" D
and weighs 36 pounds. The rear panel sports both line level and
speaker level in/out connectors, as well as subwoofer level and
high pass crossover frequency controls. There are also switches for phase
and for crossover mode (sub or LFE). The power switch can be set to On, Off or Auto (which will turn the unit On when it senses a signal).
The sub boasts a 25Hz - 180Hz frequency response (likely in-room).
As is the case with standard, old-school push-pin connectors, you will
find it difficult to connect a large-gauge speaker wire. Once I had
wrangled my 16-gauge wire into the tiny openings, I had the system set
up and ready to go. I was impressed with the power of the 2.4GHz wireless
system. Acoustic Research boasts of the ability of it to withstand
interference from the array of wireless products in the home, not to
mention microwave ovens. And in my tests, it never had a problem with
dropouts or interference. With earlier wireless speaker systems (in
particular 900MHz), you would constantly deal with clicks and pops, or
dropouts. But not so with Acoustic Research's 2.4GHz system. In fact,
just for kicks I took the surrounds out to my back porch, away from the
listening room and plugged them into the wall. I put my Emotiva
pre/pro into "party" mode (sending music to all speakers) and went back
outside. The speakers were playing fine (except for the lack of bass
resulting from no subwoofer). I moved them into the kitchen and then
to our dining room/study, and had the same results. The range of the
wireless speakers should not be a problem in even the largest rooms.
One thing I noticed about the surrounds was that when I had my
system turned off, there was a slight hiss emanating from the wireless
speakers. I did not notice this when I was using them, but when the
room was quiet and the system was turned off, it was very noticeable.
And it is not convenient to power the wireless receivers in the base
stands down each time you turn your system off. But there is a way to get around this. The amplifiers in the base stands are designed to be
operating at full output all the time in order to accomplish their job
of providing full range sound to the surround speakers. If they are
not receiving a signal from the transmitter, they will mute and go to
sleep. So the solution is to plug the transmitter into a switched
outlet (possibly in your rack or the back of your AV receiver) so when you are
not using the speakers it will be turned off.
It is important for me to state at the outset that I do not like satellite speaker systems for music. I have rarely heard one that blends well for musical content. Movies (and sometimes multi-channel audio content) generally sound fine depending upon the setup, but I am rarely satisfied when listening to stereo music. That being said, I dove into my listening tests.
I began by watching clips from the DTS Alive! 2006 Demo Disc, including
a bang-up action sequence from The Transporter. This clip includes
shattering glass, machine gun fire, and even a rocket-launcher that
creates quite an explosion. The system handled everything well,
creating a fully immersive surround experience.
My kids always enjoy the clip from Robots that looks like something
from a Rube Goldberg dream, so I fired it up. Once again, the system
performed well, with the sub adding impact where appropriate and the
system sounding fairly balanced overall as it reproduced a myriad of
mechanical noises all around me.
I then moved on to multi-channel music, listening to a jazz piece from
Omar Hakim and an old standby for listening tests, Peter Gabriel's
"Solsbury Hill." Multi-channel audio sources such as these sounded
pretty good, but the system just can't compete with larger speakers
when it comes to music.
To further test this, I listened to a few stereo CDs such as the The
Very Best of the Eagles. The Acoustic Research system is bright, and
this was evident when listening to the wall of acoustic guitars on
"Take It Easy." The sub warmed things up a bit, but for me there was
still a gap in the midrange. It was just very hard to dial in the sub
for stereo music on this (as I've found to be the case with most other satellite speaker systems.)
The same was true with Jonatha Brooke's Careful What You Wish For,
which is a really well-recorded disc with plenty of warmth and texture
throughout. The WHT24 system struggled to create an authentic
reproduction of this record, which in large part is due to the
Acoustic Research not only offers this complete packaged system, but
also the WPA24 Digital Wireless Transmitter/Receiver System for $299,
which allows you to take their robust wireless technology and apply it
to your existing setup. The 5.1 speaker system is also available
separately as the HT60, which retails for $599.
My overall opinion of this system is that it is adequate for
non-critical use in a family room or den where movies are the main
course. At $899 MSRP for this system, you are paying a premium for the
wireless rear surrounds. There are satellite speaker systems for
hundreds less that sound much better, but they do not have the
expensive wireless technology included in the price. The Acoustic
Research system does not sound bad - it just doesn't sound great. The
convenience of the elegant wireless surrounds will be worth the premium
price to some buyers. If you need a small satellite speaker system
with small, stylish wireless surrounds that you intend to use mostly
for TV and movies, this system from Acoustic Research might fit the
The Score Card
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