Top critical review
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Great sound, product massively compromised by a ridiculous "feature"
on October 17, 2012
First the good news: These speakers have amazing sound for such small units, the best I've heard. Unlike most speakers of this size the Audyssey's actually do sound like speakers about twice their size. They have expansive low to mid-range, so much so that I wish they had a bass and treble adjustment on the speakers. A quick fix in iTunes though, so no worries. Bass is enough to vibrate my desk, a first for computer speakers in my experience, but the highs are still plenty distinct and discernable. At high volume there's a little distortion, but nowhere near as much as I'd expect from speakers this size. These won't replace an actual stereo system, but in a smallish room or for a quick blast they're more than adequate.
Esthetically speaking they're handsome if a bit bland. Ultimately they look like what they are: A pair of speakers with a wire stand. I waffle on whether I prefer my speakers to make a design statement or just "be there" and not attract attention. These definitely fall on the "just be there" side of things. The wire stand they're on almost seems like an afterthought and detracts a bit from the overall ability of the speakers to blend into the background but doesn't add enough oomph to make them seem like their own design element. Sort of a worst of both worlds option, but again it's not a serious problem.
Now the bad news: Functionally these speakers leave a lot to be desired with one glaring flaw that would prevent me from buying these for anything over $100. On the "needs to be improved" end of things, dedicated bass and treble knobs would be nice since these speakers give enough of both that you want to adjust them. The volume/on/off knob on the front of the right speaker is pretty flimsy and cheap feeling for speakers in this price range IMO. And the speaker-to-speaker connection is a hunk of wire with raw ends that go into standard cheap-o plastic speaker clips. Not really acceptable IMO for $100+ speakers, let alone the MSRP.
The big issue, though, is a serious design flaw that would prevent me from buying these speakers again at any price over $100: The speakers have an auto-off "feature" that turns the speakers off after 30 minutes of silence. Unfortunately there is NO corresponding auto ON feature and NO way to defeat this idiotic flaw. Audyssey calls this an "auto sleep" feature, but come on... if the speakers shut down and you have to manually turn them on again that's not "sleep"... that's OFF. Sleep would mean they turn off *and* on automatically. These absolutely do not do that.
Anyways, after 30 minutes of silence the speakers shut down and then you have to MANUALLY turn them back on. That's just ridiculous, there's so many reasons something like this can become a serious nuisance. For instance, I use my computer sporadically throughout the day with usually 45 minutes to an hour between uses. That means every single time I sit down at my computer I have to turn the speakers on. That's absurd. If the speakers can detect no noise and turn off... why can't they detect noise and turn back ON when I play a song or there's a system alert?
And speaking of system alerts... what if I rely on my computer for audio alerts such as email, calendar events etc? If 30 minutes goes by without an alert the speakers shut off and now I won't hear any alerts until I manually turn the speakers on again.
What about incoming skype calls? Sorry, missed your call, my speakers shut off while I was in the other room.
What if you have the speakers located high on a book shelf or somewhere else where they might be inconvenient to reach? Tough luck.
There's a litany of situations where a "feature" like this would make these speakers essentially useless, such as being used as TV speakers. Think about it... if you use these as TV speakers now you have to manually turn your speakers on every time you want to watch TV. Paused the game for dinner? Gotta turn those speakers back on! Got a long phone call from mom? Great, get your @ss up and turn your speakers on again. The auto-off "feature" on these speakers is a classic example of something no one wanted being poorly applied to a product that doesn't need it. If you're going to give speakers an auto-off feature (a ridiculous idea in the first place in my opinion) it should be optional, automatic or at the very minimum configurable. But honestly it shouldn't be there at all. When my computer is on the speakers should be on. Speakers should be the ultimate user-friendly device: You plug them in and you're done. The fact that I have to interact with these speakers as many as a dozen times a day is simply absurd in the extreme.
In conclusion, these speakers really do sound amazing but the auto-off "feature" means I simply can't give them more than 2 stars and definitely do NOT suggest paying anything over $100 for them. I'm listening to some music as I type this and I really am blown away by the deep base, silky mid-tones and clear, discernable highs. But the fact that it's only 9am and I've already had to turn my speakers on 3 times today makes me doubt that I'll be keeping these on my desk very long. I bought these on Woot for $80 and frankly if I'd paid more than $100 I would return them, despite their performance in the sound department. I'll probably end up relegating these to my garage work bench or somewhere else where I don't spend too much time and am already turning things on when I arrive anyways... because I'm already beyond annoyed at constantly turning these on at my desk and also constantly missing system alerts.
Great sound + massive design flaw = look elsewhere unless you can get a screaming deal.