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Boston Acoustics Refection Series RS 334 Floorstanding Speaker Review

by March 26, 2010
Boston Acoustics Refection Series RS 334

Boston Acoustics Refection Series RS 334

  • Product Name: Refection Series RS 334
  • Manufacturer: Boston Acoustics
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: March 26, 2010 10:10
  • MSRP: $ 699.99/each
  • Frequency Range (+-3dB): 43Hz – 26kHz

  • Recommended Amplifier: 10 – 250 Watts

  • Sensitivity: 89 dB SPL/2.8V/m

  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms

  • Crossover Frequency: 2,000 Hz

  • Bass Driver: Quadruple 4" (102mm) FCCM

  • High-Frequency Driver: 1" (25mm) Extended Wide Bandwidth

  • Dimensions ((H x W x D)): 42-7/16 x 8-1/2 x 9 -5/16” (1076.5 x 215 x 235mm)

  • Weight: 32.12 lbs (14.6kg)


  • Very sleek design, slim profile
  • Impressive bass response
  • Fairly accurate overall sound


  • Finish dust magnet
  • No carpet spikes (new orders now shipping with spikes according to Boston)
  • A bit thin through the midrange with an accentuated high end


Boston Acoustics RS 334 Build Quality

I have a bit of history with Boston Acoustics. A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend one of their press events in their lovely namesake city and got to see a few of their new speaker offerings before they hit the shelves. They are also part of the D&M Holdings brand which also has such names at Denon, Snell, McIntosh, and more. Boston has a long history in consumer electronics. This comes with a lot of name recognition. For many consumers, name recognition equates to quality. That's why manufacturers spend millions on advertising. They might not convince you that they are the best, but if they can get their name in your head then perhaps you'll pick them simply because you recognize the name over the other guy.

The Reflection Series speakers (indicated with the RS nomenclature in the model number) is a fairly new offering from the venerable manufacturer. Boston was looking to create "Good, Better, Best" lines of speakers. The VS (Vista Series though I'm not sure they are calling it that any more) represents the "Best" with the CS (Classic Series) representing the "Good." This has the RS series falling right in the middle in the "Better" category. Apparently, according to Boston, Good costs $229 each, Best costs $1250 or $1699 each (depending on the "Best" model) while Better cashes out at $700 each. While we haven't seen a lot of speakers with "each" pricing, it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out the per pair pricing. Perhaps they give a discount if you buy more than one. We doubt it but maybe.

First Impressions and Build Quality

The Boston RS 334 speakers came individually boxed and well protected. Each box clearly outlined what was in it so if you are having these speakers shipped, you might want to make sure you are home to sign for them. Inside, the speakers are well protected around the top and bottom by foam with a middle section of cardboard for added benefit. The speaker is wrapped in a cotton sock and Boston even included a pair of Boston-branded cotton gloves to handle them with. I can remember the first time I received a pair of speakers wrapped in a cotton sock with the gloves. I was so impressed. But after years of doing this, let me say that the cotton sock is probably the number one over-hyped indicator of quality in all of electronics. I've had everything from DVD players to HDMI switches arrive in the dreaded sock. Yes, I said dreaded. While smaller devices just look ridiculous, large, heavy speakers, I'm semi-convinced, are wrapped just to cut down on minor blemish returns because you are certain to drop them.



rs334_gloveThe thing is the sock is useless. It's actually less than useless. If it was useless, it would do nothing but the sock does have an affect - actually a few. First, it virtually guarantees that your speaker will arrive with a dusting of fuzz all over it (especially on the grill). The point (I think) of the sock is that it supposedly protects the finish. Well, maybe at the contact points with the packing material but it certainly isn't doing much more. Foam paper (for lack of a better term) is just as effective and can be removed much more easily. Lastly, if your speaker is at all unwieldy (and believe me, they just about all are) the sock is akin to lathering it up with baby lotion. Sure, you might not drop it but in my experience you, at the very least, almost will. With every cotton-wrapped speaker I've ever received I've either almost or actually did drop it while unpacking or repacking.

rs334_frontboxOn top (or technically under) the sock, Boston has included an additional layer of protection for it's "elegant, scratch resistant high gloss black lacquer" finish - tape. I'm not sure the technical name but for those that have received a TV with a high-gloss bevel, you know what I'm talking about. It is that plastic tape that they stick to the outside that doesn't leave a residue when you remove it. They have this stuff on the three sides of the speaker not covered by the grill. The grill is full length and has a small Boston logo on the bottom. It has a slight overlap around the outside of the front baffle so that it really holds securely but still sits flush to the walls. There are magnets up the sides to hold the grill securely in place. The grill is fairly flimsy when removed but feels fine when installed. It is constructed out of a plastic rim with thin MDF interior.

