BIC's Big Black Box
Mar 18, 2002 (Updated Apr 26, 2002)
Review by jstlawrence
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Stretching more than two feet wide, over half a foot tall, and nearly a foot deep, the BIC America DV62CLR center channel speaker is bigger than two toaster ovens sitting side by side. It squats on my television like a grumpy prehistoric beast, claiming the entire width of the 27” Trinitron and then some, hanging its beefy twin bass ports off the back and hiding part of its ghastly bulk in the shadows beneath the overhang of the entertainment center. It looks as awkward, inelegant, and old-fashioned as a steam shovel, and it doesn’t care. It’s not here to blend in with the décor. It came to do a job, and it’s not screwing around.
Recommend this product?
I put my home theater center together piece-meal, partly to save money, and partly so I could hand-pick the components. I wanted a solid, competent system that would play music first and home-theater when I wanted it. Accordingly, I went for some time without surround speakers until I found a pair that satisfied, and then a long, long time without a center channel. The receiver’s “phantom” mode would send movie dialogue to the two front speakers in an acceptable fashion, but I found it was sometimes hard to make out what was being said with the dialogue mixed in with the sound effects and music. In addition, all the stereo and home theater catalogs I read insisted that the center channel was “the most important speaker in your home theater system!” I went shopping.
A quick look at the price list explained why the catalogs were so excited about these things: name brand center channel speakers run anywhere from $300 to $1,000. Yikes. Apparently, speaker manufacturers are annoyed by the fact that people buying a center channel speaker do not have to buy two, as with front and rear speakers, and so have collectively decided to double the price for the service of turning an otherwise fairly ordinary mid-range speaker on its side. Out of defiance, I picked up a “bargain” speaker from Radio Shack that was “half off” at $150, after getting assurances from the sales staff that I could audition the speaker and return it if it was unacceptable. Good thing, that. The miserable little 4” paper cones actually sounded worse than the tiny speakers built into my television set. Back it went to the thoroughly unsurprised salesman, and back I went to “phantom mode.” Sigh.
The answer finally came from my favorite wonderful/awful auction website, Ubid.com, which can be a good source for bargains on home electronics, as long as you can stomach the shocking shipping and handling prices and (non) customer service, and provided you research the bejeezus out of whatever you’re bidding on beforehand. I picked up the BIC America DV62CLR on the basis of a) the large size of the drivers, b) a claim that a writer for Home Theater Magazine had once called it the “best sounding center channel speaker I’ve ever heard,” and c) the fact that I only paid $67 for it, plus that stiff shipping and handling.
The DV62CLR is apparently named for its two enormous (for a center channel) 6 ½ ” “poly-graphite” (synthetic, rather than paper) woofers, which are mounted on either side of a 3 ½” poly dome tweeter. The “CLR” indicates that BIC America recommends the speaker for use as a “center, left, or right” speaker. In other words, you could theoretically buy three for perfect “voice matching.” I don’t particularly recommend this, if for no other reason than the speaker’s dimensions would be awkward for front speakers if turned vertically; too short to use as towers and too tall to look right on a stand, not to mention that the speaker's only decorative element, the handsome “BIC Venturi” sticker on the grille, would be sideways. The speaker is video-shielded, meaning that the magnets are insulated so as not to interfere with the picture on your television set.
The rectangular, no-nonsense two-foot wide cabinet is made from heavy, woodgrain “laminate,” a synthetic material made of layers of paper and resin that looks similar to plastic or wood veneer. It is plain black in color, and wholly unadorned, except for the small, enamel-look BIC logo centered on the black cloth grille. It is large, square, and plain. It looks anything but “high-tech.” That said, the entire speaker has a very solid, well-constructed feel to it, and is nicely finished.
The recessed grille slides off on thick, well-fitting plastic posts to reveal those huge woofers, which are screwed in, rather than glued, and have nice rubber surrounds, rather than less durable foam. The round dome tweeter in the center is surrounded by BIC's “Venturi” logo and declares that it is “Ferrofluid Cooled.” In back, the vaunted “Venturi vents,” which BIC credits for the speaker’s bass response, look very much like ordinary bass ports. The color-coded connectors for the speaker wires are the five-way type, and look similarly sturdy, although they do not appear to be gold-plated. I had no trouble at all connecting the speaker.
