In this day and age of digital entertainment, computers are increasingly becoming an important part of living rooms. You have one device that can do anything under the sun when it comes to entertainment—be it gaming, streaming videos from one room to the other, capturing your favorite television program or simply surfing the Internet. But at the end of the day, what’s an action movie or a first person shooter without big sound? With the launch of numerous game titles month after month and the ease of access to movies and music, a personal computer is incomplete without a good set of speakers.
The most affordable speakers come in the form of simple 2.0 stereo systems. These are restricted to low decibel levels and are perfect for listening to light music while working or casual movie watching. Then come the more powerful 2.1 speakers systems that add a subwoofer for delivering low frequencies. With a more profound bass music, movies and games sound more dramatic. However, how real they sound depends on the quality of speakers you invest in.
Entry-level 2.1 speakers dish out better volume levels than 2.0 speakers, but they may not necessarily sound better. The bass may be too boomy, the treble may overshadow the vocals, or the subwoofer might have been included just to fill up the feature list. A good speaker system isn’t one that’s loud but one that also delivers a good balance of high, mid and low frequencies.
In this roundup we invited the top multimedia speaker manufacturers to send in the best they had to offer in the premium and audiophile-class segments. For a fair comparison we categorized the speakers into two groups based on their price and specifications - premium and enthusiast. While the former had better models than the usual mainstream ones, the latter comprised the cream of the crop carrying heavy price tags. The speakers were tested on the basis of five parameters—features, build quality, ergonomics, performance, and warranty and support.
Razer Mako - Rs. 12,000
The Razer Mako 2.1 features a whacky design. All the three units are globular with matte-finish jet black exterior. The system comes with a round touch-sensitive control pod that allows you to switch between the inputs and adjust the bass level. The volume and bass levels are indicated by blue LED-backlit glowing strips around the periphery of the pod. The satellite cables provided are also unusual. They’re flat and have RJ 45 connectors at the ends. This design makes it convenient to set up the system. Conformance to THX standards highlights the superior performance of these speakers. The frequencies are extremely well balanced and the volume level is just perfect for fatigue-free listening.
Razer has gone in with an omni-directional design for satellites and subwoofer so that you don’t have to bother about placing the speakers precisely to get the desired output. The performance of the Razer Mako 2.1 was unmatched. Its closest competitor was the Gigaworks T3 but it the Mako was much better in terms of overall quality.
These are the best 2.1 multimedia speaker system money can buy.
Good: Excellent audio quality, omni-directional design.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sony SRS-DB500 - Rs. 9,999
Sony has recently entered the multimedia speaker segment in the Indian market with a handful of models. With a rated output of 300 Watts RMS, the SRS-DB500 is the most powerful model. Its design will remind you of the retro-styled music systems of the early 90s. The front-ported subwoofer has a huge 160 mm driver in the center. A vertical control panel dominated by a huge jog wheel on top and the bass port at the bottom is the only protection for the driver. What makes the subwoofer look cool is the illuminated amber ring around the jog dial that indicates the bass, treble and volume levels. Had Sony not included the IR remote control, adjusting the volume, bass and treble would have been very difficult.
The SRS-DB500 had the most resounding bass making it best suited for hip-hop and trance genres. However the mids and highs could have been a lot better. The satellites sounded as if their cabinet was a bit large for the single 65 mm driver they housed. They would have sounded better had there been discrete drivers for delivering highs.
This Sony model is a good set of speakers for hip-hop and trance fans.
Good: Nice design, tight bass.
Bad: Mids and highs could have been better.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Harman/Kardon SoundSticks II - Rs. 12,500
The Harman/Kardon SoundSticks II has been out since quite a while and you just can’t miss them when you’re out window shopping. These speakers are renowned for their unique all-transparent design. The satellites stand 25.4 cm tall and each of them house four full-range neodymium drivers. The units are attached to a heavy ring-like base and can be tilted. The right satellite has touch sensitive buttons for adjusting the volume. The subwoofer boasts a 6-inch down-firing driver and is ported on the top. The power button which is also a bass control knob is placed at the rear.
The SoundSticks II is more about the sexy design than sound quality. The satellites sound very open and present a very good soundstage—excellent stereo imaging. But when it comes to bass, it takes a slight hit due to the low-density material used in construction of the subwoofer. The system sounds good at a moderate volume level after fine-tuning the bass. These speakers are clearly for personal listening pleasure and not partying.
The Harman/Kardon SoundSticks are gorgeous-looking speakers with sound quality good enough for personal listening pleasure only.
Good: Outstanding design, crisp highs and mids.
Bad: No line-in and headphone out, the bass is not tight.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Published Date: Feb 20, 2010 09:58 am | Updated Date: Feb 20, 2010 09:58 am