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What a muddy mess (Updated 1/30/2013)
on January 21, 2013
I have now been listening to these for about one month and, although I would have sent them back if I'd been able to within the 30-day timeframe, I will likely end up keeping them, if a bit reluctantly. Other reviewers here have mentioned the same problems that I had with this speaker: the base is overdriven. A fellow reviewer mentioned that the solution to the problem is to employ the use of an equalizer and adjust the frequencies below 64Hz by about -6dB. I also adjusted the frequencies below 125Hz by -3dB. To my ear this made a world of difference; the mid ranges can now do their thing without getting stomped on by overzealous, dark, inaccurate bass. I still don't love these speakers, but I don't hate them anymore. If they sounded like this out of the box I would have been much happier. I'm still amazed that they sounded SO bad without making these adjustments, but in the interest of fairness I feel I have to add one star to my original two-star review. Finally, had I seen the often-mentioned YouTube video of these speakers knocking over a pack of cards with their POWER before I'd bought them, I feel that I would have known more what I was buying into: hype. I don't need my speakers knocking stuff over, I need them to sound good. At least now they sound better. I'm also happy to report that no packs of cards have suffered tragic falls due to the use of these speakers.
I bought these along with a Nuforce uDAC-2 to listen to music at the office. I honestly don't know what is going on with these speakers and I really question the veracity of some of the reviews on this site. I know that good sound is a matter of preference, but I honestly can't imagine anyone thinking that these sound great. They really do look very nice but the sound is just so-so. For half the price ($98) I could have gotten a very similar sound from the Gigaworks T20 by Creative. Then, with the $100 I saved I could have bought a decent pair of cans that would greatly outperform either pair of speakers.
In terms of the listening experience, things will go along just fine for some songs, though never great, but then a particular song will come along and these speakers just sound downright horrible. The sound seems compressed, muffled, and just unable to breathe.
Example songs that seem particularly troublesome: Apartment Song by The National, Mine's Not a High Horse by The Shins and anything at all by Django Reinhardt or from The In Sound From Way Out album. With the former two songs, there are periods where the bass becomes a muddled mess that overpowers all mids and highs and makes me want to immediately turn the music off. With Apartment Song a low, rythmic hum begins halfway through the song that I honestly thought was some kind of signal noise or feedback, but it was simply the speakers' failure to faithfully reproduce the song. With Mine's Not a High Horse, the bass line (I only know it's the bass line because I've heard the song on other sources many times) overwhelms everything with a strong, rythmic, low frequency humming. With Django, guitars simply don't sound like guitars, but rather some approximation of what guitars are supposed to sound like.
In my opinion, these little speakers should be brighter and more open and the bass allowed to drop back, because physics dictates that you just can't get much bass with a 3.5 in driver and a rather tiny enclosure. Trying to get healthy bass out of such a speaker just has to come at a cost. Bass lovers with speakers this size should buy subs. Everyone, bass lovers too, should be allowed to hear their music and not a horrible compromise in an attempt to boost bass through technical wizardry.
FWIW, I have tried altering the source (questioning whether the DAC was the culprit), with little change. I have changed the position--nothing doing. I have allowed about 100 hours for break-in--again, not helping. Additionally, I have listened to all of this music--some high-quality, some relatively low quality--on a large variety of systems, from lowly stock $15 computer speakers to more expensive $1500 stereo amp/passive speaker setups, and the Audioengine A2's stand out as particularly annoying. I will sell these immediately (it is too late to return them).