BIC America claims an astonishingly deep 38hz bottom end for the speaker. For comparison, consider that the Acoustic Research AR2C, advertised on Crutchfield’s website for $499.95, only claims 45 hz. BIC also claims a high 175-watt power handling. I have no reason to doubt either claim, although these are more indications of the speaker's robust build than its sound quality.
Although it's seldom asked to, the speaker plays music well. Bass is tight and not “boxy.” Highs from the dome tweeter are clear, if not necessarily stunning. It will handle plenty of volume without any noticeable distortion. I know this because I have in fact (for scientific purposes only!) turned it up to uncomfortably loud levels with my 65 watt / channel receiver. Try as I might, I could not make the speaker sound bad.
As for the claim of massive low range sound, in my unscientific test, the speaker produced very respectable bass, in keeping with its oversized drivers and large cabinet. However, it failed to clearly play the lowest of the freakishly low tones of Enya’s song “Fairytale,” or the deepest bass beats in The Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic.” Of course, my main speakers, which cost almost ten times as much, fail the same test. This is why I have a subwoofer. More importantly, the movie dialogue tracks the speaker is intended for should never go this low, nor should they often approach the 20khz high-end response BIC claims.
In the all-important midrange, where the DV62CLR does its main work as a center-channel speaker, it shines, playing loud and clear, and keeping up with and blending nicely with the fancy front speakers. It makes the "$300" speaker from Radio Shack sound like a cheap toy. In short, unlike other center channel speakers I’ve seen and heard, and despite its low price, the DV62CLR is a serious real speaker. It’s solid and musical, and will handle anything you throw at it. Goodbye, "Phantom mode."
BIC’s website suggests that center channel speakers this large may sound better using the receiver’s “wide” center channel mode. My receiver does have a “wide” mode, but I note little if any improvement using it.
I admit I would prefer if the DV62CLR looked a little sleeker, and BIC must understand, because it is now advertising only the DV62CLR-S, which is four inches narrower at a still-not-exactly-compact 20 inches wide, on its website (http://www.bicamerica.com/CENTERS.htm). I personally don’t mind the size. It’s not like I need to keep anything else right on top of the T.V., and it fits just right up there. Today, while writing this, I discovered that a small corner of the laminate finish was peeling off the bottom of the unit, probably as a result of the lengthy wrestling match involved in squeezing it into the entertainment center. Three drops of Superglue later, all’s well. Other than that, after more than a year of use, I have absolutely no complaints, and really could not be more pleased with the big beast.
The Bottom Line
Hey, whaddya know, a couple of big, strong woofers and a decent tweeter in a big, solid box sounds better than a 4” paper cone! It may seem kind of a simple idea, even low-tech, compared to some of the wild designs I've seen, but it works. It's just that most speaker companies don’t seem to get it. Or, when they do, they want $500 for it. A quick search revealed that the original DV62CLR, having perhaps been discontinued, (see above) can be had for as little as $103 on the Internet. Given the quality, that’s just silly. As of this writing, Ubid.com was selling only a slightly smaller BIC model, but if they pick up a few more, you might be able to get a DV62CLR for an even sillier price. BIC also provides a very respectable 7-year parts and labor warranty.
I would happily recommend the DV62CLR for the $300 regular price of the piece-of-garbage speaker I picked up from Radio Shack. Therefore, at the current price, if you can find room for it, the DV62CLR has the rare distinction of being not only one of the best center channel speakers you’ll ever find, but also one of the cheapest. Call it low tech, call it overweight, even call it ugly, but make sure you call it "Sir." Or "Ma'am." Or whatever it wants. Be nice. It's bigger than you.
5 stars, with a special commendation for the most “bang-for-the-buck” of any stereo component I’ve seen in a long while.
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Amount Paid (US$): 67
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