Boston Acoustics LCAI220 Amplifiers


  • Unique installer friendly industrial design
  • 20 watts/channel (FTC) at 4 ohm
  • Signal sensed high-level speaker input
  • Local or remote power jacks

User Reviews (1)

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Pilgrim   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 13, 2007]

All of that's a shame, because on paper (before I tried to set it up), it looked very promising.
- It's a very compact amplifier
- It has some thoughtful features, such as a sub out for the local source (but see below)
- The local source can be either line level or speaker level, as there are inputs for both.
- It has fault detection and protection (shorts, overheating).


There are several other problems or oddities that are problematic:
- While the fact that there's a sub out for the local source is nice, the crossover points (30hz and 100hz) don't make much sense for the kind of speakers you're likely to use. 60hz and 120hz would work better with typical bookshelf / full range and small satellite speakers, respectively.
- Oddly, if you disconnect the power there's a too loud noise sent to the speakers.
- Most importantly, it's underpowered. The 10W into 8 ohms output isn't at all conservative, it seems, so you'll want lower ohm / higher sensitivity to get enough out of the system. Even if your setup lets you deal with the auto-switching issues, the LCAi220 doesn't have enough power to give you enough flexibility with speaker choices.

It seems like a product that they decided to ship before they'd really finished the design, testing and implementation.

The Boston Acoustics LCAi220 has lots of features that initially make it attractive, but its serious flaws and oversights make it unusable for some of the key applications it is sold for - particularly connecting a local audio player, such as an iPod.

On paper (electrons?!), the Boston Acoustics local control amplifier seemed to fit a need perfectly. It's designed to let you share a pair of speakers between two sources

- the first, an already amplified (speaker level) source, such as a whole house audio system or a stereo in another room driving B speakers/second zone; and
- the second, a local line level preamplified source, such as a TV or an iPod

When there's no local source, the LCAi220 essentially sits in standby, passing through the powered source to the speakers. When the LCAi220 detects a local source, it switches to the local source, amplifies it, and drives the speakers. So it would seem ideal for sources "like plasma TVs, PCs, MP3 players, gaming system," as their marketing materials claim.

But in fact it's really only able to handle video, and then only with some tweaking, due to some fatal design oversights.

The key issue is that the auto-sensing feature which controls the switch to a local source isn't sensitive enough; and doesn't have a long enough delay built in. So during quiet passages, or between songs, it switches the local source off; and then takes a while until it switches it back on. That cuts off the beginning and end of songs.

So in effect, you can't use the audio sensing feature on lots of applications, because it won't work predictably enough. And you can't adjust it to fit your situation.

So that leaves a voltage trigger input, which can be used instead of the audio input sensing. With video (or a serious audio system) it would be fairly easy to add a cable to one of the TV's outputs and run it to the trigger to keep the local source on; that would switch on and off with the TV.

But for typical audio uses, where the LCAi220 is supposed to be most of the system, you won't have a 3-30V source you can easily run to the trigger. So you'd have to jury-rig some kind of trigger to keep it switched to the local source, as well as some way to control that.

It's not especially "installer friendly", as their website and the description above claims, because there's very little adjustment or flexibility to allow you to customize it to a particular installation. They claim: "Installer selectable delay and sensitivity adjustments." But these features must have been dropped, or be undocumented, since there seems to be no way to actually do either of these. That would fix the above problem, by the way.

If there's a way around the audio problem, other than rigging a voltage trigger, it's not documented. No one at Boston Acoustics support will respond to calls and messages, so if the feature promised on the website is there, it's going to stay hidden it seems.

If I'd known the audio sensing would be unusable and not adjustable, I'd have gone right to another product that used just a voltage trigger.

Customer Service

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