The back of the RS 334 has a slot style port near the bottom but above the dual binding posts. If you stick your fingers inside the port, you'll quickly realize that it has a 90 degree turn upward. This increases the length of the port on a speaker that clearly is looking to minimize its footprint. The port is flared at both sides and has about 6-7" additional length after the bend. The plinth at the bottom is removable (which is nice if you want to change it out for an aftermarket outrigger setup) but has no identifiable provision for carpet spikes. In fact, there are installed rubber feet. This is fine if you are setting the speakers on hardwood or tile but for those of us with carpet, it is not optimal. At only 32lbs a piece, the speakers aren't the heaviest and the wide plinth helps a bit with tipablility but we still would have preferred carpet spikes. At $1400 a pair, this is a curious omission. (Note - Boston now says they are shipping carpet spikes but they were not available on the review units.)

rs334_frontThe driver compliment is fairly generous in such a small cabinet. Boston has provided the RS 334 with a 1" EWB tweeter (Extended Wide Bandwidth) and four, 4" FCCM woofers (Fiber Ceramic Copolymer Material). One thing I got to experience in my tour of the Boston facilities so many years ago was their driver creation lab. There they could not only design their own drivers, but build and prototype them. You can bet that Boston did a lot of testing with these drivers before they decided on them for the Reflection Series. The tweeter has a dimple in the center - something that people familiar with soft dome tweeters will initially be concerned by. Rest assured, that is part of the design. The woofers all have a pointed dustcap that looks, at first glance, to be a phase plug. It isn't and often we discourage the use of such drivers as the "fake" phase plugs are often added aesthetically instead of for sonic reasons. We will give Boston the benefit of the doubt as in our experience they are above trying to "trick" consumers (other than the sock thing and we'll chalk that up to industry-wide peer pressure) into thinking their speakers are better than they are.

The size of the RS 334s has been mentioned a few times but really needs to be stressed. It is fairly easy for Internet direct companies to through a bunch of drivers into a big box because their customers won't really be able to see them until they arrive at the house. With a company like Boston that often sells in retail settings, that's not really feasible. Instead, they have to make sure not only that the sound is there, but that the form factor will at the very least not turn consumers off. The RS 334s are anything but a turn off. The speaker itself is only ~43" tall, 8.5" wide and 10" deep. Compared to many speakers I've reviewed in this price category, this is positively diminutive. The knock test revealed a very inert box - something you'd expect when Boston is shoving as much technology as they must be into such a small cabinet.

rs334_backOpening up the speakers, I was surprised at how tight everything was in there. The woofers were all shielded which creates a very large magnet structure in the back. I was only able to remove three of the four woofers because the openings were so tight and I couldn't get the vanity cover off the tweeter to get at the screws. The tweeter did not have a backbox. All the wires were covered in velvet tape to eliminate any possible noise from the wires vibrating against the cabinet, the drivers, or each other. The enclosure was constructed out of 3/4" MDF - about what we'd expect at this price point - with 1/2" MDF braces. I could identify four braces in the cabinet but there may have been a fifth one lower down. The top brace was parallel to the front baffle and seemed to be connected to the top and the sides. This came down to just behind the tweeter. The rest of the braces were parallel to the top and were connected to the sides, front and back of the cabinet with openings in the center. These were situated between the top and second woofer, between the 3rd and 4th woofer, and just below the port (before the binding post insert). There was a ton of dampening material in the enclosure with thick polyfill glued to each of the walls and back of the cabinet in every place I could see or reach. The crossover was attached to the back of the binding post insert. The wire runs were so tight that I couldn't remove the crossover enough to get a good picture. From what we can tell the crossover it was assembled on printed circuit board (PCB) and utilized a combination of air and iron core chokes and polypropylene capacitors and ceramic resistors. I'm guessing the larger iron core choke is part of the woofer crossover which is a good thing since most of the power is in bass and you don't want an underrated iron core going into saturation causing distortion and compression when playing at high listening levels.

rs334_apart1     rs334_apart2

rs334_cross1     rs334_cross2

Boston Acoustics RS 334 Setup and Measurements

rs334_footThe first thing I want to talk about with setup is the lack of carpet spikes. While the RS 334s never went over, they definitely would have been more stable with carpet spikes. On my medium-pile carpet the speakers were easy to sway back and forth but not so easy to send completely over (not for lack of my 6 month old trying). Also, there is no way to adjust the feet. Unless your flooring was installed by Mike Holmes, I'm guessing you'll have a less than perfectly level floor. Without a way of adjusting the feet, you'll be left to use folded paper or something. I did love the angled port for transport. Honestly, this made these speakers really easy to move and I could hold one in each had if I wanted to.

