Boston Acoustics A40 loudspeaker

The Boston Acoustics A40 loudspeaker ($150/pair) has become "legendary" (ie, it's stayed around for a while), probably because a pair of them images as well as Rogers LS3/5As. Unfortunately, it is no match for the LS3/5A in terms of smooth midrange response. Of course, at $150/pair, it shouldn't be.

I was originally going to do a review comparing the Spectrum 108A ($200/pair) and the Boston Acoustics A40. On first listen, I was mightily impressed by the A40. But after Stereophile's Larry Archibald schlepped me out a pair of the 108As, I didn't much want to listen to the A40s. In all fairness, the A40s are probably the best $150/pair speakers and they are not bad in video installations, kids' systems, college dorm rooms, and the like. The problem is that the Spectrum 108A is a lot better for just 50 bucks more per pair. The A40's crossover may be the problem. It occurs at 3.5kHz—and 3.5kHz is about where I hear the problems.

However, the A40s are often discounted to as little as $120/pair and the 108As tend to sell at list price. So if you're trying to put together a system on a reallyI rock-bottom budget, the Boston A40s could be just the right speakers at just the right price. Just remembe—you could do a lot worse for $120–$150! In fact, I bought a pair of A40s—for my 15 year-old daughter.—Sam Tellig

Alvin Gold wrote about the A40 in November 1986 (Vol.9 No.7):

Acoustic Research isn't the only US maker who successfully ship low-cost loudspeakers in the UK. Boston Acoustics manages to sell their A40 quite successfully as far as I can make out, and again this model seems to be pretty well in tune with British tastes in loudspeakers. The A40 makes no pretence at ladling out oodles of bass from its matchbox-like dimensions, nor is there any evidence of an attempt by the loudspeaker's designers to make it sound as smooth as possible, regardless of cost to the sound as a whole.

This isn't the case with other American designs, which seem to put all effort into a doomed attempt at going deeper in bass than the next. They're not doomed because the extra bass can't be had—it's always possible to get more bass. They're doomed because the cost in other areas tends to be severe. A boosted upper-bass region is one expedient for making a loudspeaker sound physically larger, but the effect is nearly always as obvious as it is amusical. Midrange resolution and sensitivity are almost always adversely affected as well.—Alvin Gold


Anon2's picture

I purchased a new pair of Boston Acoustics A40 in 1986.  By 2000 the foam surrounds had given way.  Boston Acoustics fine customer service department sold me replacement drivers, which by then had rubber surrounds.  I replaced the drivers, and the speakers rendered fine service for another decade.

These speakers had good sensitivity, great stereo imaging, had a sealed enclosure (a greater rarity in today's bass-reflex obsessed world) and took up little space.  Without being overbearing, the A40s always had enough sound to fill up a dorm room or an apartment living room.

These speakers could not match the B&W 685s (perhaps the closest thing to a successor speaker that we may have today) that I replaced them with in 2010.  However, these speakers were great for their epoch, particularly for those of us who were on a tight budget.

Infinity, Acoustic Research, and Advent all had similar bookshelf speakers in the 1980s.  The New York Times has thoughtfully archived a great piece that it ran on these great speakers from an earlier time:

I finally sold my Boston Acoustics A40s to a cash conversion shop a couple of years ago.  I regret the decision.  These speakers represented a better age, not just in audio terms, and I miss them.

May the Boston Acoustics A40 live on in used audio departments of independent dealers, and in the internet.  If you still have your A40s, keep them.

Shaffer's picture

I bought a pair of A40s in 1982. I was almost 19 at the time. I walked into the store hoping to purchase a pair of AR90s they had on sale, listened to the BAs, dealt with the cognitive dissonance associated with a smaller transducer, and a few weeks later bought the A40s. It was my first real introduction to quality sound that started a path that continues to this day.

Wanderlust2000's picture

If I had been into music, and audio back then, these A40s or similar likely would have been my first 'real' ones.  Though not vented, I can sense the likeness to my actual first good speakers, some B&W DM303s.  Though now out of use, They are stored away and will NEVER be parted with.  I have a certain fondness for overperforming, affordable, unobtrusive speakers, and I can easily see how one would grow attached to the A40s.  Pack them away with your baseball glove, then give them to your child when it's time!