Boston Acoustics Soundware XS5.1SE review

Detailed, solid sound from this dinky, affordable speaker package Tested at £350

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Shinier than before and just as enjoyable to listen to, this excellent little Boston Acoustics package is a must-hear


  • +

    Cute, tidy looks

  • +

    detailed, controlled and convincing sound


  • -

    Not short of competition

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

We liked the Boston Acoustics' original Soundware XS 5.1 package so much that we gave it an Award in 2010.

As this SE upgrade costs the same as the old Award-winner, and given we didn’t think there was much wrong with the outgoing package in the first place, it’s good to find the changes aren’t too radical.

The finish (either black or white) is smoothly glossy rather than textured, the speakers’ rear panel is now grooved to allow a degree of cable management and the handy wall brackets now have a cover to hide their unsightly articulating bits.

Subtlety and dynamism in equal measure
Otherwise, it’s business as usual – and that, with only mild qualification, is A Good Thing. Each angular speaker houses a 64mm driver and 13mm tweeter, and the considerably bulkier subwoofer uses 100 watts of amplification to power a downward-firing 20cm driver.

As a unit, the speakers and subwoofer combine to produce a sound that combines subtlety and dynamism to winning effect.

Despite being identical to its four partners, the centre channel delivers dialogue in a focused, detailed manner and manages to project from the soundstage even during the most frantic action-movie moments.

Solidly defined surround field

Effects are located securely in the solidly defined surround field. Tonality is on the safe side of sparkling, but that’s understandable in light of the likely partnering electronics.

And the subwoofer has the speed to keep up with the speakers, too, offering meaningful reinforcement without making a song and dance about it.

The system even has a passable stab at reproducing music, handling tempos well and maintaining its poise even when the going gets complex.

In short, then, the neat cosmetic smartening-up hasn’t undermined the Boston Acoustics Soundware XS 5.1 SE’s performance one iota, which means it’s just as easy to recommend as its predecessor.

*Update 11.09.2013: The Boston Acoustics Soundware XS5.1SE price is now down to £220*

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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