These speakers were mated with a lot of different gear. First and foremost most of the critical listening tests were done with the Denon DVD-3910 driving the analogue only Emotiva RSP-1/RPA-1 combo. This combo provides more power than most speakers will ever need and keeps everything in the analogue domain. Also, however, they were matched with the Denon AVR-4310CI, Seymour AV 5001 Ice Amps, and a myriad of sources. Wiring was provided by Blue Jean Cables and Ram Electronics. All listening tests were done in full range without the benefit of a sub and in pure direct mode (where applicable). All Audyssey and other processing was disabled. The room has been treated with some DIY treatments and GiK Acoustics Tri-Traps placed as recommended by Auralex via their Room Acoustics Plus consultation program.

Measurements & Testing

For measurements, I used TrueRTA with a Behringer ECM8000 mic and an M-Audio Fast Track Pro external soundcard. For amplification I used a Sherbourn 2/75B amp. This setup gives me a lot of flexibility as to where and when I can do measurement. To start with I placed the speakers in my Ready Acoustics treated AV Rant podcast room. This room is small but extremely dead with 19, four inch thick panels lining the walls and ceiling and straddling all the corners. While the room isn't exactly an anechoic chamber, it is a heck of a lot deader than most people would ever experience and almost every wife on the planet allow in their home. To start with I measured the speakers 1 meter on axis.


Boston Acoustics RS 334 One Meter On Axis 1/24th Octave
(note - not a 1 watt measurement)

I measured the Boston Acoutics RS 334s at one meter between the tweeter and the top woofer. As you can clearly see the RS 334s are generally pretty linear from 100Hz up to 6kHz where there is a general trend up. This is pretty common in speakers there the high end is a bit accentuated. Consumers, especially those in retail settings, are listening to numerous speakers and will tend to prefer those with a hotter high end. This is not an extreme change though at only about 5dB over the average of the rest of the response.


Boston Acoustics RS 334 1/2 Meter, 1/24th Octave
Purple - On Axis, Yellow - 15 Degrees off, Orange - 30 Degrees Off

This graph gives us a little more information. As is often the case, off axis response takes a toll most on the high end response. This allows the end user to "tune" the speaker by adjusting the toe in. With the RS 334, the on axis response has the most high end energy with a light reduction at 15 degrees off and a more dramatic one at 30 degrees. For those looking for the flattest possible response, you're going to want to sit off axis from the speaker. There also seems to be a bit of a dip in the response in the midrange/upper bass. This was not as visible in the one meter measurement so will not be an issue.

Boston Acoustics RS 334 Listening and Conclusion

rs334_tweetAs always I started off with the RS 334 listening tests with trying to determine in-room bass response. It's one thing for Boston to claim they measured down to 43Hz in their anechoic chamber (they have one, I've been in it) but that doesn't always translate into in-room response. Depending on how you place your speakers, you may have much better (or much worse) response. I placed the speakers a good 2 feet off any wall with plenty of breathing room for the ports. Subjectively I noted something as low as 32Hz with what I'll call "usable" bass down to 40Hz. By usable I mean bass that is loud enough compared to a 1kHz test tone - again, subjectively. This is better than the spec'ed response which is what I'd expect for an in-room response.

Placement with the Boston RS 334s was easy to adjust because of their light weight and lack of spikes. As you might expect from the above measurements, I found these speakers much more enjoyable off axis. While I experimented a lot with different placements, I felt that having the speakers pointed nearly straight out was best. I placed them at just a fraction of a toe-in. If I didn't do this I felt the center image really suffered. This put me just about 30 degrees off axis from the speakers. I sat about 8-9 feet from the speakers with the speakers a bit under 7' apart.

The most obvious comparison I can make with the speakers I have on hand are with the Salk Sound SongTower QWTs. The Songs retail for just under $1700 a pair but they have similar specs (rated down to 42Hz) and are in a near price category (within $300). The Salks are a lot larger and heavier. They are an Internet direct brand that did very well against three other speakers in the same price category in our $1500-$2000 a pair floorstanding speaker shootout. Many people, myself included, consider the Salk SongTowers to be a value leader in the sub-$2000 price category. After level-matching the two and doing some quick A/Bs, a few things became clear. First, the Boston RS 334s held up very well. The high end was a bit more reserved and rolled off but the bass extension was very comparable. Imaging was good but not quite as three dimensional as the Salks. The Boston speakers seemed to be a bit more reserved and recessed overall but the overall presentation was very nice. As a speaker priced $300 lower than the Salks, the Boston RS 334s preformed very, very admirably. In general, when I listened to just the Bostons for any length of time, I found them to be an fine offering. It was only when I switched back to the Salks did I realize what I was missing. When going up against a class leader, holding your own is high praise. The Bostons did just that.

CD: Shootout Disc
There were a number of tracks on our $1500-$2000 Floorstanding Speaker Shootout disc that we used for comparison and I've come to rely on this disc to test nearly anything that comes through my room. One of the reasons to invest in floorstanding speakers is because of the added bass response. While you can't expect an offering in this price range to negate the need for a sub with for movies and such, you can expect for most musical content that the speakers will be enough. It will also help with evening out bass response in your room if you can run your speakers full range. I really appreciated the low end extension of the RS 334 speakers. The bass I was experiencing was very unexpected from such a small package. While the bass wasn't low enough to be visceral, it was punchy and tight. Kick drums were realistic and low bass notes were full and rich. It's honestly amazing what Boston did with four little woofers and one curved port. Many manufacturers would have to have a much bigger box or a side-firing woofer to get the same results. Bass was quite linear and musical. For most musical content, the Boston RS 334s should perform admirably.

CD: Bang & Olufsen Vol. XIII - The Sound of Perfection
This is a disc I picked up from the manufacture during a press trip. It has a variety of music on it that features everything from classical to a cappella to guitar. Female and male vocals are included as well. Basically, it is a one-stop-shop for many of the types of sounds that will give a speaker problems. Imaging was fairly tight with female vocals in particular sounding very good. The presentation as a whole seemed very accurate if not particularly warm. The high-end, in particular, seemed a little rolled off and was a little too crisp for my liking - even off axis. At higher volumes it sounded like the tweeter was compressing and distorting slightly. For this reason, I'm going to have to recommend that the RS 334s be used in Medium sized or smaller rooms. Great rooms might be a bit much for these speakers. Of course, I was running them full range and the addition of a subwoofer could definitely change things. Either way, for the lowest notes or any sort of movie watching you'd have to add a sub. At this price point, however, that's to be expected.

CD: Rusted Root - When I Woke
RootI wanted to give the Boston RS 334s a bit of a workout and this disc is perfect for it. Tons of percussion, female and male vocals, and the ability to be fatiguing after only a few moments of playback on the wrong speakers, When I Woke can really stress a pair of lesser speakers. First of all, I found the movement between speakers to be very good and the soundstage to be quite wide. As with previous offerings, the vocals were well anchored in the center but overall center imaging was just OK. While things moved between the speakers just fine, their placement in three dimensional space at any particular moment was really hard to discern. The top end again was a little more forward than I would have liked but the speakers weren't overly fatiguing. Bass again was impressive as was the responsiveness. The midrange was a bit analytical overall and not as warm as I've heard in other offerings but was overall fairly pleasant.


As one gets more and more experience with any particular subject, you run the risk of becoming an elitist. You start to think that any offering from a "known" manufacturer can't be any good because your mom recognizes their name. Well, that's not the case with Boston Acoustics. The RS 334 speakers pack a lot of sound in a very small package. If space is at a premium, this is a speaker you should take a hard look at. I really liked the overall look of the speaker and the bass response was just phenomenal. Will you still need a sub? Absolutely. But for the money, you are getting a lot of bass out of a speaker that commands almost no real estate. In a world where people are looking more and more for speakers to match their uber-flat displays, the Boston Acoustics RS 334s deliver both looks and performance. We can't really ask for any more.

Boston Acoustics RS 334


Boston Acoustics, Inc
300 Jubilee Drive
Peabody, MA 01960

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About Boston Acoustics
Founded 30 years ago, Boston Acoustics is a world-renowned leader in high-performance loudspeakers, tabletop products, and advanced car audio systems. The company's "Play Smart™" approach is reflected in its product design, which allows customers to enjoy high-performance audio while expressing their personal style and tastes.

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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.

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Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
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